And suddenly, it’s happened: One morning you step outside and realize that something is very –VERY– different. The sun seems to rise begrudgingly, as do we. Fog and dew add a sense of mysticism to the start of the day. The humidity is so thick it’s almost palpable. You take a deep breath, and it smells like a freshly sharpened pencil mixed with that oddly satisfying smell released when you open a really old book.  But, it was just over 30 degrees and now it’s so chilly. You guessed it, Autumn has arrived!

Don’t let Autumn put a damper on your vibe. Autumn is actually the PERFECT season for hiking! Join this guided hike along the Goetheweg from Hafelekar to the Pfeishütte, and explore the natural beauty of Nordkette and the Karwendel National Reserve.

Hafelekar to Pfeishütte via Goetheweg

You arrive at “The Top of Innsbruck”, Hafelekar, after a short ride from town on the Hungerburgbahn (the ride is free with the Innsbruck Card). Stunning views of Innsbruck, the Inntal Valley, and Hafelekarspitze await immediately outside the lift station.

This is also where the Goetheweg trail begins. Just a few meters away, you see totally different and uninhabited terrain – the Karwendel National Reserve. If you want to do this hike on your own, the trails are clearly marked and easy to follow. However, nothing beats a guided hike full of the sort of little details you’d otherwise easily overlooked.

Hiking Nordkette

Nothing like a hike through the Alps to remind us how small we really are

It’s so easy to just keep trotting away on a trail without the knowledge of an experienced local guide. For example, you can find coral and other marine fossils at the very top of Hafelekar. Definitely not something you would be on the lookout for while hiking the Alps. You might also want to scour your surroundings for the ever so famous Edelweiss flower. It’s the flower on just about every souvenir sold in Innsbruck. The flower isn’t an easy find, but the guides know where to look.

Goetheweg Innsbruck Nordkette

Coral fossils along the Goetheweg hike

Some hikes tend to maintain the same landscape views, but not here. You see very different terrain as you cross into the Karwendel National Reserve and back to the Innsbruck side of Nordkette.

Goetheweg Hike Difficulty

For experienced hikers, Goetheweg is a piece of cake, and inexperienced hikers are also welcome on this trail. The altitude doesn’t change much during the course of the hike and you will encounter few (and even then very short) stretches where you might feel like it becomes a tad more difficult. If you take your time and make a few stops for rest, you should be fine. For motivation, check out this family with young kids making their way through this hike without a hitch.

Family hiking on Nordkette

Family hiking day on Goetheweg!

The hike duration is an estimated 2.5 hours each way. Plan for an additional 1 – 2 hours including the time to eat and rest once you arrive at Pfeishütte. During the hike, you will climb a total altitude of 344 vertical meters and descend a total of 663 meters. The length of the route is a mere 5.2 kilometers! If you want to do this hike at a brisk pace, it’s totally achievable in 1.5 hours. For extra motivation, try envisioning the delicious Tyrolean food awaiting at the Pfeishütte!

Pfeishütte

Nothing makes my stomach rumble more than seeing our destined hut, as the scent of Kaspressknödel, Kaiserschmarrn, and other local dishes waft through the crisp mountain air. My mouth is actually watering as I write this now – that was not some tacky writer’s attempt to entice you to try a dish! After years in Innsbruck, I have grown fond of certain dishes, and dare I say, even become a bit of a snob when it comes to local dishes.

Tyrolean hut at Karwendel national reserve

Pfeishütte in the Karwendel Mountains

The Pfeishütte is a beautiful old school mountain hut, with quaint parlors inside and a spacious sun deck outside. If you have time, I strongly recommend spending the night there. You’ll love waking up to the sun illuminating the peaks and valleys around you. The hut offers a great breakfast spread suitable for every diet, even vegan.

Food at Pfeishütte

Let’s get one thing out of the way first. Tyrolean food, especially at mountain huts located far away from farms and markets, is not meant to be Haute Cuisine. This food serves two purposes: it’s delicious and hearty. And that’s it!

The dumplings, locally known as “Knödel” are a great example. They’re lumpy, asymmetrical, and utterly delicious. If you’ve never had them, try the dumpling trio, “Knödel Tris”. This dish will definitely fill you up and fuel your return to Innsbruck… Or send you for a quick nap; you decide. The green dumpling is made with spinach and served with a pool of melted butter. The Tyrolean Dumpling is made with bacon and also rolled into a ball. The third, and arguably the favorite amongst the locals, is the hockey puck-shaped Kaspressknödel, made with grey cheese.

Knödel Tris: Speck, Käse, Spinat

Knödel Tris: Speck, Käse, Spinat

Every hut has its own secret recipe and they all refuse to share it, which is fair enough really. The Pfeishütte is no different. I tried to figure out what was different from others, to no avail.

Tyrolean food

Cheese Dumplings at Pfeishütte

Hiking Tips

1. Hiking Poles:

Although the hike is fairly easy to complete, there are a few things that can make this even easier. For starters, hiking poles. I’ve been known to poke fun at people with these on hikes, but once you use them, you’ll know why they’re so popular.

2. Hiking Shoes:

This seems like an obvious one, but you’d be surprised… Get yourself some decent shoes made for the mountains. Anything else will result in poor footing during the hike and can lead to injuries.

3. Dress in Layers:

Now entering Autumn, you’ll want to bring clothing you can easily shed and put back on. It’s possible to experience all four seasons in one day, so best to be prepared. One layer you might overlook as the weather cools is sunblock. You might not feel the sun so much with the cool mountain air, but you will feel the burn the following day.

Contact For Free Guided Hike:

Naturpark Karwendel
Anton Heufelder
anton.heufelder@karwendel.org or +43 664 8844 6225