Enchanted forest, glittering lakes and deep gorges
What a wonderful start to the first stage. Under sunny skies we travel through the magical enchanted forest to the crystal clear Hintersee. The mountains are reflected in the lake and Asta, a total water-baby, jumps into the cool water.
The tour carries on through the stunning Berchtesgaden National Park. Anyone who thinks that steep mountain passages are the biggest challenge when hiking with a dog is wrong. Free-roaming cows are usually not great dog lovers. We give the cows a wide berth and thus successfully master the moo-cow challenge on this day.
We hike uphill to the highest point of the tour to the Bindalmen. Here we treat ourselves to a break and are just happy to be out and about in the mountains - a radler and a bread with homemade cheese add to the feeling of well-being. Rested and well-fed, we continue on to the Austrian border into Salzburger Land. We hike downhill across beautiful mountain pastures to the breathtaking Seisenbergklamm gorge.
Narrow footbridges lead us through the rocky and powerful gorge, which reminds us of the last Ice Age. A truly impressive natural spectacle. The last kilometres lead us to our destination for the day in Weißbach am Lofer.
Whistling past the Hochkönig and through the Gastein valley
The second stage is accompanied by a view of the majestic Hochkönig. From Maria Alm we head upwards over the alpine paths, mountain pastures and a narrow, steep path to the Marbachhöhe. At the edge of the path we repeatedly discover small marmots that accompany us on our way with their whistles. We take a break with delicious Kaiserschmarren at the Jausenstation Grünegg. The last kilometres take us to Dienten, the fabulous village on the Hochkönig.
Day three starts relaxed and takes us over Bad Hofgastein on the Gasteiner high altitude trail. Particularly impressive for us is the crossing of the Gadaunerer Gorge with its tunnels and passages, coupled with terrific views down into the valley. Suddenly we start to sweat, as we climb steeply up to the Poserhöhe. At the top we are rewarded with a great view of the Gastein Valley and the opportunity to feast at the hut - I can only recommend the strudel.
Strengthened, we slowly descend. Surefootedness and a head for heights are required here. On wire-rope secured slopes we slowly climb down to Kötschachtal. From there we stroll the last kilometres along the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Promenade to the spa town of Bad Gastein.
There we are greeted by the thundering and mighty waterfall that cascades down through the town in three stages.
King’s stage over the Mallnitz Tauern mountains
This day is peppered with picture-postcard views of a fantastically beautiful mountain setting. We start in Sportgastein and the mood is full of anticipation for this stage over the Mallnitzer Tauern. Alpine paths lead us through an enchanting valley surrounded by beautiful mountains. We pass the Veitbauern hut and begin the ascent over rocks and mountain pastures to the Hagener hut. Asta hops up the mountain like a chamois. I can see the joy in her eyes and I am just happy to share this great mountain experience with her.
At the top we pause for a moment and enjoy the fantastic views. Then we go to the Hagener Hütte and fortify ourselves for the descent on the south side of the Alps.
With recharged batteries, we descend over mountain slopes into the valley. We pass the Jamnigalm and Stockerhütte and reach the day's destination Mallnitz, tired but very happy.
In the footsteps of the Alpe-Adria Trail
Today we are still feeling the day before, so we shorten today's tour and save the detour to Lake Stappitz. Nevertheless, a lot of highlights await us.
We start our tour in Mallnitz and head straight for the Rabisch Gorge. We follow the hiking trail markings of the Alpe-Adria Trail. After the first few kilometres we discover a small gate. We walk through it, descend a few metres and find ourselves in a new world. Rushing water and beautiful nature accompany us through the very impressive Rabisch Gorge.
On the way we meet some hikers who are currently on the Alpe-Adria-Trail. We have exciting conversations about long-distance hiking and feel it is a privilege to be travelling on foot.
The trail leads us on to the next natural spectacle, the Groppensteinschlucht Gorge in the Hohe Tauern Nature Park. We hike over narrow footbridges and bridges. We marvel at the hydro power and the waterfalls that plunge more than 30 metres into the depths.
We leave the gorge behind us and stroll to the next bus stop to catch the next bus to Gratschach.
Carinthian lakes invite you to relax and enjoy
On the last stage we get to know the famous Carinthian lakes. We start the sixth stage in Spittal an der Drau and hike on the Way of St. James to Egelsee. This lake has spoken to us and we treat ourselves to a break in this untouched moorland. Relaxed, we watch birds, people swimming and next to us mushroom pickers cleaning their haul. So relaxed, we almost forget that we still have a few kilometres to go. Few tourists are here and it’s a real insider tip.
We continue over the Bauernweiler Großegg to Milstättersee, the second largest lake in Carinthia. A wonderful view of the lake opens up in the middle of the Nockberge mountains. We walk around the lake and continue to Döbriach.
On stage 7 we take the shortest way to Feld am See, because rain and thunderstorms have been forecast and we don't want to take any risks here. We enjoy the relaxed day and do a short loop around the bathing lake Brennsee or Feldsee.
On day eight on our last stage it is raining really hard, but we don't want to give up. Asta and I put on our rain jackets and get going. The starting point is the wonderful Ossiacher See. The lake is covered in mist and we walk through the Bleistätter Moor. The moor seems mystical and we enjoy the tour. The hope is high that the rain will stop. We leave the moor behind us and after a few kilometres we reach the Rappit Gorge. Here we climb steeply uphill along the waterfall. We cross wooden planks and feel like we are on a very wet jungle expedition.
Because not only are we on the trail, the Alpine salamander is also out and about in large numbers, making their way across the damp ground.
There are more and more passages where teamwork is really needed and Asta and I have to go our separate ways. The rain doesn't want to end either. For safety reasons, we decide to turn back and hike back down to Ossiach via a wide forest path. From there we take the bus to Villach.
If you would like to read more about our experiences on this tour, we recommend visiting Nick's blog (German language) directly and taking a look at the even more comprehensive report on the crossing of the Alps with a dog from Königssee to Wörthersee.