Hiker on the Venediger Höhenweg

Venediger and Lasörling Höhenweg

The Venediger and Lasörling Höhenweg form a semi circle around Matrei in Ost-Tirol, Austria. Although they’re both separate trails, it makes a lot of sense to combine the two as the Lasörling Höhenweg starts where the Venediger Höhenweg ends. Below, I’ll give you all the practical information you need to hike this trail.

Why hike the Venediger and Lasörling Höhenweg?

The Venediger-Lasörling Höhenweg is probably the best high alpine trail I’ve ever hiked. Below, I’ll give you my reasons why:

  • Great views on the Grossvenediger and Gross Glockner, two of Austria’s most beautiful mountains.
  • Huge glaciers. Especially the area around the Neue Prager Hütte is spectacular, with the massive Schlatenkees dominating the view.
  • The hike feels wilder and more remote than anything else in Austria (and indeed most hikes in the Alps).
  • Variety. Every stage has its own character with unique views. Even after ten days in the high mountains, the views still feel fresh.
  • For a high altitude mountain trail, the trail is remarkeably easy. Everyone with basic mountain hiking experience will be able to complete it.
  • It’s a hut to hut tour, which means you don’t have to cary much gear. That is, if you’re not bringing 5 kilo’s of camera equipment!
  • Huts on the trail are generally speaking very nice with great views, staff and food. They’re also very affordable as long as you’re a member of one of the associated Alpine Clubs. As a member of the Dutch Alpine Club I paid around €45 a day for half board.
  • The trail is well marked, making it super easy to find your way.
Beautiful stream above the Essener-Rostocker Hütte
Beautiful stream above the Essener-Rostocker Hütte

General information

The Venediger- Lasörling Höhenweg is comprised of two seperate high altitude trails. The Venediger Höhenweg starts at the Matreier Tauernhaus and ends in the hamlet of Hinterbichl. The Lasörling Höhenweg starts in Hinterbichl and ends in the town of Virgen. When combined, they make for a continuous hike that takes seven to ten days to complete.

Nature of the hike

Despite being very much at high altitude, the Venediger- Lasörling Höhenweg mostly features gentle gradients. Anyone with experience in high mountain hiking will be able to do the trail with relative ease. There are some noteable exceptions though, and I’ve listed them below.

  • The second stage (from the Sankt Poltenerhütte to the Neue Prager Hütte) is quite long. Even though it features no technical difficulties it will take a lot of energy to complete it.
  • The fourth stage (from the Badener Hütte to the Bonn-Matreier Hütte) goes over the Galtenscharte. This pass is steep, somewhat technical and features lots of loose terrain, resulting in rockfall hazard. It is, however, not more difficult than other high altitude passes found on other trails.
  • The eighth stage (from the Neue Reichenberger Hütte to the Lasörlinghütte) features some boulderfield crossings. The short but steep descent from the Prägrater Törl features a lot of loose rock and is therefore quite awkward.
Hiker on the Venediger- Lasörling Höhenweg
The spectacular ascent up to the Neue Prager Hütte with the Schlatenkees in the background

How to get there (and back again)

There’s two ways to get to the trailhead at the Matreier Tauernhaus. Both involve using bus service 950x in between Kitzbühel and Lienz. You can find a timetable for bus 950x here.

Coming from the North, it makes most sense to first take the train to Kitzbühel and overnight there before taking the 9:40 bus to Lienz from Kitzbühel trainstation. Make sure to ask the bus driver to drop you off at the toll booth right after exiting the Felbertauern tunnel as there’s no official bus stop there. From there on, you can hike down the old access road towards the Matreier Tauernhaus lower in the valley.

Coming from the South, it is best to first take the train to Lienz before taking bus 950x in the direction of Kitzbühel. Ask the bus driver to drop you off at the toll booth right before entering the Felbertauerntunnel as there’s no official bus stop there. Bus 950x leaves from the trainstation at Lienz.

The trail ends in Virgen. From Virgen, it’s only a short bus ride or hitchhike to Matrei in Ost-Tirol. From there, you can take the 950x back to either Kitzbühel or Lienz. Plan this in advance as to not miss the last bus of the day.

