Have you ever come to Innsbruck by plane? If the visibility was good, I bet that descending between the towering mountains was an exciting moment for you. It certainly was for me, every time. Innsbruck Airport is the third busiest airport in Austria and there are more than a few locations here to watch the big birds fly. This spring, I visited a very nice vantage point in Kranebitten and (with a bit of envy) saw many airplanes and gliders soaring along the Inn valley.
I “found” this place because I wanted to explore the edge of the “Core Zone” (Kernzone). In Innsbruck, a flat rate applies to the bus and tram rides within the “Core Zone” which not only includes the city centre but also a few satellite villages. I first went south to Igls, and Kranebitten was my second field trip.
The bus stop “Kranebitten Klammgeist” is the western destination of bus LK. It is on Klammstraße (street) which leads up to the Kerschbuchhof Chapel on the east side of the Kranebitter Klamm (Gorge). This section is about 1 km long and is an easy uphill walk.
The picture below was taken near the starting point of this walk. Behind the Kranebitter Gorge is the highest summit of the Nordkette, the Kleiner Solstein (2,637m).
The west of the gorge (as seen in the picture below) is the craggy Hechenberg mountain, an important area for rock climbing. The western end of this mountain is the famous Martinswand where Emperor Maximilian I was once stranded and then miraculously rescued by an angel — according to the legend.
This part of the ascent was unpaved but quite friendly. There was a sign warning about rockfalls (Steinschlag).
Someone (probably local) was sitting at this superb spot reading in the sun. It looked like a daring place for yoga, too!
This small chapel facing the valley was said to be built in 1802. Here you can already get a good view over the airport, but it was too close to private property so we walked up a bit further.
Just a bit further up, this is what you can enjoy! Between the trees, there was even a bench to sit down and nibble our sandwiches! Honestly I felt that just chilling out here was already worth the trip. Sometimes creating a bit of distance from daily life is enough to feel regenerated.
In 2009, the extension of the runway was completed. For this project, the course of the Inn river was actually diverted 80 meters to the west and an island was created as well!
Follow the Gliders
The day was still long, so we walked on towards the Rauschbrunnen Alpine Guesthouse after the break. This section was more challenging and hiking boots are recommendable. We saw an orange and blue warning sign indicating the danger scale of avalanches in this area. It was low level 2 so we were not too concerned. Living in Innsbruck, we often hear the sound of intentionally triggered avalanches in winter.
Then we witnessed the power of avalanches! Many trees were uprooted and snow was blended with torn branches strewn across the slope – remnant of the intense snowfall and avalanche cycle in January. However, the footpath — albeit steep and wild — was well maintained and the signposts were sufficient.
Rauschbrunnen Alpine Guesthouse
After an ascent of 300 metres, we reached the guest house above the area of Allerheiligenhöfe, east of Kranebitten. Not only was the scenery splendid, the carrot cake I ordered was also outstanding!
It was an incredibly sunny day and there were gliders passing by from time to time, silent but swift. The geographical and thermal conditions in the Inn valley make it heaven for gliding enthusiasts. The soaring season is from March/April through November, but of course gliding is very weather dependent. I imagine it being like calculated freedom.
Actually, you could also just tag along with experienced pilots. There are several flight schools in Innsbruck and some clubs offer visitors glider rides or sightseeing flights. Here are two more examples: Gliding here and sightseeing here.
One episode of Epic Innsbruck was also dedicated to gliding:
On the way down, we took this route towards Allerheiligenhöfe and then went back to the city by bus. The paths were wider and more structured.
And we were really surprised (again) by the aftermath of an avalanche. I had never seen something like this before and the scale of it was incredible!
Kranebitten Transportation Tips
- Take the very frequent Tram 2 from the city center and change at Technik West for bus LK. The
Technik is one of the campuses of the Innsbruck University.
- The buses are less frequent on Sundays and national holidays (one every 30 minutes, rather than the usual 15).
- In the timetable, “Montag – Freitag (wenn Schultag)” means “Monday to Friday on school days“.
On weekdays outside school term times, please use the Saturday (Samstag) timetable instead.
You can take the train to Kranebitten Bahnhof instead, if you depart near the Innsbruck train station or the west station (Westbahnhof). A proper railway ticket is needed but the fare is quite cheap (currently €2.40 one way). There’s a train roughly every half an hour. This route is part of the Karwendelbahn (Karwendel railway) going to Seefeld and Garmisch, Germany.
On the way back, using Allerheiligenhöfe train station is also an option.