Are you a long-distance hiker or a long-distance mountain biker? Tirol boasts both, an epic cross-country hiking trail and a premier, world class, long distance mountain biking trail: The reloaded Eagle Walk that was taken back to basics with an Alpine focus at its core for its ten-year anniversary in 2015 — and the lift-assisted long-distance Tirol Mountain Bike Safari that was created in 2014. Long-distance hiking and biking in Tirol is a magical experience. You can put your life on hold and tackle one of these trails, or sample the serenity in weekend or weeklong jaunts. I have collected valuable information on five topics that should make it easier for you to reach a decision:
- Facts & Figures
- The Challenge
- The Fun
- Getting Away From It All
- How Much Is It?
1. Facts & Figures
The Eagle Walk:
- The Eagle Walk is 413 kilometers long. In North Tirol, the route spans 320 kilometers, in East Tirol it is 93 kilometers long.
- The Eagle Walk is broken up into 33 stages: 24 stages crisscross Tirol and nine stages run through East Tirol.
- The Eagle Walk has a total elevation gain of 31,000 meters. 23,000 vertical meters await hikers in North Tirol, 8,000 vertical meters have to be mastered in East Tirol.
- On Eagle Walk Segment No. 4 in East Tirol, between Bonn-Matreier Hut and Badener Hut, you will reach the highest elevation along the entire Eagle Walk, which is 2,872 meters above sea level.
- The Route: As the eagle flies, the Eagle Walk runs through Tirol – the whole length of the country, from east to west: From the Kaiser Mountain Range across the Brandenberg Alps/Rofan Mountains, Karwendel Range, the Tux Alps, and Wetterstein Range to the Lechtal Alps. In East Tirol, avid hikers can take up the challenge of a shorter Eagle Walk, overshadowed by the lofty peaks of Großvenediger and Großglockner, the tallest mountain in all of Austria. Here you will find trail resources by stage information: Stages along the Eagle Walk.
The Tirol Bike Safari:
- The Tirol Bike Safari is a long-distance route that crisscrosses the Heart of the Alps on 670 kilometers of twisty, fun mountain bike trails, from Nauders in Tirol Oberland Region to Walchsee in Kaiserwinkl.
- The Tirol Mountain Bike Safari is broken up into 15 day stages, accommodating a variety of skill levels and biking preferences.
- The cumulative elevation gain of the Tirol Mountain Bike Safari is 26,000 vertical meters.
- 12,000 meters of the Tirol Mountain Bike Safari are serviced by gondolas and chair lifts.
- On Stage No. 2 atop Fisser Joch Col, you will reach the highest elevation along the entire Tirol Mountain Bike Safari, which is 2,385 meters above sea level.
- 18 lifts and gondolas do assist bikers on the Tirol Bike Safari; lift tickets include bike transportation. Two uphill rides are Euro 18.
- The Route: From Nauders on Reschen Pass, situated at the convergence of Austria’s borders to Italy and Switzerland, the Tirol Bike Safari weaves along Landeck, Seefeld and Steinach am Brenner into jagged Rofan Range and eventually ends in Walchsee. For details, please refer to the Interactive Map.
2. The Challenge
Ready for a long walk? Planning is essential for anyone who hikes on the trail. From gentle walks across gentle and improbably gorgeous landscape to long and strenuous treks for peak baggers, there’s a hike available for every level of experience. For the ten-year anniversary in 2015, the route was simplified from its original network to two new routes that take the Eagle Walk back to basics with an Alpine focus at its core. Thus, long-distance hiking on the Eagle Walk should not be underestimated. Stage 11, for example, takes you across Karwendel Range from Karwendelhaus Lodge to Hallerangerhaus Lodge. It’s steep, brushy, challenging and technical, with the summit of 2,749-meter Birkkarspitze Peak as highlight in the true sense of the word. In East Tirol, the Eagle Walk takes you through remote sections above treeline, with long, strenuous climbs and offers some of the most rugged and challenging hiking of the entire Eagle Walk. All stages will bring you up to elevations of 2,600 meters; at some points, you will even reach 2,800 meters.
