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Hiking in Austria
Every year 3 Million hikers enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Austrian Alps and so hiking is one of the most popular sports in Austria. Three fourth of the foreign visitors make hiking tours in Austria and more than half a million people sleep every year in the mountain huts of the Alpine Associations.
The Alpenverein (Austrian Alpine Club) is the largest Alpine Association in Austria. 450.000 Austrians are a member of an Alpine Association (like Alpenverein, Touristenklub, Naturfreunde,...). These Associations are maintaining 50.000km of trails and more than 500 mountain refuges. Many associations have an insurance included in their yearly fee, so that you don't have to pay in case of a rescue by the Bergrettung ("Mountain Ambulance", volunteer work by mountain guides). You get also lower prices for the accommodation in the huts of the organisation.
Most of the mountain refuges are owned by the Alpenverein. These huts are operated like restaurants or hotels, but it's allowed to take your own food with you. You can get a warm meal, drinks and a sleeping room. There are three accommodation classes. The most expensive class includes a room for only two to four men. In the next class (called "Lager") you sleep in a large room together with other people. In case, that the hut is full, there is also a "Notlager" (emergency accommodation), where you have to sleep on the attic or elsewhere. You have to take your garbage back into the valley.
In winter every hut has a not closed room for skier. Attention, many huts are closed on one day per week and a few huts are only open at weekends - please inform you at your local tourist office or at your hotel staff before you go.
All trails in Austria are marked by a painted red-white-red (sometimes only red dots or older markings in other colours) marking. The marking is usually painted on trees or rocks. At crossings you will find usually signs with walking hour information to the next waypoints. Because of the fragile nature in Alpine regions, it is recommended not to leave the trails.
Because of the density of hikers, there are some restrictions. In Austria you can use all forests or Alpine regions for recreation from dawn to dawn. There are only some restricted areas in national parks, game reserves or natural reserves (often marked by signs), which are not open for the public. After sunset you are not allowed to be in a forest or Alpine terrain, except for emergency reasons. Normally it is not a problem to sleep with your sleeping bag somewhere in the mountains, but it is quiet unusually in Austria.
The emergency number for
the Bergrettung is: 140
There are four main map producers in Austria. Each map has their advantages and disadvantages: