Alpe-Adria Trail Stage 1
Starting point: Base of Grossglockner, Austria’s highest peak
Ending point: Heiligenblut, Austria
Stage distance: 13.99 km / 8.69 mi
Total distance: 13.99 km / 8.69 mi
Stage time: 5 hours, 11 minutes
Average pace: 22:16 min / km
We’ve been waiting to start our latest long-distance hiking trip for a very long time. And even though we’ve done a few long-distance treks, the Alpe-Adria Trail is so different.
Running from the base of Austria’s highest peak at approximately 2,400 meters in elevation to the Adriatic Sea, this is more of a meander through the countryside than a hard-core backpacking trip. We carry our backpacks every day, but every night we sleep in a pension or guesthouse. That means no wrangling tents, warm showers every evening, and sound nights of sleep.
This year, we’re hiking the 22 stages of the trail in Austria, crossing into Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, on our final day. (We’re planning on hiking the other half of the trail, which goes through Italy and Slovenia, next summer.) By car, you can begin at Grossglockner and end in Kranjska Gora in two hours and 33 minutes. Obviously, this summer’s trek isn’t about getting from Point A to Point B.
This trek is really about the journey — wandering back and forth across the Austrian countryside, dipping into valleys, passing through mountain villages, slowing down for lunch by quiet, clear lakes.
The first stage of the Alpe-Adria Trail is a bit unusual in that the night’s stay is in Heiligenblut, a small town located right outside the boundary of Hohe Tauern National Park. We spent the night in Heiligenblut, took a bus to the start (and highest point) of the trail, then trekked back into Heiligenblut from the base of Grossglockner to spend a second night before pressing on.
I suppose it was a warm-up hike of sorts, since all we carried was a small day pack.
But the hike was immensely rewarding, with a wide variety of trekking surfaces, waterfalls tucked into wooded areas, glacier lakes, wildflowers in a rainbow of colors, and fields of butterflies. A little church tucked far from anywhere. Log cabins without electricity. Bonus sightings of snails, a variety of birds, and even a marmot. Walking through pastures, we even shared the trail with cows.
The sun warmed our shoulders all day. My limbs felt loose as they started getting back into a hiking rhythm. We drank from mountain streams.
At day’s end, we arrived in Heiligenblut content and satisfied. It was a good day — a very good day.