Mayrhofen – Base camp for Zillertal
Mayrhofen is possibly not as well known internationally as Kitzbühel, St. Anton am Arlberg and some others. However, with 1.3 million overnight stays every year the village in the Zillertal region is Austria’s second most visited tourism spot. Mayrhofen is definitely a place to check out, no matter if in summer or in winter. Like in many villages in the Alps, the busiest timer are based on winter sports. Nevertheless, summer activities are plentiful and as a hiking base-camp, Mayrhofen offers enormous opportunities. And as it often is, because the infrastructure is built for the winter, you can find excellent deals in the summer.
Mayrhofen’s long and flourishing tourism history starts back in 1879 when the Berlin Hut was opened as the first mountain hut in the Zillertal Alps. It opened the doors for various alpine tracks, many more Huts to come and hiking tourism in this region in general. When the original Zillertalbahn was built in 1902, Mayrhofen was ready to welcome both summer and winter sports fans from all over the world.
Summer in the Valley, Winter in the mountains
Mayrhofen is only at 630 meters above sea-level, yet, is surrounded with numerous 3000m high mountains such as the Zsigmondyspitze (3089m), the Ochsner (3107m) or the Große Löffler (3379). This means that often in spring I’ve found myself entering Mayrhofen with green grass and early summer weather wondering why I brought skis. It’s all different once you go up the mountains. In fact, at the Hintertux glacier you can ski all year round.
Mayrhofen and the surrounding areas in the Zillertal Valley has become one of Austria’s biggest ski resorts, connecting Mayrhofen and its neighboring communes to ensure infinite winter sports adventures. With the lift pass you can access closer to 600 kilometers of slopes which, in addition to Mayrhofen’s own ski area, Hintertux, the Zillertal Arena area which reaches all the way to Gerlos to the east and Hoch Zillertal to the North. There’s excellent skiing for all levels.
Zillertal has an endless choice of traditional restaurants, mountain huts and modern ski lifts. In the summer there’s an endless choice of trails to explore, also for all levels.
Nature Park of the Year 2015
The Southernmost part of the Zillertal valley is designated a nature park, with a size of 422km² (more than double the size of Liechtenstein!). The “Hochgebirgs-Naturpark Zillertal Alpen”, was voted the Nature Park of the Year 2015 in Austria. The entire park is protected, no cars or construction sites are allowed which practically means a special treat for all alpine mountaineers willing to explore the area by foot. There’s a wide range of trails that take you to the most beautiful places in the whole region.
Getting to Mayrhofen
Mayrhofen is located in the Zillertal region in the county of Schwaz, In Tyrol. It is easily accessible from Innsbruck via the Inntal Highway A12, which has an exit direct into the valley. Tirol’s biggest city, Innsbruck, is just about an hour’s drive away. If flying from overseas, Munich international is most likely the best option. From Munich airport you can expect about 2½ – 3 hours of driving, depending on traffic on the Autobahn. Salzburg airport is about the same distance, too.
You can also get tpo Mayrhofen very easily by train. For example, from Munich airport you would take the local train from the airport to Ostbahnhof, and hop on a long distance train and ride to Jenbach. From Jenbach you hop on the Zillertalbahn, which is a cool experience all in itself. The entire affair takes between 3-4 hours depending on your connections. Of course there’s buses and taxis, too.
Mayrhofen has something for everyone. Check out some deals at booking.com:
Hiking Tours near Mayrhofen, Some Examples
Pfitscher Joch – Moderate Ascent to the Italian Border
This is a scenic hiking tour that you can do with the entire family. About 13km Southeast from Mayrhofen (via car or public bus) lies the impressive Schlegeisspeicher – a man made lake with turquoise water and an imposing 131 meters high dam. From Schlegeisspeicher you walk to Lavitzalm (2090m) in about 1,5 hours. After another 30 minutes you will reach the Pfitscher Joch (2246m) and can have a lookout over the summit in Südtirol. Take a break at the Pfitscherjochhaus where they offer delicious, traditional dishes. You will cross the border to Italy on the way, which is a natural photo opportunity…
From here on you want to take your way back to Schlegeisspeicher to your car or the bus stop and conclude an extraordinary and easy day hike. Even though this is alpine terrain, the track itself is very easy making it a perfect family tour. The scenery and the crossing to Italy make this trail very worthwhile.
Here’s some other interesting day hike options from the Schlegeisspeicher:
- Furtschaglhaus (at2,295m; 2.5 hours; 8.2km)
- Neumarkter Runde (Circuit) via Olpererhütte (on 2,430m; 4.5 hours; 9.5km)
- Friesenberghaus via Dominikushütte (on 2,498m; 2.5 hours; 9km)
Ahornspitze – a Zillertal classic
Since the construction of the Ahornbahn, a gondola lift that was opened in 2006, this trail is one of the most visited and most popular hikes in the entire Zillertal region. Ahornbahn takes you up to about 1,940 meters on the Ahorn ski area. From there you are set and good to go for an intense way up to the summit of Ahornspitze. Although this trail is considered moderate in difficulty, it can be tricky if you’re a beginning hiker. The ascent is a considerable 1,000 meters and more, and the distance one way is roughly 9,6km (~5 hours).
