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 “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 km (50 mi) from Vienna, it’s a popular hiking destination for the Viennese and travellers. Hence, I boarded the yellow and green salamander train and headed to Schneeberg. Arriving at the top, enjoy the breathtaking view before you head out on the trail. Maybe even look in the “TOP ART 1800” gallery, the rusty steel tube next to the station or inside the Elisabeth chapel. 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 entirely lacking steep parts. The last serpentine 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. However, finding your way around is very easy. A very well-marked trail at the plateau takes you around in a circle. Moreover, you can see most of the routes 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 broad ridge to the highest point on the trail, Klosterwappen 2,076-metre (6.811 ft). Since the plateau is vast, it gives you completely different views, depending on the vantage point. Nonetheless, you have spectacular views from the ridge to the west, north and south. The best view to the 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 backtrack, I took one of the smaller tracks to the left at the Damböckhaus, the mountain hut in the middle of the plateau. Then, I ascended to the Waxriegel summit from the north side by taking the much less used and narrow trail. From there, you have great views if the air is cold and transparent, to Vienna, Hungary, and even Slovakia. At the Waxriegel, you can see the rail station, which is only a 10-minute hike away. The 7,7 km (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). Enjoy your meal inside the 1898-built mountain lodge or outside on the terrace with fabulous views.
The rack railway is brilliant, allowing anyone to travel up 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 mostly goes through thick forests, 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, which starts at 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 by the technical achievement and the stunning views when he travelled by steam train on the Schneeberg Railway on June 18, 1902.
Connection to Vienna
Today the regular traffic on the line is done by diesel-electric trains, which bring up to 100-120 guests up or down a track at the most has an incline of 19 %. However, you can opt for a nostalgic steam train trip on Sundays and Bank Holidays. 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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