Legend Walk Mitterbach - Hagengut

17.04.2019
Around here hiking is not only a summer activity. When winter has tricked you and there is no proper snow to ski on, there are still corners of the Mariazellerland to explore. This particular hike starts right at the edge of Mitterbach and takes you as far as you want to go, even to the great Oetscher himself. In summer the trails are bound to be crowded, especially on weekends, since everyone will want to see Austria's Grand Canyon. In winter however, you will not find many humans on the road, the woods are still quiet and hibernating, and so is the famous Oetscher bear, or at least you'd hope he is...

You leave your car parked in the big parking lot right at the trail head. Since this has been a really dry winter, the trail was nice and dry, as it would be on a fall day, some patches of snow along the way. It is a really well maintained trail and accessible in every season. There are signs along the way pointing to certain trees and bushes, a few posters picturing the local flora and fauna so that after this hike you are not only refreshed in body and soul but also thoroughly informed. There is hardly any elevation gain as the trail follows the course of the Erlauf all the way up to the locks and the entrance to the Oetscher National Park.

There are many view points, benches and sunny patches along the way as you follow the trail into the fir tree woods. At one point you can cross the Erlauf over an impressive suspended steel bridge and walk right up to the tracks of the Mariazeller Bahn. There is also a little Wasserweg (water trail) detour that could be especially fun for the kids. There are little fountains and ponds and bridges to cross, a delight and fun activity in summer. The trail itself is as old as legends, and many witches and ghost stories surround the old Oetscher mountain. So if you happen to walk this trail around Christmas Eve take care not to tarry on the road too long like certain three young men did on a winter long ago. There was no snow, just like this winter, and a warm sunny afternoon. Three youths decided to walk the trail to Mitterbach to do some more shopping before Christmas. They stopped to rest and began playing a game of cards. In the heat of the game they played on until night fall and forgot all about their duties and Christmas. When they finally wanted to get up and leave they found that their bodies were not responding. So slowly the three young men turned to stone. Wind and weather have changed the face of the big three jagged rock above the trail, but it stands there as a reminder that arrogance leads to ruin.

It is about an hour walk to the Hagengut, a private hunting domain. That is also the entrance to the national park. From there you can choose to walk on to the Oetscherhias, the cabin that is set right at the heart of the canyon. In early summer you will be rewarded with astounding views of waterfalls and crystal clear pools in various shades of blue and green. The water in the canyon is so cold and pure that it will make your heart skip a beat and you will think you've never experienced refreshment like this on a hot summer day. The Oetscherhias provides the weary hiker with all types of good Austrian cabin food and drink. You may choose to sit there and enjoy the views or go further for another 20 min. to the Mirafall or even further for another hour to the Schleierfall (veil fall). In early summer you should be rewarded with amazing views of spectacular waterfalls. For a winter walk however, enjoying the trail up to Hagengut, with many glimpses of the great mountain itself, was pure joy.

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