In every mountain range and area there are „forgotten corners“. This, for instance, is the fact for the neighbouring summits of Köglhörndl and Hundsalmjoch (sometimes called Hundalmjoch or Hundsalmer Joch) in the Pendling subrange of the Brandenberger Alpen, building the northern margin of the huge Inntal valley between Kufstein and Zillertal.
The two summits are located northwest of the town of Wörgl near Mariastein. They show steep rockfaces down to Inntal and alpine meadows and gentle slopes to the north. The traverse of the two summits is – in my opinion – the most interesting hike of the region.
This part of Brandenberger Alpen really is a sort of a forgotten region. Those summits and ridges between the Bavarian - Austrian border and Inntal valley - nearly only local people know them. So you will not meet many hikers in this region.
Wait in spring until the snow is nearly gone and explore the region on a sunny day in the month of may. You will find an extraordinary abundance of blossoms of all kind and variation in the woods and on the meadows of these two summits.
Trailheads are Embach, Mariastein or Oberbreitenbach in the Inntal valley and Hinterthiersee in the north.
Take the Austrian highway A 12, Inntal Autobahn, to the exit Kirchbichl (between Kufstein and Wörgl). You need a toll sticker for the Austrian highways.
Alternatively take road number 171 from Wörgl or Kufstein to Kirchbichl. Follow the signposts Mariastein to the highway exit Kirchbichl.
At the highway exit there is a rotary; take the exit Mariastein and follow this road to
- Niederbreitenbach (first trailhead; park your car in the northern parts of the village in Schmiedweg or Bärnbadweg), or
- Mariastein (second trailhead; difficult to get your car parked)
For the third trailhead at Embach take the Embach road at Mariastein near the bold castle tower to the right and follow the narrow road up through a dense wood, passing two farmhouses. Parking areas are along the road where it reenters another wood.
For Hinterthiersee follow the road number 307 to Bayrischzell and take the Staatsstraße 2075 at Bayrischzell to the German / Austrian border and to Landl / Tirol. At Landl follow the signposts Hinterthiersee.
From Kufstein take the road to Thiersee and Landl (signposted). At Thiersee follow the road to Hinterthiersee. The trailhead (forest road) is at the eastern end of the little village.
Routes & Trails
Trailhead Niederbreitbach, direction Köglhörndl
At Bärnbadweg / Niederbreitbach a forest road starts up to the mountain inn Bärnbad, which is located on a sunny clearing in the dense woods of the south slope of Köglhörndl. Follow the forest road up to Bärnbad, keeping left at a first forest road junction and straight on at the second one.
Alternatively take the right forest road at the second junction and follow the road up to its end. There is a trail leading up to a trail junction in the chute below Höhlensteinhaus (see routes Bärnbad - Köglhörndl below).
Trailhead Mariastein, direction Köglhörndl
At Mariastein try to get parked near the bold castle tower. Take the road Embach from below the castle and then the first road to the right which leads through some houses into the woods. Follow this forest road up to the mountain inn Bärnbad.
Trailhead Embach, direction Köglhörndl
A forest road branches off the Embach road before this road reenters the woods. Take this forest road, pass some houses and traverse the lower parts of Hundsalmjoch south slopes on different forest roads until you reach the forest road from Mariastein to the mountain inn Bärnbad. The direction Bärnbad is signposted.
Routes Bärnbad – Köglhörndl
At the Bärnbad chapel a trail starts and traverses the south slopes of Köglhörndl through dense woods. You will find many snow roses (Schneerose; Helleborus niger) in early spring in these woods. The traverse ends at a steep and broad chute, leading up to Höhlensteinhaus. You reach a trail junction with the variation trail coming up from Niederbreitbach.
There are two possibilities to get to Höhlensteinhaus:
Follow the left trail, it zigzags steeply up the impressive chute with great views to the south and reaches the splendid meadows of Höhlenstein, a huge cave in a geological syncline at the northern margin of this mountain meadow.
The right trail, the so called Wall route, uses the steep slopes northeast of the chute to reach Höhlenstein meadows.
At the meadows keep left (west) and follow the trail which circles the meadow on its west side. There is a spring for drinking water (re) supply!
