The Grossglockner is the highest mountain glacier in Austria and is accessible via the scenic High Alpine Road.
Rich in beauty and helping you to immerse in your surrounding a road trip on this high pass road in the alps will bring you closer to nature and the unique plant and animal kingdom in these hights.
I give you a peak of what to expect from this trip to the mount Grossglockner!
Table of Contents
🗺️ Where is it situated?
The Grossglockner high alpine road is situated in Austria, central Europe.
If you have been following me for a while, then you might recall my post about our trip to the Kaprun High Altitude lake which is situated in the Hohe Tauern Natural Reserve in the region of Salzburg.
The Grossglockner road basically starts in the region of Salzburg, in the village of Bruck, and leads to the charming calm region of Carinthia, to the village of Heiligenblut.
Along the way, the road leads and ends at some point at the highest mountain in Austria, the Grossglockner (spelled more often Großglockner in German).
The Kaprun high-altitude reservoir lake is on the other side of mount Grossglockner.
🛣️ Road Details
The High Alpine Road is a smooth road with turns.
The road is very well maintained and the full road distance is only 1 – 1 1/2 hours long, making it a perfect day out destination for most busy people.
You can pick which end you want to start out.
Most people come from the Bruck side (or Zell am See, Kaprun).
You don’t have to take the whole road to Heiligenblut, it is a choice, however, the village of Heiligenblut is quite quaint and charming.
(see further below my overnight room suggestions for the best experiences).
You can see the route starting from Bruck and ending in Heiligenblut on the maps.
You can also see the Grossglockner marked and a small road marked in white on the maps.
This is the road to the mount Grossglockner observatory.
The alpine road is a toll road, which means you will pay at the starting point of the road in Bruck or Heiligenblut.
Cars – €36 p/car (about $42)
Motorbikes – €26 p/bike (about $30)
Cycles – Free 🙂
Beginning of May to end of May: 6 am – 8 pm
Beginning June to end of August: 5 am – 9.30 pm
Beginning September to end of October: 6 am – 7.30 pm
Last admission: 45 min. before night closure
People do cycle all the way up and back down, so it’s not uncommon to meet cyclists on the way.
After all, Austria is a sports country.
Tips: If you are fit, you can cycle up too and take your own time if you want and stay in one of the huts on the way.
If you feel like it, then you can stay for a couple of days while exploring the mountain paths with the huge network of mountain tracks.
It’s a rewarding journey.
🗻 High Tauern Natural Park
One of the main attractions and reasons to experience the Grossglockner high altitude road is the High Tauern Natural Park (the Hohe Tauern in German).
The High Tauern natural park is the biggest nature reserve in the Alps with a total area of 1800 sq km.
Agricultural use is prohibited in the area as well as construction.
At the same time, the Hohe Tauern is under protection by UNESCO World Heritage.
This is why the area is almost virgin and untouched in appearance!
Numerous varieties of plants grow only in these hights and are native to the area.
Animals such as ibex, marmots, eagles, and vultures call these mountains their home and have been thriving due to the protected status of the natural park.
Nature has been protected but also the traditional ways of life of the people.
Which just adds to the charm of the area.
That way the commercialization of the Hohe Tauern was averted just in time before land sharks could establish themselves and decrease the value of the area.
It gave the local farmers the peace they needed to farm their lands the old ways with the simple tools of yesteryears.
This creates a well-functioning symbiosis between humans, plants, and animals.
📕 History of the pass and road
The Grossglockner mountain range was a passage of older times when humans would travel far to cross the Alps to the other side.
So it’s not a surprise that the area is full of history and ancient charm which can be still experienced thanks to the protected status of the area.
The Romans used the passage frequently as these were the only ways to cross the mighty Alps.
Austria was part of the Roman empire and became the Holy Roman empire later on.
The salt traders would walk these passages to trade the white gold from the region of Salzburg.
You have to know Salz means Salt and Burg castle.
It’s a fitting name for a salt-rich region and back then salt was used as a very valuable currency.
After the first world war, when the country was poorer than ever in its history, the idea of the Grossglockner road was introduced.
It took the impoverished government a lot of energy and work.
Nobody was willing to invest in the “crazy” (in a sarcastic tone) idea after the Wallstreet crash in 1929 and at the time a lot of people couldn’t imagine the usefulness of such a road.
Cars and Motorbikes were still novelties at the time.
The Grossglockner road was still built nonetheless.
