A Quick & Dirty Guide to the Stubai High Trail

The Stubai High Trail (“Stubaier Höhenweg” in German) is one of the most beautiful treks in the Austrian Alps. Linking together eight characterful mountain huts, this horseshoe-shaped route around the Stubai Valley oscillates between breathtaking passes and enchanting valleys, while affording hikers non-stop views of serrated peaks, shimmering lakes, and magnificent glaciers. 

I walked the Stubai High Trail in mid-October 2019, as part of an extended hiking trip in the Alps. It was one of four multi-day high trails I did in Austria during the journey; the others being the Berliner Höhenweg, Schladming Tauern Höhenweg, and the Wormser Höhenweg.

Stage 6 – Approaching Grawagrubennieder Pass (2881 m), the highest point on the Stubai Hohenweg

(Note: The information below is largely directed towards independent hikers, rather than folks going as part of organised trekking groups). 

At a Glance

Distance:  80 km (50 mi)

Average Duration:  7 to 9 days (see How Long will it Take? for details)

Difficulty Level:  Moderate

Start:  Neustift

FinishNeder

High Point: Grawagrubennieder – 2881 m (9,452 ft)

Lowest Elevation: Neustift – 994 m (3,261 ft)

Total Elevation Gain & Loss:  11,306 m (37,093 ft)

Which direction?: I don’t think it matters. I hiked in a counter-clockwise direction, and the Cicerone guide books referenced below describe the trail in a clockwise direction.

What’s in a Name?: As of 2020, most folks – including the Stubai area’s official website – refer to the featured hike as the Stubai High Trail or Stubaier Höhenweg.  However, it is also known as the Stubai Rucksack Route or Stubaier Runde Tour in German. For users of the Cicerone Guide books mentioned below, note that in “Walking in Austria” it is referred to as the Hohenweg and listed as 120 km long, whereas in “Trekking in the Stubai Alps” it is called the Rucksack Route and estimated to be about 80 km in length. For the purposes of this article, I’m going to go with “High Trail” or “Hohenweg” and the shorter of the quoted distances, which aligns with GPX data for the route.

Overview map of the Stubaier Hohenweg (Walking in Austria, Cicerone Press).

Getting There & Away:

  • The termini of Neder and Neustift are serviced by a regular bus service (multiple times daily / #590) from the nearby city of Innsbruck. The journey takes around half an hour, and the bus stop is located directly outside the entrance to the Innsbruck train station. Click here for bus timetables.

Season:

  • Hiking season in the Austrian Alps is generally between late June to late September. In an average weather year, September is ideal. The school holiday crowds are gone, the summer thunderstorms (generally short) have subsided, temperatures are cooler, and the mountain huts are less crowded. 
  • Off-season: Depending on the snow levels and experience of the aspirant, the Stubai High Trail can also be done in the late spring or early to mid-fall. When hiking at these times, you may require an ice axe and traction devices. Also, note that the full-service huts closed at these times, so you will need to carry all of your own food and a perhaps a tent/tarp (Note: Most of the huts have small winter rooms (“winterraums“) that remain open during the off-season. See Accommodation below for details).
  • Personally speaking, for someone like myself who has always had an aversion to crowds (especially out in nature), hiking the trail off-season was ideal. I didn’t meet a single other person doing the entire route, and the only day-trippers I saw during my three days on trail were around the easily accessible Franz Senn Hut and Dresdener Hut.

Franz Senn Hut

Stage 6 – Approaching Grawagrubennieder Pass on a chilly autumnal morning.

Planning Information 

  • Guidebook: Cicerone Press publish two books that cover the Hohenweg. Walking in Austria gives a bare-bones account of the trail, while Trekking in the Stubai Alps has a much more detailed summary of the famed hut-to-hut route, including trekking notes, basic maps for each section, side trips/alternates suggestions, distance and time estimates, and logistical information on getting to and from the trail. Both books are available in Kindle version or paperback.
  • Maps:  You can pick up maps for the Stubai High Trail at the tourist office in Neustift. You have a choice of either a free basic map of the route or topographic maps by the Austrian Alpine Club (Sheet 31/1 Stubai Alpen: Hoch Stubai 1:25,000 and Sheet 31/2 Stubai Alpen: Sellrain 1:25,000). Normally, I would opt for the latter option, however, for this well-marked/easily accessible route, I think that the basic map, combined with a Kindle version of the Cicerone Guide, and GPX data, should suffice for most hikers in all but winter conditions.
  • Permits: No permits are required to hike the Stubai High Trail.

