Glossglockner High Alpine Road is a winding scenic route through Austria’s Hohe Tauern mountain range, just 30 minutes from Zell Am See. The road climbs via 38 hairpin turns to almost 8,000 feet where it ends below Glossglockner, Austria’s highest mountain peak.
Along the way are numerous stopping points and access to trails that extend across Austria. Additionally climbers use the road to access the starting points for various summit attempts of Glossglockner. But mostly the road is filled with tourists, like us, who are able to reach the highest peaks of the Alps in just a few hours and who can stop along the way to revel each pristine Alpine scenes laid out around every turn.
Driving on Austria’s Glossglockner Road reminded us of the quintessential trip to a National Park in the United States where tourists hop into a car and spend the day seeing the sights from the road and stopping often to get out and take pictures or go on a short stroll. This experience is often derided with statistics about how hardly anyone goes further than 20 feet from their car and Glossglockner Road is also susceptible to such criticisms. But it always seemed to me that half day spent at the ledge of Glacier Point or Grand Canyon is still one of the best ways to spend an afternoon or an entire vacation and driving Glossglockner was certainly one of the best days we spent in all of Austria.
Additionally, much like the National Parks in the U.S., the road itself is an attraction and left us all wondering throughout the drive how people managed to carve out and build a road through the Alps more than 100 years ago. People, even the emperor had managed to traverse these peaks in the middle of the 19th century. A few weeks later we’d actually visit the Vienna palaces and see the rooms that Emperor Franz Joseph and his wife Sisi lived in, which was very cool, but I was far more moved standing above the treeline at 8,000 feet and realizing that Franz Joseph and Sis stood right here staring at these giant mountains just like I was doing.