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Long-distance hiking path E5 Oberstdorf – Merano

Why walk when you could take the train?
Pitztal Sölden glacier with snow

From Munich or Salzburg you need around four hours to get to Merano by car, by train it’s about five hours.

I on the other hand am spending a week with Eurohike for the crossing of the Alps E5 from Oberstdorf to Merano, because I’m voluntarily going by foot. Am I out of my mind? 😉

Pitztal Sölden glacier with snow

No I’m not! This is confirmed by everyone I meet on the way and many acquaintances who have also made such a journey. We all agree: the journey is the destination!

I am looking forward to the experiences and memories I will collect during the alpine crossing.

However, during the first sweaty climbs, arduous descents, and pass crossings in heavy rain, I keep asking myself why I am actually making this effort.

But afterwards I always know exactly why. To understand this, however, you have to experience it for yourself!

Start in Allgäu

After an Allgäuer cheese fondu I fall tired into bed. Tomorrow it begins! I am nervous whether I really have everything I need with me in my rucksack. Or too much. Whether blister plasters are packed, or if I should perhaps take the thick jacket out again? But the hotel bed is very comfortable and sleep soon catches up with me.

Allgäu Alps near Oberstdorf

The first stage

Well strengthened I leave the Allgäu for Lechtal. When I get off the bus at the end of the valley, I feel a little queasy. In front of me the high Allgäu Alps, behind me the safe valley. But now it's too late to back out. The path takes me forward and at the same time quite steeply upwards. The further I go, the happier I become. I look forward more and more to being on the road, to the adventure and the great wide mountain world that lies ahead of me.

I climb up to Passhöhe and to the border with Austria. Wow! Ahead of me lies the border stone and a deep valley. Now it's rocky and goes steeply downhill. A little downhill sits the Rossgumpenalm, a tempting place to stop and a spectacular suspension bridge waits for me. At the destination of Holzgau I take a look at the beautiful colourfully painted houses on the town square. I am relieved and a little exhausted. Admittedly, the first stage is not easy, but the landscape is stunning and full of highlights!


From Lechtal to Inntal

After a big breakfast I feel fit and ready for the coming day. I choose the path through the peaceful Prämajurtal. There is much less going on here than yesterday. Past the Bodenalpe, I walk across flowering mountain meadows up to the Leutkircher Hütte on the Joch. On the other side the glacier gleams, far below the famous ski resort of St. Anton can be seen. After an obligatory stop at the hut the path leads back downhill, unspoiled forests surround me. The path is steep, so I get down a little quickly. I take the bus to Landeck. There I am in the middle of Tyrol and have only one step to the pedestrian zone. From the balcony of my hotel I can even hear the Inn rushing by.

Inntal hiking trail with huts and distant views

High-altitude trail or Roman trail?

The following day I can choose whether I want to walk the Roman trail on the Via Claudia or the Original E5 route over the summit ridge of the Venet. I decide on the second variant and take the cable car up the Venet, where I begin the high-altitude trail. The summit ridge is breath-taking with vast views in both directions. The descent over the high pasture, meadow and forest to Wenns is not far, and there is time for a stop at the alpine hut. Finally, I arrive at the hotel and can relax. An exciting day!

High trail summit ridge of Venet in the fog

King’s stage at 3,000 m

The King’s stage is coming up: Today I will hike over the Pitztaler Jöchl with almost 3,000 metres of altitude. I have never climbed so far up under my own steam! I encourage myself: “Others have made it already, and some are not as fit as you. You can do it!” And “You only have a light day bag, look, the others are carrying huge rucksacks. You can manage easily.” The stage isn’t long, but steep. I travel with the bus to the head of the Pitztal and start the hiking trail. Slowly and steadily I climb the rocky landscape and pass a waterfall, which casts rainbows into the air. What a wonderful day! I forget just how tired I was setting off. The Braunschweiger Hut comes into sight. Finally! I sit on the terrace in the sun straight away. Now I need fortifying food in the form of a large piece of cake or a Kaiserschmarrn.

Ötztaler-Ache bridge with river and forest

After the refreshment I get on my way. I carefully negotiate the challenging narrow sections to the Pitztaler Jöchl. I walk very slowly, so I notice almost nothing of the thin mountain air. The Wildspitze (Tyrol's highest mountain) beckons to me encouragingly. Its deep crevasses conjure up a bizarre pattern in the snow. Now I am at the top, at the highest point of the tour. What a moment! I have to take a break, but I don't stay long, because the descent is waiting and it is very demanding. Steep snowfields, slippery scree and rocky flanks await me. Extremely cautiously, I put one foot in front of the other. Step by step by step. At some point I have safe ground under my feet again and am suddenly in the middle of the (currently sleeping) ski area. All around are glacier lifts, closed ski shops and après-ski bars. But the glacier restaurant is open. Ideal for a break before the bus takes me down into the valley to Sölden in the Ötztal.

Summit picture of the hiker at the highest point the Pitztaler Jöchl with gigantic view

Smuggler trails to Italy

Today the trail heads over Timmelsjoch to Italy and the very thought of it makes me happy. Let’s go! A pleasantly gentle long climb awaits me on the smuggler's path. There is also a bus over the Pass. At the top, I meet numerous motorcyclists and cyclists on the winding ride through the many hairpin bends of the pass road. There is a snack bar and an exhibition room. It’s very impressive, how this road was created at the altitude of 2,500 metres! In this moment the public bus arrives, and I think for a moment: should I get on and save myself the long journey into the Italian valley? I'm tempted for a moment, but before I can come up with a suitable excuse to myself, the bus is already gone. Surrounded by a gigantic rocky backdrop, I continue downhill over meadow paths and tracks. Haybales, streams and grazing cattle keep me company on the way down the valley. I cross the pass road and finally reach the small mountain village of Rabenstein. Now I'm in Italy and the first thing I do is drink an Italian cappuccino. Then I take the Italian public bus to the Val Passiria, where it is already getting a bit warmer. I go to the hotel and explore the pretty holiday resort directly from there.

Last but not least – Merano, here I come!

It’s hard to believe only one more stage is left. On the programme is a climb to over 1,000 metres. I am sure, these metres of altitude are worth it, and I can convince myself of that right away. Past the alpine pasture of the freedom fighter Andreas Hofer, the route snakes its way up to the Riffel. There begins a fantastic high-altitude trail with a view that makes you forget all your efforts. The alpine roses are in bloom, the cowbells on the mountain pasture are ringing, there is Kaiserschmarrn in the hut. It's almost too good to be true.

Pfandleralp Andreas Hofer memorial stone with hut in the background and green backpack

Destination in sight

I have almost reached the end of the hiking route. A wide alpine path leads me over to the Hirzer cable car. I stop at the very last hut. It is so wonderful up here! Since I don't want to hike down into the valley, I take the last cable car down and after a short cable car and bus ride I am in the middle of the wonderful spa town of Merano. Today I'm so tired from all the kilometres and metres of altitude I've covered that I just eat the long-awaited wood-fired pizza and fall straight into bed after a tiramisu. I put off visiting the beautiful spa town until tomorrow.

Hirzer Passeier Valley view cows with yellow ear tags

Looking back

One thing is for sure: such a trip is an unforgettable experience in the truest sense! The week was full of memorable moments and incredible experiences, so that I feel as if I have been on the road for years.

I have seldom sweated and huffed so much and "felt" so much as on the past few days. On the train on the way home, I realise: I am proud and happy that I didn't just drive to Italy by car, but that I hiked across the Alps under my own steam. 😊 And I would set off again on the E5 at any time!

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