Routefinding on the Venediger- Lasörling Höhenweg

The trail is well marked and routefinding is therefore quite easy. I would, however, recommend buying the Kompass maps for the National Park Hohe Tauern. These maps give you a helpful oversight for planning the trip and also come in handy if you don’t know which direction to follow on a signpost. They also come with a free download link for the Kompass app, allowing you to store your maps offline on your phone as well.

Descent to the Johannishütte along the Venediger- Lasörling Höhenweg
Obvious red-white-red waymarking on the descent to the Johannishütte (stage 5)

Huts on the trail

Just like other huts in Austria, the huts along the Venediger- Lasörling Höhenweg are of great quality. They offer great food, and dorms are becoming more and more comfortable. Most huts even have (paid) hot showers. Moreover, most huts offer great views of the surrounding mountains.

Most huts a run by the German and Austrian alpine clubs. Members of these or associated clubs get a discount. The German Wikipedia page offers a full list of associated Alpine clubs.

Costs of staying in the huts

In general, half board and a hot shower sets you back €42 – €50 a day. You can also buy lunch at the hut, which usually costs around €12 a day. To save costs, I brought lunch and snacks for ten days.

Overview of huts
View from the Essener- und Rostocker Hütte
View from the Essener- und Rostocker Hütte on the Östliche Simonyspitze (3448 a.s.l.)

When to go?

Due to its high altitude, the Venediger- Lasörling Höhenweg has a rather short hiking season spanning from mid July until mid September. In early July, there’s still lots of leftover snow from last winter. From mid September, the huts close down for the winter. In August, huts are usually crowded as most of Europe is on summer holidays. In my opinion, the best time to hike the trail is mid till late July or early September.


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Stages of the Venediger-Lasörling Höhenweg

I hiked the whole trail in ten stages, which I’ve described below. Quick hikers can easily do the whole trail in seven days by doubling up or combining stages. There’s also an option to extend your hike by one day by staying at the Clarahütte.

Stage 1: Matreier Tauernhaus to Sankt Pöltener Hütte

View to Kleinvenediger
View of the Kleinvenediger to the west, your destination for tomorrow

This is a short day with around 1100 meters of ascent and no descent. As such, it’s a perfect for acclimatization for days to come.

If you’re coming from the unofficial bus stop from the Tauerntunnel, start by hiking towards the service buildings located at the side of the road. Behind the buildings, you’ll find the old access road leading down to the Matreier Tauernhaus.

The official start of the Venediger- Lasörling Höhenweg is at the Matreier Tauernhaus. From there, the trail first leads you on a small road on the bottom of the valley. After a kilometer a small trails signposted to the Sankt Pöltener Hütte leads steeply up into the woods. At times, the path is extremely muddy. Keep an eye out for the waymarking as there are some cattle trails leading you of course.

Shortly after climbing above the treeline, the trail evens out and you reach a broad valley with a small stream running down the middle. The valley offers excellent views South and East, with the distinctive Grossglockner clearly visible in the distance. Unfortunately you’ll share the valley with some large, ugly electricity pylons.

Hike up the valley and keep an eye out for the red white red waymarking as the trail crosses numerous streams and the dirt road used to supply the Sankt Pöltener Hütte until you reach a signpost directing you up a steep, path up a rocky outcrop. The signpost falsely states that the hut is 30 minutes away while in reality, it’s only 5 minutes.

If you have plenty of energy left, the Tauernkoger at 2988 a.s.l. offers an enticing prospect. Be aware of the tough stage coming up tomorrow; it’s best to leave something in the tank.

Stage 2: Sankt Pöltener Hütte to Neue Prager Hütte

This is one of the finest dayhikes to be found in the Alps with great views on the Grossvenediger, Kleinvenediger and Schlatenkees glacier. It’s also quite long as it demands 8 solid hours of hiking. There’s a sting at the end of the day as you have to ascend some 600 meters up to the epic Neue Prager Hütte. Most of the day you’re fully exposed to the sun so take this into account when hiking in warm conditions. An early start is recommended.

Start out by hiking back down to the signpost falsely declaring the hut to be 30 minutes away. From there, go right and follow the trail as it traverses westward. Even though the trail roughly stays at the same altitude the going is not straightforward. As always with a traverse, the path is seldom straight or level, making your progress seem slow. Throughout the day, the views on the Grossvenediger and Kleinvenediger improve drastically. After some 4.5 hours of hiking the trail drops down to the bottom of the valley floor following a a small stream on a rocky slope. Those without high boots are bound to get wet feet here.

