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Western Tauern Alps

With 2,288 named mountains in the Western Tauern Alps it is one of the largest Alpine subranges. At an elevation of 3,798m and with a prominence of 2,428m Grossglockner is the highest and the most prominent mountain in the Western Tauern Alps and Austria as well. The range is located mostly in Austria with a small south eastern part of it in Italy.

The word Tauern is German and originally meant "high mountain pass" in the Austrian Central Alps, referring to the many bridleways and passes of the parallel side valleys of the River Salzach that cut into the mountain range. From the Middle Ages, when mining reached its heyday, the word "Tauern" was also used to name the corresponding ranges.

Western Tauern Alps

The range is divided into four subsections:

  • Zillertal Alps - Hochfeiler / Gran Pilastro is the highest, Olperer is the second (both could be seen in the photo above)
  • High Tauern with Grossglockner as the highest point is the highest subsection of the Western Tauern Alps
  • Villgraten Mountains - Weiße Spitze is the highest peak
  • Kreuzeck group is in the southern part of the Western Tauern Alps, Ultra prominent Polinik is the highest peak in this subsection.

Major Trails and Hiking Areas

Zillertal Alps:

  • Sterzing (Vipiteno) - there is a panoramic ridge trail from Saun - Sommo through Weißspitze - Punta Bianca and Rollspitze - Cima Rolle to Wolfendorn - Spina del Lupo at the very border between Italy and Austria. The ridge divides Eisecktal - the Isarco Valley from Pfitscher Tal - Val di Vizze, which guarantees epic views all the time.
  • Wilde Kreuzspitze - Picco della Croce and lake Wilder See which it overlooks.
  • Gaisjoch - Cima della Capra and Gitsch - Monte Cuzzo high above the alpine resort village of Maranza in Gitschberg Jochtal area. This region is on the border of the Western Tauern Alps, the Eastern Rhaetian Alps, and the Dolomites. The summits allow splendid panoramic views of dozens of world-known mountains. For example, most of the Dolomites staples could be seen from here.
  • Speikboden is a mountain with splendid panorama over the Ahrntal valley and its shaping wall of 3000+ meters high glaciated peaks constituting a natural border between Austria and Italy.

High Tauern National Park:
A vast majority of the Western Tauern Alps are under protection of the High Tauern National Park which stretches along 100 kilometres (62 miles) off the main chain. With an area of about 1,834 square kilometres (708 sq miles), it is by far the largest national parks in Austria.

  • Grossglockner high Alpine road goes through the heart of the national park and is the most popular way to experience the region. There are many parking areas along this 48 km road which are the trailheads to numerous hiking paths. Probably one of the most frequented and easily reachable summits is Edelweissspitze. At an elevation of 2,572m with a parking area at the summit it might be the highest parking area!
  • Those seeking for a closer view on Grossglockner and higher altitudes could target Brennkogel and Spielman.
  • Another highlight is the Kaiser-Franz-Josefs-Höhe with a parking area and unbeatable views of Grossglockner and the huge Pasterze glacier. While the views from the parking area and nearby restaurants are majestic, those in good physical shape could scale to Fuscherkarkopf for an ideal viewpoint.

Villgraten Mountains:

The Kreuzeck group:
To the south of the main chain with significantly lower elevations there’s the Kreuzeck group. It is named after the strategically located in the very center Kreuzeck which allows a perfect panorama of the whole group and many many other peaks in three countries. Those include Austria’s highest Grossglockner, very own Ultra Polinik, Slovenian Ultras Grintovec and the highest in Slovenia Triglav, Italian Ultras Jôf di Montasio and Antelao, the King of the Dolomites. It might be the best spot for gazing over Ultra prominent peaks in the Alps.

Cable Cars and Cog Railways

Major Cities and Resorts

  • Brixen, Italy
  • Sterzing, Italy
  • Lienz, Austria