Hesshütte (also spelled Heßhütte) is a mountain refuge in Gesäuse National Park, located in the Austrian State of Styria. It’s owned and managed by Alpenverein Austria and was originally built in 1893, though rebuilt in 1996. 

Accessible only by foot, the beautiful Hesshütte (1,699 m) sits on the Ennseck saddle between Hochtor (2,369 m) and Zinödl (2,191 m) in the Ennstaler Alps.

Hesshütte is a suitable destination for both long day hikes and multi-day hikes. We actually decided to spend two nights at Hess mountain hut, so that we could hike to the summits of Zinödl and Planspitze.

In addition to being well-positioned for peak hikes, Hesshütte is just a fabulous hut in general. Managed by a warm, caring, and helpful team, Hesshütte feels like your home in the mountains. We loved every moment we spent in this hut. And, we hope to return often. 

Hesshütte, Gesäuse National Park Hiking Guide

In this guide to hiking to Hesshütte, we’re going to cover the following

  • Responsible travel in Gesäuse National Park
  • Hesshütte Hiking Map 
  • How to get to Hesshütte: 4 ascent routes
  • Hikes you can do around Hesshütte: Zinödl, Planspitze
  • Overnighting in Hesshütte: what to expect, pricing, booking
  • Where to Stay in Gesäuse National Park

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Responsible Exploration of Gesäuse National Park

Panoramaweg, Zinödl Hiking Trail, Gesäuse National Park, Austria

Gesäuse National Park is an important conservation area. When you visit, keep these rules in mind.

  1. Wild camping is forbidden. If you want to camp, head to the campsite at Gstatterboden. 
  2. Entering bodies of water is forbidden (e.g. Johnsbach River, Enns River, Sulzkarsee Lake). However, river rafting with authorized agents is allowed. 
  3. Dogs must be leashed, so as not to disturb wildlife.
  4. Maintain the silence and do not disturb it unnecessarily.
  5. Do not pick or remove flowers and plants.
  6. Stay on marked paths.
  7. Use established and marked climbing routes only. Recognize that climbing areas are also animal habitats. 
  8. Observe wild animals from marked paths using binoculars. Do not chase animals to get a “better view.”
  9. Campfires are forbidden in the park and in all forests in Austria. 
  10. Pack out all of your garbage. Leave no trace.
  11. Avoid hiking at dusk, as animals are searching for food. 

Hesshütte Hiking Map

In the map below, we’ve marked the different ascent routes to Hesshütte and the possible hikes you can do from the mountain hut. We used Kompass Hiking Trail Map “Nationalpark Gesäuse” and the Rother Hiking Guide Book “Gesäuse” to plan our hikes.

Hiking to Hesshütte: Ascent Routes

  1. Kölblwirt, Johnsbach (moderate)
  2. Wasserfallweg, Gstatterboden (difficult, secured path)
  3. Sulzkar Valley, Hieflau (moderate)
  4. Peternpfad from Haindlkar (very difficult, climbing route)

If you are traveling to Gesäuse National Park by public transit, find the best connection to Admont train station, Gstatterboden train station, or Hieflau train station here.

1. Johnsbach to Hesshütte

Stadlalm, Johnsbach to Hesshütte Hike, Gesäuse National Park
  • Trailhead: Kölblwirt Gasthof in Johnsbach
  • Trail Number: 601 
  • Distance: 6.1 km one-way
  • Elevation: 830 meters ascending 
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Time Needed: 3 hours
  • Route: Kölblwirt (restaurant) – Untere Koderalm (alpine pasture) – Stadlalm (alpine pasture) – Gamsbrunn (spring) – Hesshütte

The very moderate Johnsbach ascent route is part of the multi-day “Gesäuse Hüttenrunde” hiking trail. To find the trailhead, head to Kölblwirt restaurant in Johnsbach. 

As you ascend, you’ll hike up alpine pastures and weave in and out of moss-covered forest. The final 2 km to the hut is the most beautiful stretch, as mountains flank both sides of the trail. 

2. Wasserfallweg to Hesshütte

Wasserfallweg ascent to Hesshütte, Gesäuse National Park
  • Trailhead: Parkplatz Wasserfallweg (on Gesäuse Strasse)
  • Trail Number: 660
  • Distance: 4.5 km one-way
  • Elevation: 1100 meters ascending
  • Difficulty: Challenging. Part of the trail is secured with metal ladders, bars, and ropes. No special equipment is needed, though climbing gloves are extremely helpful, if not essential. We also saw a lot of people wearing helmets on the route.
  • Time Needed: 3.5 – 4 hours 
  • Route: Parkplatz Wasserfallweg – Hesshütte

This is a very challenging hike. It’s steep and doesn’t offer any respite. It’s UP UP UP the whole time. So you need to be fit to tackle this route. 

Kati and I actually hiked down the Wasserfallweg, and it’s not something we’d do again – especially when carrying a heavy pack and after rainfall.

Our recommendation is to ONLY ASCEND to Hesshütte via the Wasserfallweg and find a different route down (either Sulzkar or Johnsbach). 

As you ascend above the Enns valley, you’ll hike through the forest and past a waterfall. As you gain elevation, views of the Enns River and the Buchstein mountains impress.  

The secured section of the trail is made up of a series of ladders and bars. We felt very safe along the route, even when the ladders were positioned at a near-vertical angle. Though via ferrata gear isn’t needed, definitely bring climbing gloves for grip and protection.

After the secured route, the trail continues to steadily ascend all the way to Hesshütte.

Another option: Hiking to Hesshütte via Planspitze

After a good 2-2.5 hours on the trail, you’ll come to an intersection at Ebersanger (a former alm), signed 2 hours to Planspitze (2117 m). The fastest way to Hesshütte is to continue straight on 660. However, if you’re fully energized, you can head right onto trail 663 to Planspitze peak. 

From the peak, you’ll continue on 663 to Hesshütte. This route (Parkplatz Wasserfallweg – Planspitze – Hesshütte) is 7.8 km, 1500 meters ascending and 400 meters descending, and takes 6 hours.

3. Haindlkar to Hesshütte via Peternpfad (climbing route)

Hesshütte, Gesäuse National Park, Ennstaler Alps
  • Trailhead: Haindlkarparkplatz / Haindlkar parking lot (on Gesäuse Strasse)
  • Trail Number: 658, 663
  • Distance: 7.2 km
  • Elevation: 1400 meters ascending / 260 meters descending 
  • Difficulty: Very Difficult. “Peternpfad” is an unsecured climbing route (difficulty II). Wear a helmet (e.g. women’s climbing helmet, men’s climbing helmet) and climbing gloves.
  • Time Needed: 5 hours +
  • