This spectacular day hike in the idyllic Lechquellen Gebirge (Mountains) is one of our newest additions to Best Day Hikes in Austria. We loved this trail because of the pristine scenery (no ugly ski infrastructure), the awe-inducing alpine views of the Lechquellen and Verwall groups, and the terrain variation. It’s never boring – not for a single moment!
This point-to-point hike in Lech am Arlberg, Vorarlberg, requires the use of bus transit. Starting in Lech am Arlberg, take Bus #7 to Formarinsee Lake (30 minutes). From Formarinsee, hike 11.3 km across the Steinernes Meer (“Stone Sea”) and over Gehrengrat, before descending to Spullersee Lake. From Spullersee, hop on Bus #6 back to Lech am Arlberg. Keep reading for a detailed transit and trail descriptions.
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Lake Formarinsee to Lake Spullersee Day Hike
- Trailhead: Formarinsee
- Destination: Spullersee
- Type of Hike: Point-to-Point
- Route: Formarinsee (Lake) – Freiburger Hütte (Mountain Hut) – Steinernes Meer (Karst Landscape) – Gehrengrat (Mountain/Ridge) – Dalaaser Schütz (High Alpine Valley) – Spullersee (Lake)
- Distance: 11.3 km
- Elevation: 568 meters ascending / 612 meters descending
- Difficulty: Moderate in dry conditions. Difficult in wet conditions
- Time Needed: 4:30 – 5:00 hours
- Trails: 601, E4
- Where to Eat: Freiburger Hütte (at the beginning of the hike).
- Responsible and Safe Hiking in the Lechquellen Mountains: During this hike, you’ll likely encounter grazing cattle. Do not pet, or approach cows. Give them a wide berth. With the exception of hiking around cows, stay on marked trails and make sure to pack up all your garbage.
- Where We Stayed: Hotel Sonnenburg in Lech am Arlberg (Oberlech)
Formarinsee – Spullersee Hiking Map
How difficult is the hike from Formarinsee to Spullersee?
In dry conditions, this hike is moderate to difficult, depending on your alpine hiking experience. In wet conditions, this hike is very slippery and a bit treacherous due to the loamy terrain.
Specifically, there are two parts of this trail that we’d deem “moderately difficult”: (1) crossing the karst Steinernes Meer and (2) the initial descent from Gehrengrat.
Steinernes Meer. To hike across the Steinernes Meer, you need to have very good balance and surefootedness, because the terrain isn’t even and you’ll be navigating and hopping across slabs of stone.
Gehrengrat. As you descend from Gehrengrat in the direction of Spullersee, the trail is washed out and unstable in some places. Hiking poles are extremely helpful in stabilizing your descent. We saw a lot of people struggling.
How to Get to Formarinsee Lake
Purchase a Lech Card
If you’re spending more than one day in Lech am Arlberg, it makes sense to invest in a Lech Card. It’ll save you a lot of money in transit costs (bus, gondola, chairlift, cable car, etc…) and make your overall transit experience a whole lot smoother.
You can purchase Lech Cards at the tourist office in Lech am Arlberg, or in your hotel.
As of Summer 2020, the price structure is as follows:
- 2 Days: 23 EUR
- 7 Days: 36 EUR
- 14 Days: 67 EUR
If you don’t have a Lechcard, it costs 18 EUR to travel from Lech to Formarinsee and back to Lech from Spullersee.
Take Bus #7 from Lech am Arlberg to Formarinsee
Bus Stop: Lech Rüfiplatz, next to the fountain and the wooden-covered “Tannbergbrücke” bridge.
Transit Times: You’ll find the current timetable at the bus stop. In Summer 2020 (26.06.2020 – 27.09.2020), there were 8 bus departures, starting at 8:25 and ending at 17:40.
Duration: 30 Minutes
From Lech, the bus heads to Zugertal Valley, passing Zug, Spullerswald Forest, Gasthaus Äpele, and Tannlageralpe. The road runs parallel to Lech River, so you’ll see the Lechweg (Lech River Trail) during the ride.
Lake Formarinsee to Lake Spullersee Trail Description
Formarinsee to Freiburger Hütte (35 – 45 minutes)
From the bus drop-off point, head down the gravel track towards Formarinsee and follow the road to Freiburger Hütte. As you near Freiburger Hütte, you’ll start to see Rote Wand (“Red Wall”), one of the most beloved mountains in the Lechquellen Gebirge.
Freiburger Hütte to Steinernes Meer (1 hour)
Wrap around Freiburger Hütte and follow signs to Steinernes Meer (signed 1 ¼ Std) and Spullersee (signed 4 ¼ Std.).
You’ll gradually ascend on an earthy track up a verdant slope. In July, the trail is awash with splashes of pale-pink Maiden’s Tears, purple Alpine calamint and Wood Cranesbill, yellow kidney vetch, and Mountain Arnica.