Mountain tarn at sunset on stage 4 just below Niederl Col (2,627 m).

  • Language:  German. Almost everyone you meet that’s under 60 years old will speak English, however, a few simple words and phrases of the native tongue will always be appreciated by locals.
  • Cell/Mobile Phone Coverage: I tend to keep my phone in flight mode while out in the woods, but from what I can gather, during hiking season some of the huts on the Hohenweg have Wifi/cell reception, along with the opportunity to charge your phone and/or battery pack whether you are overnighting, or just stopping in for breakfast or lunch.
  • Other Online Resources: The Stubai.at website is an excellent source of information not only for the Stubai High Trail but for anything else you may be interested in doing while in the Stubai region.

Stage 7 – Heading up to the Schrimmenneider Col (2,706 m) between Franz Senn and Neue Regensburger Huts.

Resupply & Water:

  • Food:  There are no villages along the Hohenweg, but meals are never hard to come by during the hiking season as all of the huts are full service. It is also possible to purchase snacks and sandwiches to go.
    1. Breakfast – Usually served from around 6 to 8 am. Continental-style, consisting of bread/butter/jam and coffee or tea.
    2. Lunch – Usually served from midday to 2 pm, though it can vary from hut to hut. Order as much as you like from the menu. Beer and wine are available.
    3. Dinner – Principal meal of the day and usually served between 6 pm and 7.30 pm. The set-dinner option is well-priced, ample in size, and can once again be washed down with your choice of adult beverages.
    4. Costs: Most folks that overnight at the huts go for the “half pension” option, which consists of dinner, bed, and breakfast for between €45 and €55. Lunch is always à la carte.
    5. Off-season: If you are interested in hiking out of season, you will have to carry all your own supplies from start to finish. If you are fortunate – it happened to me on three separate occasions during my time in Austria – friendly locals may have left some beers in the Winter Rooms to help get you through the chilly nights! 
  • Water: Plentiful throughout the hike. Can either be obtained at the huts or from streams along the way. During my time in the Alps, I generally drank directly from sources and had no intestinal issues. The exception was if I was obtaining water downstream from huts or grazing animals, in which case I treated with Aquamira drops.

Leaving the Neu Regensburger winter room on a chilly mid-October morning (-9°C/15°F).

Route / Conditions:

  • Overview:  During the summer months the Stubai High Trail is a moderately demanding trek. It includes more than 11,000 m (36,809 ft) of combined altitude gain and loss, and during its course, hikers will negotiate high passes, exposed traverses, boulder fields, and steep scree slopes. The trail is well marked with splashes of red/white paint, and major junctions usually have a signpost or a painted marker with a designated trail number.
  • If hiking during the shoulder seasons, do I need traction devices, ice axe, or any other specialised equipment?:  During my October hikes in the Alps I didn’t carry an ice axe, but I did use Salewa mountain spikes (similar to Kathoola Microspikes) and was very glad to have them for some of the icy high sections. Also on the footwear front, I regularly wore a combination of merino wool socks and Montbell Gore-tex All Round Socks under my trail running shoes. I’d definitely go with the same system again if I was to return to the Alps in the spring or fall. (Note: I’ll publish a full gear list for the trip in the coming weeks).

Stage 6 – Chamois drinking in the valley views.

  • How Long will it take?: In the opening “At a Glance” section I mention that the average time taken for the high trail is 7 to 9 days. That said, the amount of time it takes can vary greatly depending on a number of factors. Fit and experienced hikers carrying a light pack and who have a relatively good run with the weather, can comfortably do the hike in three or four days.
  • Highlights: I enjoyed the entire trail, but if I had to pick my favourite sections they would be as follows:
    1. Stage 4 – Between Nurnberger and Suzenau Huts via Niederl Col.
    2. Stage 6 – Between Dresdner Hut and Neue Regensberger Hut via the Grawagrubennieder Pass.

Note: I’ve read that Stage 2 between Bremer and Innsbrucker Huts is also supposed to be gorgeous, but unfortunately, the weather gods didn’t smile on me for that challenging section, and I spent the entire day walking through a combination of freezing rain, strong winds, heavy fog, and snow.

