Kaunertal Glacier Road

Glacier ice has shaped the mountain world of the Kaunertal Valley for many millions of years

As a result of the retreating glacier, a unique natural landscape has opened up in Hinteres Kaunertal (rear Kauner Valley), which to the attentive visitor becomes an ever-changing natural spectacle. A trip on the Kaunertal’s Glacier Road incorporates every vegetation level in the Alps. It covers 26 kilometres with a total of 29 bends and an altitude difference of almost 1,500 metres. What can be experienced here over a very short distance can otherwise only be found on a journey from North Germany to Greenland.

alpine steps

1

sea level

to 900

Submontane zone

The Glockturmkamm ridge protects the valley floor of the Kaunertal from cold northerly winds – on the warm southern slopes, the submontane zone climbs above 900m.
Average annual temperature: > 6°

Vegetation:
Cultivated farmland, orchards. Deciduous and mixed forests.

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Apricot plantation

Apricot plantation

Tyrol’s biggest apricot plantation, surrounded by mighty 3000 meter peaks, is located at the entrance of the Kaunertal. Crystal clear air and pure spring water right from the Central Alps let the fruits from the family business Gerhard Maass blossom in the highest quality

alpine steps

2

sea level

to 1600

Montane zone

Fruit growing and agriculture is still possible at this altitude on the warm south-facing slopes.
Average annual temperature: 3°

Vegetation:
Thick larches, pine forests, steep mountain meadows full of flowers.

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Natural Monument Glacial Pothole

Natural Monument Glacial Pothole

In summer 2006, a sensational discovery was made when a mud slide occurred approximately 2 km behind the tollgate: a glacial pothole, which reveals the traces and sculptural power of the glacier from more than 10,000 years ago (the last great Ice Age)

Lake ruins

Lake ruins

The dilapidated stone walls, which can still be seen today, bear witness to the last permanent settlement. Two farms with stables were still standing here up until 1863. They were abandoned after the higher-lying Watzesee lake overflowed as a result of storms and mudslides, whereby the surrounding farms were flooded and almost completely destroyed by rubble.

alpine steps

3

sea level

to 2100

Subalpine zone

The tree line in the Kaunertal lies at approx. 2,100 metres and is made up of Swiss pine, which can withstand temperatures to minus 40°.
Average annual temperature: 0°

Vegetation:
Swiss pine, light coniferous forests, and stunted trees such as the green alder and mountain pine.

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Gepatsch Reservoir

Gepatsch Reservoir

The reservoir has a maximum area of 2.6 km², a storage capacity of 140 million m³ (about 700,000,000 bath-fulls) and is fed by streams in the Kaunertal and even in the Pitztal. When it was completed in 1964 the rubble dam was 600 metres long and 153 metres high, making it the tenth highest in the world. There are numerous short walks around the reservoir.

Stone 7

Stone 7

The number “7” can be seen on the stone next to the Glacier Road. It is the original survey point of the Austrian Imperial Surveying Office dating back to the year 1857 and marks the position of the glacier tongue of the Gepatschferner glacier at that time.

alpine steps

4

sea level

to 2800

Alpine zone

Alpine lawn with colourful alpine flowers and grasses. The Alpine flowers are particularly colourful as a result of more intense UV radiation on the mountain. Average annual temperature: >-1° to -3°

Vegetation:
Edelweiss, spring gentian, mountain avens, primrose, small dianthus, glacier buttercup (requires 2-3 vegetation seasons before flowering).

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Dichterbankl (poet’s bench) by the waterfall

Dichterbankl (poet’s bench) by the waterfall

At Bend 8, there is a track that leads to the Rifflbach waterfall. Here you will find a table and benches in a picturesque setting, where you can relax and succumb to the soothing sounds of the waterfall.

Glacier-polished rocks

Glacier-polished rocks

Marvel at the tremendous power of the ice over the past thousands of years, right from your car! In the rock by the side of the road you can see traces from the ice flow and the
direction in which it moved.

alpine steps

5

sea level

to 3100

Subnival zone

Isolated plants with a short vegetation season and a sophisticated root system for optimum nutrient absorption, climatic snowline at approx. 3,100 m. Average annual temperature: < -3°

Vegetation:
Mosses, clump-forming flowering plants and lichens, existing in a symbiosis between fungi and algae.

