The stunning Grossglockner High Alpine Road is a 29.7 mile (47km) stretch of road offering breathtaking views of the Austrian Alps. The road bridges the two Austrian states of Salzburg and Carinthia. This scenic route is named after Austria’s highest mountain, which stands at 12,461 ft (3,787m). The road is the tallest paved mountain pass in the country, and has been meticulously constructed with a series of mountainside tunnels, switchbacks, and roads built up on stilts. It is s a thrilling drive and / or bike ride, and, fortunately, the road is in excellent condition. The optimal driving route begins at the road’s eastern entrance in Ferleiten, which is about a 1.5 hour drive south of the city of Salzburg. There you will reach the toll house; it costs 35€ per car for a day pass. From Ferleiten, the road heads westward toward the Pasterze glacier that lines the eastern slope of Grossglockner. There are many parking places along the route, most of which you can hike or bike from, and all of which promise breathtaking views of the surrounding Hohe Tauern mountain range.
Don’t tire yourself from hiking before you reach the glacier, though. When you reach the end of the road, there is a free parking garage at Kaiser-Franz-Josefs-Höhe, and from there you can choose how you want to take in the sites of the glacier and towering Grossglockner. Hiking, or taking a lift, down to the valley where the glacier lies is a popular option, and the best place to view how dramatically the glacier has receded in recent years. Another great alternative is to hike along the mountain slope to the east of the glacial valley. Continue walking towards the glacier, and you’ll journey through a series of short tunnels, that afterwards open into a mountainside path surrounded by lush greens and tiny, colorful flowers, all while overlooking the Pasterze glacier.
WHAT TO BRING TO THE HIGH ALPINE ROAD
BEST TIME TO VISIT AUSTRIA AND THE HIGH ALPINE ROAD
Due to its high altitude, the High Alpine Road is only open from May to October. In those two months, there is still a chance of encountering snow, so June through August is the best time to visit if you are interested in hiking during your visit. Between June and August, the temperatures in the valleys will range between 75 and 90 Fahrenheit (21-32 C), but as cold as 50 F (10 C) on the highest peaks.
TRAVELING TO Grossglockner High Alpine Road
The closest major airports are Salzburg (SZG), Munich (MUC) and Vienna (VIE). Non-stop flights to Austria from NYC fly into Vienna. Non stop direct flights are also available into Munich. You will have to either take a connecting flight to Salzburg or a train. Travelers can rent a car in Salzburg, or rent immediately from Munich. From Salzburg, the Grossglockner High Alpine Road is just under a 2 hour drive. If you plan to explore elsewhere in Austria, flying into Vienna is another viable option, but the drive to the High Alpine Road itself is 4 hours, versus 2.5 hours from Munich and even less from Salzburg. Renting a car is necessary to visit this road, and is best for navigating the Alpine region of Austria. Depending on how much you hike, budget 3-6 hours on the High Alpine Road.