The trail then ascends up to the northeast ridge of Köglhörndl and follows this ridge to the Köglhörndl summit. It is a walk through light woods with great views to the south and – in springtime – with an incredible abundance of snow roses.
Köglhörndl is composed of several summits, the highest point is the northeasternmost summit which is right of the trail. The summit cross is standing on a somewhat lower, secondary summit at the margin of the impressive rockfaces showing down to Inntal. There is a great summit meadow for a good rest (and a nap ….).
Trailhead Embach, direction Hundsalmjoch
At the Embach parking area there is a little chapel and some weekend houses. A trail starts at these houses and ascends the south slopes of Hundsalmjoch, leading into the woods. After 5 - 10 minutes the trail reaches a forest road. Follow this forest road, it zigzags up the very steep slopes of Hundsalmjoch and reaches the mountain inn Buchacker.
At Buchacker follow the forest road up to a higher Alp house. Leave the forest road there, it continues to Köglalp and the interesting ice cave.
Pass the Alp house and follow the road until it ends at a little creek. Follow the continuing trail which traverses the slopes in eastern direction and reaches the southwest ridge of Hundsalmjoch. Follow this ridge up to the summits of Hundsalmjoch. Like Köglhörndl Hundsalmjoch, too, has several summits. The summit cross is not the highest point of Hundsalmjoch.
At Hinterthiersee follow the forest road, which starts at the eastern end of the little village. It leads up to Köglalpe and to Höhlensteinhaus. Before you reach Höhlensteinhaus and Höhlenstein meadows a trail branches off to the right and ascends the northeastern ridge of Köglhörndl. It soon joins the trail coming up from Bärnbad (southern route).
Alternatively take the forest road to Köglalpe, it branches off to the west near Höhlensteinhaus. At Köglalpe follow the signposted trail, leading up the northern slopes of Köglhörndl to the summit.
There is a great trail connecting the summits of Köglhörndl and Hundsalmjoch. The trail uses the broad connecting ridge.
From Köglhörndl follow the trail to the southwest. You soon reach a trail junction; to the right is the trail to Köglalpe. Go straight on, the narrow trail goes up and down several secondary summits of Köglhörndl. The trail uses mainly the ridge crest or the northern slopes. Consequently there will be snow in spring so be careful not to leave the route.
Soon the trail reaches the timberline and the lowest point in the connecting ridge. You pass now wonderful meadows with views on the impressive rockfaces of Köglhörndl. The trail starts to ascend again and reaches a steep rock chute leading down to a notch where the final ascent to Hundsalmjoch summit starts. This chute is secured with a steel rope.
The final ascent to Hundsalmjoch is steep and has some rock scramble involved. The trail reaches and traverses the highest point of Hundsalmjoch, descending slightly to the summit cross.
This might be an interesting route for mountain bikers, coming up the forest road from Embach to Buchacker mountain inn and the upper Alm huts. Between Köglalm and Buchacker there is a forest road traversing the northern parts of Köglhörndl and Hundsalmjoch. You can traverse from Hinterthiersee to Embach or bike from Embach to Höhlensteinhaus via Köglalm.
Between Köglalm and Buchacker is located the interesting ice cave, the Hundalm Eishöhle, which can be reached easily from Buchacker on foot, too.
Red Tape & Mountain Conditions
It is strictly forbidden in the whole area to collect snow roses or parts of it. Besides that I don´t know about any more regulations or limitations.
Köglhörndl and Hundsalmjoch are spring, summer and autumn hikes.
I love it as a spring hike when the snow is nearly gone and you have this abundance of blossoms adorning the woods and meadows.
You need good hiking boots and normal hiking gear.
See the weather forecast here.
Mountain huts and mountain inns are:
In the Inntal and Thiersee valley there are all kinds of accomodations:
Österreichische Karte 1 : 50.000
Blatt 89, Angath
Bundesamt für Eich- und Vermessungswesen, Wien.
Hiking maps, which are, in my opinion, not detailed enough but which show as an overview all the routes and variations are:
Wanderkarte Österreich, 1 : 50.000, freytag & bernd Verlag
Blatt 302, Brixental, Wörgl, Kitzbühel
Blatt 321, Achensee, Rofan, Unterinntal
Kompass Wanderkarte WK 9
1 : 50.000