The Meraner Höhenweg, or Alta via di Merano in Italian, is a relatively easy and beautiful circular trail that will take you around the Texelgruppe National park (Parco Naturale Gruppo di Tessa). It mostly is a gentle walk but on the north side it has a high mountain stretch reaching up to almost 3000 meters.
Access is easy and public transportation is available to and from Merano. There are several access points to get on the trail. Along the route there are a lot of places where you can stop for a quick bite, drink something or to sleep.
Meraner Höhenweg Quick Facts
- Situated in Sudtirol, Trentino Alto Adige, Italy
- Fly to: Bergamo, Verona, Venezia, Treviso in Italy or Innsbruck in Austria – or Munich International in Germany.
- Starts and ends at Muta-Hochmuth above Merano but can be started in several places, e.g. Naturno or Katharinaberg
- Length about 90 km (60 miles)
- Hiking time around 37 hours total
- Rated as a medium difficulty route. The North Side is more challenging than the south due to a high alpine stretch.
- Between 1466 and 2879 meters (4800 to 9500 ft.) of altitude
- Total ascent around 5000 meters
Overview of Meraner Höhenweg
The Meraner Höhenweg Alta Via di Merano – was opened in 1985, the idea of Helmuth Ellmenreich who was chairman of the AVS (Alpenverein / Alpine Club-Südtirol) from 1962 to 1997. It is considered one of the most beautiful treks in the Alps. With so much beauty in the Alps it’s hard to rank trails based on beauty alone but I do agree.
The trail is a round trip (marked by the number 24) around the Tessa massif. It is divided into
- the North route, from Katharinaberg (Monte Santa Caterina) in the Val Senales to Ulfas, and
- the South route, that starts from Ulfas and rounds up back to Katharinaberg (Santa Catarina).
If the weather is good, the scenery is truly breathtaking and you can see the Dolomites, the Brenta and Ortles massifs. When you are on the trail, you are on a natural balcony facing the Merano basin, the Venosta and Passiria valleys. on the north side you get to see the Ötztaler Alpen (Alpi Venoste) among other mountains.
It is possible to start or stop anywhere along the route, so if you find yourself in some kind of trouble, or just want to spend the night in a nice hotel in one of the valleys below, it is very easy to get off the mountain and back up again the next
There are several “masi” (Alpine farmstead) on the route or just nearby, and a lot of them can be reached by car or cable car.
Relatively Easy Walk, with tricky Parts
The trail is not hard but since it reaches almost 3000 meters (~9850 ft.) of altitude on the North side, it is very important to be used to hiking at high altitude and be physically fit. Since the route was created putting together several mountains trails that had been used for centuries, the walking terrain changes a lot from very easy to steep and demanding in some places.
The South side is easier and runs lower than the north side. In fact, the only real high alpine part is on the north side when you cross over from Val di Fosso to Pfelderertal. At the highest part lies Stettiner Hütte (Rifugio Francesco Petrarca) which, at the time of writing this is closed because it was hit by an avalanche and is undergoing repairs. This makes the crossing a long day.
If you’re considering going with kids, the south part is no problem. However, considering the above, I am hesitant to recommend the north part unless you know you’re kids are up to it. At least until Stettiner Hütte is back in business.
How Many Days and When to go?
The time estimate needed for the route is between 5 to 8 days. If you are fit, experienced and willing to push a bit harder, it can be done in less. Thus, walking hours per day can vary between 2.5 and 8.5 hours based on your choices. I walked very comfortably from Naturno (top of the lift) to St. Martin in 3 days. That’s maybe a little less than 3/4 of the entire route, so could have squeezed it into 4 days. At that pace 5 days would have been plenty.
The best season for this trek is from the end of June until October, depending on how much snow there is on the highest part of the mountains. I walked at the very end of October. As you can see from the picture above, there was snow on the North side, as well as some icy sections further below. On the South side, on the other hand, it was chilly in the morning but there were still leaves in the trees. Beautiful foliage, actually.
Along the route you will find stairs, steps and bolts. Some exposed sections of the trail have been equipped with fixed chains for safety, but again – this is, overall, a fairly easy route.
While at it, Visit Merano
If you have some time to spare, I suggest you spend at least one night in this elegant small town. Placed in a natural basin where three valleys meet (Val Passiria, Val Venosta and Val d’Adige) it enjoys a temperate climate, allowing palm trees, olive trees and even cypresses to grow. It is the second biggest town in the region with almost 40.000 inhabitants.
There’s excellent restaurants and the region is very well known for its wines as well, and rightly so. I recommend trying a nice local Lagrein! There is also a very nice spa (www.termemerano.it) where you can relax after your days in the mountains.
