The Tauern Bicycle Route (Tauernradweg) crosses some of the most dramatic scenery Austria has to offer following a river valley which passes high waterfalls, features an amazing descent, a lakeside resort, hilltop castle, the largest ice cave in the world all the while surrounded by mountains and all the way to the musical city of Salzburg before finally reaching the Danube River.
This route starts in Krimml and spits at Zell with the western route going through Bavaria and the eastern route along the Salzach River where they rejoin in Salzburg and continue to Passau on the Danube.
Krimml to Zell am See (65 km / 40 miles)
Take a train to Krimml and get ready for the bike ride of your life. The Tauern Bicycle Path starts here at the base of the thousand foot (325 meter) Krimml waterfall, which is the highest in central Europe. On one side is Hohe Taurern National Park, Europe’s largest, with 246 glaciers and 304 mountains over 9,000 feet. After riding 35 km (21 miles) with a vertical drop of almost 1,000 feet you arrive in lovely Mittersill, a perfect lunch spot.
Continue along the bike route passing though Kaprun with its castle to Zeller See (Lake Zeller) where can spend the night.
Zell am See is a delightful lakeside ski resort and was very quiet during our visit in early September. When on a cycling vacation I rarely have dinner at a hotel but the Hotel Lebzelter gave us an attractive package that included room, breakfast and multi-course dinner to get business at this time of year.
Tauern Bikeway via Bavaria (95 km / 60 miles)
Departing from Zell am See you head north on a combination of bikeways and quiet roads first through the flat farmlands north of Lake Zellers and later through the towns of Saalfelden and Lofer and other picturesque towns with frequent turns along the signed route, yet it got confusing in a few places (even with a detailed map) and we had to retrace our route a few times.
After Lofer the route takes you along a forested section of the Saalach River with some scenic views before it joins a busy highway (with paved shoulder) just before the German border. From here to Bad Reichenhall the signing can apparently get confusing before continuing on to Salzburg. However we left the route and headed across a mountain pass to Berchtesgaden to join the Bodensee-Konigsee Cycle Route for a ride across southern Bavaria.
Tauern Bikeway via Salzach Valley (108 km / 67 miles)
This is my recommended route from Zell am See to Salzburg. After leaving Zell and crossing the highway you head into some hills with easy climbing and along quiet farm roads and a terrific a bit steep descent with loaded bicycles before following the Salzach River valley the rest of the way. Continue through small towns such as Taxenbach and St. Johann im Pongau while mountains surround you on both sides and at times close in quite tight to the bicycle path. There are short sections of gravel which did not cause any issues for our road bikes, but for the most part you are on paved roads and paths.
We stopped in Werfen for several nights where the movie “Where Eagles Dare” and opening scene of the “Sound of Music” were filmed. During the day visit the fantastic hilltop Burg Hohenwerfen, a castle built in 1077 where a falcon show entertains as does the views of the valley below.
We also went to the Eisriesenwelt Cave which is the largest ice cave in the world extending for 42 km. To get there involved a 15 minute ride on a public bus up 21% grade mountain (with switchbacks), then a 20 minute hike, 3 minute cable car ride, then another 20 minute steep hike just to reach the entrance. The tour is in German, however we were the first to arrive and the only other visitors from Germany also spoke English so the guide was kind enough to do the tour in English. As there is no electricity in the cave, we used miner’s lanterns with open flames while walking up the steep steps to see our way, magnificent tour. When we left there was a large group waiting to get in so I am glad we went early.
We next cycled from Werfen to Hallein a short 33 km, however at the start the Salzach funnels through a narrow chasm so the road for cars with paved shoulder for cyclists was squeezed between the mountain walls. We stopped at Hallein for the night as we wanted to experience the Salt Mine Tour with its awesome slides and underground lake.
Then our cycling continues along the Salzach River to Salzburg located in a dramatic setting where you must spend a few nights. This city is easy to walk around and visit the Mirabell Gardens, Dom (main cathedral), Hohensalzburg (castle) and the main pedestrian shopping street.
An interesting experience in Salzburg is St. Augustine Beer Garden where you first pay for your beer, then go to a shelf and pick out a mug, wash it and walk nearby to fill up you mug with the only type of beer available. Then it is outside to a huge tree filled patio with hundreds of patrons enjoying the beer and food from the vendors. They claim to have been in business since 1621.
Salzburg to Passau (125 km/ 78 miles)
Continue along the Salzach River stopping in Oberndorf (18 km/11 miles) to visit the church where the Christmas carol “Silent Night” was first composed. Continue northwards along the bikeway for another 24 km (15 miles) where you might want to take a short detour across the river to Germany to visit Tittmoning and its 13th century castle.
Later you arrive at the towns of Braunau and Scharding with their baroque architecture, before crossing the border into Germany and arriving in Passau where you connect with the Danube Bike Route, perhaps the most famous cycling route in the world. The old downtown area of Passau sits between two rivers and a highlight is St. Stephan’s Cathedral with the largest church organ in the world.
Tauern Bicycle Route Facts:
Length – 325 km (202 miles)
Elevation – at Krimml you are at 3,400 feet (1,120 meters) and at Salzburg 2,000 vertical feet (650 meters)
Terrain – if you start in Krimml downhill most of the way with a moderate hill just past Zell. Is a combination of bike paths and quiet roads, signed, with a few short sections of gravel. There are a few short sections along busy roads, but the shoulders are paved.
Suitable for beginners and well those more well travelled the Tauern Bicycle Route offers some of the most amazing variety over scenery in Austria.