At the valley floor you reach the lowest point of the day when you cross a bridge over the Viltragenbach at 2215 a.s.l. From here, there’s some 2.5 hours of hiking left, mostly uphill. The path zigzags steeply uphill to climb 250 meters until it levels out into a traverse across the mountainside. Quite suddenly, the epic Schlatenkees glacier comes into view. Continue the traverse until you reach the Alte Prager Hütte at 2489 a.s.l. From here, turn right to zigzag steeply uphill to the Neue Prager Hütte at 2796 a.s.l.

Milky Way above Kleinvenediger along the Venediger and Lasörling Höhenweg
Milky Way above Kleinvenediger as photographed from the Neue Prager Hütte

Stage 3: Neue Prager Hütte to Badener Hütte

  • Start: Neue Prager Hütte (2796 a.s.l.)
  • Stop: Badener Hütte (2608 a.s.l.)
  • Time: 5 hours
  • Difficulty: There’s some chain assisted passages, but all in all it’s fairly easy going.

Another spectacular hike with views dominated by the mighty Schlatenkees glacier. You start out by retracing your steps down to the Alte Prager Hütte. From there on, you follow the path down to the Innergschlöss.

Schlatenkees glacier
Schlatenkees glacier converted to black and white to bring out texture and tonality

The Innergschlöss consists of smoothly polished bedrock where the glacier once used to flow. Carefully follow the cairns and red white red paint flashed as you make your way across this otherworldly rock formation. As you reach the other side of the Innergschlöss you cross a stream at 2160 a.s.l. and the trail turns right across the old moraine. From here on, it’s a steep climb all the way up to the Löbbentörl at 2770 a.s.l. The higher you get, the rougher the going is. Near the pass you’ll have to pick your way up boulder and snowfields. Take extra care not to lose the waymarking here. Right before the top, there’s a steep slippery section where you have to hoist yourself up using a rope.

After the Löbbentörl it’s still a solid hour of hiking down to the Badener Hütte. The trail traverses southward and is punctuated by short but steep ascends and descends, at time with cable protection. The Badener Hütte only comes into view as you’re right on top of it.

Stage 4: Badener Hütte to Bonn-Matreier Hütte

  • Start: Badener Hütte (2608 a.s.l.)
  • Stop: Bonn Matreier Hütte (2750 a.s.l.)
  • Time: 6 hours
  • Difficulty: This Galtenscharte at 2871 a.s.l. is the technical crux of the entire hike. It’s no more difficult than the cable protected passages of stage 3, but a lot more exposed and sustained. It’s defnitely not a pass for the inexperienced in bad weather!
The intimidating Galtenscharte is the crux of the Venediger- Lasörling Höhenweg
The intimidating Galtenscharte is the obvious cleft in the middle of the rock wall

In good weather the Galtenscharte is no more difficult than most alpine passes, even though it’s quite exposed. Bear this in mind as from a distance it looks quite intimidating. In bad weather, it might be best to hold back for a day as there’s no obvious way to navigate around it.

The day starts out with an easy, beautiful traverse across steep slopes covered in lush grass. As the valley deepens below you, the path becomes quite narrow. After two hours you reach a split in the road where a signpost directs you straight to the Galtenscharte. Immediately after, you descend down to the Malfrosnitzbach which you cross at around 2260 a.s.l. Here, you find signs warning you for rockfall on the Galtenscharte.

The path up the Galtenscharte zigzags very steeply uphill but is otherwise surprisingly easy. The going only gets difficult from around 2750 a.s.l., with sustained cable protected scrambles and narrow, eroded paths above steep drop offs. Just before reaching the pass, there’s cleft in the rocks offering views down the other side. This is not the Galtenscharte! Instead, continue the path on the North side of the mountain to reach the real Galtenscharte at 2871 a.s.l. On the other side of the Galtenscharte, scramble steeply down to a rough boulderfield. In wet conditions it’s difficult going as the rock is quite slippery.

The path remains rough with boulderfields until you reach another pass, the Kalberscharte at 2791 a.s.l. From there on, the going finally gets easier and it’s a short and easy hike down to the beautifully located Bonn-Matreier Hütte at 2750 a.s.l.

