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Winter hiking through Breitachklamm Gorge

© by Arnold Weisz

The 2.2-kilometer 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 wonderful 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 all around Austria, but never during winter. The snow-covered landscape offered a distinctly different atmosphere and a wonderful winter experience.

Cross-border hiking

I hopped on the bus from Riezlern to Walsershcanz, which is 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. 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.

< Click on the images to enlarge >

Curtains of ice

At half-past 10 in the morning, I was hiking alone and enjoying the silence. During winter, less water flows through the gorge and makes 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. It felt a bit strange, walking under the huge boulders over my head. Furthermore, looking down into the gorge, I could see several glacial potholes, also known as a giant’s cauldron. As the canyon starts to widen, 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.

Hot cocoa

The entire hike through the gorge takes about one hour. Hence, no rush and I could take it slow and enjoy the 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 center and a restaurant. I was looking forward to savoring a cup of hot cocoa, relaxing and warming up before hiking back up through the Breitachklamm. 20 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.

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Warm clothes and good boots
When I start the hike, it was fresh minus 8 °C, and even colder in the gorge. However, upon returning to the bus stop in Kleinwalsertal at 1 PM, the temperature had risen to +4 °C. Hence, dress warmly in layers to adjust as the temperatures change. Walkways are carved into the rock or bolted into the rocks, making the canyon safe also in winter. Nonetheless, wearing proper hiking boots is recommended.

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Written by Arnold Weisz

Globetrotting multilingual communications specialist born in Vienna, Austria – with passion for scuba diving, golf and culinary delights! 15 years of experience as a scuba- and travel reporter for among others: X-Ray Dive Magazine and Dykking.