After hiking uphill for about 1.3 km, you’ll cross a pasture fence, and the rounded Formaletsch mountain comes into focus. The trail levels out and continues horizontally along the south slope of Formaletsch.
Here, you’ll see the crystalline Verwall mountain range straight ahead.
Your hike will likely be enlivened by the sound of bells, as you’ll be traversing alpine pastures dotted with grazing cows and frolicking calves.
The easy path around Formaletsch delivers you to the Steinernes Meer, a karst landscape that is aptly called “Stone Sea.”
Steinernes Meer to Gehrengrat (1:30 hours)
Following the red-painted waymarks, slowly cross the heather-grey Steinernes Meer (~ 30 – 35 minutes). Given the unevenness of the terrain, this part can get a bit exhausting, because each step requires concentration. Visually and geologically, however, this is a very exciting part of the trail.
When you reach the Steinernes Meer trail intersection, the hard part is over. Continue straight in the direction of Gehrengrat and Spullersee (signed 3 hours). The path is level and you’ll cross a meadow, before beginning the 280-meter ascent to Gehrengrat mountain.
The ascent has some steep sections, but it’s mostly quite gentle because of the loamy terrain. As mentioned earlier, if the conditions are “wet,” then this will be slippery and more difficult. The ascent concludes with a series of switchbacks.
As you glance back, the views of Rote Wand and the Lechquellen Mountains make you wish you were hiking in the opposite direction. Don’t worry, your descent will be accompanied by equally marvelous vistas on the other side.
When you reach the top, you’ll be able to see the limestone Rätikon and the crystalline Silvretta ranges, bordering Switzerland. In the opposite direction, you’ll see Spullersee flanked by the dramatic Rohnspitze, Goppelsptize, and Wasenspitze.
Gehrengrat to Dalaaser Schütz (1 hour)
Following the ridge, descend in the direction of Spullersee. I was saying “wow” with every step. In some places, the trail is washed out and crumbling, which can be extremely problematic if you don’t have hiking poles or adequate footwear. We recommend grade B/C high-cut hiking books like the women’s Hanwag Tatra II GTX / Meindl Schuhe Island Lady or the men’s Hanwag Tatra II GTX.
After navigating this steep descent, the trail levels out and you’ll cross the Glongbach stream, before gently descending across grassy meadows to the high valley of Dalaaser Schütz.
Dalaaser Schütz to Spullersee (40 minutes)
At the Dalaaser Schütz trail intersection, continue heading down along the wide track. Shortly thereafter, you’ll turn right, leaving the wide track, and follow the trail (there’s a waymark).
The trail continues to descend gently and you’ll glide right to Spullersee. Just before reaching the map, you’ll cross a meadow blooming with purple Gentian (Gentiana purpurea). At the lake, head left and walk 10 minutes to the bus stop.
Related: Austrian Alps Hiking Destinations
How to Get Back to Lech am Arlberg from Spullersee
Bus #6 departs from Spullersee to Lech only a few times a day. In Summer 2020, the timetable is as follows:
The bus drives down the scenic Spulleralpe, stopping at Dalaaser Staffel, Abzweigung, Äpele, Kirchle, on the way back to Rüfiplatz, Lech.
Duration: 30 Minutes
Where to Stay in Lech am Arlberg in Vorarlberg
The best place to stay for this day hike is in Lech, or Oberlech (Upper Lech), in the Arlberg region of Vorarlberg.
Family-Friendly, Literature-Themed Hotel
Hotel Sonnenburg is located in Oberlech, which overlooks Lech am Arlberg. In the morning, walk down to Lech via Rudalpe. The views of Omeshorn towering over Lech are so worth the extra 1.7 km (30 minutes max). At the end of the day, when you return to Lech by bus, you can either walk to Oberlech, or take the Bergbahn Oberlech cable car (free with your Lech Card).
Hotel Sonnenburg is the perfect hotel for families with children and literature lovers. You’ll find books in your room, by the pool, in the lobby, and in the hotel library. The hotel also holds literature events throughout the year as well as rotating exhibitions. During our visit, there was an inclusive “Alles Familie” (All Families) children’s book exhibit, showcasing all types of families.
Childcare is provided on most days for at least several hours. And, there are also playrooms for kids.
Our favorite thing about Hotel Sonnenburg was our room. We just melted into the bed. The comforters are deluxe and the rooms are designed intentionally, exhibiting functional sophistication. There’s space for everything and you really feel like you’re on vacation.
One last thing – breakfast is lavish. It’s like an ancient Roman banquet. It does not end. If we had to rank Austrian hotels based on breakfast, Hotel Sonnenburg would place number one.
More Hikes in Vorarlberg, Austria
Austria Travel Guides:
- Austria Travel Guide
- Vienna City Guide
- 2 Week Austria Itinerary
- 1 Week Austria Itinerary
- Best Places to Visit in Austria
- Wine Tasting in South Styria