Ötschergräben is a gorge located in the Ötscher-Tormäuer Nature Park within the Mostviertel of Lower Austria. Nicknamed the “Grand Canyon of Austria”, Ötschergräben is a perfect destination for outdoor lovers of all fitness levels. It’s also a perfect weekend getaway for those based in Vienna. You can walk the full length of the gorge via an easy trail that’s supported by a number of boardwalks and footbridges. Cascading waterfalls feed the crystal clear river, Ötscherbach, that flows through the canyon floor. As the early afternoon light streams into the gorge and illuminates the trail, you feel transported to a magical realm. It’s absolutely breathtaking.
Ötschergräben Trail Summary
You can do a day-hike in Ötschergräben, or an overnight hike. The route detailed below is a 2-day thru-hike.
- Type of Trail: Thru-hike.
- Trailhead: Ötscher base in Wienerbruck
- Trail Route: Ötscher base in Wienerbruck (park entrance) – Ötscherhias Hut (snack bar) – Schutzhaus Vorderötscher (mountain refuge)- Gemeindealpe (mountain summit) – Mitterbach (town) – Mariazellerbahn (train to Wienerbruck)
- Destination & Lodging: Schutzhaus Vorderötscher
- Lowest Elevation: 630 m
- Highest Elevation: 1,626 m
- Total Distance: 14.4 km to Gemeindealpe
- Total Hiking Time: 4-5 hours to Schutzhaus Vorderötscher (Day 1); 3-4 hours to Gemeindealpe (Day 2)
- Fee: There’s a 3 EUR park entrance fee, which you can pay at the Naturpark Ötscher-Tormäuer park entrance. There’s also a daily 4 EUR parking fee (pay at machine, coins only).
- Hiking Season: May – October. We hiked Ötschergräben in mid-September – that time of year when summer courteously gives way to fall and the colors begin to change.
Day 1: Ötschergräben – Ötscherhias – Schutzhaus Vorderötscher
The trail starts at Ötscher base in Wienerbruck (Naturparkzentrum Ötscher-Basis Langseitenrotte 140, 3223 Wienerbruck). You can park your car here for 4 EUR per day and pay the park entrance fee (3 EUR/Adult) at the tourist information center. To reach the trailhead via public transit from Vienna, take a train to St. Pölten and then the regional Mariazeller Bahn train to Wienerbruck-Josefsberg Bahnhof.
The first segment of the trail traverses forest and then hugs the canyon wall. As you follow the crystal-clear Ötscherbach river deep into the gorge, you’ll see a series of waterfalls.
After about 2 hours, you’ll reach a rustic treehouse-like snack bar, called Ötscherhias. Ötscherhias serves various sausages, Frittantensuppe (clear soup with sliced crepes), Selchfleischbrot mit Kren (bread with sliced smoked meat and horseradish), as well as refreshments.
After lunch at Ötscherhias, we started the trek to our final destination. The trail continues along the river for another 20 minutes to the impressive waterfall Mirafall. After Mirafall, continue following the gorge for an hour to Schleierfall. You’ll see a sign indicating a left-turn towards Schutzhaus Vorderötscher. The last stretch steers away from the river.
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Schutzhaus Vorderötscher is a cozy mountain refuge that offers comfortable beds and hearty-Austrian food. You can sleep in private rooms (9 available) or in a dormitory room (20 beds available). A double room costs 39 EUR/person including breakfast and the Wilde Wunder Card (Free rides with the Chairlift at Mitterbacher Gemeindealpe + 50 % off the Tickets in the Mariazeller Bahn). After a warm shower, we settled in the dining room for the evening. Everything we ate was delicious, including their Kaspressknödelsuppe and Goulash.
Day 2: Schutzhaus Vorderötscher – Gemeindealpe – Mitterbach
After breakfast, we started the hike to Gemeindealpe, the highest mountain in the Mariazeller Land. We were accompanied by the sound of red deer mating calls (roaring). September and October marks the breeding season for red deer in Europe. Unlike the first day, the trail on Day 2 gains elevation more quickly and you’ll ascend through forest to a plateau. Though our views were obstructed by thick fog, we luckily saw several Gämse (chamois, goat-antelope species).
At Gemeindealpe, there are panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and river valleys. A chairlift services the mountain, so you can end your hike here. At the summit, you can also eat lunch at the restaurant Terzerhaus, at 1626 m. The food was disappointing, though the view (on a clear day) must be sensational. After lunch, we continued hiking down for an additional 30 minutes to the chairlift middle-station. We descended to Mitterbach swiftly via the chairlift. When we arrived in Mitterbach, we grabbed coffee and cake, before catching the Mariazellerbahn regional train back to Wienerbruck-Josefsberg.
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