The first destination is Edelhütte. After getting off the lift, head towards the Filzenkogel (2227m), but do not climb it. Follow the signs to Edelhütte and keep the mountain to your right. After that, the trail is straight forward until you reach Edelhütte. Take a break there and then head eastward. You can already see the Ahornspitze. Climbing the western side, well-constructed tracks will guide you to a very rocky and tricky last bit before finally reaching the very top. A very rewarding view awaits.
On the way back you can either just take the same route or – also in case you missed the last gondola at 5pm – descend all the way down to Mayrhofen. If walking down all the way, you have several options – check out my walk from Mayrhofen to Filzenkogel and back down – you could walk down either the path we took up, or the way we took down.
Klein-Tibet im Zillergrund (“Little Tibet”) – an overwhelming adventure
One might think that Austria’s unique alpine scenery is incomparable to any other landscape on our planet. Yet, there is a magical place in the eastern part of the Zillertal in Zillergrund, which is apparently similar to the Tibetan landscape. Whatever you think of this, Zillergrund is worth visiting.
Starting in Mayrhofen, hop on a bus towards the Bärenbadalm at 1,450m above sea-level. Either stay on the bus until you reach Speicher Zillergründl – yet another impressive man made reservoir – or simply walk that short distance on your own. From here on follow the trail to Little Tibet and you will soon be faced with first hints of this magical place. A turquoise lake, surrounded by steep cliffs and numerous of rocks lying around. After roughly 30-45 minutes you will be able to already see some flags that carry the Tibetan colors and you can imagine being in Tibet, not Austria. This is a strange place – magical and mystical, they say. Small wooden houses, water wheels and prayer wheels – extraordinary!
Soon we will be arriving our final destination: Hohenauenalm. Some more Tibetan flags, great views, traditional food and historic paintings – a place to be happy. With a total of about 1.5 hours and a walking distance of no more than 3.5km this is a rather easy tour, but still, worth every meter walked. A must-do in my opinion when you find yourself in this region.
Zillergrund, of course, has much more to offer than just Klein Tibet. Check out my post about walking all the way to Heiliggeist Jöchl on the Italian border, at the very end of the valley. This is a full day tour, to say the least.
Peter Habeler Circuit – In the Footsteps of a Legend
A very young trail which has been opened just in 2012 honoring the Austrian mountaineer Peter Habeler on his 70th birthday – one of the few who climbed the Mount Everest without additional oxygen. With an accumulated ascent of 4,230m and a length of about 60km you will find yourself in alpine terrain, enjoying stunning views from almost every point in three different and unique alpine regions: the Zillertal, the Wipptal (Stubai) and Südtirol (the Dolomites).
The circuit is designed for a total of five days with an average walking time of 4-6 hours a day. Although it is possible to do it in less days, definitely take your time and enjoy the seemingly endless and amazing views on these three different alpine regions.
Coming from Mayrhofen, you may want to start on the second parking lot after the Schlegeis Restaurant, next to the Schlegeisspeicher discussed above. After walking through a forest on the hiking trail #502 you will soon (~2 hours) get to Olperer Hut. From there on, a possible route might be:
- Olpererhütte – Pfitscherjochhaus (3.5 hours; 8.7km)
- Pfitscherjochhaus – Landshuter Europa-Hütte (3 hours; 8.2km)
- Landshuter Europa-Hütte – Geraerhütte (6.5 hours; 16.5km)
- Geraerhütte – Tuxerjochhaus (5 hours; 9.9km)
- Tuxerjochhaus – Friesenberghaus (5 hours; 8.4km)
- Friesenberghaus – Olpererhütte (2.5 hours; 4.4km) – Schlegeis parking lot
This tour is almost completely in alpine terrain and most of the time you will be above 2,000 meters. This tour should be planned in advance and is rather more suitable for advanced and experienced mountaineers. Nevertheless, with good preparation and decent equipment it offers you an exhausting, but at the same time very rewarding and unforgettable, experience in the alps.
In my opinion, the #1 tour in Zillertal is the Berliner Höhenweg which you can start right from Mayrhofen. It’s a round tour that takes you deep into the Nature Park, far away from civilization. It starts south almost to the Italian border and then continues west for several days until it reached Schlegeisspeicher. From there it is back to Mayrhofen.
This is a difficult trek that takes 7 days or more, depending on how you plan it and what your condition is. You will need proper gear and you should be fit. It is possible to cut the tour short in several places but especially the southernmost part is quite far away from towns, so getting back is a long hike in itself.
I’ve walked a few days of this and will write up a detailed description of the Berliner Höhenweg. Sign up for the newsletter to be updated when this is posted!
Information and Links
Here’s some links to help you plan:
- The Mayrhofen-Hippach official website: http://www.mayrhofen.at/en/
- The Zillertal valley official website: https://www.zillertal.at/en.html
- The Nature Park website: http://www.naturpark-zillertal.at/en/home.html
I recommend getting a map beforehand to help plan. There’s a good one from Kompass but for some reason not available on Amazon. I’ll check back and post the link once I find it. Here’s a nice book to help you plan, it covers the Berliner Höhenweg:
I really like Mayrhofen. Especially if you’re relatively new to hiking in the Alps, it’s a really easy and friendly place to get started!