Hallstatt, a small village located on the shores of a beautiful lake at the foot of Dachstein Mountain is one of the most beautiful places in Austria and Europe. Aside from beauty, Hallstatt is one of the oldest human settlements in Europe. First records. dating back for thousands of years, show a permanent population of salt miners living in this area a long time ago. The surrounding mountains are very rich in rock salt, after which the entire Salzburg region was named Salzkammergut, “The Salt Office” in German.
I have mentioned several times the amazing beauty of Lake Hallstatt itself. In previous travel stories, I have taken you to see the lake from the surrounding mountain peaks to enjoy its green-blue panorama. In one of the workshops describing the development of photos, you could see the distant panorama of Hallstatt beneath the green mountain summits. And in one of the latest travel stories from this area, I took you on a snowy hike that ended on the shores of Lake Hallstatt. About this last one… I didn’t tell you the whole story…
To remind you, in 2017 I visited this region of Austria for the first time. Determined to ride the legendary Salzkammergut route by bike, the plan included enjoying the spring time and Nature. I planned to try local specialties and some craft beers that are widely known thanks to the relative proximity of Bavaria. And first of all, the plan was to enjoy riding bike through the beautiful nature of this area. With that plan, I arrived in Austria on a beautiful, sunny, April evening. The fields were green, the temperature was a perfect 15 degrees. That evening I spent learning about local specialties and craft beers, talking to the hosts and planning the next days. I took my friendly host’s note that it “smells like snow” as extra proof that Austrian humor is not easy to understand.
In the morning I was greeted with 15 cm of fresh snow. After a healthful breakfast, I decided to make the best use of the day and go for a short hike around. The idea was to walk to Hallstatt Lake and see it for the first time. I heard about its beauty many times before, and I thought that would be nice to see it for the first time under the snow.
As I said, in one of the previous travelogues, the sight of snow-covered trees on the shores of this beautiful lake will forever remain in my memory as the “true” look of this lake. But, my hike didn’t end there. It’s time to introduce you to one incredible hike on snow-covered slopes of the Dachstein Mountain in search of Hallstatt Village.
While enjoying the view of the lake shore, I noticed a narrow path that curved the slopes of the mountain in the direction of Hallstatt. After a few minutes of studying the hiking maps, I found a trail that curved the slopes of the mountain to end above Hallstatt itself.
I just had to go and see it.
The journey started with an amazing hiking bridge … which was closed. Without much hesitation, I must admit that I was ready to cross it despite the ban. But, at the very beginning of the bridge I found a couple Mountain Rangers. A few glances were enough for them to warn me not to cross that bridge! For the sake of being closed in the winter, aside from them being there and having a job to stop me, the main reason was that the bridge is under the surveillance cameras. Austria is known as a country where the law is strictly obeyed… especially when cameras are involved.
After a few minutes of talking to the rangers, one of them took pity on my sad gaze in the direction of Hallstatt, pulled me aside and showed me on the map access to the trek that bypassed the bridge. He also told me that the track itself is also closed and that I should not be on it… found… But he also informed me that track is not covered by cameras. He said to me that he walked the track on the previous days and that it is in a quite good condition. At the very end he pointed out that I should be extremely careful not to hurt myself, because then, yep obviously, everyone would know that I was on a (forbidden) trek.
I have to take a little break here and tell you a few things. The last thing I would do in nature is to be careless. I have repeatedly stated that Nature is just waiting to kill you. It is in her… well in her nature… Disrespect for nature is the fastest way to appear in the newspapers as the winner of the Darwin Award. Also, disrespecting the law in Austria is another thing you should not do. The penalties are astronomical.
So why did I ignore the bans and move on? The first reason is a ranger who give me more than a few signs that I can do the trek. He is pro, you know 🙂 Why he did that, I do not know, but I can give a quite good guess. For those not knowing me personally my silver hair and beard say that I am not kiddo anymore. My gear does not say: “I’m an amateur who does this from fashion”. My outfit is probably better than I need it, and it doesn’t look like it is new and unused. I guess what I am trying to tell you is that I do not look like an amateur when I am outdoor. At least not like a complete amateur.
Also, personally, for many years I have been a patient mountaineer who doesn’t risk too much. I am aware of my capabilities and especially of the inabilities. I was ready to give up that hike at any time if I considered the risk too big.
On the trek itself, nature was absolutely beautiful. The path winding through the slopes of the mountain a few dozen meters above the lake. The view of the snow-covered forest and the mist-wrapped lake was beautiful and calming. It filled me with peace with each new step.
The trek in many places crosses small mountain streams and in one place even leads under a small waterfall. On wide sections of the road are lookouts overlooking the beautiful lake below. The wooden bridges in a few places were very slippery and required special care when crossing. Even with them, the trek was very safe. And beautiful. So beautiful that it’s almost impossible to describe it. The snow-covered forest has that special kind of silence. If you’ve experienced a quiet day in the snow-covered forest, then you know it’s a special category of peace and quiet.
This trail is not a short one. It takes a couple of hours to get through the snow safely. Not to mention moments when you are standing in total silence enjoying the view to the forest and lake. But it seemed to me that the time had stopped and, after a just few moments I spotted the towers of Hallstatt covered in snow.
Hallstatt looks like a fairy tale village. The pointed towers of the churches beneath which maze of rooftops slowly descend towards a beautiful deep blue lake is a dreamy scene. Snowflakes and fog only made that impression grow stronger. Hallstatt is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. That’s why I kept coming back to this dreamy village again and again in the years that followed.
On the photographic side, it is a paradise. From almost every angle, Hallstatt looks mystical and absolutely beautiful. Photos taken from Hallstatt trek show one of his less frequently seen pages. There aren’t a lot of photos created from this angle, which makes them even more precious to me.
Technically, the snow and haze didn’t help me make these photos legendary. The mere fact that the snow has fallen on the fresh green vegetation makes them rather unusual … as if something is out of place. Also, the fact was that I was already quite tired when I was making them. I did not stay there long enough to find winning compositions. In the end, the photos were taken without enough study of the scene. However, the whole story of how I got there on the snowy path above Hallstatt makes them very dear to me. In the first place, they tell a story about an unforgettable adventure.
Speaking of adventure, at Hallstatt I had a beer with the rangers I met at the beginning of the trek. We didn’t talk about how I got there. Instead, they put a lot of marks on my map with the hiking and biking trails in the area that I simply must visit. In the following days of my Salzkammergut adventure, I visited many of them. One day I’ll tell you stories from these places.
Unfortunately, the last time I visited Hallstatt I was unable to walk this trek. It was completely closed. Later, I learned that landslides made certain parts of this trek dangerous. Therefore, the owner decided to close it for visitors. Yes, I said the owner. The track is on the private land, like many other tracks in the Alps. I do not know if and when this trek will be reopened to visitors. But if that happens, I will be very happy to go through it once again. Hopefully, it will be summer this time 🙂