In fact, it’s so famous that visiting on a weekend might mean waiting in line for your turn to capture its beauty in a photograph. But before you start planning your visit, here’s a little secret: this picturesque bridge isn’t your average tourist spot. You can’t just drive up to it, and it’s off-limits during the off-season. The road leading to the trailhead is only open from early May to late October, depending on those pesky snow conditions.
Located near the Olpererhütte, a charming mountain hut perched at a lofty 2,388 meters in the scenic Zillertal valley of Tyrol, right in the heart of the Austrian Alps, this bridge goes by many names – Kebema Panoramabrücke or simply Hängebrücke. And here’s the kicker: it’s just a short, leisurely five-minute stroll from the Olpererhütte itself!
To get to this enchanting spot, you’ll embark on a journey along the Schlegeis Alpine Toll Road, leading you to the Schlegeisspeicher, a reservoir boasting a magnificent “double curved” dam wall measuring a staggering 725 meters in length and towering 131 meters high. This impressive feat of engineering serves a dual purpose: producing environmentally friendly electricity and ensuring flood control.
But that’s just the beginning. We’re here to guide you through everything – from reaching the trailhead to the Olpererhütte, to the various scenic routes you can choose to get there, and even the neighboring huts you’ll encounter along the way, depending on the path you take. Trust us, while the bridge may be the initial draw, the journey itself is an adventure worth every step!
Olpererhütte Map & Hike Overview
— HIKE OVERVIEW —
For specific details on distance, time, and elevation for each of the four available routes, consult the details presented below.
How to Get to the Olpererhütte Trailhead
Getting to the trailhead for the Olpererhütte using public transportation might require a few tweaks, but the region maintains solid connections with other Tyrolean towns, particularly during the active season. Nevertheless, if aligning with the last bus back doesn’t quite suit your plans, having the flexibility of a car presents a convenient alternative.
Your initial introduction to the captivating Zillertal Valley occurs in the picturesque little town of Mayrhofen. To reach Mayrhofen from any location within Austria, your route typically involves a transfer at Jenbach Bahnhof. Here, you’ll switch to a regional train or a local bus that will take you directly to Mayrhofen Bahnhof (train station). For updated schedules, ticket prices, and reservation details, refer to the ÖBB (Austrian Federal Railways) website.
Upon arrival at Mayrhofen Train Station, proceed to Bus Stand C, located just outside the station. Board Bus #4102, destined for Ginzling Schlegeis Stausee, and disembark at the final stop after approximately 50 minutes. There are several daily bus services, with the earliest departure from Mayrhofen at 07:35 and the final departure from Schlegeis Stausee at 18:10 (check here the current timetable). Single tickets are priced at €8, with an additional €2 toll road fee. These can be conveniently booked online here.
| Travel Tip: If you're traveling in the company of one other individual and are already situated in Tyrol, consider the VVT Tagesticket Tirol 2Plus option. Costing approximately €35, this ticket facilitates unlimited travel throughout the day of purchase for up to 2 adults and 3 children within the entire Tyrol association area, excluding long-distance trains.
— Experiencing the Zillertal Steam Train —
For a ride with its own enchantment, consider embarking on a nostalgic journey aboard the venerable Dampfzug, the old steam locomotive that traverses from Jenbach to Mayrhofen. Across 32 kilometers in just 1.5 hours, this steam-powered marvel whisks you through the captivating Zillertal valley, unfurling a panorama of yesteryears against the backdrop of 100-year-old crimson carriages.
Operating usually from May to early October, the steam train offers its unique ride on specific days, with a solitary departure in each direction. For comprehensive fare information and the up-to-date timetable, visit the Zillertalbahn website.
Begin your journey by driving from Mayrhofen toward the alpine hamlet of Ginzling, positioned gracefully at 1,000 meters above sea level. Upon arrival, follow the well-placed signage that points the way to the Schlegeisspeicher reservoir. This will lead you onto the Schlegeis Alpenstraße, a 13.3km stretch that weaves its way through an array of rugged Alpine landscapes.
Midway through your journey, just prior to reaching Gasthof Breitlahner, you will encounter the toll station. Here, the cost stands at €15.50 for cars and €11.50 for motorbikes, payable exclusively in cash. An attendant approaches your vehicle to collect the toll. Should cash elude you, fret not – an ATM stands ready at the site. Be aware that the road’s narrowness prompts the use of a traffic light system, indicating which direction is open. Waiting times of up to 20 minutes might ensue.
| Operating Hours of the Toll Road: The toll road unfurls its marvels daily, beckoning adventurers from late May to late October. In the months of May and June the gates open from 07:00 to 18:00, while in September and October it operates from 07:00 to 17:00. During the height of summer, in July and August, the road extends its welcome earlier, from 06:00 to 18:00.