Once you are in Katharinaberg, you could visit Castel Juval. This is the summer house of the famous alpinist and explorer Reinhold Messner, and one of the six museums he dedicated to the mountain. Castel Juval museum focuses on the “magic of the mountain”. You can find more info here: http://www.messner-mountain-museum.it/en/juval/museum
How to Get There and Back
Merano is the second largest city in the region and is very easy to reach, also by public transportation. If you’re flying in, the nearest airtports in Italy are:
- Verona airport: www.aeroportoverona.it – 180 km from Merano, little more than 2 hours by train
- Venice airport: www.veniceairport.it -270km from Merano, approximately 3 hours by train
- Milan (Orio al Serio/Bergamo) airport: www.orioaeroporto.it – 270 km from Merano, little more than 4 hours by train
- Treviso airport: www.trevisoairport.it – 240 km from Merano, approximately 4 hours by train
If you’ve been on this site before, you may have noticed my preference for Munich International airport. It is quite far away (about 350 kilometers or 220 miles) but has excellent international connections and other advantages. I drove from there to Meran and it took about 4½ hours. Obviously trains run from there, too.
Also Innsbruck airport in Austria is a viable option. Not as well internationally connected as Munich but much closer.
From any of the airports mentioned you can take a bus or taxi to the nearest train station and then get a train to Merano. Check www.trenitalia.com for schedules and prices, or bahn.com for trains from Munich.
A little tip if you choose to drive: Driving in from the north, it’s deceptively easy to miss the Bolzano exit that you need to take to get to Merano. If you miss it, the next chance for a U-turn is far away and will add half an hour to your drive easily. Experience talking here…
Once in Merano, I recommend using public transportation to get you on the trail or at the base station of one of the cable cars to take you up the mountain. Here’s timetables for public transportation in the area: www.sii.bz.it
7 Day Itinerary for the Meraner Höhenweg
Here’s a 7 day itinerary for the Meraner Höhenweg that starts at Hochmut, right above Merano. Like mentioned above, depending on your fitness an ambitions, many other variants are possible between 5 and 8 days. There’s good and detailed information (in German) on the Official Meraner Höhenweg website.
Please note that Stettiner Hütte (Rifugio Petrarca), just under the highest point of the trail at Passo Gelato (2895 meters), has been hit by an avalanche in the winter of 2014. It is undergoing reconstruction and at the time of writing this, it is possible to stop to eat or drink your own food in a small hut, but NOT to sleep.
Stage 1 – from Hochmuth to Hochganghaus (Rifugio Casa del Valico), about 2 hours
Stage 2 – Monte Sole: from the Hochganghaus to Giggelberg
Stage 3 – From Val Venosta to Val Senales: from Giggelberg to Katharinaberg (Monte Santa Caterina)
Stage 4 – Beginning of the North side and getting higher: from Katharinaberg to Eishof Alm (Maso Gelato)
Stage 5 – Over the Eisjöchl and to Pfelderertal: from Eishof Alm (Maso Gelato) to Pfelders
- You will pass the now closed Stettiner Hütte: http://stettiner.13h.de/
- Albergo/Gasthof Zeppichl near Pfelders: http://zeppichl.com
- If you think you’ve earned a hotel night with a sauna option, I can recommend Pfeldererhof.
- Pfelders is a small ski resort and consequently has several accommodation options. Check them out at Booking.com
Stage 6 – Along the Pfelderertal (Valle di Plan) and to Val Passiria: from Pfelders to Matatz
Stage 7 – Hut to hut along the Val Passiria: from Matatz and back to Hochmuth
Things to Consider
The Meraner Höhenweg / Alta Via di Merano will take you into the beautiful Texelgruppe. I big portion of the trek will be inside the Texelgruppe National park – rich with plants, flowers and animals. If you are passionate about these, you have another reason not to miss this experience.
Cell phones according to my experience generally work but in places the connection can be patchy at best. This is especially true in the more remote areas on the north side of the circuit between Katharinaberg and Pfelders.
English is spoken in most places. Otherwise people speak German, the local language called Ladin, or Italian.
Things you need for the Meraner Höhenweg
- You need a map. I recommend getting one beforehand for planning. Don’t go, if you don’t have one! If you don’t get them beforehand, get them at Merano. You can’t expect to be able to find them once on the trail.
- The map I used and can highly recommend is Kompass #043 “Naturpark Texelgruppe, Meraner Höhenweg”
- Make sure you have the necessary gear for a Multi-Day Alpine hike. Check out the Gohikealps Packing Guide, sign up and download our printable checklist for reference.
- Make sure you have adequate Hiking Insurance. Read the Guide to Hiking Insurance here.
- Familiarize yourself with What You need to Know Staying in Mountain Huts.
- I recommend booking a hotel in Merano before you go, if that’s where you are going to start. Get a good night sleep before you go.
The Meraner Höhenweg / Alta Via di Merano is well known and quite popular, so it is easy to find online material. However, a lot of the material is in Italian or German – some in English, too.
Here’s some links to get you started:
Extended Weekend, Late in Season
I wanted to do an extended weekend trek somewhere I had not been before very late in the season. That is, late October. The problem at this time is that most places in Austria, for example, are already closed due to the upcoming winter.
I talked about my desires over a glass of wine at the Memminger Hütte on the Lechtaler Höhenweg and somebody suggested I should check out the Texelgruppe and Meraner Höhenweg. I’m glad I did, the trip was totally worth it. I was lucky with good weather and at that time of year, nobody was there so me and my friend pretty much had the mountains to ourselves!
I will write up my personal experience on this site – do sign up for updates to get notice when I get around to it!
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Thanks for reading, happy hiking !
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