Kleinwalsertal was the last stop of my road trip through the Vorarlberg region in Austria. Like the other Vorarlberg areas I visited, it’s a great summer hiking destination. But it also has a few things that make it unique.
A wrong turn
My first activity was a loop hike into Wildental that started right outside my hotel. I didn’t find the exact same hike online, so I marked it on a paper map I took a photo of. Sorry if it’s a bit unclear.
The hike started with a pretty steep but easy – because on a regular road – walk uphill from Gästehaus Wildbach, the hotel in Mittelberg where I was staying, past the Gasthof Alpenrose. The street is called Höfle. At the first real crossing, I followed the arrows to the right in the direction of the Fluchtalpe.
This is where the road – still the Höfle – starts following the Wildenbach river below. You’ll only see the river at certain points, though.
Not too far into my walk, I came across this “energy place” where energy lines are supposed to meet. You can’t really miss it as there’s this sign on the road to your right when you’re coming from Mittelberg, guiding you onto a little path that leads to an open circle behind the trees.
I followed it and once inside the circle, I did my best to understand the instructions someone had left behind in German. When you enter the energy circle, you’re supposed to turn off your cellphone and other devices you may have with you, go stand on the spot that most attracts you with your hand palms facing the ground and just be.
I wanted to try it, I really did, but after only a few moments I got uncomfortable.
It wasn’t the being still that made me uncomfortable. I don’t meditate frequently but I’ve had a go at it a few times and didn’t really struggle with the just being still.
This was different, though. I got nervous standing there.
Now, I’m not saying it was the energy at that spot making me nervous. It might have also been the fact that I drank way more coffee at breakfast than I ever drank in an entire day. In fact, it was probably that. Nevertheless, I didn’t feel like standing there for another 10 minutes and so I continued my hike toward the Fluchtalpe.
That went smoothly as the rest of there weren’t any big descents or ascents. It was when I got to the Fluchtalpe that I made a mistake.
You know when you’re driving and you know you’re supposed to turn right but everyone goes left and, as you’re not paying attention, you do too? Something like that happened.
The Fluchtalpe is a hut serving food and drinks at the end of the Höfle road. The end of the road bends to the left and with a few people walking in front of me, I simply followed it to the left. What I should have done instead was go straight onto the small dirt path that ran alongside the river. To be honest: I didn’t even see it. To get onto the path, you need to walk through a small opening in the “fence” (it’s really just like a rope) that marks off where the cows can’t go. If you’re not paying attention – I clearly wasn’t – it’s easy to miss.
If you take the path behind the Fluchtalpe, like I did, you’re up for a steep and whirling climb in between the trees. It’s totally doable, but you do need to be in decent shape and mind where you place your feet. The climb isn’t really hilly. It’s more as if someone made steps into the side of the mountain to help you get up. Who knows, maybe that’s exactly what someone did.
I realized my mistake as I was going, but figured it wasn’t a problem. This was a round hike after all and so instead of going counter clockwise, I could now just go clockwise. Right?
At one point, all the way up, I reached a crossing with some direction signs. One pointed in the direction of Germany, the other toward the Hinterwildenalpe. Looking at the map I had with me, the latter was where I needed to go.
I continued my hike onto a narrow path that lead me a little higher until I reached another hut. When I got there, there seemed to be only one possible path to take and so I took that one. In the distance, I could see the waterfall and I knew I had to cross that at some point to then go down again on the other side of it.
The path in front of me seemed to go in the right direction but it got narrower and narrower as I went along, with the mountain side to my left and a dangerously steep looking slope to my right.
And then I reached The Rock. The Rock was literally that: a piece of rocky mountain that clearly did nto have a hiking trail run over it. Hooks to attach climbing gear, yes, those were present, but no sign of the path continuing.
I stood there, a bit puzzled, and looked at my map again. I was clearly going in the right direction and yet I was also clearly on the wrong trail. This was supposed to be a medium hike, no climbing involved.
As my fear of heights had kicked in at this point and I didn’t want to take any unnecessary risks, I decided to turn back.