As you ascend the mountainside, the picturesque route embraces eight switchbacks and tunnels through four natural rock formations, each with its own scenic overlook. The grand finale of your drive presents itself as you approach the Schlegeis Reservoir, perched at an elevation of 1,800 meters.
| Parking: Upon arrival, two parking lots await your convenience. The first, a compact option, resides immediately past the Dominikushütte. The second, larger lot, is a mere 2-minute drive or a leisurely 10-minute stroll down the road. Tailor your choice to your chosen trail; the first lot sits at the trailhead of the initial two hikes, while the second lot grants access to the third. Parking incurs no additional cost, yet ensure your toll ticket graces your windshield, visible for inspection.
The Hikes to the Olpererhütte
There are four distinct routes to reach the Olpererhütte. And while many favor the direct ascent (Route 1 below) for both going up and coming down, we strongly recommend considering this path for only one direction, ideally on the return journey. For your ascent, we suggest exploring the alternate routes, which lead you to neighboring huts and offer spectacular vistas.
— Ascent Overview —
Route 1: #502
Route 2: #535 followed by #502
Route 3: #532 followed by #526
Route 4: #524 followed by #528 and then #502
— Descent Overview —
Retrace your path to Schlegeisspeicher by following the direct trail (#502), which corresponds to the same route taken during the ascent detailed in Route 1.
| Route 1 – The Direct Ascent |
The starting point for this hike can be found just across the small parking area. In case the spots are occupied, park at the Schlegeis Stausee car park, a quick 5-minute walk, and head southwest along the reservoir’s shore to the trailhead. Once you’re there, all you need to do is follow the guidance provided by the yellow hiking signs directing you to Olperer Hütte (Trail #502).
Initially, the trail winds its way through the forest, and although it’s steep, it maintains a relatively even terrain. As you proceed along a zig-zagging ascent, the landscape transforms, growing notably steeper and rockier. The Riepenbach stream flows to your right, leading you closer and closer to the Olpererhütte.
| Route 2 – Ascent via the Neumarkter Runde |
Head towards the trailhead and look for a signpost that points you in the direction of the Olpererhütte via the “Neumarkter Runde.” Follow the indicated path, which corresponds to Trail #535, leading southwest through the forest on a well-constructed pathway adorned with rhododendron and dwarf alpine pine shrubs.
Eventually, you will come across a footbridge that spans the Unterschrammachbach river. Cross the river and continue along the trail, which now ascends more steeply to the northwest, leading you into the expansive open basin of Hinterboden.
Turn right (heading north) onto Route #502, also known as the Central Alpine Way, as you circle around the head of the basin to reach the rocky slopes of Schramerkopf. Stay on the clearly visible rocky path that takes you along the hillside just below Schramerkopf before ending at the Olpererhütte.
| Route 3 – Ascent via the Friesenberghaus |
Schlegeisspeicher to Friesenberghaus (#532):
From the first parking lot near Dominikushütte – which also serves as the bus drop-off point – look for a marked intersection indicating a turn towards ‘Friesenberghaus – Berliner Höhenweg.’ As you head northward along Trail #532, you’ll be enveloped by a beautiful pine forest and pass by rivers and waterfalls descending from the mountainside.
Soon, you’ll reach the Lapenkar stream (Lapenkarbach), where a small wooden plank will guide you across the stream, leading you to the right side of the Lapenkar valley. While continuing your ascent, soak in the panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and the distant lake before eventually arriving at the Frieseberg hut.
Friesenberghaus to Olpererhütte (#526):
Commencing at Friesenberghaus, where you’ll find signposts just outside the front door, set your course on Trail #536, directing you westward toward the serene Friesenberg Lake (Friesenbergsee). Your initial descent is brief, and upon crossing a waterway, you’ll ascend to the west, navigating a steep rocky gully in a series of zigzags across challenging sloping rock ledges. This region is often blanketed in snow early in the season, and patches of snow persist through summer.
Shortly thereafter, you’ll arrive at a clearly marked T-junction, denoting the pinnacle of your hike at an elevation of 2,633 meters above sea level. Here, make a left turn and proceed downhill along the picturesque Berliner Höhenweg (Trail #526). This route guides you to the iconic suspension bridge and ultimately to your destination, the Olpererhütte.
| Route 4 – Ascent via the Pfitscherjoch-Haus |
Schlegeisspeicher to Pfitscherjoch-Haus (#524):
From the Schlegeis Stausee car park area, follow Trail #524 by journeying southwest along a single-track graded road. This path intimately follows the right bank of the Zamserbach stream, guiding you 5km along the Via Alpina, a two-hour journey to Pfitscherjoch – the juncture marking the Italian border and the South Tyrol province. As you arrive at the border crossing, distinguished by the presence of the aged customs hut and a roadside chapel, your route now shifts southward, promptly leading you to the Pfitscherjoch-Haus.
Pfitscherjoch-Haus to Olpererhütte (#528):
From the hut, head back to the border crossing and follow the single-track road for about 500m until it turns towards the valley. Here, veer left and pick up the northwest-bound trail on Trail #528. The initial descent takes you across open marshy terrain, leading to a footbridge surrounded by converging streams.
