We booked our September flights to Salzburg way back in April after I spotted a cheap weekend deal in one of my Jack’s Flight Club emails (highly recommend paying for the subscription btw). Initially, I thought we would spend the weekend exploring the city of Salzburg, but as the holiday got closer, and we started to do a bit of research, we were both keen to turn it into an active weekend of hiking in the Alps. Revisiting the photos and memories now, as I’m writing this two months later, I’m giving ourselves a pat on the back for this great decision.
With weekend trips, they only really kick-off on the Saturday morning, as by the time you land and check into your accommodation on the Friday after work you’re usually ready for bed. So first thing Saturday we picked up our rental car and headed to Hallstatt in Austria’s mountainous Salzkammergut region – just over an hours drive from Salzburg. Here we stopped for a little explore around the picturesque lakeside village, which is well-visited by tourists as it has the world’s oldest salt mines and a salt lake. We were on a pretty tight schedule so only had a fleeting visit, but could see why it draws in the crowds.
We then drove onwards to park our car at the bottom of Dachstein Krippenstein. From here there are a series of three cable cars which take you to the top of the Krippenstein ski field. BUT we somewhat unknowingly took on the more intensive route and hiked up a red run. It was hard going and by the time we joined the last section of the cable car we had already hiked an elevation of 1.2km and only 7.5km in distance – in other words, it was bloody steep. On a positive note we started to get amazing glimpses of the views not only back towards Hallstatt but up towards the 5 Fingers lookout and the Dachstein mountain range beyond Krippenstein.
Once we got to the top of the final cable car we welcomed some of the more flatter sections of the walk and the differing terrain. We kept our eyes and ears peeled for wildlife along the way and managed to spot marmot for about a second before it dashed into its den. The scenery was amazing and we felt like we were completely alone out there – not seeing anyone else on the trail for several hours. We kept second guessing which mountain we were going to be ascending to get to our alpine hut so it was a good thing that the route was clearly signposted with painted flags on the rocks. Then we were finally able to spot the hut perched high the distance.
When we reached the Simonyhutte we tucked straight into a pint and sat out on the balcony which overlooked a glacier. Simonyhutte is situated at 2,203m altitude and is open in both summer and winter. It offers basic accommodation, hot meals and unreal panoramic views over the Central Alps. As you can only reach the hut by foot it isn’t full of your typical tourists – which is a good thing. Andrew and I were definitely the minority in that we didn’t speak German. After a pretty tiring day, we headed to bed early and woke up at the crack of dawn to see the sunrise.
What goes up must come down. We set off pretty early and this time opted for the slightly easier route and finished our hike at the cable car. We briefly looked around the top of the Krippenstein resort but unfortunately couldn’t fit in the 1hr round trip to the 5 Fingers viewing platform, which does look pretty epic! So if you’re thinking about doing a similar trip I would recommend checking it out. The views from the cable car descent though were more than decent.
Back at a lower elevation, we had about half a day left to go exploring so jumped back in the car and took the scenic route back to Salzburg. We stopped in at a village on the edge of Lake Wolfgangsee where we had a carb filled lunch and basked in the sunshine. Once in Salzburg we almost felt obliged to have a look around – neither of us were really in the mood to do so! We were both tired and more walking at that stage wasn’t too appealing. But we did it anyway and saw a few of the most popular sights – the Fortress Hohensalzburg, Cathedral and a bit of the Old Town. We realised then that our decision to head out of the city to explore the mountains was indeed the perfect weekend break for us.