The perfect day trip from Vienna when you want to escape the city. There are a number of ways to get to Klosterwappen (Schneeberg summit) at 2,076m, the highest peak in Lower Austria.
Time for another hike on our European adventure… while Vienna is not really surrounded by mountains or near any high alpine peaks, a Google search identifies Schneeberg as good option for a day trip. The Klosterwappen summit on Schneeberg is 2,076m high, making it the highest mountain of Lower Austria. A bit more research confirms I can get there in under two hours by train, and I manage to convince my son Luke he should come with me.
There are multiple walking trails to the Schneeberg plateau, as well as a rack-and-pinion railway (the Schneeberg Railway) which is over 100 years old and takes you to a height of 1,800m, and a chairlift which takes you to 1,210m [see bottom for summary of routes]. The original plan was to take the chairlift up and tackle one of the more challenging routes to the summit – but on arrival at Puchberg am Schneeberg railway station I discover the chairlift is operating only on weekends. Conscious of time, as we have to be back in Vienna by 6pm, we decide to walk up to the peak via the Cog Railroad Trail (Zahnradbahnwanderweg), and then descend on the train. (It’s worth booking ahead for the train – we would have had to wait almost two hours for the first train with seats going up the mountain – see links at the bottom.)
It’s a relatively easy walk as the gravel road follows the train track, although the total ascent from the village of Puchberg am Schneeberg at 585m to the 2,076m Schneeberg summit (Klosterwappen) is about 1,500m. A pretty decent climb for a day walk!
We have a mini-break at Hengsthütte (1,012m), one of the stations on the train line, that has a small restaurant where I bribe Luke with a can of Coke.
Although the views so far are not particularly inspiring and the walking is a little monotonous, there is some nice display of autumn foliage. (If it seems like I’m not particularly upbeat about the walk at this point, you’re right – I am struggling a little to explain to Luke as each train passes us why we didn’t just catch the train up…! I vaguely recall a quote about “strength and growth coming only through continuous effort and struggle”. I don’t sound very convincing, though.)
We reach the next hut (Baumgartner, 1,568m asl), which is also a train station, after another hour of walking. There’s another restaurant with a nice outdoor seating area, although we don’t stop. We see a few other hikers for the first time, who appear to have started the walk from this station – a much better idea as the walking starts getting more interesting from here. For the first time we can see the top of the Schneeberg plateau in the distance.
Just after the Baumgartner hut, the road becomes a walking path, and the forest starts to change from tall pine trees to more stunted versions. It’s much nicer walking – and there isn’t a train going past us every 40min reminding us that we didn’t need to walk!
There’s also some great views down onto the valley below, and the towns of Schneebergdörfl and Puchberg am Schneeberg in the distance, where we commenced out hike.
We make good time on this last section up to the Schneeberg plateau, reaching the edge of the low pine forest – and the first patch of remnant snow – after about 45min. We can see the cross indicating one of the Schneeberg lookouts (but not the summit) in the distance, and I’m subjected to the first of many snowballs thrown at me by Luke…
We make the decision to continue directly to the summit, bypassing the top railway station (Hochschneeberg mountain station). It’s taken us just over three hours from the Puchberg am Schneeberg station at the bottom to the top of the main plateau, but we still have another 300m or so of elevation to get to the summit – or 1.25hrs according to the sign.
It’s very easy walking again, and there’s lot’s of people around – obviously all people who have taken the train up, and haven’t benefited from the strength and growth that came from our continuous effort and struggle hiking up from the bottom! Ahead of us, on the left-hand side of the long ridge, is Klosterwappen, the highest point on Schneeberg. Another hut (Damböckhaus) is packed full of people enjoying lunch on the mountain.
After 15min along the gravel road, there’s a turn-off to the Klosterwappen summit. Marked by snow poles, there’s a very rough track that heads up to the peak across an alpine meadow.
The views get increasingly more impressive as we head up the steepest part of the slope towards the summit.
It takes us just over four hours to the summit – a bit slower than the signs suggest on the first part up along the train line – but much quicker on the last section when the sight of the peak (and a few patches of snow to distract Luke) inspire us to pick up the pace (at one point we thought we wouldn’t have time to make it to the very top).
While the summit is more of a long plateau than an alpine peak, the views from the top are magnificent, stretching in all directions. Looking south-west toward Styria there are mountains as far as the eye can see, including the Rax mountains.
In the other direction, to the east, is the Bucklige Welt (the “land of a thousand hills”) and the Rohrbachgraben valley.
We have a brief stop at the summit, before heading back down the hill. (With a bit more time, we could have followed the summit ridge to the Fischerhütte at the other end, which also has a cafe/restaurant open from May-November. From there there’s an alternate route back to the bottom.)
Looking back from the bottom, there’s a nice view back of the summit plateau, with Klosterwappen (2,076m asl) on the far left, and Fischerhütte (2,048m) at the right-hand side.
There’s just enough time for Luke to build a snowman, expertly crafted from one of the snow drifts. It was a very hot summer and none of the winter snow lasted, but the many snow patches on the mountain are from a cold front a few weeks earlier.
Before we catch the 3:45pm train back down to Puchberg am Schneeberg, I’ve got time for a few last photos from the Hochschneeberg summit station of the valley below and surrounding mountains.
It’s a much quicker trip down on the train than our 3-hour hike up – and we’re glad we booked in the morning as the train was completely full (there were still some seats available on the next few trains.)
Schneeberg Summit Routes
I found it a bit confusing working out what the different options were when I planned the trip… the table below is a summary of some of the summit routes on Schneeberg!
|Cog Railroad Trail (Zahnradbahnwanderweg) – Puchberg am Schneeberg to Hochschneeberg top station||9.3km (1200m elevation gain). Gravel road up to Baumgartner then walking trail. Or take the train 🙂|
|Hochschneeberg top station to summit (Klosterwappen)||6.5km return (300m elevation gain). Gravel road for 1km then rough track|
|Hochschneeberg top station to Fischerhütte (summit plateau)||7km return (280m elevation gain). Gravel road (easier walk than Klosterwappen)|
|Hochschneeberg to Klosterwappen summit and back via Fischerhütte (circuit)||7.3km circuit (300m elevation gain). Mostly gravel road|
|Losenheim to Edelweiss Hut||3.4km one-way (470m elevation gain). . Alternative is to take chairlift.|
|Edelweiss Hut to Klosterwappen summit||3.9km one-way (820m elevation gain). One of the hardest routes to summit.|
|Edelweiss Hut to Hochschneeberg via summit (take chairlift up and train down)||6.8km one-way (850m elevation gain).|
As well as these walking tracks to the summit, you can also take the Panorama Paradise track from the Hochschneeberg station. This is a circular walk (approx 3km distance and 150m total ascent) that includes the Panorama View lookout. This is well sign-posted and can be done within an hour.
|Location||Multiple options to reach the peak on foot, train (up to 1,800m asl) or cablecar (up to 1210m). All start from the town of Puchberg am Schneeberg which is serviced by a regional train line as well as road.|
|Distance||12.4km from Puchberg am Schneeberg to Klosterwappen summit|
|Grade||Moderate (due to 1,510m total ascent)|
|Season/s||May-November (skiing activities in winter). Chairlift open weekends only outside of winter and summer months.|