Looking for less pedaling, more downhill fun? If you prefer the downhill rush side of the mountain bike equation, you might consider the partially lift accessed Tirol Bike Safari. For those who think this might be an easy ride, there is still 14,000 meters of climbing so bring an extra set of legs! If you’re after strength-testing uphill climbs, for example, Stage No. 1 is the place for you, gaining 2,300 vertical meters on its way from Nauders to Pfunds. Thanks to lift assistance, there’s ‘only’ a 1,520-meter leg-sapping ascent to negotiate. Stage No. 14, to the contrary, has a ‘mere’ elevation gain of 348 meters en route from Kirchberg to St. Johann in Tirol. However, coasting down 1,818 meters of vertical drop, this route is quite technical in sections. Those looking for the ultimate downhill challenge can choose between two demanding trail options leading down.
3. The Fun
The reloaded Eagle Walk offers unparalleled opportunities to explore, experience, and connect with nature. Following ridges and crests, it is steep in some places, rugged in most, and Alpine in all. Each stage of the Eagle Walk tells the stories of the pioneers who first scaled the heights of Tirol. In addition to the route descriptions, you will also find specific information about the trail that will add to your awareness, called “Eagle Alpine History”. Technical sections are marked as “Eagle Kick” along the trail and in the descriptions. Such as the scramble section to 2,632-meter Grießlscharte Notch that climbs up across a kind of chimney and is assisted by a fixed anchoring system of cables on Stage No. 22. Traversing the rugged Lechtal Alps from Memminger Hut to Ansbacher Hut, it’s vigorously steep in places.
The Tirol Bike Safari offers the ultimate for day after day of heart-pumping movement and fun. En route, avid mountain bikers will find adrenaline fuelled singletrack options. Stages 1, 2, 13 and 14 satisfy every gravity hog’s hunger and will leave you grinning ear to ear. Plus, there are two amazing bike parks to explore: Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis Bike Park and Tirol Bike Park in Steinach am Brenner.
4. Getting Away From It All
Is it about the journey or the destination? You decide. Long-distance hiking on the Eagle Walk offers an exciting opportunity to get away from it all and experience wilderness in a way that shorter trips often don’t allow. Soak in sweeping vistas at the “Eagle Views”, some of the country’s finest viewing outposts. You will find specific information about the best trailside vantage spots, called Eagle View, in the detailed route descriptions.
The best thing with the Bike Safari is that lift-assisted mountain biking saves lots of effort and time, giving you nothing but a green light for day after day of heart-pumping riding. It’s completely up to you – and your personal fitness – whether you decide to pedal uphill or enjoy a convenient and scenic gondola ride.
5. How Much Is It?
Obviously, you have to spend the night along the trail on both, multi-day hiking or mountain biking adventures. However, don’t worry, mountain shelters and refuges are way cheaper than hotels.
The Tirol Bike Safari Flexi-Pass allows you to ride 17 gondolas and lifts within the network. The Flexi-Pass ranges from two gondola rides for Euro 18 to the full version that includes 17 gondola rides for Euro 153. Karwendel Gondola in Pertisau is not included in the Flexi-Pass; a single gondola ride there is available at Euro 11. Aspiring Bike Safari riders are as well recommended to check the Bike Safari Packages. Offered by specialised tour operators, these deals include accommodation, baggage transfer services, tour guiding and more. Hikers too, can enjoy scenic gondola rides and shorten their journey along the Eagle Walk if they wish.
The Bottom Line
In the end it’s up to you if you will spend your summer exploring the Eagle Walk or the Tirol Bike Safari. If it’s fun you’re after it might be better to opt for the Bike Safari. If you want true immersion in the best of Alpine adventures, consider the Eagle Walk. I’ve always been fascinated with trails and I really can’t decide which I like better (go figure). So, this summer, I will spend a few days hiking and a few days cycling.
Planning Your Tour
Interactive maps, topos, specific information about each stage, including GPS data and elevation profiles, and comprehensive tour descriptions are great online resources for planning your adventure along the Eagle Walk or on the Tirol Bike Safari: