Wouldn’t it be great to be able to get to an altitude of 2500m with minimal effort and without the struggle of hours and hours of walking? Imagine being able to sip your yummy coffee surrounded by breath-taking views of snowy mountain peaks! Well, I have good news for you. It is possible, and the place offering these delights is Großglockner-Hochalpenstraße.
It is an alpine road which meanders through the highest mountain range of the Eastern Alps, The High Tauern. Forty-eight kilometres long, it starts at the village of Bruck an der Grossglocknerstrasse and winds all the way to Heiligenblut. It was named after Grossglockner, the highest Austrian mountain (3798m above sea level). This road is a great option for all the people who might find it hard to make such a climb under their own steam, or those who simply want to take a break from challenging hikes. This route and the views it offers can be fully enjoyed while riding a bike, motorbike or in the warm comfort of your car.
It was in 1924 that Franz Wallack first presented his plan of a road intersecting the main Alpine ridge. Building began in 1930 and the route was completed 5 years later on August 3rd in 1935, when it was opened to public. This High Alpine road consists of 36 hairpin bends, its elevation is a staggering 1748 meters between its lowest and highest point, and its steepest gradient towards Edelweissspitze (2571m.a.s.l.) is 14%.
There is a toll booth at the start, which costs thirty-six euro per car and twenty-six euro per motorbike, electric vehicles a reduced rate and cyclists don’t pay a single cent. You can also buy a ticket for two days or thirty days while a whole year’s access to the route will set you back a mere ninety-six euro.
The season starts in May and lasts till October. Opening hours vary and the road is of course subject to closures due to adverse weather conditions. The website offers webcam views and weather insights to ensure you are fully in the know before hitting this snowy alpine road. The weather here, as it always is the case in high mountains, is extremely changeable and fickle. The average temperature on the highest points of this road is a chilly minus three degrees so frequent snowfalls around Hochtor should come as little or no surprise.
Shortly after crossing the toll line you will be greeted by the first viewing point, where you can take a break. There are some official lookout points with picnic tables, restaurants and boards informing you about geology, plant and animal life. These can be seen on the map attached. However, there are also many more unofficial spots, where you can park your car, enjoy the beautiful scenery and take some pictures. At some of these, you can encounter some of the many marmots living in the area. Their presence is pointed out on the signs near the road and the most common spot to catch a glimpse of them is directly beneath the famous overlook -Franz Josefs Hohe.
This overlook is also the most sought after place of tourists, where you can find a tourist centre, restaurant and a parking area. Situated 2369m above sea level, it offers breath-taking panoramic views of Pasterze Glacier, the Grossglockner massif and the Johannisberg. Pasterze Glacier, at nine kilometres long, is the longest glacier in Austria and the Eastern Alps. Unfortunately, it is shrinking by approximately 10 metres each year. Grossglockner, which actually consists of two pinnacles – Grossglockner and Kleinglockner, can be approached by many climbing routes. In case you are interested, there are also many hiking routes that you can enjoy from the Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse.
This road took a good second place in Austrian popularity polls (Right after Viennese Schönbrunn). Ever since it was built and open to public, it has been visited by 50 million people and been driven by 270 thousand vehicles. If you wish to see more, Kaprun, Kitzsteinhor peak, or the town of Zell am See are not far away at all. I have to say that my third visit was definitely not the last one, and I am definitely going to go back for some spectacular autumn pictures.