Hiking in the Karwendel Nature Park
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Situated between Innsbruck, Seefeld, Scharnitz and the Achensee lake, The Karwendel Nature Park (Naturpark Karwendel) is Austria’s largest nature reserve, and the largest protected area in Tirol, at around 280 square miles. It is home to so much untouched nature, including ancient trees and huge numbers of animals including golden eagles and ibex.
Hike to the Lamsenjocjhütte
For the last weekend of the hut hiking season in 2021, we finally planned to tick off a hike that I’d been wanting to do for ages. The Lamsenjochhuette is a mountain hut in the Karwendel nature park set at the foot of a stunning rocky ridgeline.
There are a number of different approach routes that will bring you to the Lamsenjochhütte. From the Inn valley you can hike from the town of Schwaz along a 11.5km, fairly easy trail that will take you around 5.5 hours, with an altitude gain of 1400m.
We chose the shortest, but one of the steeper approach routes, from the Gramai Alm in Pertisau. This approach took us less than 2 hours to complete the 690m altitude gain over 4km.
While it is possible to hike to the hut and back again, I highly recommend staying a night up here, watching the sunrise and sunset and exploring the trails at the start and end of the day when more of the wildlife is out grazing.
If you want to sleep at the hut overnight, a reservation is essential, as beds are limited and in high demand. Check-in at the hut is from 3pm, so if you arrive earlier, it’s possible to leave your bags in the boot room downstairs. The hut serves food and drink during the day, until around 4pm. So when we arrived around 2pm, we had some food, dropped off our bags, and then went exploring around the hut. You can reserve the hut via their website.
Here are some impressions from our 2-days hiking around the Lamsenjoch in the Karwendel Nature Park:
Hike to the Bärenkopf
Another great (and popular) hike to do on the edge of the Karwendal nature park is the hike to the Bärenkopf, a summit that overlooks the Achensee lake just above the town of Pertisau.
While this hike isn’t super long, especially if you take the cable car up and down from Pertisau, the hike is moderately difficult, with a couple of challenging sections that require steady footing. We also found that it can get quite wet and slippy under foot, even when there hasn’t been rain, most likely due to mountain springs that trickle water on the trails.
The route we took included a vertical ascent of 630 meters over 8km, and it took us around 3 hours to complete at a fairly brisk pace. I would recommend however, taking a full day to do this hike and enjoying a refreshment stop at a couple of the mountain huts that you’ll pass along the way.
This hike definitely felt busier than the hike to the Lammsenjochhütte, with lots of people enjoying the views at the summit. Nevertheless, it was a great hike.
Hiking Around The Karwendel Nature Park
Tip: Stay Late or Get Up Early For Wildlife Sightings
One of my favourite things about our visit to the Lamsenjoch Hut and the Karwendal nature park was how much wildlife we saw. In past hikes, I may have been lucky to see the off chamois or marmot from a distance. But during our evening and morning hikes in the Karwendal nature park, we saw so many incredible wild animals. In the mornings and evenings the chamois (“gams” in German) were all around the grassy hillsides. We even caught sight of a group of four stunning male ibex taking a mid-morning nap on our hike back to the Gramai Alm via the Hahnkampl.
So if you can, get up early or stay up later and catch some of the local residents. Just remember to be prepared for hiking in the dark, bringing a headlamp and warm clothing with you for when the sun isn’t up.
Getting To The Karwendel Nature Park
Because the Karwendel Nature Park spans such a large area, the are so many places you can stay to access the incredible mountains here. Some of the best places to base yourself if you want to hike in this area are Seefeld in Tirol, Innsbruck or up at the Achensee lake. All these areas are on the edge of the Karwendel, so you’ll be able to hike into the park from any of them. However, for the specific hikes I’ve talked about above, I would recommend staying in Pertisau am Achensee.
Pertisau is easy to reach from Innsbruck in under 1 hour, and Salzburg & Munich in around 2 hours. While driving there is the easiest way to arrive, it’s also possible to get there via public transport, taking the train to Jenbach and then transferring onto a bus up to Pertisau.