Covering 110 km² in the eastern Austrian state of Styria lies the Gesäuse National Park (pronounced Geh-saw-see), the youngest national park in Austria having been established 2002. Styria is called the “Green Heart of Austria” where hiking, cycling, mountain biking, canyoning, kayaking, white-water rafting, skiing and cross-country skiing predominate.
The Gesäuse gets its name from the German word ‘sausen’, meaning the roaring of water. The National Park is laced with precipitous limestone peaks, while the snowmelt carves at the rock to create gorges flowing from the torrential emerald coloured water of the rivers Salza and Enns. Over millions of years the waters of the rivers deeply eroded the mountain range creating a gorge with steep walls 1,800 metres high. With its stunning geological features, the park is declared a Geopark by UNESCO.
The hiking trails in the Gesäuse National Park lead through forests and meadows to eventually arise in the high mountain peaks. Many of the trails are difficult and some of the advanced trails involve sections of via ferrata. If you stay on the marked trails and bring the right equipment you will be safe. The tourist office has a trail map you can review or purchase which shows the trails containing the sections requiring harness equipment. When I was there I didn't do the via ferrata sections, and you can certainly experience the beauty of the parking just trail running.
The Gesäuse is perhaps close to being my favourite place in the entire European alps. The dramatic peaks and death-defying vertical cliffs create some stunning photography opportunities. I have taken some of my best mountain photos in this park, and I've now explored almost every trail I could safely do with my camera gear. The trails are hard work but very rewarding once you reach the top.
You cannot camp or sleep overnight within the park, but the national park is only a short 5-10 minute drive from nearby towns where you can base yourself for the night. Since I was car camping I slept overnight in a vacant parking lot in the town of Admont and drove into the trailhead parking each morning.
I have documented all the hikes I did in the Gesause park throughout this article series, with start/finish locations, GPS tracks and the photos I took.