Driving the Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse in Austria
June 5, 2019
The Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse or the Grossglockner High Alpine Road is a road that you must have driven at least once in your life. It is an adventure, an exciting road, comprised of 36 curves and extremely sharp U-turns. The curves are breathtaking and so are the views. The road runs through the High Tauern Mountains and is named after the Grossglockner mountain, with 3,798 meters the highest mountain in Austria.
The Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse starts in the village of Bruck and ends 48 kilometers further in Heiligenblut. 36 sharp U-turns will lead you to an altitude of 2500 meters with beautiful views along the way. You cross 4 climate zones, so you can see the landscape change. Driving this road is very dependent on the weather conditions. Normally the road is closed from the of October untill the beginning of May. I was in Austria in mid-May and for weeks the road was still closed due to snowfall and avalanche danger. My last day in Austria I could finally drive this famous and most beautiful route in the Alps. I had seen pictures of beautiful green mountain meadows with amazing views. Instead, I entered a winter wonderland. The snow was still a couple of meters high and sometimes it felt like driving into a huge white wall.
There are many different stopping points, all of which are worthwhile. And you will stop a lot, because the view during this ride is phenomenal. A stop you really have to see is Number 4, the Edelweiss spitze. The Edelweiss spitze is a dead end. You drive 2 kilometers quite steep, but the reward is the best view of the Grossglockner High Alpine Road that you can have. Walk past the restaurant and you will see the hairpin bends swing through the landscape. Here you can see how sharp the curves really are.
Another interesting stop is the Franz Joseph Höhe. At the roundabout where you can turn to Heiligenblut, you have to continue straight ahead to the Grossglockner, the highest mountain in Austria. At the very top you can park your car and walk to the mountain, with its tip in the clouds. In front of you you see the Grossglockner, on the left you see the Pasterze. With a length of 9 kilometers the Pasterze is the largest glacier in Austria. Here is also the visitor center with the famous Wilhelm Swarovski Beobachtungs-warte, a watch tower made of Swarovski crystal.
A popular road like this, you will never drive on you own. The day I was there, was the first day the road had opened again, so it was fortunately very quiet, with some cars, a few more motorbikers and occasionally some brave mountain bikers. During the ride there is a lot to see. With some luck you will see Murmeltieren or marmots. I specially loved the road signs warning for crossing Murmeltieren. When you arrive at the end of the road in Heiligenblut, it’s just fun to turn, go back to the snow and ride the Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse again, but this time from the other side!