The area around St. Johann in Tirol boasts around 200km of hiking paths. Listen out for cowbells as you wind through Alpine meadows, meander into umbrageous woodland and pass beneath the gnarly peaks of the Wilder Kaiser. The ultimate Tirolean hike, the mammoth 413km long Eagle Walk, begins here. Meanwhile the longest within the St. Johann area is the five-day Koasa Trail. Serious walkers will relish the chance to complete the entire 86km trail in one go, though each stage can be tackled separately. Keep your eyes peeled for chamois as you approach the Niederkaiser ridge with its views of the Kitzbüheler Horn. At the family-friendly Teufelsgasse (Devil’s Lane), steps lead upwards through a forested ravine. The bridges and boardwalks that enable you to reach the striking Griesbachklamm gorge or Eifersbacher waterfall make these sections suitable for kids too. Themed trails such as the Schnackler Adventure Trail are also worth checking out – the tale of a shepherd and his quest to find a merry goblin will enchant little ones. Guided hikes are free to holders of the St. Johann Guest Card – pick it up when you arrive. Book a place on an accompanied Full Moon hike, for example, to indulge in a spot of stargazing.
2. Head out on a guided bike ride
Tackle some of the Austrian Alps’ most scenic gravel trails on two wheels. The area has more than 200km of road bike routes and mountain bike trails, comprising almost 40 routes. Among them are easy cycle paths perfect for leisurely pedalling and steep descents more suited to adrenaline-hungry mountain bikers. Guided summer bike rides enable you to concentrate on the view and forget about getting lost. Experienced riders will appreciate the 170km KAT Bike trail. The demanding Oberndorf leg involves 1900 vertical metres of elevation gain and a pair of lengthy climbs. Nevertheless, the sensational view of the Kitzbüheler Horn from the Harschbichlalm is an effective distraction from achy calf muscles. E-bikes make light work of the Bichlach loop. This 13km circular route begins and ends in Oberndorf, taking in the Reither Ache and Kitzbüheler Ache rivers as well as stands of birch trees, moorland and undulating hills. Parents keen to introduce youngsters to the joys of cycling should check out the OD Trails at Oberndorf’s Bikepark. As they ride graded tracks, children learn how to manage curves, bumps and obstacles before progressing to switchbacks and ascents of rock steps. The park is also home to the first T-bar lift in the Tirol designed with bikes in mind.
3. Join in with local festivities
Summer is a time for celebration and properly kicks off with the Summer Solstice, when hundreds of fires are lit on the summits of the Kitzbüheler Horn and Wilder Kaiser mountains. For the best view, ride the Harschbichlbahn to the top of the mountain. In July and August, St. Johann’s Wednesday Lang & Klang nights make the most of lighter evenings, combining extended shopping hours with child-friendly activities. September’s the time for the Almabtrieb: the practice of transhumance dictates that the cows must come down from the higher pastures as winter approaches. Farmers dress their livestock in floral headdresses and process down the mountain. To join in, head over to Gasteig, where the cattle drive from the Obingalm culminates at Kramerhof. Enjoy food, drink, live music and dancing as well as a lively handicrafts market. And don’t miss St. Johann’s dumpling festival, the Knödelfest, held each September for four decades. Organisers set up a gingham-clad 595 metre long table on Speckbacherstraße. Wait staff clad in traditional Dirndln and Lederhosen scurry back and forth serving an estimated 26,000 dumplings. Your festival ticket gets you a free recipe book to take home.
4. Tuck into culinary delights
Even if you aren’t in town for the Knödelfest, sampling dumplings is a must. You can choose from a variety of different flavours including bacon, breadcrumbs, cheese, spinach, apple and even pretzels. Another perennial favourite is the St. Johanner Würstel, a coarse smoked pork sausage tucked into a bread roll and served with horseradish and mustard. Speciality sausages and other local produce such as bacon, cheese, artisan bread, organic fruit and vegetables, honey and handmade soap are sold at St. Johann’s weekly market. Wander down to the main square on Friday mornings throughout the summer. It’s also the ideal place to sink your teeth into kiachl. Discs of dough are deep fried with a well in the middle that’s filled with sauerkraut or cranberries. Be sure to head over to the Wilder Käser cheese dairy in Kirchdorf in Tirol. Crucial to the taste of their Stinker variety of cheese is the use of hay milk. Cows graze on the Alpine pastures, devouring not only grass but also herbs and flowers which enhance the flavour. There’s no need for additives or preservatives, as the dairy makes cheese the traditional way. Watch the process through glass as the creamy milk becomes wheels of cheese that will be left to age.
5. Brave canyoning
Over millennia, meltwater and rainstorms have from time to time swollen Alpine streams, turning them into monstrous beasts that sculpt the landscape. They erode the bedrock, drilling down to carve deep chasms scarred with fault lines and river beds littered with boulders. In summer, these impressive ravines dwarf the rivers that tumble along their courses, creating outdoor adventure parks. Take a leap of faith as you experience the area’s most remarkable gorge, the Taxaklamm, situated just outside Erpfendorf. Canyoning isn’t for the faint-hearted, but if you are reasonably fit and have a liking for extreme sports then this exhilarating activity is a must. If you’re up for it, get yourself kitted out with a wetsuit and helmet. After a short uphill hike, you’ll navigate a significant vertical descent along this short but thrilling stretch of the Taxabach stream’s course. Flanked by sheer limestone cliffs, abseil down a 16 metre drop as the water crashes down beside you. Swim, wade and scramble downstream, launch yourself down a rock slide and brave a six metre jump into a chilly turquoise plunge pool. Invigorating, adrenaline-inducing but above all fun, this is one challenge you’ll be glad you had the guts to accept.
For more information and inspiration to help you plan your perfect summer visit to Austria, head to the official website.