Hiking in the Gleirschtal Valley of Tirol

An American visiting the Tirol of Austria will quickly learn the German word, ‘schön’ (sh-oo-n; the ö is pronounced like the double-o in ‘took’), the word for beautiful.

The Gleirschtal valley of Tirol, Austria, is schön, it is a feast for the senses, it is a place for playing, walking and seeing beautiful expanses of mountains, valleys, and sky.

The visit began with a 40-minute drive from Innsbruck up to the Sellraintal valley to the picturesque town of Sankt Sigmund im Sellrain. From here we could gaze into the adjoining Gleirschtal valley – our destination. We parked in a gravel lot just off the main road and walked a short distance to the Fuchs Spielplatz (the Foxes playground) so the kids could play. The playground offered young explorers tunnels, rope swings and structures for both the children – and parents. After half an hour, everyone continued up the trail, past a small bridge and up a gentle grade of this most picturesque valley.

The trail meandered through open fields and forested hillsides until opening up in a most astounding view; a green, and glacially sculpted valley with cows and horses grazing on the side of one mountain. The scene was punctuated with a gentle and cool wind in our faces and a sky was freckled with clouds.

After an hour’s walk enjoying similar vistas we arrived at an Alm. Outside the Alm were half a dozen tables, each packed with hikers and some families who drove up to the Alm. Most adults were enjoying large half-liter sized glasses wheat beer and having plates of yummy looking food. Cows grazed nearby and one seemed overly curious about our presence and approached the fence, but stayed beyond arm’s length. The kids stayed at the Alm with relatives to play while my wife and I continued up the trail another 30 minutes.

Soon the trail became extremely steep and zig-zagged up the valley. It appeared we were approaching the top as snow-topped peaks were ahead, but the mountains were just playing with us – as we reached the top the peaks were actually many kilometers away. Our thirty minutes were up and we had to return to the Alm.

We stopped to drink in the views; our thirst was quenched beyond expectations. From our vantage point, we saw snow-capped peaks, mountain streams, forests, and carpets of green in the valley below. A cowbell could be heard somewhere far in the distance. In such an immense place a person feels small, yet connected to this land. It is a good place to recognize what is really important in a person’s life.

Walking down the valley was difficult, not because of the terrain, or altitude, but because the valley is astoundingly schön and you are intoxicated by the experience.

We retrieved the kids and returned down the valley. The walk provided an opportunity for all family members to explore the woods and run in the fields.

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