The Graukogel and its surrounding mountains in winter
The Graukogel, a fairly exposed mountain that rises right above the resort and spa of Badgastein, is a very popular summit, climbed by hundreds of people every year, as it's easily accessible, uncomplicated to get to and is beautifully - even spectacularly - situated. There are various ways to get there, all very beautiful landscapewise, and, also thanks to the existance of the chairlift Graukogelbahn, there are more than one possibilities of doing a one-day hike one way up and another way down the summit.The view from the Graukogel is magnificent - I know no other peak in the Gastein area that offers as fabulous a view as that over the entire Gastein valley, and all the peaks of the Goldberg group, the Glockner group, the Leogang mountains, the Hochkönig, the Tennengebirge, the Dachstein, the Hochgolling and the Lower Tauern as well as the Tischler group stand parade.
The Graukogel as seen from Bad Hofgastein in winter
The Graukogel summit seen from southeast
The last rise on the normal path to the summit
View from just below the summit to the 3000er peaks of the Goldberg and Glockner groups
By car from Munich via Salzburg: Take the motorway to Salzburg, then change to the A10 motorway in the direction of Villach-Klagenfurt, exit at Bischofshofen, take the B311 federal road following the signs to Zell am See-Innsbruck, exit at Lend (after Schwarzach), following the signs to Villach/Gasteinertal, and continue past Dorfgastein and Bad Hofgastein until Badgastein. Distance Salzburg-Badgastein: 94 km, duration: 1h 17min. Distance Munich-Badgastein: 225 km, duration: 2h 29min.
By car from Klagenfurt: Take the motorway to Villach (this is also the place to head for at first if you're coming from Italy), then turn onto the motorway in the direction of Salzburg - Munich (Tauernautobahn). Follow it until Bischofshofen, then as above. Distance Klagenfurt-Badgastein: 220,6 km, duration: 2h 36min.
Another possibility, coming from Klagenfurt, would be: Follow the Villach-Salzburg-Munich motorway as far as Spittal an der Drau, exit here, follow the signs to Lienz, exit at Lurnfeld, follow the signs to Obervellach, turn right in Obervellach, head for Mallnitz and drive to the railway station. Here you can have your car loaded onto the train that goes through the Tauerntunnel to Böckstein. From Böckstein it's only 5 km until Badgastein. Distance Klagenfurt-Mallnitz-Badgastein: 130,3 km, duration: 2h or more, depending on road conditions and frequency of the Tauerntunnel trains.
By train: If you're coming from Munich or from Vienna, take a train to Salzburg first, and then change to one of the trains that commute between Salzburg and Villach/Klagenfurt. All fast and international trains on this line (there's one every two hours) stop in Badgastein.
If you're coming from Klagenfurt, take one of the fast trains bound for Salzburg and alight in Badgastein.
From Italy or Slovenia: Take a train to Villach, change here to the train bound for Salzburg and alight in Badgastein.
There are various possibilities in Badgastein and also further down the valley, in Bad Hofgastein. You'll find more information here.
On about 2400 meters on the normal ascent path
View down to the Gastein valley
The most direct path of access would be: from Badgastein, go up via Café Windischgrätzhöhe and from there on via Zehentner Hütte, through the Palfner Wald forest and past the top station of the Graukogelbahn (all this is on a marked path and very well sign-posted) either straight to the summit or up to its side summit, the Hüttenkogel, and then follow the Andreasweg from there along the crest to the Graukogel summit (in autumn the upper part can be a bit icy). As I mentioned, one can substantially short-cut by taking the Graukogelbahn to its top station at more or less 2000 meters heighth. From there it takes more or less two hours until the Graukogel summit (From Badgastein: ca. 4,5-5 hours).
The southeast ridge of the Graukogel and the Palfnerscharte pass
The Palfnersee lake
My favorite way of coming down is: follow the south-east ridge (no path; a bit of scrambling is required, but nothing serious) to the Palfnerscharte (2321 meters), then follow the path downwards in western direction towards the Palfnersee lake (a gorgeous mountain lake on 2000 meters), and then either descend directly to Badgastein or turn right at crossroads about 100 meters below the lake and follow the path leading, with a slight rise, back to the Graukogelbahn top station. The round trip Graukogelbahn top - Graukogel summit - Palfnerscharte - Palfnersee - Graukogelbahn top can be comfortably done in 5 hours.
The Palfnersee lake seen from the summit of the Graukogel
remote Reedsee lake (photo by Mathias Zehring)
A much longer, but exquisitely remote path of access would be: Badgastein - Kötschachtal valley - turn right at Jägerstein and follow path no. 526 up to the Reedsee lake (1821 meters high, and a magical spot!), then continue following the same path through the Seekar up to Palfnerscharte and scramble up the southeast crest to the Graukogel's summit. I would reckon with something like six hours for that route. Better would be to use this route for going down.
The in my opinion best map to use is the Kompass Wander- Rad- und Skitourenkarte 040 Bad Gastein/Bad Hofgastein/Dorfgastein 1:35000.