Easy to reach with the “Salamander-train”, the Schneeberg is a brilliant excursion for the entire family. No matter if you like mountain hiking or just taking in the stunning views, anyone enjoys a day out on the “Snow Mountain”.
The highest mountain of Lower Austria, Schneeberg (Snow Mountain), with its 2,076-metre (6.811 ft) high summit Klosterwappen, offers family friendly hiking and stunning views. Only about 80 kms (50 mi) from Vienna it’s a popular hiking destination for the Viennese, as well as for travellers. Hence, I boarded the yellow and green salamander train and headed up to Schneeberg. Arriving at the top, enjoy the breath-taking view, before you head out on the trail. Maybe even have a look in the “TOP ART 1800” gallery, the rusty steel tube next to station or inside the Elisabeth chapel. As of the summer 2019, the chapel is under renovation. Nonetheless, hiking is what most people come here for.
Hiking the high mountain plateau
Whichever hiking route you choose, they all start at the mountain station of the Schneebergbahn. Instead of the so often ragged peaks surrounded by steep ascents, the top of the Schneeberg is more like a plateau. I found this a nice change as I could have a good hike without long and steep ascents. Although, it’s not completely lacking steep parts. The last serpentines up to the Fischerhütte reveals if you are fit or not. Furthermore, descending from the Klosterwappen peak requires that you are steady on your feet. Finding your way around is very easy. There is a very well-marked trail at the plateau, taking you around in a circle. Moreover, you can see most of the route during the hike. Nevertheless, I made a figure 8 hike out of it and got three summits for one hike.
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Starting from the cog railway station at 1,798-metres (5.899 ft), I followed the gravel track until reaching Fischerhütte, just below the Kaiserstein at 2,062-metres (6.614 ft). From there I headed for summit number two. It was easy going on the wide ridge to the highest point on the trail, Klosterwappen 2,076-metre (6.811 ft). Since the plateau is wide, it gives you completely different views, depending on the vantage point. Nonetheless, from the ridge you have spectacular views to the west, north and the south. The best view to east is from the 1,888-metre (6.194 ft) Waxriegel, just above the railway station, which is the 3rd and last peak on this hike.
Not wanting to back track, I took one of the smaller tracks to the left at the Damböckhaus, which is the mountain hut in the middle of the plateau. By taking the much less used and narrow track, I ascended to the Waxriegel summit from the northside. From there you have great views, if the air is cold and clear, to Vienna, into Hungary and even to Slovakia. At the Waxriegel you can see the rail station, which is only 10-minute hike away. The 7,7 kms (4.8 mi) took me about 3,5 hours including plenty of time to have lunch and enjoy the stunning views.
Food for both body and soul
Arriving back at the station I had some time to spend before catching the train down to Puchberg. The Berghaus restaurant next to the station serves the standard Austrian menu items, such as; Frankfurter sausages, Wienerschnitzel, Kaiserschmarrn and of course the famous Schneebergkrapfen (flaky pastry with cranberries and whipped cream). Either you enjoy your meal inside the 1898 built mountain lodge, or outside on the terrace with fabulous views.
The rack railway is brilliant as it allows anyone to come up to the mountain to enjoy the views. Although, with prams and wheelchairs you would have to navigate gravel, to get around the area around the station, it should be ok. The train ride itself mostly goes through thick forest, but here and there, you get some great views. Sit on the left side on the way up, and on the right side going down for the best view. The rack (or cog) railway, that starts in Puchberg station at 577 m (1.893 ft) above sea level, was completed in 1897, after a 2-year construction period. Emperor Franz Joseph I was astonished, both by the technical achievement and the stunning views, when he took the Schneeberg Railway on June 18, 1902 by steam train.
Connection to Vienna
Today the regular traffic on the line is done by diesel-electric trains, which bring up to 100-120 guest up or down a track the at the most has an incline of 19 %. However, on Sundays and Bank Holidays you can go opt for a nostalgic steam train trip. Check the Schneebergbahn website for more info. If you don’t have, you’re on transport when travelling to Austria, you can still enjoy this mountain experience. You can travel directly by train from Vienna, via Wiener Neustadt by regular passenger trains arriving in Puchberg. The cog railway and the regular trains share the station, making it easy to change.
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