Grossglockner High Alpine Road

It is said that a drive on Grossglockner High Alpine Road is a must on anyone’s itinerary in Austria. The pricy toll of €35 per vehicle with the addition of iffy weather made me grimace, but we took the chance anyway with the weather and headed up the road early in the morning to avoid crowds and the possibility of rain. We were glad we did.

But first, our plan:  We’d hang out in Zell Am See during the day, drive to the entrance of the toll booth in the evening, and spend the night in the parking lot.  We’d wake up bright and early, drive the glorious road and tack on a couple short hikes, pass through northern Italy, return to Austria, and spend the night near Innsbruck for more epic hiking the following day.

Considering it was a summer weekend and Zell Am See was a popular local vacation spot, I knew parking in Zell Am See would be interesting.  We avoided driving along the western side of the lake and drove up the eastern side instead, and easily found parking in the northeast part of the lake for €4.  A stroll along the placid lake was memorable.IMG_20160723_183235

Just before sunset we headed up the valley into the mountains to the toll booth.IMG_4633

When we arrived, we were happy to find other motorhomers who had the same idea.  It also turned out that our motorhome was an alpaca magnet.

We had a wonderful, quiet evening at the toll booth parking lot and we woke up excited for the day’s journey.IMG_4652

At 7:15am we paid the €35, crossed the toll booth, and steadily made the climb.  Because we had a huge head start before the masses could arrive, we relished on the glorious lighting and emptiness of the road.IMG_20160724_073425

Can you find me in this panorama?IMG_20160724_073239-PANO

We slowly made our way up the steep road to the Kaiser Franz Josefs Haus, parked the motorhome, and hiked the short trail to the highest point of the Grossglockner Road: Edelweiss Spitze at 2,571 meters.  From there, we pondered, “Wow, our motorhome made it up all that?!”IMG_4674IMG_4679

We saw at least three fat, furry marmots on this trail.  IMG_4661

Drifting clouds prevented us from seeing the Grossglockner Peak, Austria’s highest peak.  But it didn’t matter.  The views were still outstanding and we were relieved to not be completely socked in.

We continued down the road past Fuscher Lake.IMG_4693

And we made a stop in the parking lot just before the final tunnel at Hochtor.  We hiked up a short trail to a lovely viewpoint:IMG_20160724_095358

But we climbed even further up to a peak, scrambling over loose rocks and scree.IMG_20160724_100308

The views were worth it.  And no one else dared come up that high.IMG_4695IMG_20160724_101728IMG_4697

As we concluded our tour through Grossglockner Road, we drove past more quaint scenery.IMG_4703

And even through more picturesque villages as we crossed the border into Italy.IMG_4705

To our amusement, our brief stop in Italy included a couple scoops of gelato, and several packages of ravioli.  Yay, Italian food!

We finished our driving tour through Grossglockner High Alpine Road with yet another long day of driving back to Innsbruck to get ahead on another epic Austrian hike.  Unlike our hitchhiking misadventure in Dachstein, my plan through Grossglockner worked out smoothly: a relaxing afternoon at Zell Am See, a beautiful evening at the foot of the mountains, a gorgeous drive and hikes on Grossglockner Road, and an uneventful journey back to Austria.  It’s not always the case my plans work out so smoothly. =)

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