Skip to Content

Drive The Grossglockner High Alpine Road For Thrills And Adventure

Have you heard of the Grossglockner High Alpine Road in Austria? This is one of the best routes for high country hiking, trekking, and mountain biking! We drove it, and were awed by the majestic beauty of the Austrian Alps. If you have a rental car, drive the High Alpine Road!

When I think of those picturesque mountains, the Alps, I think of craggy, green mountains sprinkled with sheep and cows, bells tinkling. I think of girls dressed up like Heidi, in dirndls and boys dressed in lederhosen. Every fall, we go in search of the Alps of our dreams.  Even though we’re in love with Austrian cities with their amazing museums and architecture like Linz and Salzburg, we just need to get out into the real Austria.

We’d driven down to Tarrenz, Austria to see the goats and sheep come home, and then over to Silbertal where we watched them load up all the cows on trucks to be taken home, and so we were just tooling around east Tirol and we decide to go up over a pass. 

Driving in the best road through the Austrian Alps - the Grossglockner Highway.
The Grossglockner High Alpine road winding its way among mountains.

One Of The Best High Alpine Driving Experiences

The ritual and festivity of celebrating the end of summer and the cows coming home draws us over and over to these iconic mountains.  I had never really thought much about the roads through the mountains. I’d always thought of hiking in the alps. After all, they are some of the most beautiful mountains in the entire world.

However a road is just a conveyance, a means to get from point A to point B.  Sure we love a scenic byway, but had never heard of the Grossglockner High Alpine Road, which is an attraction all on its own, and a very worthwhile one at that.

Bringing the goats down from the mountains in Tarrenz, Austria in East Tirol.

As we approached, there was a ticket booth. It was the type of one person ticket booth that you see all over the world when you are entering a national park. We didn’t realize we’d picked a route that was anything special, but we happily paid and on we went. Boy, were we in for a treat. Sometimes you just have to drive to drive. We had stumbled unknowingly upon the Grossglockner High Alpine Road.

Toll booth at the entry to the Tauern National Park, Austria.
Entry to the Tauern National Park and the Glossglockner High Alpine Road, Austria

Driving the Grossglockner Road Through Tauern National Park

We were immediately wow’d! The road immediately started climbing and soon we were looking over the side at the twirls of highway that ribbons its way through and over the Glockner. The Glockner mountain, at 3,798 meters high, is awe-inspiring. Surrounded by peaks that are three fourths of its size, it towers over them and proclaims its royalty. Mountaineers come from all over the world to hike its pristine valleys, gawk at the glacier, and enjoy the unique wildlife of the Tauern National Park which surrounds the peak.

Drive The Grossglockner High Alpine Road for breathtaking mountain views like this.

As we were undoubtedly on one of the best roads in Europe, we opened the sun roof of the car and whizzed all around the steep curves, waving to the other drivers who were enjoying the day just as we were. We made all the obligatory stops, at the hotel rest area where you can grab lunch or walk on the dam. We stopped at the glacier view marveling at how gray it all looked.  The stops were interesting and fun, talking to other drivers, but the best part really was just driving on a fun road with amazing scenery.

Looking down the valley at the many turns and switchbacks o the Grossglockner.

There were plenty of hikers, bikers, motorcyclists and other hobbyists all around that day. We hadn’t prepared for hiking, but we did take a beautiful short walk by the brook, so clear we could see the fish. The path was one of the flatter paths and lead to a farm. It circled around the base of some impressive hills and mountains and the wildflowers were gorgeous. We didn’t walk long, but that’s when stumbling on something so fun bites you, we didn’t even have our water bottles with us and for me that’s number one when hiking. Oh well, onwards.

A lonely cow in the high alpine pastures of the Grossglockner High Alpine Road .
Unique wildlife, like this European Auroch, can be found throughout the Grossglockner High Alpine Road.

As we neared the end of the park, we realized we had probably done it backwards. This is not unusual for us, and we got a little chuckle out of it. I was more concerned about the really cool cows we’d passed. I looked them up and discovered they are a herd of European Aurochs. We followed their grazing for awhile trying to grab a good photo, but I guess they were just too hungry or camera shy, because they kept their heads low.

The Grossglockner High Alpine Road takes you to this beautiful view of thea Tauern National Park.
The beauty of the Tauern National Park and the Grossglockner High Alpine Road

If you love driving, national parks, maybe some hiking or biking, the Grossglockner is only 3 hours south of Garmisch, in the beautiful East Tyrol. I would definitely chock it up as one of the best places to visit in Austria, along with the Wachau Valley and the Melk Abbey (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), especially if you love the outdoors as much as we do. It could be added to any Austria trip, like the Hallein Salt Mines, Innsbruck, or anywhere in those stunning Austrian Alps with no problem.

A mountain top castle guards the path of the Grossglockner High Alpine Road.
A castle on the road just before entering the Tauern National Park, Austria

Practical Information: 

Hours: It’s only open during daylight hours starting in May and going through October. In the late fall and early winter, it’s a good idea to check to see if the pass is open before going, but the best time to visit is late spring and early fall.  It’s busy enough all year round, but there are certainly more visitors, cars, motorcycles, and bicyclists in the summertime.  The official hours are from 6:00 to 8:00.  You may not enter the last 45 minutes of the day, because you could get stuck there overnight.

Cost: Just paying for one day pass is 35.50 Euros.  It’s seems a bit steep, but it includes all your passengers, and it really goes towards keeping the park pristine and healthy. There is plenty to do inside the park, so plan to go early, pack a picnic lunch, and take your time enjoying all it has to offer.

Have you driven the Grossglockner?  Any tips?

Author Bio: Corinne Vail is a travel photographer, food lover, and a perpetual traveler who has been travel writing for over 14 years. For many years she lived overseas in Germany, Japan, Turkey, South Korea, and the Netherlands teaching the children of the US. military. She’s visited over 90 countries, and she’s not stopping anytime soon.

Pin the Grossglockner High Alpine Road for later!

One of the best roads in Europe, the Grossglockner High Alpine Road is a beautiful road to drive and spend the day. Located in east Tirol, you want to add it to your Austrian itinerary.

Agness of eTramping

Thursday 20th of July 2017

The scenery is spectacular! I would love to enjoy this place one day!

Corinne Vail

Thursday 20th of July 2017

Agness, It's is beautiful. We absolutely loved it and plan a return trip to spend more time hiking!


Sunday 9th of July 2017

We drove the Grossglockner about five years ago. It was stunning. I loved every minute of it. What a fantastic surprise to 'accidentally' find yourself on one of the most scenic roads in Europe.

Corinne Vail

Wednesday 12th of July 2017

Lyn, We thought so, too. How did I not know about this place? I'm always amazed how much is out there to do.

Nina Danielle

Friday 7th of July 2017

This looks like so much fun! I would put the sun roof down too :) that castle up on the hill is gorgeous!

Corinne Vail

Friday 7th of July 2017

Nina, Yes, the sun roof made it that much more fun...I have to admit!


Thursday 6th of July 2017

Loved all of these pictures! Austria is a beautiful country

Corinne Vail

Thursday 6th of July 2017

Thanks Miranda, We love Austria!


Wednesday 5th of July 2017

I haven't been here in Austria but it looks beautiful. I will have to hire a car when I go so I can do this drive. I love being in the mountains and I will have to check and see if there are any longer hikes to do :-)

Corinne Vail

Thursday 6th of July 2017

Clare, There most certainly are longer hikes; have fun!