Last updated on May 3rd, 2022 at 06:15 pm
The Naturpark Karwendel (Karwendel Nature Park) is one of the biggest protected areas in the eastern part of the Alps and one of the Tyrol’s most accessible walking areas.
Although it is frequently mistaken for a National Park by visitors, it is actually one of the network of ‘Nature Parks’ and would anyway be an ‘international park’, since the borders extend northwards over the German border into the Alpine foothills of Bavaria.
The park covers slightly more than 700km2 in the Tyrol and, when the Bavarian section of the nature reserve is included, that area rises to more than 900km2. The distance from west to east is around 40km between Seefeld and Pertisau with around 25km separating the mountains above Innsbruck from the northern edge of the park in Germany.
One of the most attractive features of the park for walkers is the general lack of infrastructure such as normal roads or mountain lifts in the interior of the park, as well as the stunning limestone mountain scenery. Lifts are restricted to the edges of the park, while the only real road into the interior comes from the north into the Eng Alm.
History of the Karwendel
Some of the official histories like to date the foundation of the nature reserve back to the 1920s, although this was more to protect grazing and timber rights from the increase in number of visitors. During the war years it was held as a private hunting area for privileged visitors and it wasn’t until the end of the 1980s that the current version of the nature park came into being.
In 1989 the law creating the Naturpark Karwendel joined 11 different protected areas which cover almost all of the Karwendel mountain ranges and these days attract more than 1 million visitors each year.
- the two- or three-day walk through the park from east to west (or vice versa)
- the Eng Alm with its sycamore maples
- the Gleirschklamm – a gorge walk taking the trails used by the old timber workers
How to Get to the Karwendel Alpine Park
Many holidaymakers in the Tyrol will have seen the southern flanks of the park when they arrive at Innsbruck airport or at Innsbruck train station: the mountains creating a massive rock barrier on the northern side of the Inn valley form the southern edge of the Karwendel area. From the south the park can be accessed either via lift from the centre of Innsbruck or through the Hall valley, where salt was once mined.
To the west, the villages of Seefeld and Scharnitz provide access into the Karwendel. Seefeld has a mountain railway and cable car up to the western edge of the park, while the tiny border village of Scharnitz is the meeting point for three of the main valleys emerging from the park: the Karwendel; the Hinterau valley; and the Gleirsch valley.
To the east, another small village offers the best access. Pertisau lies in a stunning position on Lake Achen with the Karwendel ranges behind it and facing the Rofan mountains. Again there are two or three different routes into the Karwendel via different valleys.
Nearest Airport to the Karwendel
The closest airport, by a long way, would be Innsbruck airport. (As visitors start the landing pattern they can probably look down into the Karwendel Park!) The airports at Munich and Salzburg may be alternatives but they lack the sheer convenience of Innsbruck airport.
Nearest Train Stations to the Karwendel
There is a major rail station and junction at Innsbruck. Both Seefeld and Scharnitz on the western side of the park are connected to Innsbruck and Munich via the Mittenwaldbahn.
On the eastern side, Maurach is on the other side of Lake Achen to Pertisau. It is also the terminus of a steam train which uses a rack railway to wind its way up into the mountains from Jenbach in the Inn valley – a romantic, if slow, way to get into the mountains.
Where to Stay for the Karwendel Alpine Park
A young and vibrant city, the capital of the Tyrol, but with easy access to the mountains. An underground railway leads halfway up the mountain and subsequent cable-cars lead all the way up to the mountain ridge on the southern side of the Karwendel.
Seefeld in Tirol
Located on an alpine plateau at 1200m, Seefeld offers a good infrastructure and choice of things to do for a mountain holiday. The eastern side of the Karwendel is accessed via a mountain railway and cable car and one of the routes on offer from the top is a spectacular ridge walk with views down into the Eppzirl valley on one side and back to the village on the other.
An attractive small village close to the German border and one of the main access points for the Karwendel park. No lifts here, just follow the course of the river Isar into the valley and make a choice of one of the three main valleys into the interior of the park.
A lovely small and very quiet village on the western shore of Lake Achen. Walkers will be in their element with three different mountain passes to get into the Karwendel on one side of the lake and the extensive Rofan range of mountains on the other side.
Karwendel Accommodation Map
Some of the accommodation of all types is shown on the map below from our travel fulfilment partner Booking.com. The map can be zoomed in and out by using the ‘+’ and ‘-‘ signs to show more options. More information about the accommodation is shown by hovering over or clicking on the prices.