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ST 01 AAT: Kaiser-Franz-Josefs-Höhe - Heiligenblut

· 30 reviews · Long-Distance Hiking · Nationalpark Hohe Tauern
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  • Auftakt zu einer der großartigesten Weitwanderrouten weltweit: Startpunkt des Alpe-Adria-Trails
    Auftakt zu einer der großartigesten Weitwanderrouten weltweit: Startpunkt des Alpe-Adria-Trails
    Photo: Franz Gerdl, Alpe-Adria-Trail
It’s time to look forward to the first stage of the Alpe Adria Trail, a unique experience which derives its character from numerous natural phenomena. The highest mountain in Austria, the largest glacier in the Eastern Alps, the mighty Gößnitz waterfall and last but not least the famous pilgrimage church in Heiligenblut line this unforgettable route for you!
Distance 13.4 km
5:30 h
183 m
1,261 m
2,376 m
1,297 m
From the foot of the Grossglockner, the Pasterze, via Lake Sandersee and the Margaritz reservoir the trail leads to the Leiter waterfall, then on to the Briccius Chapel (a wasser.reich destination). The chapel stands on a place of power, and the water from the spring which rises directly beneath the chapel is said to provide help for eye problems. Briccius, after whom the chapel was named, was also the patron saint of travellers and soldiers. We then continue via the Haritzersteig path towards Heiligenblut. From Roman times until the 17th century, Heiligenblut was the most productive gold mining region in Europe and is therefore still often referred to as the “gold mining village” even today.

Legend has it that the name Heiligenblut [= saint’s blood] stems from a tiny bottle containing some of the blood of Christ. Briccius, a Danish prince who was buried by an avalanche here on his return from Constantinople in 914, had allowed this bottle to be inserted into a cut in his calf to protect it from robbers. Three ears of corn are said to have grown from the mass of snow under which he was buried, and as a result his body and the blood relic were found. When several farmers tried to bury him, one of his legs stubbornly refused to remain under the soil, and when the farmers investigated they found the tiny bottle, which has been kept ever since in the sacrament house of the Parish Church of Saint Vinzenz, built between 1460 and 1491. An application by the community of Heiligenblut to have Briccius declared a saint was never approved due to a lack of evidence, but this did not stop the community from erecting a crypt and altar dedicated to Briccius.

Author’s recommendation

Profile picture of Hohe Tauern - die Nationalpark-Region in Kärnten / Andreas Kleinwächter
Hohe Tauern - die Nationalpark-Region in Kärnten / Andreas Kleinwächter
Update: June 01, 2023
Highest point
Kaiser-Franz-Josefs-Höhe, 2,376 m
Lowest point
Heiligenblut, 1,297 m
Best time of year

Track types

Asphalt 1.62%Dirt road 11.87%Forested/wild trail 10.41%Path 61.18%
0.2 km
Dirt road
1.6 km
Forested/wild trail
1.4 km
8.2 km
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Rest stops

Briccius Sennerei Sattelalm
Berghotel HOIS
Panoramarestaurant Kaiser Franz-Josefs-Höhe

Safety information


Kaiser-Franz-Josefs-Höhe (2,375 m)
47.075709, 12.750914
47°04'32.6"N 12°45'03.3"E
33T 329256 5216032



Turn-by-turn directions

We start our hike, which will take us almost exclusively downhill, right by the Kaiser-Franz-Josefs-Höhe, the end point of the famous 48 kilometre long Grossglockner High Alpine Road. We descend the “Pasterze Glacier Trail” with its steep hairpin bends, passing the inclined lift of the Gletscherbahn, the use of which would shorten our route a little, down to the edge of the glacier. The effects of climate change are becoming dramatically apparent here!

Where just a few decades ago the landscape was still covered with mighty glacial ice, we continue to descend to Lake Sandersee, which is now almost totally silted up as a result of the constant influx of sediments. At the outflow of Lake Sandersee, the melt water from the Pasterze thunders into the narrow Möllschlucht Gorge in a roaring waterfall. We conquer this spectacular passage by means of the original suspension bridge! We then continue past the” and the “Elisabethfelsen” rock to Lake Margeritzensee. By the way, the rock was named after Empress Elisabeth, who visited the region in 1856 together with the Emperor Franz Josef.

Here we leave the Pasterze Glacier Trail and turn right before we reach the two dams. Crossing a gently descending slope we reach the valley of the Leiter, which is extolled in the anthem of the province of Carinthia. We then continue in the same direction as before to the Trogalm Alpine pasture, where we take the left fork and via several hairpin bends, some of them laid out using natural stone walls, we reach the foot of the Leiter waterfall. Shortly afterwards we cross the Möll Valley and come to the Briccius Chapel and the medicinal spring. 

From here we continue to hike along a gently descending Alpine path to the Sattelalpe, where the fresh, home-made food makes it an inviting place to take a break. Shortly after this we come to the spectacular viewing platform, where we can enjoy the glorious views down over Heiligenblut and the mighty Gößnitz waterfall.

 We soon come to another fork, and by turning right and taking a small number of steep bends we come to the “Kräuterwandstüberl”, where the National Park Hikers’ Bus also stops, so we can cut the tour short if necessary. However, the original route runs across the “Haritzersteig” path. Keeping on the sunny side of the slope with a slight incline, and finally using the “Old Glockner Road”, our route leads us right into the centre of Heiligenblut.

Public transport

By road



47.075709, 12.750914
47°04'32.6"N 12°45'03.3"E
33T 329256 5216032
Arrival by train, car, foot or bike


Questions and answers

Question from Lara Marich · May 26, 2023 · Community
Is stage 1 of AAT currently closed as indicated on the app?
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Answered by Dominik Wallner · May 28, 2023 · Community
Did you already find out if the trail is opened or not. We're planning to go there tmw. Thank you!
2 more replies
Question from Nicole Mandl · August 11, 2021 · Community
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Answered by Ursula Thiessen · August 11, 2021 · Community
No idea. I live in Australia. Enjoy your trip
7 more replies
Question from Alba Martín · August 03, 2019 · Community
Hi! My friend and I are planning to do this route but as far as we know it is not a round trip and it lasts around 5-6 hours. So we are wondering how to get back to the starting point. So the plan is the following: get Heiligenblut by car driving all the apine road and then hike to F.J Höhe. However we would like to go back to Heiligenblut to get the car and continue our trip but we do think that hike again all the way back is not an option and we have seen that there was a bus but there is no bus anymore, only for tours. So how do you guys do to reach the starting point? Any recommendation is so welcome. Thanks in advance! :D
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Answered by Nicole Valenta · August 03, 2019 · Community
1 more reply


Anna Riedmüller
2 days ago · Community
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When did you do this route? June 02, 2023
Photo: Anna Riedmüller, Community
Photo: Anna Riedmüller, Community
Mo Fiedler
September 15, 2022 · Community
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When did you do this route? September 15, 2022
Harald Evertz
September 03, 2022 · Community
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Blick auf die Pasterze
Photo: Harald Evertz, Community
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+ 74

13.4 km
5:30 h
183 m
1,261 m
Highest point
2,376 m
Lowest point
1,297 m
Scenic Refreshment stops available Cultural/historical interest Geological highlights Fauna


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