St. Anton am Arlberg – Basecamp for Vorarlberg Hiking!
Often referred to as “The Cradle of Alpine Skiing”, the picturesque mountain village of St. Anton am Arlberg draws huge numbers of outdoor-loving visitors every year. Be it mountaineers in the summer or winter sports fans in the cold season – St Anton offers a huge variety of activities for young and old. Despite being an internationally renowned venue, the village has not lost its traditional charm and hospitality.
Tourism is St Anton’s main economical factor. Offering around 10,000 guest beds for about a million overnight stays every winter, the town has clearly set its priority towards winter tourism. St. Anton is considered a winter mecca by many, known worldwide, especially, for what it offers to advanced and expert skiers. It is also equally known for its very vibrant after-ski.
In winter, St. Anton is busy and packed. In fact, according to Statistics Austria, in winter it’s the 6th most visited town in Austria with almost a million nights spent – that means it is ranked right after Salzburg, the country’s fourth biggest city!
St. Anton’s winter sports reputation mainly comes from Alpine Skiing. Having held a great number of FIS World Cup events, the small commune with a population of no more than about 2350 people has had the great honor of hosting the prestigious Alpine World Ski Championships in 2001. Especially since then, hotels and facilities have been modernized and are setting high tourism standards.
Peace and Quiet in Summer
During summer the town has a completely different character. It is peaceful and quiet – and the statistics prove it. In summer only about 160 thousand nights are spent here which evolves St. Anton into a whole new place.
Since the 1990s, the tourism industry has increasingly focused on establishing summer activities, too, including construction of a public swimming pool with a very modern wellness center, establishment of more than 100 marked hiking and climbing trails as well as mountain biking tracks. Mountain lifts are in activity all year-long making sure that everyone can enjoy the incredible views on top of St. Anton’s surrounding mountains – even in summer!
There’s also a small 9-hole golf course right in town. I won’t even pretend and say it would compete with any full-scale 18-hole experience, but I will say it is a nice distraction and fun!
Very Easy to Reach
St Anton is easily accessible for visitors arriving by plane. The closest airport is Innsbruck, which is about 100km away. Munich airport, the far bigger one, lies within a driving distance of 225km and, thus, about 3 hours by car or 4 hours by train. If you’re travelling from overseas, check out my comments about Munich airport.
Busy Winters + Slow Summers = Great Deals!
Due to the busy winters, there is a lot of overcapacity in the summer. You can get very good deals on some very nice hotels. Last time there, I stayed in Anthony’s and I can highly recommend it. The price I paid for a newly renovated, very nice room was probably about 1/3 of what it would have cost in the winter.
Check out more options on booking.com
Full Range of Hiking Options
While it is best known for the exceptional skiing and after-ski, St. Anton is also an excellent base for hiking. It seems to me that it is underrated for summer activities and there’s no good reason: The infrastructure is excellent, it is easy to reach and has enough hiking options to satisfy all levels and ambitions.
The region itself covers a wide range of different hiking trails from beginner’s to experienced levels. The most impressive mountains and summits including Kapall, Galzig, Valluga and Rendl are accessible and connected by more than 300 kilometers of tracks. Furthermore, huts and restaurants on every route provide you with accommodation and great choices of traditional Austrian dishes.
Below are a few ideas to consider:
With kids? Family Tour
This is an easy trek suitable for families with kids. It is about 26 kilometers long with a walking time of roughly 8 hours. For an experienced mountaineer this Tour is doable in one day, the total ascent being only 630 meters, or 2070 feet.
You do need to get to Galtür to reach the beginning. Galtür is, so to speak, on the other side of the mountain near another very famous ski resort, Ischgl. You can take a bus there. While the bus is not ideal, the trail is worth it if you want something family friendly, perhaps the first overnight hike with your kids. You will be surrounded by beautiful nature, impressive 3000m / 10000 ft high summits, alpine terrain and even glaciers. Basically this means combining the ultimate alpine experience with a rather easy level of difficulty. Another highlight is that you will be accompanied by creeks, lakes and even waterfalls during the entire time. With kids, here’s how you could split it up:
- Day 1: Zeinsjoch – Heilbronner Hütte (at 2308m / 7572 ft.); 6.7km / 4.2 miles
- Day 2: Heilbronner Hütte – Konstanzer Hütte (at 1688m / 5538 ft.); 8.6km / 5.3 miles
- Day 3: Konstanzer Hütte – St. Anton (at 1305m / 4281 ft.); 10.6km / 6.6 miles
This is a rather unknown and less crowded trail definitely worth mentioning! However, if you’re planning to spend any nights at the huts, I recommend reserving well beforehand.
Day Hike to Darmstädter Hütte
A moderate level 11 km hike (one way!) that takes about 4½ hours. The ascent is 1150 meters (almost 3800 ft.) – a considerable climb.
The trail starts right in St. Anton at an altitude of 1,305m above sea, close to the ski lifts on the southern side of the town. Once you leave the ski area behind, you will be surrounded by exclusively alpine terrain, alpine flowers and – with a bit of luck – all kinds of wildlife.