Alternative 4B:

If you’re looking to shorten your itinerary by one day, it makes sense to press on to the Eisseehütte, which is only 2 hours of simple hiking away. From the Eisseehütte, you could easily skip the Johannishütte and reach the Essener- und Rostocker Hütte in one day.

View from Bonn-Matreier Hütte along the Venediger and Lasörling Höhenweg
Even in bad weather, the view from the Bonn-Matreier Hütte is great!

Stage 5: Bonn-Matreier Hütte to Johannishütte

  • Start: Bonn-Matreier Hütte (2750 a.s.l.)
  • Stop: Johannishütte (2121 a.s.l.)
  • Time: 5.5 hours
  • Difficulty: This stage feels decidedly easier than the stages before. The Zopetscharte is secured with steel cables.

Leave the Bonn-Matreier Hütte by following the path signposted to the Eisseehütte. At first, you’ll drop steeply down in a large cirque before regaining altitude on the other side. From there, the path stays mostly level. In good weather there are splendid views of the Lasörling Gruppe on the other side of the valley. After some 2 hours of hiking, you reach the charming but small Eisseehütte at 2521 a.s.l. I heartily recommend the Kaiserschmarrn as they were some of the nicest I ever had.

After the Eisseehütte the path remains fairly lever for about 15 minutes until you reach a small, hidden valley with many streams running through it. After crossing the valley floor, the path zigzags steeply up to the Zopetscharte at 2970. The top of the pass is protected with steel cables.

From the Zopetscharte it’s a long descent of nearly two hours down to the Johannishütte at 2121 a.s.l. In clear weather, the Grossvenediger is visible from the hut.

View back down the valley from the ascent of the Zopetscharte
View back down the valley as seen from the ascent to the Zopetscharte

Stage 6: Johannishütte to Essener- und Rostocker Hütte

  • Start: Johannishütte (2121 a.s.l.)
  • Stop: Essener- und Rostocker Hütte (2208 a.s.l.)
  • Time: 3.5 hours
  • Difficulty: This is a short, easy hike with no technical difficulties. It’s great to save some energy for the rather long day ahead.
View from the Türmljoch along the Venediger- Lasörling Höhenweg
The majestic view from the Türmljoch makes you feel as if you’re in Nepal

From the Johannishütte you follow the trail as it’s winds past huge boulders in a muddy field. After crossing a rocky gorge with a thundering blue river the path starts climb steadily all the way to the Türmljoch at 2772 a.s.l. Surrounded by large mountains and glaciers, this pass makes you feel like you’re in Nepal.

The descent from the Türmljoch is one to be savoured. The further down you go, the better the views become. Eventually you’ll reach the Maurerbach, a lovely glacier fed stream meandering through the lush valley. Follow the path upstream as until it reaches a bridge. From there, it’s a 15 minute hike down to the Essener Rostocker Hütte, located on the valley headwall at 2208 a.s.l.

Early morning view looking upstream at the Maurerbach

Stage 7: Essener- und Rostocker Hütte to Neue Reichenberger Hütte

The day starts off with a rather long but scenic descent as you follow the Maurerbach down the valley all the way to the hamlet of Ströden/Streden at 1403 a.s.l. Ströden is the official terminus of the Venediger Höhenweg. If you’re running out of time, you can catch the bus down the valley to Matrei. If you want to continue into the Lasörling range, follow the signs in the direction of the Umbalfälle.

The path to the Umbalfälle is a large dirt road and luckily shaded. Follow the dirt road until you reach the popular Islitzeralm at 1513 a.s.l. On a hot day, it’s tempting to stop for an icecream.

At the Islitzeralm you cross the river and then follow a steep and seemingly endless dirt road up the mountain side. The ascent is relentless and only lets off once you’re firmly above the treeline. Eventually, you reach the Grossbachtall which you follow all the way to the valley headwall. A steep path leads up the headwall until you suddenly reach the Bödensee with the Neue Reichenberger Hütte located right next to it at 2586 a.s.l.