  • Lowlights: The only one that comes to mind is the built-up area around Dresdner Hut, which can be accessed by cable car.

Cairn-laden Niederl Col (2,627 m) with Wilder Freiger Ferner glacier in the background (Stage 4)

Wilder Freiger Ferner Glacier as seen from below Niederl Col (Stage 4).

Stage 2 and 3 – After a day spent hiking in less than stellar conditions, the dramatically located Innsbrucker Hut (or at least its cozy winter room) was a sight for sore eyes.

Sleeping

  • Mountain Huts: Virtually all hikers on the Stubai High Trail stay in the mountain huts. These regularly-spaced refuges usually boast incredible high altitude locations, along with impressive vistas. Most are open from mid-June to late September, and along with overnight accommodation (dormitory and sometimes private rooms), they also offer breakfast, lunch, and dinner. As referenced above, the best value can usually be found in the half-board offer, which consists of a three-course dinner, a bed, and breakfast for between 45 and 55 Euros (as of 2019). Note that folks that are affiliated with certain other European Alpine or Mountain clubs (e.g. UK, German, French) enjoy reciprocal rights. During the peak season months of July and August, accommodation should ideally be booked in advance; this especially holds true if you are hiking in a group.

Neue Regensberger Hut

Yours truly in the very plush, solar-powered, and apparently brand spanking new, winter room of the Neue Regensberger Hut. Although I carried my Tarptent Aeon Li, I didn’t end up using it and instead enjoyed the cozy confines of the winter rooms, which I was fortunate to have all to myself.

Nürnberger Hut.

  • Is Wild Camping Possible in the Austrian Alps?: Officially speaking………….it’s complicated. There is no “everyman’s right/freedom to roam” in Austria, and alpine zone camping regulations can vary significantly between states. The Stubai High Trail is located in the Tyrol region, and according to the Tyrol Camping Act (2001), as per the Austrian Alpine Club website: “Camping outside of campsites is prohibited”. The only exception is alpine bivouacking “for a short period of time required by the occasion.” Before wild campers get too excited, the website also states that “Deliberate bivouacking is equated with staying in a tent! Violations can result in fines of up to 14,500 euros, depending on the federal state.” In reality, I suspect if you were to stay well away from huts and farms, set up just before dark in a stealthy spot, leave at dawn the next day, and diligently practice LNT principles at all times, you would be unlikely to have any issues. Click here for a detailed overview of the camping situation in Austria.
  • Winter Rooms (“winterraums”): Although I did carry a shelter on the Stubai High Trail – for emergency purposes only! – I ended up spending all of my nights in the winter rooms. These little sanctuaries are a godsend at the end of a long day in rough conditions. They are generally an annex to the main hut and remain open all-year-round.

Stage 4 – Descending towards Sulzenau Hut.

Stage 1 – “Come on, son, I can’t hold this bloody rock up forever. Is there a case of Stiegl in there or what?

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25 Replies to “A Quick & Dirty Guide to the Stubai High Trail”

    1. Haha, you’re not the first person to ask me that. International travel is off the cards, but I’m fortunate to live in the mountains and have a bunch of trails on my doorstep that I never grow weary of hiking.

    1. Hi Max,
      Good to hear from you. Don’t think I’ll be making it back this year, but hopefully, we’ll have a chance to catch up in 2021.
      Cheers,
      Cam

  1. Have you done much hiking in Switzerland? Can you suggest any guidebooks for hiking there and Germany please !
    This trip looks fantastic! Very keen to get over there and hike when ever we can travel again !!
    Thanks 😊
    Kell

  2. Howdy Swami,
    Thanks for the inspiring photos. Always good to see what you’re up to. Next time you’re near Death Valley look us up. Peace,
    Reaper

    1. Hey Reaper,
      Great to hear from you and thanks for the kind words. It has been a long time since the PCT in 2007! I hope both you and Hot Pants are doing well.
      Cheers,
      Swami

  3. This may have pushed me over and made me decide to carry my microspike on the Alta Via next week. The forecast is looking chilly.

    How were the temps for you??

  4. The Alps are on my “most visit someday” list. But I don’t know if I could handle quiet so epic a hike. This is a great, very thorough breakdown of your trip. Nice pictures, too!