The Trail is easy to find and to follow as there are signs all along the way. Once you reach the barrier lake Kartellboden keep following a rather smaller walking track on the left side of the lake. It will take you on a wonderful journey framed by glaciers, steeply rising cliffs and 3000 m high summits, such as Faselfadspitz, Kuchenspitze and Seeköpfe.
When you finally arrive at the Darmstädter Hütte at 2384m (10775 ft.) above sea level, I recommend trying out the variety of dumplings they offer while enjoying the stunning views. If you plan on spending your night here, make a reservation in advance!
Day Tour to Leutkircher Hütte
Leutkircher Hütte is the first stop on the Lechtaler Höhenweg if you start it from St. Anton. You can find more information about the Lechtaler Höhenweg below and a complete write-up on this site right here!
The length of this trip is 10km (6.2 miles) and takes about 4 hours, assuming going up by ski lift and walking back down. I recommend taking the lift because walking up through the St. Anton ski area is not very rewarding, will save you about 2 hours and a lot of sweat. Of course, if you are looking for an extra work-out, I recommend the hike up!
For pure enjoyment, take the two lifts Gampenbahn and Kappallbahn departing from downtown St. Anton. When reaching the top of Kapallbahn you will be about 2300m (7550 ft.) above sea level. The trail is not exceptionally difficult, but at times it is pretty steep and there are several sections where you don’t want to suffer from vertigo or dizziness. There’s also some rubble to cross.
Once you reach Leutkircher Hütte, it’s time for lunch. They serve wonderful local specialties and are very friendly! (Here’s the link to Leutkircher Hütte)
The path down, back to St. Anton, starts right next to the Leutkircher Hütte, through a forest and then through green and flowery fields. Keep an eye out for eagles! These majestic birds are quite present in this specific region.
Although the Verwall Höhenweg starts either in St. Christoph or Pettnau am Arlberg, St. Anton is a good base. The full circuit takes 8 days and goes all the way around the Verwall mountains. There’s more information (in German!) on www.verwall.de to give you an idea.
If you don’t have that much time or want to take it a little easier – and still want to enjoy this area – you could do a “miniature tour” starting in Pettnau am Arlberg and getting back to St. Anton. (Note: you will be required to hop on a bus for a short while so check out the schedules beforehand!)
The description below is 36 km (~22 miles) split over 4 days and a total walking time of about 19 hours:
- Day 1: Pettnau – Edmund-Graf-Hut (2408m); 7km
- Day 2: Edmund-Graf-Hut – Niederelbe-Hut (2310m); 9km
- Day 3: Niederelbe-Hut – Darmstädter Hut (2384m); 7.5km
- Day 4: Darmstädter Hut – Rasthaus Verwall 12km
From St. Anton I recommend taking a bus to Pettnau. It’s only about 6 kilometers of walking but there’s not much to see in between. Also, note that from Rasthaus Verwall you will need to take a bus back to St. Anton unless you want to walk another 11 kilometers.
Once you’re at the Edmund-Graf-Hütte, a true highlight is hiking an extra 2 hours up to Hoher Rifller at 3168 meters (10400 ft.) You’ll get stunning views of the entire Tirol region. Totally worth it in good visibility and you can leave your backpacks at Edmund-Graf-Hut until you return.
The Lechtaler Höhenweg and the Adlerweg
The Lechtaler Höhenweg is a demanding, but hugely rewarding, 8-10 day hike through the Lechtaler Alps. It doesn’t necessarily start at St. Anton, but since it is easy to reach by train, the village is a very practical starting point. The “proper” origins for this trail, Lech or Zurs, are not far from St. Anton either.
For some reason, there seems to be very little written about the Lechtaler Höhenweg in English and I don’t understand why. It’s truly awesome! The trek is well covered here on Gohikealps.com, though.
The Lechtaler Höhenweg is the westernmost part of the Tyrolean Adlerweg (or Eagle walk) – a 23 stage and 280 km (175 miles) long trek that starts in St. Johann and ends in St. Anton. If you have a month to spare, this is a good way to spend it. More info here.
Via Ferratas – climb your way up
It’s also worth mentioning that there are some very interesting Via Ferratas in St. Anton, too. The top one is the Arlberger Via Ferrata, just above St. Anton. It is both stunning and difficult, and for experts only. Check out the official site for more info:
Summing it up & More Information:
- Fly to Munich, Innsbruck or Zurich (Click here for more info on Munich Airport or click here for Alpine Airports in general)
- Drive or take a train from any of the above airports. (Click here for Deutsche Bahn for tickets)
- Book accommodation, check out properties & deals on Booking.com
- The official St. Anton am Arlberg website has excellent information to get you started, including online maps, hut information etc.
- The official Vorarlberg website
- The official website for Tyrol, the neighboring area
- Gohikealps.com coverage on the Lechtaler Höhenweg, accessible from St. Anton
- Gohikealps.com Ultimate Packing Guide for the Alps
- Gohikealps.com Beginners Guide for Hiking in the Alps
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