13 things you must experience in the Kalkalpen National Park in winter
In winter, the Kalkalpen National Park in the heart of Austria is covered in a thick blanket of snow. Nature seems to be asleep. But appearances are deceptive. Because it's not just foxes and hares that say "Good night!" here in winter. Deer, even lynx and many other animals leave their tracks in the fresh snow. Set off in search of tracks and discover the wintry Kalkalpen National Park with unforgettable experiences.
1. Feel the hibernation
Pack your thermos early in the morning and listen to nothing but the crunching of the snow on the way to the Almkogel. When the first rays of sunlight make the snow crystals glow, you will be rewarded with a view over the Kalkalpen National Park and can really enjoy the winter dormancy. On the way back, it is worth stopping at the snow-covered Ennser Hütte, which tempts you with delicious delicacies from Friday to Sunday in winter.
2. Hiking through the winter landscape on snowshoes
Nature pauses, yet the National Park holds many things worth discovering, especially in winter. Equipped with snowshoes, you can make your way through the snow-covered winter forest or up to the quiet mountain pastures. The tracks in the snow indicate wild animals, about which the national park rangers have interesting stories to tell. If you can't get enough of it, take part in the 2-day snowshoe hike including an adventurous overnight stay at the rustic Ebenforstalm, where you heat up the big old table cooker yourself and cook together.
3. Experience a romantic horse-drawn sleigh ride through the Hintergebirge mountains
Enjoy the dreamlike winter landscape of the National Park from a horse-drawn sleigh. The Schwarzlmüller family harnesses two horses to the sleigh and off we go from Reichraming into the Weißenbachtal valley. The destination is the rustic Bergerwieshütte, where you can warm up with mulled cider and fortify yourself with fluffy farmer's doughnuts, a hearty farmer's snack or delicious Holzknechtnocken.
4. Cross-country skiing along the National Park
Those who want to explore the landscape along the National Park on two narrow boards will get their money's worth around Villa Sonnwend. The cross-country trails, which lead through enchanting winter landscapes, make the hearts of passionate cross-country skiers beat faster. The Innerrosenau biathlon centre offers a snow-sure supplement with around 15 kilometres of both classic and skating trails. Well-maintained and partly snow-covered cross-country ski trails offer ideal conditions for amateur and top international biathlon athletes.
5. Roaming through the National Park with a ranger
No one knows the Kalkalpen National Park as well as the rangers of the National Park. With them you can experience the protected area from its most beautiful sides - completely individually and tailored to your own interests.
The rangers in the Kalkalpen National Park teach you about "Experiencing Wildlife", "Discovering Nature", "Feeling the Wilderness" or "Enjoying the Alps" on fixed dates, but also individually on request at the respective visitor centre.
6. Spend a night in the Hengstpass hut
The Hengstpasshütte is a self-catering hut for up to 22 people. It is an ideal starting point for activities in the Kalkalpen National Park and can be booked all year round. In winter, after a leisurely snowshoe hike or a mindful ski tour, you can end the evening in the cosy parlour in front of the wood-burning stove. Further information and booking at the National Park Lodge Villa Sonnwend.
7. Experience genuine customs in the National Park Region
In the region around the Kalkalpen National Park, genuine customs are held in high regard. Lived crafts and handed-down traditions are just as much a part of the events as culinary delicacies. If you start your morning with a hike through the Kalkalpen National Park, you should not miss the markets and parades in the surrounding communities before heading home. This makes a day in the Kalkalpen National Park an unforgettable experience.
8. Search for lynx tracks in the snow
Equipped with snowshoes and full of curiosity, you set off in the company of National Park researchers in search of tracks in the Kalkalpen National Park. With a bit of luck, you might even find lynx tracks in the snow. During the search for tracks, the National Park Rangers have lots of interesting things to tell you about the lynx: from the lynx population in the National Park to the way of life of the large, shy forest cat. If you pay attention, you can read the tracks yourself on your next walk through the Kalkalpen National Park.
9. Listen to the chamois stories of the National Park rangers
Chamois are an extraordinary inhabitant of the Kalkalpen National Park, and the professional National Park rangers can tell you exciting stories about them. Depending on the snow conditions, the tour leads through the valley or towards the Sengsen Mountains, where the nature experts report on the development, significance and biology of the chamois. If you are lucky, you can also observe the wild animals from a distance.
10. Discover the nature of the night on the Hohe Dirn
When dusk slowly falls and everything becomes quiet, it's the right time to set out. For there is much to discover in one of the last places in Austria where night is still allowed to be night. Without the blinding lights of a larger city, you explore the lives of nocturnal species, test your eyesight in the dark forest and look for as many stars as possible in the firmament before the professionals from the Star Park Hohe Dirn give you an insight into their fascinating world.
11. Go on a torchlight hike on the Wurbauerkogel
A torchlight hike in winter is always a very special experience. From Windischgarsten you go up to the Wurbauerkogel, where the panorama tower rewards you with a magnificent view of the surrounding mountains. The exhibition "Fascination Rock" shows extraordinary animals and plants that have adapted to the barren mountain habitat. At dusk, accompanied by rangers, the torchlight hike takes you through the winter forest back down into the valley.
12. Hiking through the winter beech forests
The lush green of the up to 500-year-old beeches disappears with the first days of autumn. When the leaves are completely absent in winter, the view of mountain slopes and streams is no less impressive. The ancient beech forests in the Kalkalpen National Park have even been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2017.
13. Visit a historic hunting lodge
The biggest cultural-historical treasure in the National Park is the Bodinggraben forester's lodge. You follow in the footsteps of the Counts of Lamberg in the Bodinggraben, which was once a centre of attraction for aristocratic hunters due to its rich game populations. Today, the area belongs to the Kalkalpen National Park and is largely a game reserve. A tour of the stately hunting lodge with its historical furnishings also includes exciting stories about the life of the hunters at that time. With augmented reality glasses, you can delve even deeper into the world of the former princes of the wilderness.