Call of the Wildschönau

If you’re seeking a traditional slice of Tirol with some excellent walking on the side, the high valley of Wildschönau in the Kitzbühel Alps, flanked by the pretty villages Niederau, Oberau, Auffach and Thierbach, fits the bill nicely.

Words by Kerry Christiani | Photos by A. Mayr and Schönanger Alm Wildschönau © Wildschönau Tourist Board

Lesser known than the bigger Alpine resorts, the valley has retained much of its rustic charm, with cheese dairies, herb gardens, schnapps distilleries and summer folk festivals swinging with oompah music and foaming steins. And when your feet tire of the trail, you can put them up at one of the many mountain huts, dishing up big views and hearty Tirolean grub.

The good news? Summer holidays here are cracking value compared to elsewhere in Austria. Stay in summer and you’ll be given the Wildschönau Card, which gives you free access to the cable cars, guided walks, the outdoor pool, local museums and kids’ club activities.

Hiking in Wildschönau

The forested slopes of the Kitzbühel Alps rise tantalisingly above Wildschönau, attracting walkers, families, multi-day hikers and peak-baggers, with 300km of trails. Giant wooden books dotted around the valley provide an overview of the marked trails, helping you plan your route. If you don’t want to go it alone, there are guided walks (free with the Wildschönau Card) from May to October that cover everything from sunrise strolls to summit hikes.

An easy, family-friendly walk is the 6.9km, 3-hour circular hike from Niederau, through pine forest, to Filzmoos Moor, where you can wander barefoot through meadows flecked with Alpine wildflowers and stop at the nearby deer park.

For more of a challenge, take the gondola to the top station of Markbachjoch mountain for a 5.9km, 3-hour walk that takes you to Rosskopf peak, at 1,731m, and enables you to stop off at Käse Alm for freshly made cheese and buttermilk. Alternatively, it’s an 8.3km, 3.5-hour hike from Achentalalm to Kragenjoch, where views of the Wildschönau and Inn Valley spread far and wide. More demanding still is the 15.4km, 5-hour trek to the cross-topped, 1,923m summit of Feldalphorn. En route, you’ll take in a cheese dairy, high moors and glistening tarns where dragonflies flit.

Action and adventure

If you fancy breaking up the hikes with other outdoor activities, there’s plenty of choice in Wildschönau. The valley is geared up for mountain bikers and e-bikers. Two stages of the long-distance Tirol Mountain Bike Safari, which delves deep into the heart of the Alps, stop off here. Paragliders, meanwhile, catch thermals from the heights of Niederau’s Markbachjoch. The Wildschönau Flight School offers tandem paragliding and week-long courses for beginners.

Adventurous families can zip across to the high-rope, tree-top course in Zauberwinkel, Oberau, with big views to the Inn Valley and the Wilder Kaiser, or saddle up at the local riding stables and trot through beautiful Alpine meadows.

Alpine tradition

Tradition is alive and well in this neck of the Tirolean Alps. The summer party kicks off when solstice is celebrated on Markbachjoch mountain, with feasting, drinking and huge bonfires.

In mid-August, the Valley Festival (held in Auffach in 2017) is one of Tirol’s biggest shindigs, with brass bands and parades. As Wildschönau is Alpine dairy country,  many cheese dairies open their doors for tastings and tours, such as Schönanger Alm, famous for its award-winning Camembert and Tilsiter cheeses.

The cows themselves are revered at the Wildschönau Almabtrieb, or cattle drive, where they descend from their summer pastures dressed in floral finery, in late September.

Click for more details of all guided and non-guided walks, outdoor pursuits, events and attractions.

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