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Enter the glacier crevasse

Enter the glacier crevasse

A glacier crevasse has been made accessible to visitors up at about 2,800 metres altitude. Here, the observer is treated to a magnificent light show, exhibiting all the different blue tones of the 100-year-old ice. Guided Tours free of charge take place in July and August from Monday to Friday. They start at 11am and last about 40 min.

Austria’s highest bus stop

Austria’s highest bus stop

Right by the Weißssee glacier restaurant, you can see the end-stop of the Postbus line: Landeck – Kaunertal Glacier. A public “Postbus” was already transporting visitors from Feichten to the Gepatschhaus back in the 1930s. When the Kaunertal Glacier was developed as a ski resort and accordingly the road was extended to an altitude of 2,750 metres at the beginning of the 1980s, the bus line was also extended. In 1981, Austria’s public bus service, “Postbus AG”, got its highest bus stop.

alpine steps

6

sea level

to over 3100

Nival zone

More snow falls on average than melts, forming a permanent cover of snow – glaciers.

Vegetation:
Higher plants no longer occur in the upper part of the nival zone. Only thallophytes exist, as they do not require a substratum of soil. They can be found growing densely on the surface of rocks that remain uncovered by ice.

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Drei-Länderblick (three-countries-view)

Drei-Länderblick (three-countries-view)

The wheelchair-accessible “Karlesjochbahn” gondola takes you comfortably up to the viewing platform on the border of Austria and Italy. Up here you have a view of the highest peaks in Austria, Italy and Switzerland.

Summit of the Weißseespitze

Summit of the Weißseespitze

Tip: Mountain tour (recommended only with a mountain guide) to the glaciated summit of the Weißseespitze – 3.115m.

Facts & Figures

The Kaunertal Glacier Road is a private road owned by the cable car company “Kaunertaler Gletscherbahnen GmbH”. It costs approximately EUR 680,000.00 to maintain each year.

The Glacier Road provides visitors access to a spectacular mountain world all year round, from down in the valley up to an altitude of 2,750 metres and to the very edge of the Weißseeferner glacier.

Technical Specifications

Length: 26 km, 29 bends, 28 m sweep radius
Gradient: Average gradient 10%, maximum gradient 12%
Altitude difference: About 1,500m, from 1,273 m to 2,750 m

Important information for bus drivers

Sweep (bend) radius: 28m
Double-decker bus on its own

History of the Kaunertal Glacier Road

The route of the Kaunertal Glacier Road mainly runs along old tracks: early on there was a pilgrim trail from the Kaltenbrunn (place of pilgrimage) in the Kaunertal Valley (Tyrol, Austria) via Weisseejoch (2,960 m) to Melagg in Langtauferer Valley (South Tyrol, Italy). Pilgrims and pilgrimage routes often follow ancient paths and historic roads that date way back to the Middle Ages.

Today, the drive on the Kaunertal Glacier Road is a popular tourist destination for coach passengers, motorcyclists, car travellers and cyclists. About 150,000 people come to visit one of Austria’s most beautiful high Alpine roads each year in summer alone. Get to know the Kaunertal Glacier Road, as well as all the sights and natural attractions along the way. Your summer holiday in Tyrol will be an unforgettable experience.

Travelling by Postbus

In the 1930s, a trip on the postal bus, or Postbus, to the Gepatschhaus (mountain hut) was a tourist attraction. There has been a Postbus line from Feichten to the Gepatschhaus since 1932; back then it travelled over gravelly mountain trails and meadows.

Construction of the Gepatsch Reservoir

Between 1961 and 1965, the Tyrolean electricity company, Tiroler Wasserkraft AG (TIWAG), built Europe’s highest natural rockfill dam in the Kaunertal (storage capacity of 140 million litres, 160-metre high rockfill wall). The road from Feichten to the Gepatschhaus was extended and paved in the course of this construction.

Development of the Kaunertaler Glacier

From 1979 to 1980, the Kaunertal Glacier Road was extended from the reservoir up to the glacier restaurant at 2,750 meters altitude, so as to make the glacier ski resort accessible to skiers.