The hike through the Wolfsklamm gorge starts just outside the village of Stans in the Inn valley near Schwaz. The route through the spectacular gorge has more than 350 wooden steps and climbs around 300 metres in altitude, putting it into a medium difficulty category.
At the end of the gorge there is an option for visitors to climb to the pilgrimage church of St Georgenberg, perched high on a rocky outcrop with fabulous views of the surrounding forests and mountains.
The unassuming village of Stans is actually one of the birthplaces of the ‘wellness’ concept in Austria. It was host to the first ever Kneipp health spa in the country back in the 19th century.
A few years later in 1901 the first route through the gorge was opened to the public. (Hunters, as the name suggests, were already familiar with the trails through the area.)
The gorge is fed by the Stallenbach stream, which can become a torrent in bad weather. The new trail was destroyed in 1912 by floods which extended through the village and out to the main railway line in the Inn valley.
It took 20 years for the trail to reopen again, only for it to be swept away once more by floods in the 1950s. The trail through the Wolfsklamm was rerouted and has remained open since then. It is closed in the winter months and the trail management frequently have to deal with damage caused by avalanches and rockfall in the winter before reopening again in May.
Currently the trail, in common with other gorge walks, is one way only as part of the restrictions caused by the corona virus. Walking trails to return to Stans are available to the west or east and the time for the entire circuit is around three hours, not including stops.
The entrance fee (5.oo Euros at the time of writing) is payable at a small kiosk before the start of the gorge. Opening times are from 09.00-16.00.
More information: www.wolfsklamm.tirol
St Georgenberg Abbey
Those who finish the trail through the gorge may wish to extend the hike 20 minutes further to the St Georgenberg abbey and inn.
The trail to St Georgenberg climbs steadily uphill from the end of the gorge until a covered wooden bridge is reached, which connects the historic pilgrimage church to the main trails.
The Benedictine abbey St Georgenberg is originally thought to have been founded in the 10th century, when one of the ruling counts of the Inn valley decided to retire to the remote location in the Karwendel mountains.
Rathold of Aibling, so legend has it, is initially supposed to have lived as a hermit in a cave nearby, apart from his fellow monks. The little religious settlement slowly became more important over the centuries as it was granted bequests of land and as the pilgrimage traffic increased.
Unfortunately, it also suffered from the natural hazards of fire and disease, being burnt to the ground several times and being struck by bouts of plague.
Eventually at the start of the 18th century it was decided to close the mountain abbey and relocate the monks to a new structure down in the Inn valley just outside the town of Vomp.
Stift Fiecht opened in 1708 but itself was not immune to catastrophe, being closed down by troops in the Napoleonic wars, fire destroying many of the religious treasures and the monks being expelled from Austria during the Second World War.
The original structure at St Georgenberg had been rebuilt and renovated and still functioned as a destination for religious pilgrimages. There are, example, several Ways of the Cross routes leading up from Stans and nearby settlements to the church.
Recently, the few remaining monks decided to return to St Georgenberg and close the Fiecht monastery, which has since been sold for use as a digital campus.
Visitors will find that there are now two churches at St Georgenberg. The older and larger of the two is dedicated to St George and St James the Great. Most of the structure dates from the 17th century. Pilgrimages are still organised here, with evening pilgrimages taking place on the 13th of every summer month.
The smaller Lindenkirche was built a century later, although it has been reconstructed on the site of a much older chapel. Both of the churches were restored in 2000.
St Georgenberg is also home to an inn, with a popular terrace restaurant featuring views out from the mountains across the Inn valley.
More information (German only): www.st-georgenberg.at
The following video gives a good overview of the gorge and St Georgenberg, even though the commentary is only in German.