The government imposed a toll and the income from that surpassed all expectations.
Nowadays the Grossglockner road is regarded as a sophisticated way to experience nature in an approachable way.
Eventually, once electric cars will be a real fledged common reality for us all, the Grossglockner road will turn into a complete green experience.
🔭 Viewpoint and the Glacier
Along the way on the Grossglockner high alpine road, you will come across various stages, which are all easily recognizable.
Some are buildings with museum so-called visitor centers, explaining more about the area, some are viewpoints.
The first viewpoint to see the Grossglockner is situated in the distance of the mountain on a hill.
When we visited the area, we got into the clouds so the Grossglockner wasn’t visible for us that day.
The second, and main viewpoint is facing the Grossglockner and is situated at the Pasterze glacier.
You can’t miss that point because it’s in the main spot with the huge car parking building and the indoor car exhibition.
What I find more amazing is the Pasterze glacier.
It’s massive and it’s difficult to take in the size of a picture.
Marmots like to mingle at this point and they are not that shy.
I suspect they got the taste for human food.
One can go down to the glacier.
You can also hire a guide to go down there.
They say it takes 30 minutes to go down. That used to be the case, but the glacier has receded, and it’s quite evident because now you will take about 40-50 minutes to hike down.
We filmed a full walk down to the glacier in 4k when we visited last in June 2021. You can watch it here. We share more videos like this on our YouTube channel, Katulo.
The image below was taken in 2010. You can see that the glacier has shrunk considerably in the last 11 years.
As I mentioned earlier the building houses a few exhibitions.
One is about vintage cars and expensive out-of-reach rare cars.
Another exhibition is quite interactive about art and nature and was a pleasant experience.
Then there is also a part that is dedicated to the Grossglockner itself.
They talk about the history, the environmental damage of the glacier and its visible decrease in size, and the late emperor’s favorite viewpoint when he came to visit with his famous wife, Empress Sissi.
Behind, further up the building, is a pathway to visit the Swarovski viewpoint and you get a lovely view from there too.
The Grossglockner/High Tauern area is a popular trekking destination among locals and nature lovers.
There are countless ways and paths to take too, In fact, you can walk from one hut to another and stay over a night with a local flair to experience life in another possible way.
For trekking maps and info I recommend you look through Bergfex.
They have detailed maps and pathways and routes.
The page is semi English/German, so that’s the only downside.
You have the option of getting a guide too.
Generally speaking, the area is safe.
However, unfortunately, people often while overestimate their capabilities and get lost or hurt by taking passages they shouldn’t take.
It happens all too often and people die.
❗️ Rules to respect the Area
- Don’t leave pathways/trekking routes
- Don’t litter! Take your garbage back home. This is not the Mount Everest (a vanity garbage dump). You can get fined if caught!
- Dogs on the line only, they can’t run around freely because this stresses out animals.
- Weather can change very quickly in the mountains so be prepared with the correct gear. We had splendid weather with a lot of sunshine in the valley before we took off and as you can see in the pictures, the weather was super cloudy on top.
- Don’t pick up endangered species of flowers. For example Edelweiss
- The whole area is a no camping zone and you are prohibited from building a bonfire or similar.
🚗 Getting there
The easiest way to see everything in your own time without getting stressed in time and to still experience the whole beauty and environment to the fullest is to stay in two villages in a comfortable environment along the route.
The nearest airport is the Salzburg international airport.
I will share some car rental info here soon ( I am still sorting out the best service for you) so that you can enjoy your road trip across the alps to the fullest!
I suggest you do a night at Bruck an der Glocknerstraße.
This is the village before the beginning of the Grossglockner road.
It’s a charming village in the mountains, it’s quiet but still provides all the different amenities which you will need.
You can choose between a few hotels in Bruck, which are all 4 or 3-star properties.
If you prefer camping, they have that too in Bruck.
Most people take a break in Bruck, so you might come across various kinds of travelers and visitors from around the world.
The next day you start out early from Bruck and enjoy the day in the mountains and by the end of the day, you move towards Carinthia, the village Heiligenblut.
Heiligenblut has a special vibe that will reveal to you the true soul of the rural countryside of Carinthia.
There you can pick a place to stay overnight and then move on or stay another day to visit the surrounding areas to visit the waterfall, for example.
People tend to move on towards the South Tyrolean (Italian) alps further downwards.
However, you can also take it even further by traveling to Croatia!
Dear Reader, when are you planning to travel the Grossglockner road?