Like its name implies, the Kaiser mountain range sits majestically over Tirol in Austria, silently, patiently surveying one of the single most stunning regions in the Alps. This immortal observer offers some of the most majestic and seemingly impenetrable scenery in Austria, yet – as I found out – is easily accessible by mountain bike for those who aren’t content to simply view her from a distance.
The villages of Ellmau, Going, Scheffau and Söll are spread across the picturesque Kaiser mountain range, and are part of the larger Kaisergebirge nature conservation area, interspersed with alpine lakes and pine forests to make up some of the most spectacular scenery in the region.
It would be completely excusable to sit back in one of the traditional hotels and admire the beauty from a distance. Almost everywhere you look your view can be frozen and framed like a postcard.
But for those who are a little more adventurous, the Kaiser mountain range invites you in for a closer look, almost as if it wants you to discover that there is far more to the region than mere beauty.
The region is famed for it’s hiking routes, and with six mountain adventure parks – complete with cable cars and family playgrounds – hiking deep into the mountains is surprisingly easy.
The routes range from gentle to challenging, but with plenty of routes all bearing the Austrian hiking seal of approval, anyone can breath in the fresh Alpine air and get back to nature. Just make sure you layer up and take plenty of water, or at least carry a good water filter bottle as there are plenty of places to top up and stay hydrated.
I had been excited to try out a spot of real mountain biking in the region too, after all there’s is something special about being able to mountain bike through an actual mountain, and in the Alps no less! So I couldn’t pass up the chance to indulge in one of the more popular adventure activities in the region.
Apart from being perfect for mountain biking, the Wilder Kaiser excels its inclusive nature yet again by being the largest E Bike region in the world, with 75 rental or battery changing stations throughout the Kitzbüheler Alps.
E Bikes are perfect for those who are worried about taking on the challenge of mountain biking alone, as they provide a small motor that provides a small helping hand when you pedal.
These aren’t motorbikes by any stretch of the imagination, they are mountain bikes and you still have to work, but depending what setting you have the E Bike on, the harder you have to pedal, the more of a push it will give you. More like a helping hand than a replacement for any effort you put in.
This amazing invention meant that anyone – even those who would not normally be fit or able enough to mountain bike can join in the activities, which is an amazing thing.
My biking adventure started with a gentle tour around the village and up to the famous Bergdoktor filming locations. The scenery that I was gently riding past at this point was beyond charming, and really gave your mind that opportunity to escape, to just relax and enjoy the moment.
The terrain was quite easy going at this point, and it was easy to be lulled into a slight false sense of security. I wasn’t even using the E Bike’s motor yet! We just rode through gently undulating hills on relatively easy roads, occasionally passing through one of the Kaiser villages. Our expert guide took this opportunity to assess the groups ability and give instructions on the techniques and safety aspects needed for biking down the mountain itself.
This was probably a good idea, given that it is so easy to be distracted by the stunning scenery and forget you have to look where you are going occasionally!
Eventually our guide brought us to a halt and gave us time for a little refreshment as the real scale of what we were about to do dawned on us. We had been brought to the foot of one of the many cable car lines that cross the region, and this was just the start of our mountain biking adventure!
The ride up in the cable car allowed me to relax and soak in the amazing views, something I hadn’t always been able to do when riding the bike itself, and it really was awe inspiring to be among the mountains, but what was really surprising was what we were greeted with when the cable car reached the final station. It wasn’t some remote mountain outpost, or desolate road on which to start our mountain bike adventure, this was a fully fledged adventure play area for families, complete with childrens play areas parks, a cafe and refreshment area and more.
This really drove home how important the outdoors life is to families in Tirol. The sun was out and literally everyone was out enjoying the park with their families on a scale that would be unheard of in the UK.
It wasn’t long before the bike ride was on again, and we started off on a fairly gentle gradient before the terrain gradually became steeper and more uneven. Before long use of the brakes on an almost permanent basis was mandatory on the downward slopes as the ride became increasingly difficult, and I found myself switching the E Bike up a few notches to help me with the steeper inclines.
Whoever invented that machine gets my eternal gratitude!
There were spots however were the terrain evened out and I allowed myself the freedom to speed up a little and let my inner child loose! Nothing was more exhilarating as a child than going downhill on your bike with the immortal paradigm of childhood, and this course gave me just a taste of that freedom again.
Any Alpine adventure activity wouldn’t be complete without a hearty meal or two, and stopping at a rest station about half way down the mountain allowed us a chance to sit in the sun and chat among ourselves over a traditional Tirolean dish of Kaspress Kneodel, a watery soup with fried cheese dumplings. It sounds weird I know, but I was urged to try it by a number of locals and I am so glad I did, it was delicious! More than that it really replenished my energy levels for the rest of the journey.
The station at Söll was also home to one of the many Hexen Wasser stations, which included a small park with various water activities for children. The park was pretty extensive, with a small petting zoo, numerous water ways, natural ponds and rivulets and a number of hiking and walking trails of various difficulties, including a sensory barefoot trail, yet none of this ever seemed intrusive on the natural beauty of the mountain and simply drove home the message that the Kaiser was a mountain range that welcomed and nurtured its people.
This is what I loved about the adventure activities in the Wilder Kaiser region. It was about more than fitness, more than fun. The more I did, the deeper I threw myself into the adventures the mountains offered, the more the region opened up its cultural aspects to me.
The mountain biking adventure took a full day, but was over far, far too soon. It was exhilerating, breathtaking, educational, culturally immersive and fun in equal measure, and I had a fantastic time. If any of you are hesitant about trying adventure activities like this on your travels, don’t be. Give them a try. They are not only excellent ways to stay – or get – fit and healthy, but they can also really give you a chance to see the places you are visiting in a much deeper way.
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This article was written in partnership with the Austrian National Tourist Office and the Wilder Kaiser Tourist Board. The views and opinions expressed are entirely the authors own based on personal experiences when travelling and are honest and factual without any bias.