Feast your Eyes: A short day-trek to ‘Austria’s Yosemite’
Leaving your chosen accommodation in Johnsbach, you start out by walking along the Schattseitenweg trail, which runs south of the motorway, until you reach the ‘Gasthof zum Donner’ country inn. Seeing as today involves only a short trek, you have plenty of time for a visit to the Johnsbach Cemetery, 5 minutes’ walk from the inn’s car park. Famed as Austria’s largest mountaineers’ cemetery, these hallowed grounds emanate a melancholic yet mesmerising beauty. Numerous historical gravestones tell the stories of young men who lost their lives in the Gesäuse mountains – the first of whom was buried here 200 years ago. Despite the tragedy involved, you cannot help but feel a strange sense of peace within the idyll of the surrounding landscape.
Continuing your journey from the ‘Gasthof zum Donner’ inn, you take the Sagenweg trail – following the course of the Johnsbach stream towards the Weidendom indoor and outdoor visitor’s centre located at the confluence of the Johnsbach and the Enns. The final 1.5 km of this stretch was redesigned in 2010 as an educational trail dedicated to ‘Wild John’ – a synonym for the Johnsbach stream. According to folklore, ‘Wild John’ was, in fact, a real-life giant. Today, an oversized swing, huge sandpit and enormous picnic area provide a delightful reference to this old folkloric tale. We highly recommend a visit to the centre’s Willow Dome as well as the Hedge Maze – two stunning, living structures that beautifully reflect the area’s commitment to sustainability. There are several inviting relaxation spots dotted around the park, while a wooden walkway takes visitors into the enchanting woodlands of the Lettmair Au. Your itinerary should leave plenty of time to fit in this worthwhile exploration (duration: approx. 30 min).
When you are ready to continue with your journey, you cross the Enns river on a footbridge, before taking the Rauchbodenweg trail to Gstatterboden, always following the flow of the Enns. Hiking along this wild river in the heart of the National Park, flanked by the steep cliffs of the Buchstein and Ödstein mountains, feels a little like walking through Yosemite Valley. And, just like America’s famous Yosemite National Park, the Gesäuse mountains have played a pivotal part in the evolution of climbing over the past 100 years – so much so that they are known as Austria’s ‘mountaineering academy’. Once you have reached the hamlet of Gstatterboden and checked into your accommodation, we suggest a visit to the National Park Pavillon to explore current exhibitions, and find out more about the natural world of the Gesäuse mountain chain and National Park.
Level of difficulty: easy
Hiking time: 3 hrs.
Distance: 10.7 km
Ascent: 114 m
Descent: 384 m
Visit www.luchstrail.com for a detailed description of an alternative route for Stage 6, leading via the Gsengscharte ridge and the Haindlkarhütte mountain hostel (total hiking time: 5 hrs 15 min). Though scenically stunning, this variation is vastly more challenging than any other stage of the Luchs Trail. The ascent to the Gsengscharte ridge follows a black-marked hiking trail, and involves one short fixed-rope stretch. This alternative route must only be undertaken by experienced, extremely surefooted and vertigo-free hikers at their own risk.