When I got to the hut again, I looked around to see if I could spot another path but nothing.
As I was writing this post, I needed to find out where I’d gone wrong and so I studied Google Satellite and did find another trail departing from that hut and running parallel with the path I took, only this one went over the top of the mountain, above The Rock. It seems super easy to spot on the image and yet I totally missed it. I don’t know if it was one of those tiny “rope gates” again or if my brain was just malfunctioning after a week of travel, but not knowing where else to go, I simply went back the way I came.
As I reached the Fluchtalpe again, it was now clear where I’d made my mistake. It was later in the day and now several hikers were taking the path up alongside the waterfall. Tired as I was at that point, I went up a few meters just so that I could take this photo for you to show you what it looks like when you go the right way 😀
Instead of doing a hike that was supposed to last about four hours, I left at 9h30 in the morning and only got back to the hotel at 2.30 in the afternoon – not having even stopped for lunch.
And yet, I don’t mind too much for several reasons.
- I got a good workout, climbing up and down the left side of the trail.
- I was confronted with my fear of heights again, but also realized that a few months ago, I would have been way more scared on some of the parts of the trail than I had been this time. Seems like all of my hiking in the Austrian mountains is paying off 🙂
- While it had been nicer, of course, to do the full loop, the left side gave me the best views of the waterfall and allowed me to take some cool photos.
Baad, the end of the world
I was actually supposed to go on a seven-hour sunset hike that evening as well, but you can imagine my body wasn’t up for that after my longer-than-planned day hike. So instead, I joined Elmar from the Kleinwalsertal Tourism Board for a picknick in Baad.
Baad is also known as “the end of the world” because it’s the place in Kleinwalsertal where the roads end. If you want to go any further, you need to hike or bike. Luckily, there are plenty of great hiking trails in this area as well.
If you want to explore them, the easiest is to drive to the one parking lot Baad has, which is located at Baad 1, A-6993 Mittelberg. It costs around €3/day to park there and there’s a trail that starts right at the parking lot.
Andi and his permaculture garden
On a patch of green land along the Wildentalstrasse in Mittelberg, lies a unique garden. Owner Andi created it now six years ago as a permaculture garden, a garden designed not to be pretty, but to reflect how plants, herbs and vegetables interact with each other in nature.
Andi lives from what he grows in his garden and his vegetables are of such high quality that the chefs of local restaurants love using them.
When I visited him, I did so together with a group of marketing students who were working on a project to promote the safekeeping of bees. They wanted Andi’s advice on how they could best create bee-friendly flower installations around Kleinwalsertal. It was incredible hearing him explain all the options and the things to take into.
Just like during my herbal walk in Lech earlier that week, I was reminded of how much nature has to offer us if we just take the time to learn about its workings and make the effort to put that knowledge to our use.
Furthermore, Andi progressively stepped away from consumerism by reusing as many things as possible, growing his garden and only buying – or even trading – the things he really needs. What I loved was how he told us all this while emphasizing that he does not want to push his way of life onto anyone, but simply wants to show people that there’s another way.
It definitely gave me something to think about during my drive to the airport.
If you want to visit Andi and his garden as well, you can do so from mid-June until September 26 (date for 2017) every Tuesday at 1.50 p.m. He won’t just tell you about his garden, but also teaches you how you can do small things in your own garden.
My Kleinwalsertal hotel
I spent two nights at the Gästehaus Wildbach, a small hotel in Mittelberg im Kleinwalsertal in a lovely room with a view of the valley. The Wildbach serves a lovely breakfast buffet in the morning and has a trust-based fridge full of cool drinks that guests can make use of.
Check out my room:
If you want to get an impression of Kleinwalsertal at this very moment, check out the Kleinwalsertal webcam page. There’s a Mittelberg webcam for the place where I stayed and more than 40 others.
Pin for later
I was invited to explore Vorarlberg by Vorarlberg Tourism. As always when I take on collaborations like this, I was free to write what I wanted.
Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you buy anything through them, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. If you’d like to support the site, this is a great way of doing so. Thanks!