The region around Saalbach is probably known to most as THE mountain bike mecca. But the Salzburgerland can also be explored wonderfully with somewhat narrower tires and with bent handlebars! I tested this this summer: a weekend just out of the Vienna basin was just perfect between my various vacation substitutions.
By car you can reach Saalbach in about 4 hours from Vienna or 2.5 hours from Munich. Trainpackers are best to take the ÖBB to Zell am See and then roll comfortably on bike paths to Saalbach. The town itself is typically Austrian: easy to explore on foot, full of picturesque house fronts and a pedestrian zone runs through the town center, along which hotels, cafes and restaurants nestle. Above all, however, it differs greatly from other places in the summer in that here simply everything rolls. As a pedestrian or motorist you are outnumbered, because here everything is on MTBs, gravel and road bikes, hardly a minute goes by without the wonderful sound of a freewheel whizzing by.
Our hotel, Das Neuhaus, welcomes my husband and me warmly, the bikes come of course in the spacious bike room – right next to the bike wash! And what luck: we have a balcony! There is hardly anything I enjoy more than putting my feet up in the sports equipment after a ride, watching the people on the street and enjoying a cool drink. Enough space for the bike and “normal” clothes there is also. At dinner we discuss the route for tomorrow.
Saalbach offers an interactive map with gravel routes for different skill levels, gravel percentage & endurance. With a lot of love scouted and provided with photos and personal comments, they really make you want to swing directly on the bike! Our choice is Gravel the Lakes, because I can never get enough of water and the route is perfect for our Ridley Kanzo Fast Bikes.
We set off along the Saalach River on a beautiful bike path, where asphalt and gravel alternate. At Maishofen, we turn onto the first lake circuit: the idyllic Zeller See. The bike path along the lake is bustling with traffic, but the views are truly unique! In Bruck an der Großglocknerstraße my legs itch for a moment: at some point I really have to ride the Großglockner! But not today: along the Salzach it goes flat in the direction of Kaprun and then steadily uphill further in the direction of Sigmund Thun Gorge. A short ramp and a few waterfalls later we are in front of the turquoise shining Klammsee! Small hint: Lake Zell and the gorge are of course also tourist highlights and just on weekends very well visited. Who spends a few more days in the region, this route is best on a weekday.
After the gravel roads, the route would send us straight back down the quiet Kesselfallstraße towards Kaprun, but I’d like to take the road a bit further into the valley head and towards Wasserfallboden. And I can only recommend that, because this is really #roadporn. After a last detour to the Kapruner Ache, it’s time for the rapid descent back to Kaprun and on to Zell am See. Now it goes on quiet little roads and forest roads towards Saalfelden am Steinernen Meer. We meet, except for a few other Gravelern and cats otherwise hardly anyone and can simply enjoy the peace in nature. Shortly before Saalfelden we stop in a hearty inn, with a view of the valley the sandwich tastes twice as good! Now we nimbly walk along, back to the bike path that takes us down into the valley to Saalbach. With a beer we toast to the successful ride! 😉
Uphill with support
Of course, this article is about gravel biking in Saalbach, but I could not resist borrowing an E-MTB! We found them at Sport Hagleitner, which were also so nice to mount us directly our SPD Cleats. Our route is a combination of BIG (E)PIC and the Örgenbauernalm tour of Saalbach’s interactive E-MTB map with a detour to Lindlingalm for lunch. My 2nd time on a MTB runs similar to my first time: I get to my mental limits as soon as it goes downhill. But the fun begins, as you know, away from the comfort zone and so I can – especially on the less steep parts – also enjoy the landscape and the view! No champion has fallen from the sky so far, but if I had a few more days of vacation, I would certainly have turned once on one or the other trail!
So I can still save a bit of Saalbach for next time. Whether with the gravel bike or the MTB: there is still much to discover and enjoy here! Friendly people, challenging as well as leisurely tours, several places to stop for a bite to eat and, of course, views that will stay with you forever: all this can be found in Saalbach. My recommendation for your bike trip: best from mid-May until the summer vacations or still enjoy a bit of the golden autumn in September here. So you are in any case relatively weatherproof on the road, but it is still a bit quieter around.
Transparency: the article was written after an invitation from Saalbach.