A local’s guide to the best biking around Salzburg, Austria
Though Salzburg often steals the show with its hilltop fortress and musical legacy, leave the city buzz behind and find the real pulse of the Alps on two wheels.
Fringing the Hohe Tauern National Park, where Austria’s mountains punch the highest, the Grossarltal valley is patchworked with the kind of cowbell-swinging, wildflower-freckled Alpine pastures that drove Maria to yodelling raptures in The Sound of Music. The best way to see them is by bike: be it a gentle pre-breakfast pedal amid sun-dappled forests or a pulse-quickening mountain bike adventure to a quaint Alpine hut.
With 87 miles of waymarked trails right on its doorstep, Das Edelweiss Mountain Resort is the ideal base for fine-tuning a two-wheeled adventure. In the capable hands of the Hettegger family since 1977, the hotel is brilliantly geared up for cyclists, with a bike wash, a repair service and a luxurious spa for a post-saddle soak. From Monday to Saturday, you can even hook onto free mountain and e-biking tours led by the family themselves. Karin and Hans Hettegger have been qualified Austrian Mountain Bike Guides since 2014 and still relish the opportunity to introduce their guests to the region’s best routes, winding past meadows, forests, looking-glass lakes and up to one lovely Alpine hut after the next. Here, we delve into some of their all-time favourite Salzburg cycling spots.
1. An adrenaline-fuelled MTB ride to Aualm
Distance: six miles, 1¼ hours (one way)
If you’re looking to ramp up the challenge and the gears, this heart-pumping mountain bike ride up to Aualm thrills. Kicking off in Grossarl, you’ll need to negotiate almost 3,000ft of ascent, but boy is it worth it for the views you’ll enjoy. Grossarl itself is storybook stuff, with its onion-domed church dwarfed by seriously high peaks. Pedalling out to the district of Unterberg, you’ll climb up past spruce forest and timber chalets to Rattersberghof, where an inviting mountain-facing terrace offers the perfect spot to catch your breath. Phenomenal views of the Grossarltal unfold as you push higher on forest tracks past rambling farms, to emerge at almost 6,000ft-high Aualm, where animals graze happily in the sunshine. Snag a table at this organic farm, which is run by the Lainer family, and dig into homemade bread, butter, bacon and cheese.
2. A gentle pedal to Otzlsee
Distance: 10 miles, 1 hour (one way)
If you like your Alpine views without the uphill slog, this family-friendly cycle trail is the dream — a largely flat route shadowing the fast-flowing, startlingly turquoise Grossarler Ache river. Begin at 3,350ft above sea level in the upliftingly pretty village of Hüttschlag. A magnet to rock climbers, Hüttschlag guides the eye ever higher: from timber chalets to hilltop churches and forested peaks — some still snow-capped long into spring. In summer, the meadows are a riot of wildflowers, including hot pink Alpenrosen (Alpine rhododendrons). You’ll pass chapels and pastures as you wheel over to Talwirt, where you can stop to try freshly churned ice cream and home-smoked ham. Look out for chamois, red deer and mouflon sheep as you zip past local farms and on to the trail’s end at Ötzlsee, a glassy green lake embedded deep in the forest. On the way back, stop at Bauernladenstüberl for a glimpse of cheese being made at the dairy and to sample specialities infused with Alpine herbs and wild garlic.
3. A romantic breakfast ride to Bichalm
Distance: six miles; 1¼ hours (one way)
Nothing beats an early start in the Alps in summer, rising as the first sun pinkens the summits and slowly creeps down the valley. Romantic? You bet. Embracing the morning, this route from Grossarl dips into the serene Ellmautal, the largest side of the valley, where wooden chalets cling to forest-lined slopes. You’ll then pedal steadily higher to Lammwirt, a mountain chalet where you can charge your e-bike (if you have one) and enjoy a coffee with a knockout view of the pasture-quilted valley. From here, it’s gently onwards and upwards to Bichlalm, a rustic timber chalet loftily perched at 5,650ft above sea level, where you can fill up on a breakfast of homemade bread with farm-fresh butter, bacon, cheese and sausage. The view up here is staggering, reaching deep into the Grossarltal and up to the glacier-frosted, 1,000ft-high peaks of Hohe Tauern.
4. A foodie foray from Maurachalm to Karseggalm
Distance: 10.5 miles, 1½ hours (one way)
Yes, there’s a bike involved, but honestly? This ride is all about the food, ticking off three folksy mountain huts. Starting in Grossarl, you’ll cycle towards St Johann, turning off to pedal steadily up through forest and over flower-speckled pastures. Your first stop is 5,300ft-high Maurachalm, with its menagerie of cows, sheep, alpacas and pigs. Ablaze with geraniums in summer, this wooden hut specialises in brettljausen (sharing platters of cold meats, vegetables and cheeses), which pair nicely with rowanberry and elderberry schnapps. Return along the same route before turning off to Unterwandalm for another feast of Alpine produce. Be sure to pace yourself though, as this route saves the best for last with off-grid Karseggalm, one of the region’s oldest huts. The pastures here have been cultivated for 400 years and stepping into its dark timber interior rewinds time a century or two. Here, knetkäse cheese is still smoked in a copper kettle over an open fire and is best enjoyed with a shot of larch schnapps, before breezing back down to the valley.
Plan your trip
Take pure nature, a pinch of luxury, contemporary design rooted in tradition and a fine-dining restaurant riffing modern on regional Alpine flavours and the result is Das Edelweiss Salzburg Mountain Resort. The hotel is ideal for exploring the Grossarltal valley by bike and after a day in the saddle, you can relax in the mountain-facing infinity pool and glass-fronted spa, with its floating loungers, themed saunas and refreshing therapies. Special occasion? Book the penthouse suite, which comes complete with its own sauna and rooftop pool.
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