How to enjoy nature in Zell am See-Kaprun this summer

Nature lovers will adore Zell am See-Kaprun. This outdoor adventure playground is part mountain, part glacier and part lake, meaning there’s something here for everyone.

4 mins

Main image: Zell am See-Kaprun / Nikolaus Faistauer Photography

The mountains

Sunrise hike on the Schmittenhöhe (Zell am See Kaprun Tourismus)

Sunrise hike on the Schmittenhöhe (Zell am See Kaprun Tourismus)

Zell am See is the largest resort in the Pinzgau, shoehorned onto a small peninsula beside Lake Zell near the mighty Schmittenhöhe mountain. Above Kaprun is the glacier-topped Kitzsteinhorn and between the two is Maiskogel. One of the toughest trails is the hike to the summit of the Kitzsteinhorn. Steel ropes aid a short but precipitous climb to a magnificent Alpine view. Far less scary is a beautiful 17km high trail starting from the Schmittenhöhe gondola called the Pinzgau Walk. Maiskogel can be hiked too, but it’s the children’s playground beside the Maiskogelbahn that attracts families. It’s fun to ride the Maisi Flitzer Alpine Coaster, which careens downhill at speeds of up to 40kph. Above Kaprun, meltwater from the Pasterze Glacier fills the Wasserfallboden and Mooserboden, collectively known as the High Mountain Reservoirs. Walking paths lead to spectacular overlooks. The best of the valley hikes is arguably the trail that leads along the dramatic Sigmund Thun Gorge to the Klammsee, a pretty turquoise reservoir. If you’d rather bike than hike, there are numerous trails. Try the Maiskogel Trail, a newly constructed downhill 4km track that’s suitable for beginners. In contrast, the longer Wüstlau Trail (another downhill option) on the Kitzsteinhorn requires more technical ability, with plenty of tight curves, rocks and tree roots to contend with.

The glacier

Summit the glacier (Zell am See Kaprun Tourismus)

Summit the glacier (Zell am See Kaprun Tourismus)

Covered with ice all year, the Kitzsteinhorn Glacier sits 3,000 metres above sea level. A series of gondolas whisks you up the mountain; bike trails beginning at the Alpincentre are at 2,450 metres up. Board the Gletscherjet 3+4 and ride to the summit station where Gipfelwelt 3000 is one of the area’s biggest tourist attractions. If you stay at a partnering hotel. then your ticket will be covered by the Zell am See-Kaprun Summer Card. At Austria’s highest cinema, watch “Kitzsteinhorn - THE NATURE” on an eight metre-wide screen and grab a bite to eat at the Salzburg region’s highest restaurant. Visit the National Park Gallery and emerge from a 360 metre long tunnel onto the Top of Salzburg, an eye-catching cantilevered viewing platform. In the crisp mountain air, drink in an uninterrupted view of the surrounding peaks. Special telescopes help you identify what’s in front of you. There’s an impressive bird’s eye view of the glacier from here as well, though you may prefer to join a guided ranger hike to get closer to the ice. Sign up for the Kitzsteinhorn Explorer Tour to learn about how glaciers form and the types of Alpine flora and fauna you can expect at this altitude.  

The lake

Make a splash at Lake Zell (Zell am See Kaprun Tourismus)

Make a splash at Lake Zell (Zell am See Kaprun Tourismus)

At Lake Zell, forested slopes lead the eye from the shore of this limpid glacial lake to the scabrous peaks above. Under cloudless skies, the water is a vivid blue. The streams that feed the lake ensure a steady supply of pure mountain water, but it can only muster a single outlet stream which flows into the Salzach River. South of the lake, a protected wetland reserve promises unspoilt nature and birdwatching opportunities. On hot sunny days, crowds pack Lake Zell’s three lidos, located in Zell am See, Thumersbach and Schüttdorf. With heated outdoor pools, water slides and snack bars selling ice creams, they’re popular with families. If you want to get out on the water, four boats ferry passengers around the lake. The oldest is a vintage wooden cruiser called Libelle (the name translates as Dragonfly) which has been chugging back and forth across the lake since 1947. The newer and larger MS Schmittenhöhe takes 45 minutes to circuit the lake, though you might prefer to hike the 11km loop instead. Lake Zell is also a popular water sports destination. Book a taster session with one of Zell’s qualified instructors to learn how to sail or windsurf. Visitors can also hire rowing boats and paddleboards; SUP yoga classes are offered when the weather’s calm. Illuminated dancing fountains and lasers create a dazzling light show after dark.

Feeling inspired? 

For more information and inspiration to help you plan your perfect summer visit to Austria, head to the official website. 

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