6 - 7
FATMAP difficulty grade
The Karwendel is glacier free and relatively easy to access, but the sheer size of the area and the lack of infrastructure within it make it a truly wild place, comparable to much higher and better known parts of the Alps.
This loop is a wonderful way to sample the Karwendel in a single day, and it is likely to whet your appetite for further exploration. The trip begins (and ends) in the small village of Scharnitz which can be reached by train or car from Innsbruck.
Head east out of Scharnitz and follow the large jeep track that winds north-east and then due east up to the Karwendelhaus.
The first 1.5 hours of the roughly 2 hour journey up to the Karwendelhaus is easy and thoroughly enjoyable, with no technical riding, beautiful views and not much height gain.
However, the final 30 minutes up to the hut is steep and unrelenting.
Keep your head down, keep grinding and remember that one of the best situated huts in Austria awaits you with a vast array of delicious food and beverages! Enjoy a break at the hut and then make the long descent down to Hinterriß village at the northern edge of the Karwendel National Park.
The descent is almost all on jeep tracks of varying quality and presents minimal technical challenges but fabulous high mountain views.
If you keep looking back over your shoulder on the descent you will be staggered by just how dramatic the peaks of the Karwendel are. Upon arriving in Hinterriß, have another break at the excellent Gasthof there and then follow the road west briefly and then climb up into forests on a jeep track.
Make a long, mellow descent on the jeep track down to a river bed.
There is no bridge across the river but you need to cross it so take your shoes off and wade across.
Generally it shouldn't be deeper than knee height provided you look around for the best spot to cross. Once on the far side of the river, make one final jeep track climb up to the charming Vereiner Alm hut, which is nestled in one of the most serene, beautiful spots you're ever likely to see.
Grab a final drink and then make the long, fast descent to the northern end of Mittenwald village.
Hit the road and go through the village (which is a blissful little place) and carry on south back to Schnartiz.
If you came on the train, a better finish is to catch the train from Mittenwald, thereby skipping out the final road section to Schnartiz. Regardless of where you finish, award yourself a pat on the back for completing one of Austria's best bike adventures.