The path then turns more northeasterly, climbing over rocky ground, and passing two prominent stone cairns. Descending from the Ameiskopf ridge, take a right at a sudden halt, proceeding down a rocky slope past small ponds. Upon reaching the junction of Trail #535 and the Neumarkter Runde Höhenweg trail, continue your course along Trail #502 until you reach the Olpererhütte.
Where to Stay & Eat: The Mountain Huts
Half the joy of hiking lies in relishing mountain hut cuisine while basking in breathtaking vistas. Therefore, these alpine refuges are integral to your hiking experience whether you seek sustenance or a night’s stay. Just remember, booking accommodations in advance is essential, especially for weekends when availability can be scarce.
In the context of this hike, your destination is Olpererhütte, and all the routes mentioned either lead to or pass by it. However, if you’re eager to extend your adventure and explore more mountain huts, Dominikushütte is a short distance from where the bus drops you off, near one of the parking lots. Additionally, the Friesenberghaus and Pfitscherjoch-Haus are reachable via Route 3 and Route 4, respectively.
Whether you’re in search of food, lodging, or a quick rest, this guide has you covered for all the mountain huts along your path.
Nestled just above the Schlegeis reservoir’s parking area, the Dominikushütte boasts panoramic vistas of both the lake and the Schlegeis glacier. This charming hut delights visitors with delectable Tyrolean specialties and provides accommodations, including private rooms and dormitories for 4 or 5 guests.
What adds intrigue to this hut is its history: the original structure now rests beneath the reservoir, sacrificed for hydroelectric progress. Initially built in 1883, it found itself unexpectedly within Italian territory after World War I, requiring its owners to secure passports for access. Following a complete reconstruction in 1918 due to unexplained fires, it was ultimately lost forever in 1971 when the Schlegeis hydroelectric project submerged the valley.
The Olpererhütte, the ultimate goal of your hike, beckons not just for its breathtaking vistas of the nearby lake but also for the iconic photo opportunity awaiting you on the bridge, a mere 5-minute stroll from the hut. Accommodation options at the hut include shared rooms for four and eight people, ensuring a comfortable stay amid this picturesque alpine setting.
Here, savor delectable alpine cuisine, bask in the grandeur of the reservoir’s panoramic views, and relish the delightful company of free-roaming goats that might join you if you choose to have a picnic.
At an altitude of 2498 meters, the Friesenberghaus operates seasonally from mid-June to mid-September. It provides accommodation for hikers and mountaineers with a total capacity of 32 places in mattress rooms (Matratzenlager) and 34 places in dorm-style rooms (Mehrbettzimmer).
To reach this mountain refuge, one must choose the ascent via the Friesenberghaus (Route 3) during their hike. From here, a network of trails and peaks emanates, offering outdoor enthusiasts a gateway to further alpine exploration.
Straddling the border between Austria and Italy at an elevation of 2,276 meters above sea level, Pfitscherjochhaus (Rifugio Passo di Vizze in Italian) has been a family-run retreat since 1888. Offering modest meals and dorm-style lodging, it’s your gateway to a unique cross-border adventure.
Its exceptional atmosphere arises from its close proximity to the historic Pfitscher Joch passage, connecting the Zillertal Alps in Austria to the South Tyrol region in Italy. This location affords it accessibility from both neighboring countries, ensuring a truly immersive transboundary experience.
While embarking on your hike to the Olpererhütte, the Pfitscherjochhaus can only be reached via the Pfitscherjoch-Haus ascent, but it also serves as a starting point for numerous hiking trails.
When to Hike to the Olpererhütte
Choosing the ideal time to embark on your Olpererhütte adventure requires careful consideration of various factors such as hut operational timetables, available transportation choices, and the ever-fluctuating weather conditions.
In general, the huts are in operation from late June to early October, coinciding partly with the toll road's accessibility to the reservoir, which typically extends from late May to late October contingent upon prevailing snow conditions. However, it's advisable to monitor the official websites of each hut for real-time updates, as well as refer to this website for the operational hours and dates of the Alpine Toll Road.
Regarding trail conditions, high mountain passes and north-facing valleys could retain snow well into July. Nonetheless, by that time, the snow generally tends to be softer and more manageable. The month of June welcomes the arrival of fresh spring foliage, while the picturesque landscapes of July showcase vibrant wildflower carpets in full bloom. As for August, it aligns with the pinnacle of Austrian holiday season; yet, concurrently, this phase promises the most stable weather patterns.
From our vantage point, the late summer and September period emerges as idyllic, offering a high likelihood of clear, invigorating days accompanied by impeccable visibility. During this stretch, the stifling humidity characteristic of summer recedes, and the trails encounter fewer fellow hikers, fostering a serene atmosphere for your expedition.
Whether you’re an avid hiker seeking a challenging trek or simply craving a peaceful escape into the heart of the Austrian Alps, the Olpererhütte offers an experience that will leave you with cherished memories and a deeper connection to the awe-inspiring world of high-altitude wilderness.
And if you are yearning for more alpine adventures in the Austrian Alps, consider exploring the crystal-clear beauty of Seebensee and Drachensee or embark on a tranquil journey to Salfeiner See!