The 2.2-kilometre Breitachklamm is the deepest in Central Europe. Not many gorges are open in winter, but Breitachklamm, on the border between Austria and Germany, offers a beautiful experience during the cold season.
Winter hiking in a canyon was one of the things I wanted to do in Kleinwalsertal, Vorarlberg. Hence, I seized the opportunity and made a winter hike in the Breitachklamm Gorge. I have hiked in many beautiful canyons around Austria, but never during winter. The snow-covered landscape offered a distinctly different atmosphere and a wonderful winter experience.
I hopped on the bus from Riezlern to Walsershcanz, on the border with Germany. This is the highest point and upper entrance to Breitachklamm. Following the signage from the bus stop, I was on my way down through the forest towards the gorge. After about 200 meters, I crossed a stream and found myself in Bavaria, Germany. No worries! You do not need a passport for this border crossing. After a few more minutes along a trail through the forest, I reached the gorge. The rock walls rose vertically on both sides of the Breitach River. Suddenly, out of nowhere, there is a ticket booth. I paid my entrance fee (4.50 euros for adults and 1.30 euros for children. See website for more info) and headed further into the gorge.
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Curtains of ice
I was hiking alone at half-past 10 in the morning and enjoying the silence. During winter, less water flows through the gorge, making it far quieter than in summer. Notwithstanding, some of the most beautiful sights along the way are the waterfalls of ice and ice curtains. Where Breitachklamm is at its smallest and deepest, a few large boulders are stuck between the rock walls. Walking under the enormous boulders over my head felt a bit strange.
Furthermore, looking down into the gorge, I could see several glacial potholes, also known as a giant’s cauldron. Finally, as the canyon widened, the trail took me through a small tunnel. It’s almost a gateway back into the real world. Soon after, the gorge widened, and I arrived in a small valley.
The entire hike through the gorge takes about one hour. Hence, no rush and I could take it slow and enjoy nature. It is amazing how the power of the water has shaped the gorge over 10.000 years. At the lower exit, there is a visitor centre and a restaurant. I was looking forward to savouring a cup of hot cocoa, relaxing and warming up before hiking back up through the Breitachklamm. TwentyInstead, minutes later, I headed out again and started on the return trip. Hiking back to Kleinwalsertal offered a different experience. The sun had risen higher in the sky, and it was lighter. About 1.5 hours later, I was back at the bus stop after an exciting winter adventure.