The Neue Reichenberger Hütte along the Venediger- Lasörling Höhenweg
The Neue Reichenberger Hütte is a welcome sight after a long day
Alternative 7B

If you have a day to spare, a visit to the Clarahütte at 2038 a.s.l. might be in order. Several locals told me it’s beautifully located. To visit the Clarahütte, go straight at the Islitzingeralm to follow the large dirt road. After an easy 1.5 hours of hiking you’ll reach the hut. From the Clarahütte you can reach the Neue Reichenberger Hütte by following the route through the prisine Daberbachtal. This route takes some 4 hours.

Stage 8: Neue Reichenberger Hütte to Lasörlinghütte

  • Start: Neue Reichenberger Hütte (2586 a.s.l.)
  • Stop: Lasörlinghütte (2350 a.s.l.)
  • Time: 6 hours
  • Difficulty: There are several boulderfield crossings, most notably in between the Stampflesscharte (2753 a.s.l.) and the Prägrater Törl (2853 a.s.l.). After the Prägrater Törl there’s a steep, cable protected descent on loose rocks.

There’s three passes to cross on the way to the Lasörlinghütte: the Rote Lenke (2794 a.s.l.), the Stampflesscharte (2753 a.s.l.) and the Prägrater Törl (2853 a.s.l.). As such, this is a long stage, but by now you should be well into your stride.

From the Neue Reichenberger Hütte, take the path along the left shore of the Bodensee. The climb to the Rote Lenke is straightforward and well graded. After the Rote Lenke an easy path drops down to reach the Kleinbachboden before a steep, stony trails leads you back up to the Stampflesscharte.

Descent to the Kleinbachboden
Descent to the Kleinbachboden from the Rote Lenke

After the Stampflesscharte the path first gently leads downhill before suddenly leading you onto several large boulderfields. The going remains rough untill you’re close to the Prägrater Törl. The passage right after the Prägrater Törl is slightly awkward as you have to descent rather steeply on a chossy slope. The cable protection is loose in places. Beware for rockfal caused by hikers above you.

The remainder of the hike to the privately owned Lasörlinghütte is simple and well graded. If you have energy left, there’s a left turn left to climb the Lasörling, at 3098 a.s.l. the highest mountain of the range.

Stage 9: Lasörlinghütte to Zupalseehütte

Starting from the Lasörlinghütte, there’s many ways for you to get down to Virgen. If you’re short on time, the most straightforward route is to first hike in the direction of the Zupalseehütte before turning left towards the Merschenalm (2248 a.s.l.) and then continue the long descent down to Virgen. Alternatively, you can spend an extra day in the mountains by continuing to the lovely Zupalseehütte.

The most obvious route towards the Zupalseehütte is somewhat of an anticlimax as it’s rather short and easy. There is however, a spectacular alternative available to you. Shortly after the Merschenalm exit a small and rough path numbered 316 on your right leads you over boulderfields to the Speikboden at 2653 a.s.l. After this, continue the easy path along the ridge over the Donnerstein (2725 a.s.l.) and then head on towards the Zupalkogel/Griften (2720 a.s.l.). Right before you reach the Zupalkogel, a steep path leads down to the Zupalseehütte. Alternatively, continue to the Zupalkogel and then head down to the left on path 79 and then 79A for a more spectacular finish to your hike.

The Zupalseehütte offers good quality wifi, which should help you plan your journey back home.

Ridgewalk close to the Zupalkogel
Ridgewalk close to the Zupalkogel

Stage 10: Zupalseehütte to Virgen

  • Start: Zupalseehütte (2350 a.s.l.)
  • Stop: Virgen (1194 a.s.l.)
  • Time: 3 hours
  • Difficulty: The long descent is rather hard on the knees

It’s a pretty hike down to Virgen, with some great views of the Venediger range on the other side of the valley. From the Zupalseehütte follow the large dirt road signposted to the Wetterkreuzhütte. After a minute a faint trail branches off to the left, following the Zupalbach. Take care as it’s easy to miss. Follow this narrow but well maintained trail all the way until you reach a dirt road. From there, turn right.

Follow this dirt road all the way past the Rudnigalm. Ten minutes after passing the Rudnigalm, a single trail leads into a meadow to your left. Follow this trail until it connects with another dirt road at the Würfelehütte. Now simply follow the signs to Virgen to finish the Venediger-Lasörling Höhenweg. The bus stop is located opposite to the church.

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