  5. Hi Cam,
    thank you for this wonderfully inspiring website!
    I live in Germany and am planning to do the Stubaier Höhenweg in early October. I would also plan to sleep in the winter rooms. I see you went with a proper tent as backup. After your experience, would you recommend doing that rather than going with a Tarp or Gatewood Cape? And would you rather go with a 0C or -10C sleeping bag?
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Toni,

      Thanks for the kind words about the website.

      In regard to your questions, I was in the Alps for a couple of months in 2019, and I felt that a tent was a better overall option for the trip (i.e. space-wise, all-around weather protection, privacy). That said, you could definitely get by with a tarp or Gatewood Cape as a backup on the Stubaier Höhenweg.

      As for the sleeping bag, in October I’d go with the -10C bag; particularly if you end up sleeping outside.

      All the best on your trip.

      Cheers,

      Cam

  6. Great write-up. I”ve done a few multi-day hut-to-hut routes in the alps, including the Berner Oberland, Silvrettas, and Zillertal. I prefer July for the flowers and greenery; not as crowded as August, but occasionally can’t reserve a bed in advance in a more popular hut (planning in February), and snow fields occasionally cover some of the steeper sections higher up.

    I’ve found the Cicerone guides to be great for planning. Are there any other guidebook publishers that you’d recommend?

    1. Hey Marty,

      Here’s an article I put together about hiking book resources that may be of help. See the “guidebook” section.

      Cheers,

      Cam

  7. Thanks for the very useful info and guidebook recommendations for the Stubai Hoehenweg. I had to cancel this dream trip for late June ’20 and now planning 3rd week of September ’21 trip to do with wife and friends. I have a few questions I hope you don’t mind: 1) I noticed you mentioned wearing trail running shoes, even in mid-October. Are mid-height hiking boots not necessary or not recommended? I was planning to bring medium support uninsulated Goretex Asolo boots. Adequate? 2) And pack size? I have a 26l and 36l to choose from. 3) Is it worthwhile to get a Austrian Alpine Club membership for this one trip? I understand it provides priority for reservations but we will be in the beginning of low season.
    Thanks!

    1. Hi Kurt,

      Thanks for the message. Regarding your questions:

      1. Re: Footwear – Largely a question of personal preference. I combined trail runners with Goretex socks for one or two of the higher/snowy stretches. Your boots would also work fine; 2. Re: Pack Size – It depends on the other items in your kit, but if you are exclusively overnighting in the huts and aren’t carrying a tent, stove, sleeping mat, etc. you may be able to make do with the smaller pack; 3. Re: Austrian Alpine Club – I was hiking outside of the season and all the huts were closed (except for the winter rooms), so I didn’t personally take out a membership. The Cicerone guide I mention in the article has a rundown of the benefits and may help in your decision.

      All the best on your trip.

      Cheers,

      Cam

  8. Thanks for the write-up and amazing website in general. I’m planning on either the Stubaier or Schladminger Tauern Höhenweg this summer and was wondering which one you preferred or would recommend? Thanks very much!

    1. Hey Jason,

      That’s a tough one. They’re both excellent. If I had to pick I’d probably go with the Stubaier.

      All the best on your trip!

      Cam

  9. Thank you for this site. Very helpful!

    Quick Question: If I don’t have time for the full 7 to 9 days, Is it possible to hike out midway to a town where I could catch public transportation back to Innsbruck or is that more hassle than what it’s worth?

    Thanks,
    Dan

    1. Hi Dan,
      Thanks for the message.
      Yes, there are options for shorter versions of the hike. See the Cicerone guide I mention in the article for details.
      Cheers,
      Cam

  10. Hi Cam!

    Been following your adventures since 2016, and your write ups for trails in Peru, Argentina and Chile have been very helpful on my 6 month backpacking trip there!

    My questions regarding the Stubai High trek: Is there a designated camping ground for travelers who prefer to sleep in a tent at the locations of the huts? In addition, do you need to make reservations in advance for camping or lodging in the huts?

    Best regards from Israel,
    Omer

    1. Hi Omer,

      Thanks for your message and continuing support of the website.

      Regarding your questions: 1. I don’t think there are designated camping areas around the huts; 2. During the regular hiking season, you will likely need to make reservations for lodging in the huts.

      As I mentioned in the post, I hiked the Stubai High Trail out of the normal season, so there was no need to make reservations to sleep in the winter rooms. The main sections of all the huts were closed.

      Best Regards,

      Cam

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