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In the enchanting mountainous landscape of Austria is the Grossglockner High Alpine Road, a breathtaking route that meanders through the heart of the Hohe Tauern National Park, Europe’s largest conservation area and home to more than 10,000 animal species. This iconic mountain pass offers renowned panoramic views, close encounters with nature, and classic alpine charm.
The Grossglockner High Alpine Road stretches nearly 30 miles, 48 kilometers, and takes visitors on a winding journey starting in the charming town of Fusch, just a short 25-minute drive from our base in Kaprun. A series of toll booths line the street, where visitors pay a toll of €40 for one regular-size private car or €30 for a motorbike to gain access to the famous Grossglockner route for the day. Grossglockner is a driving route that does require a private mode of transportation or a third party tour agency.
The famous road was initially presented in 1924 but was quickly squashed because the country had its focus on rebuilding after the loss of WWI rather than tourism. It also did not help that cars were only owned by the wealthy at this time. In 1929, Austria’s economy suffered from the onslaught of The Great Depression and needed projects to keep citizens working. Finally, the Grossglockner plan was erected with the hope that high-end tourism would pay off the construction costs and generate income via a toll charge. Construction began on August 30, 1930, and concluded 5 years later in 1935 with the help of 4,000 workers.
As visitors gain altitude on the drive, the landscapes dramatically transform, revealing an ever-changing mountainous canvas. Grossglocker High Alpine Road’s most alluring features are its endless array of panoramic viewpoints and strategic stops throughout. At the heart of the drive is Grossglockner mountain, towering as the highest mountain in Austria at 12,461 feet (3,798 meters).
Because Grossglockner High Alpine Road is located in Hohe Tauern National Park, there is an abundance of flora and fauna. The National Park covers an amazing 716.6 square miles (458,624 acres). Marmots can be found basking in the sun in the spring and summer months, and a watchful eye may be able to spot ibexes, chamois, and golden eagles. Nature enthusiasts and photographers have opportunities at every turn to encounter wildlife.
Along the route are hikes to some of Austria’s most awe-inspiring glaciers such as Pasterze Glacier, the longest glacier in the Eastern Alps. A hike starting from the road leads the Glacier’s viewpoint, allowing for an up-close encounter with the stunning frozen formation. A 4.6-mile loop trail, Pasterze Glacier and Gamsgrubenweg from Franz-Josefs-Höhe, offers picturesque views without the crowds. A shorter 0.9-mile loop, Kaiser-Franz-Josefshöhe – Panoramic Trail Kaiserstein, is also available.
When To Visit
The Grossglockner High Alpine Road is generally open from the first of May to the first of November, depending on weather conditions. The summer months from June to August are the most popular, as the road is clear of snow, and the weather is generally pleasant. However, for those seeking fewer crowds and a cooler ambiance, the shoulder seasons of spring and autumn offer a quieter experience amidst the changing colors of nature. I visited in October and the change in landscape to a golden fall hue was remarkable.
Grossglockner has different operating times depending on the time of year you visit:
May 1 – May 31 6:00 AM – 8:00 PM
June 1 – August 31 5:30 AM – 9:00 PM
September 1 – November 1 6:00 AM – 7:30 PM
Last entry is 45 minutes before closing. Note that weather conditions can change in an instant and can cause changes to opening and closing times and dates. For the most up-to-date information, call +43 (6546) 650 or visit www.grossglockner.at.
Kaiser-Franz-Josefs-Höhe Visitor Center is open 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM while all other shops and exhibits are open 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM. Situated throughout the drive are several information centers that provide fascinating insights into the region’s geology, glaciology, and ecosystem. Visitors can learn about the efforts to preserve this unique alpine habitat and gain a deeper appreciation for why preservation is so important.
Where can I start the drive?
Entrance gates are available in the towns of Fusch (North Entrance) and Helligenblut (South Entrance).
What tickets are available?
Grossglockner High Alpine Road has day tickets, 2nd-day tickets, 3-week tickets, annual passes (not available for rental cars), and round-trip tickets (if doing the loop as I did which covers the Felbertauern Road toll on the west side of Grossglackner mountain). Ticket prices range from €32 – €113 for private vehicles/motor homes. For a full list of pricing, visit here.
What form of payments are accepted for the toll?
Both cash and card are accepted at the toll booths. Tickets can also be purchased online here.
Can I exit and re-enter Grossglockner High Alpine Road on the same day?
Yes, as long as you have your day pass, you may re-enter as many times as you wish for free.
Are there any tours available along this drive?
Yes, there are both free and paid tours available within Hohe Tauern National Park, along Grossglockner High Alpine Road.
Free Guided Tours are available on the panoramic Kaiser-Franz-Josefs-Höhe trail, available from mid-July through the end of September at 10:30 AM and 1:30 PM daily. Participants will meet at the information point in the Visitors Center Kaiser-Franz-Josefs-Höhe. This trail walk is 1 hour and suitable for children 6 and up.
Paid Guided Tours are also available. The Kings of the Alps – Ibex Observation Tour available through the Hohe Tauern National Park places you with an experienced national park ranger for a 1.5-hour hike to spot ibex and possibly marmots, golden eagles, and bearded vultures. This tour is approximately 2.5 hours in total and is suitable for children 6 and up. If you stay at a partner business, this tour is free (list of partner accommodations found here) via the National Park Kärnten Card that cannot be otherwise purchased.
Regular tour prices are €20 for adults and €13 for children. Grossglockner toll price is not included in this tour. Tours run on Fridays from late May to late October. Registration must be complete by 4:00 PM the day prior and can be completed here.
Tours of Grossglockner High Alpine Road are also available for those with no private cars. Bob’s Special Tours offers the Grossglockner excursion from Salzburg.
How long should I spend at Grossglockner?
A visit to Grossglockner High Alpine Road can easily be a full-day event, especially if stopping to do some hiking.
Do I need specific clothing?
Weather in the Alps can be unpredictable, so you should be prepared for sudden changes. Dress in layers and bring warm clothing, even in the summer months. Don’t forget a rain jacket in case a quick shower passes through.
Is there food available along the drive?
Yes, several food huts are available, also listed in the map below:
- Shop Fuscher Törl
- F.A.T. Mankei
- Restaurant Skihütte Roßbach-Klause
- Selbstbedienungsrestaurant Hoher Sattel
- Panoramarestaurant Kaiser Franz-Josefs-Höhe und Kaiser Franz-Josef-Haus
- Gletscherrestaurant Freiwandeck
Map of Stops
For my trip to Grossglockner, I based in Kaprun which is a fantastic town to stay in within close proximity to so many natural wonders in the area. Grossglockner High Alpine Road can be driven out and back, or you can make a loop by driving south through Lienz and back up through Matrei in Osttirol. Because there is a toll booth at both the North and South of Grossglockner, it is up to you how you want to drive this stunning area of Austria!
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