Kalkalpen National Park
A primeval forest in the middle of Europe. It may sound strange, but it's true. We are talking about the Kalkalpen National Park, which covers the mountain ranges of the Reichraminger Hintergebirge and the Sengsengebirge in south-eastern Upper Austria. An area of almost 21,000 hectares with mountain forests, some of which are already completely left to themselves. The primeval forest is reclaiming the National Park bit by bit. In 2022, the Kalkalpen National Park will celebrate its 25th anniversary and 5 years as a World Natural Heritage beech forest.
The Kalkalpen National Park in winter
In winter, when a white blanket covers the mountain forests and alpine pastures of the Kalkalpen National Park, the best way to penetrate the seemingly dormant nature is on snowshoes. Nature enthusiasts who are curious about how animals and plants brave the cold season in a reserve like the Kalkalpen National Park are best off putting themselves in the hands of an experienced National Park Ranger. He not only knows the terrain and the path exactly, but also knows how to interpret the winter strategies of the plants and animals, and the mysterious tracks in the snow.
The Kalkalpen National Park in summer
The Reichraminger Hintergebirge is one of the largest closed forest areas in Austria. No road or railway cuts through it. Hidden under the canopy of leaves, there is only a network of old forest roads and path. They remind us that the forests were once a rich reservoir of firewood and fuelled the forge lunches of the hammer mills. But even the tracks of the old forest railway have disappeared; its route, including tunnels, is now a cycle path that opens up the Hintergebirge as a recreational area.
The greenery of the forests and alpine pastures is lush. For water is abundant in the Kalkalpen National Park. Like a sponge, the limestone blocks of the mountains soak up the rain and release the precious wet again in countless springs and streams.
Forest, Water, National Park
The beech forests
Pristine wilderness? There is no such thing in Central Europe any more. But you're wrong. In the middle of Upper Austria lie the "forgotten forests" of the Kalkalpen National Park. Ancient, pristine beech forests that are part of the UNESCO World Natural Heritage.
The beech conquered almost all of Europe after the end of the last ice age; it was the typical tree of the continent. Today, there are only a few original beech forests left. That is why UNESCO designated 41 ancient beech forests throughout Europe, a total of 91,000 hectares, as World Natural Heritage Sites - including almost 5,250 hectares of the Kalkalpen National Park in Upper Austria. This puts them on a par with legendary nature reserves such as Yellowstone National Park.
Wild forest of superlatives
These trees have fought hard for their habitat, they grow over rocks, stretch out towards the sun with absurdly crooked trunks. Thanks to the national park status, these forests are completely left to the work of nature. Dying and dead trees remain in the forest, slowly rotting and in turn serving as habitats for animals and plants that have become rare.
And: they are forests of superlatives. Three quarters of the forests are older than 140 years. The oldest beech in the Kalkalpen National Park is 525 years old and the thickest multi-stemmed tree has a diameter of 2.13 metres at breast height. The tallest beech is more than 41 metres high. And these impressive trees even reach great heights - up to 1,450 metres above sea level.
Hiking in the Kalkalpen National Park
Roam through beech forests or hike on lush green alpine pastures. Or tackle a long-distance hiking trail such as the Luchs Trail. Or climb to lofty heights on alpine paths while mountaineering. No matter which corner of the Kalkalpen National Park you are drawn to, the well-deserved snack in rustic huts is worth the effort.
Individual hiking tours through the National Park
Long Distance Lynx Trail
The Lynx Trail leads in 11 stages over 200 kilometres through the habitat of the lynx, connecting the Kalkalpen National Park with the Gesäuse National Park and the Dürrenstein Wilderness Area. These nature reserves are part of the largest near-natural forest area in Central Europe, where lynx have been deliberately reintroduced. The starting point of the first stage is Reichraming in the Enns Valley. From here, the Lynx Trail leads into the territory of the predatory cat with partly challenging passages. The lynx itself is a shy creature and does not show itself to the hikers. The Lynx Trail is an adventurous journey into a fascinating ecosystem where, in addition to the lynx, other rare animals such as the Bechstein's bat or the ash fritillary butterfly find ideal conditions.
Cycling, e-biking and mountain biking in the Kalkalpen National Park
Whether very leisurely or sportily challenging: the natural paradise of the Kalkalpen National Park can be wonderfully explored from the saddle of a bicycle thanks to the numerous cycle paths. From the challenging TRANS NATIONALPARK tour to the Hintergebirgsradweg with its fascinating stone tunnels to cycle paths along rivers, such as the Steyrtalradweg or the Ennsradweg, where refreshing refreshment lies along the way.
Guided and individual cycling tours through the National Park
The TRANS NATIONALPARK TOUR
More than 240 km of signposted cycling and mountain bike trails, from family-friendly to competition-tested, are available for eventful biking days in the National Park Region.
The top biking route in the region is the "TRANS NATIONALPARK TOUR". It connects the Kalkalpen National Park in Upper Austria and the Gesäuse National Park in Styria in one big loop. Enjoyment of nature in rugged mountain scenery, on lush green alpine pastures and quiet forests is guaranteed on this tour. 240 kilometres and 7,200 metres of altitude difference in up to six daily stages are its cornerstones. It is perfectly suited for mountain bikers with a high level of fitness, but the well-developed infrastructure also makes the TRANS NATIONALPARK an ideal tour for e-bikers.
The Steyr Valley Cycle Path
From the city of Steyr, discover the region around the Kalkalpen National Park by bike. The Steyrtalradweg (Steyr Valley Cycle Path ) with its almost 50 kilometres is ideal for this, cycling along the route of the former Steyrtalbahn (Steyr Valley Railway) along the turquoise-coloured Steyr. Numerous rest areas, vantage points and natural bathing spots make for varied breaks. For cycling adventures lasting several days, the Steyrtalradweg can be ideally combined with other cycle paths. With the Kalkalpen National Park Cycle Path, for example, which leads via Windischgarsten and Rosenau through the Pyhrn-Priel region. In Unterlaussa, the Hintergebirgsradweg connects to the Kalkalpen National Park Cycle Path. The Hintergebirgsradweg is popular due to its exciting routing along the route of a former forest railway - including rides through tunnels. You return to the starting point in Steyr via the Ennsradweg.
Culinary delights in the Kalkalpen National Park
Enjoyment in the National Park has many faces. Do you know what the forest tastes like? If not, you should pay a visit to Klemens Schraml in his restaurant in the RAU. He roams through meadows and forests and brings only the best to the plates of his natural cuisine. The numerous alpine pastures in the Kalkalpen National Park invite you to dine on bratl, dumplings, Kaiserschmarrn and a hearty snack.