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From sweet-smelling cornfields to a ski resort open 365 days a year – the wide Zillertal Valley leads gently uphill from the small town of Mayrhofen to the high mountain village of Hintertux.
The first section of the Zillertal Valley, shortly after it branches off from the Inntal Valley near the town of Jenbach, is wide and sunny. It lies 40km east of the regional capital Innsbruck and leads south, flanked by the Kitzbühel Alps to the east and the Tux Alps to the west. Unlike the craggy peaks found at the end of the valley, the first few villages are surrounded by lush green meadows and gently sloping mountains. The Zillertal Valley is considered the cradle of alpine mountaineering, and even today the local farmers continue to use traditional methods to look after their crops and animals. The result is fine local produce such as the Heumilchkäse, a tangy cheese made from milk given by cows fed only on fresh mountain hay. The 40km valley, which comprises 25 municipalities if you include those in the side valleys, is more or less flat until Mayrhofen, where it divides into the narrow Zemmtal Valley, with its popular hiking village of Ginzling, and the Tuxertal Valley. From here on the valley rises steeply towards the Hintertux Glacier, the only ski resort in Austria open all year round.
Locomotive excursions and hiking in the nature park
The Zillertal Valley is both traditional and full of action, offering outdoor enthusiasts everything from mountain biking to whitewater rafting. Centuries-old customs and celebrations such as the annual Gauderfest in Zell am Ziller show that, despite its state-of-the-art tourist infrastructure, the valley has managed to preserve its heritage. Part of this heritage is the Zillertalbahn, a modern railway track where steam engines are sometimes still used. Without a doubt the star of the show in the area is the Zillertal Alps Nature Park with its 80 glaciers and numerous peaks over 3,000m, with the highest being the Hochfeiler at 3,509m. The pristine landscape in the park is ideal for hiking and rock climbing. During the cold winter months visitors will find a network of cross-country skiing and winter hiking trails as well as six ski resorts with hundreds of kilometres of slopes catering for all abilities.
Hiking in Zillertal Valley
Hikers in the Zillertal Valley are spoilt for choice. The region offers numerous paths and trails catering for all ages and fitness levels. While the valley floor is home to rich fauna and flora, the Zillertal Alps has some of the highest peaks in Tirol.
Lush meadows, craggy mountains, shimmering glaciers and 3,000-metre peaks make the Zillertal Valley a picture-perfect region for walkers and hikers. It is located between the western Kitzbühel Alps and the Tux Alps. To the south rise the mighty peaks of the Zillertal Alps giving way to the Main Alpine Ridge. It is here that the most challenging hikes can be found, including several multi-day treks in the Zillertal Alps Nature Park. Advanced and expert hikers will also enjoy the Berlin High Trail and the Peter Habeler Loop. Both these multi-stage routes take adventurers above the magical 3,000-metre mark. En route there are plenty of stunning views of the glacier-capped mountains to enjoy. The Tux Alps has several cable cars such as the Spieljochbahn in Fügen and the Penkenbahn in Mayrhofen. In the Kitzbühel Alps there is the Rosenalmbahn in Zell am Ziller giving quick and easy access to the high mountains.
Mountain Biking in Zillertal Valley
Sitting as the crown jewel in a ring of peaks over 3,000 metres in altitude, the Zillertal Valley is an ideal hub for those seeking breathtaking terrain and variety.
A wealth of trails awaits mountain bikers of all abilities, from novice to expert. Besides granting access to postcard-worthy views and fresh air, these trails will lead you to mouth-watering culinary delights: Bikers can work up an appetite taking in the Alpine splendour before tucking into a delicious spread at one of the 150 lovely on-mountain inns and restaurants. Choose your own adventure on four adrenaline fuelled and gravity-fed downhill singletrack—from mellow and meandering to technical and challenging, with mixed surface terrain, rooty sections and fast descents, aptly named “Hell’s Ride” or “Ascension”. The RideAble Project, a singletrack that snakes its way from Wiesenalm down to the valley, drops 730 meters along its way. Discover how fun mountain biking can be with fast flowing descents and terrain for all abilities and test your skills on expertly designed switchbacks, Northshore Elements and pumps. Or work up a sweat on the trail that climbs up to Wanglalm Alpine Pasture. The hard work reaps maximum rewards as there are stunning views of Hintertux Glacier.
Special Recommendation: Zillertal Active Card Holders are granted one complimentary uphill and downhill ride on all operating summer gondolas and free use of public transit services. Zillertal Train lets you take a bike for free as well.
Cycling in Zillertal Valley
Its flat terrain, gentle elevation gain and beautiful scenery make the Zillertal Valley Cycle Path an ideal option for leisure cyclists and families during the warm and sunny summer months.
The delightful path follows the Ziller River downstream from Mayrhofen to Strass and passes a rich variety of rewarding sights and attractions, adventure parks, outdoor swimming pools and playgrounds. And just in case you’re getting tired from cycling, the path passes several train stations where you can get aboard historic Zillertal Train to shorten your journey. Zillertal Valley boasts some 40 electric bike rental shops and charging stations: High-end electric-assist bikes will have you exploring breathtaking trails with ease.