Signpost in the Rofan Mountains, © Tirol Werbung/Laurin Moser
Signpost in the Rofan Mountains, © Tirol Werbung/Laurin Moser

Trail Difficulty Ratings

The Trail Difficulty Rating System is used to categorize the relative technical difficulty of designated hiking trails. Trails are generally categorized as Hiking Trails (rated easy), Mountain Footpaths (rated moderate to difficult) and Alpine Routes (rated extreme).

The uniform waymarking system helps mountain hikers to follow routes in Tirol’s stunning network of trails. Trails are marked and rated on their level of difficulty, using the Mountain Trail Rating System of the Province of Tirol. Depending on their level of difficulty, the trails are divided in Hiking Trails, Mountain Footpaths and Alpine Routes.

  • Hiking Trails are suitable for beginning hikers and there’s no special equipment needed. These trails are easily accessible and broad with very easy ups and downs. Hiking Trails are generally marked with yellow signs which have a white dot.
  • Red-marked Mountain Footpaths require a reasonable fitness level and basic hiking gear. Some rocky terrain, uneven footing and/or moderate slopes; short scrambles over rugged terrain with permanently fixed cables for protection should be expected. Red-marked Mountain Footpaths are generally marked with yellow signs which have a red dot.
  • Black-marked Mountain Footpaths should only be attempted by those who are sure footed, comfortable on unstable ground and have appropriate mountaineering skills, experience and hiking gear. Singletrack with difficult footing and/or steep slopes on major portions of the section; difficult scrambles with steep drop-offs on all sides and permanently fixed cables for protection should be expected. Black-marked Mountain Footpaths are generally marked with yellow signs which have a black dot.
  • Alpine Routes are rated extremely difficult. Serious climbs with difficult footing and difficult scrambles on exposed ridges without fixed cables for protection should be expected. High Alpine terrain with steep drop-offs on all sides and danger of falling. Alpine Routes should only be attempted by expert mountaineers who are sure footed, physically fit and well equipped and have appropriate mountaineering and navigation skills and experience. These trails are generally marked with signs saying “Alpine Route”.

Alpine Safety

Be on the safe side with professional guidance and benefit from the experience of the certified mountain sport guides in Tirol. Roughly 1,200 mountain trail guides and more than 700 highly-trained mountain guides stand ready to assist you, offering you maximum alpine safety. The mountain sport guides know every inch of the Tirol mountains. They will accompany you on your tours through the alpine mountain terrain and ensure that you reach the summit safely.

Before you jump right into your alpine mountain fun, consult mountain sport guide Michael Rutter from the Alpine Information Centre (+43.512.587828-25, for key information concerning your alpine safety. He will provide you with current weather reports, snow conditions and avalanche info, along with general alpine safety information. In addition to giving advice, he will also gladly refer you to a certified mountain sport guide, who will professionally guide you in your plans and ensure proper alpine safety during your trip through the Alps.

Guidelines for Safe Mountain Hiking in Tirol

The mountains of Tirol impress visitors with fabulous views, incredible rock formations and imposing canyons. While walking in the mountains, you will feel the effects of the weather more intensely than down in the valley.

Good tour planning and compliance with the rules of conduct on the mountain will considerably increase you safety. To ensure your hiking holiday is a safe and enjoyable experience, the Austrian Alpine Association has put together a list of 10 recommendations for safe hiking in the mountains.

1. Healthy in the Mountains: Mountain hiking is an endurance sport combined with a wonderful experience of nature and can have a positive effect on body and mind – provided one is in good physical shape and has a realistic idea of one’s own capabilities and limits. Hiking under time pressure and at an excessive pace is counter-productive!

2. Careful Planning: Good planning is half the battle! Hiking maps, literature, internet and expert advice provide invaluable assistance when planning tours and allow you to ascertain the length, difference in altitude, difficulty and prevailing conditions of your proposed tour. When planning group hikes, always plan the tour to suit the weakest member of the group! The weather in the mountains can change incredibly quickly and rain, wind and cold all increase the risk factor. For this reason, always check the weather forecast in advance.

3. Fully Equipped: Only visit the mountains when appropriately equipped! Provisions, rain, cold and sun protection should always be in your backpack, as well as a first-aid-kit and a mobile phone (Euro emergency number:112). Speedy assistance in the event of an alpine accident is made possible by the free Mountain Rescue Tirol emergency app – ideally downloaded to your SmartPhone before your mountain tour! Maps and/or GPS facilitate orientation. Nevertheless, lighter luggage makes hiking easier, so do not weigh your backpack down with unnecessary clutter. Your equipment should always be appropriate for your intended tour.

4. Suitable Footwear: Good hiking boots protect your feet and make for surer footing! Boots that are a good fit, with non-slip soles, water resistant and lightweight are a must for enhanced hiking pleasures.

5. Sure-Footedness is the Key: It is imperative that one remains alert while walking in the mountains! An excessive tempo or fatigue can adversely affect your sure-footedness and/or concentration. With this in mind, it is better to slow down and be safer! (75 percent of “stumbles” occur through carelessness on marked trails or paths– not on open terrain!)

6. Stay on Marked Trails: Tirol has over 15,000 kilometres of marked hiking trails – these are checked and maintained by the OeAV (Austrian Alpine Assoc.) and, for this reason, should not be deviated from. It is not a good idea at all to make short cuts or take alternative routes through unmarked terrain. On the contrary, this increases the risk of disorientation, accidents or rock fall. Steep slopes of packed old snow are also often underestimated and dangerous. When in doubt: turn around and go back!

7. Regular Breaks: If you rest you rust. This saying does not apply in the mountains! Timely and regular breaks serve not only for welcome relaxation, but also enable one to enjoy the countryside and socializing. Moreover, the body needs regular food and drink in order to maintain performance and concentration levels. Isotonic drinks are an ideal thirst quencher. Granola bars, dried fruit and biscuits are perfect snacks for a hiking tour.

8. Responsibility for Children: Hiking in the mountains can also be great fun and exciting for children – provided the route is chosen and planned accordingly. Diversity and playful exploring is much more important for children than altitude metres and distances covered. Dangerous sections require unconditional 1:1 assistance from an experienced adult. Extensive tours requiring long periods of concentration are not suitable for children! “Less is more” is the name of the game!

9. Small Groups: Small groups ensure flexibility and enable mutual assistance. Provided the group stays together and they orientate their goals to suit the weakest member of the party. It also advisable to inform people back home about your prospective tour, which route you are taking and when you plan to return. Those hiking alone beware: Even minor incidents can lead to unpleasant emergency situations. (Emergency-App!)

10. Respect for Nature: Without intact natural mountain landscapes, there would be no pleasure in mountain hiking. With this in mind: please do not leave rubbish behind, avoid making noise, stay on the marked trails, do not disturb the wildlife or grazing animals and respect protected areas. Many areas are accessible using public transport; car pooling is also a more environmentally friendly option.

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