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Kranebitten: Hidden Gems by Bus from Innsbruck

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 [1] 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 [2], and Kranebitten was my second field trip.

Exploring Kranebitten

The bus stop “Kranebitten Klammgeist” is the western destination of bus LK. It is on Klammstraße [3] (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 [4], the Kleiner Solstein (2,637m).

Kleiner Solstein, Kranebitten © Ichia Wu

There is another mountain in the west called Großer Solstein (2,541m). Although it has Großer (big) in its name, it is actually shorter than the Kleiner (small) Solstein. © Ichia Wu

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 [5] where Emperor Maximilian I [6] was once stranded and then miraculously rescued by an angel — according to the legend.

Hechenberg, Kranebitten © Ichia Wu

A glider above the Hechenberg © Ichia Wu

This part of the ascent was unpaved but quite friendly. There was a sign warning about rockfalls (Steinschlag).

Kranebitten © Ichia Wu

© Ichia Wu

Someone (probably local) was sitting at this superb spot reading in the sun. It looked like a daring place for yoga, too!

Kranebitten © Ichia Wu

On the way to the Kerschbuchhof Chapel © Ichia Wu

Kerschbuchhof Chapel

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.

Kerschbuchhof Chapel © Ichia Wu

Kerschbuchhof Chapel (Kapelle am Kerschbuchhof), Kranebitten © Ichia Wu

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.

Kranebitten © Ichia Wu

The mountain across the valley in the south-east is the Patscherkofel (2,246 m). © Ichia Wu

Innsbruck Airport © Ichia Wu

Several gliding clubs are based in the northern part of the Innsbruck Airport. The grass track for gliding is parallel to the airplane runway next to the clubs. © Ichia Wu

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!

Innsbruck Airport runway west end © Ichia Wu

The west end of the runway, Innsbruck Airport; picture taken later on in the journey © Ichia Wu

Follow the Gliders

The day was still long, so we walked on towards the Rauschbrunnen Alpine Guesthouse [7] after the break. This section [8] 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 [9] so we were not too concerned. Living in Innsbruck, we often hear the sound of intentionally triggered [10] avalanches in winter.

© Ichia Wu

This was the end of March and there was still a bit of snow on the ground. © Ichia Wu

© Ichia Wu

A black squirrel? © Ichia Wu

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.

© Ichia Wu

© Ichia Wu

Rauschbrunnen Alpine Guesthouse

After an ascent of 300 metres, we reached the guest house [7] above the area of Allerheiligenhöfe, east of Kranebitten. Not only was the scenery splendid, the carrot cake I ordered was also outstanding!

Rauschbrunnen © Ichia Wu

© Ichia Wu

Rauschbrunnen © Ichia Wu

© Ichia Wu

Rauschbrunnen © Ichia Wu

Felt like summer! © Ichia Wu

Rauschbrunnen © Ichia Wu

© Ichia Wu

Rauschbrunnen © Ichia Wu

© Ichia Wu

© Ichia Wu

There was a playground by the guest house. Swinging in the Alps, anyone? © Ichia Wu

SOAR!

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 [11] 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 [12] in Innsbruck and some clubs offer visitors glider [13] rides or sightseeing flights [14]. Here are two more examples: Gliding here [15] and sightseeing here [16].

One episode of Epic Innsbruck was also dedicated to gliding:

© Ichia Wu

© Ichia Wu

© Ichia Wu

© Ichia Wu

Towards Allerheiligenhöfe

On the way down, we took this route [17] towards Allerheiligenhöfe and then went back to the city by bus. The paths were wider and more structured.

© Ichia Wu

© Ichia Wu

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!

© Ichia Wu

© Ichia Wu

© Ichia Wu

© Ichia Wu

Kranebitten Transportation Tips

Bus LK

Train:

You can take the train to Kranebitten Bahnhof [21] 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 [22] and Garmisch, Germany.

On the way back, using Allerheiligenhöfe [23] train station is also an option.

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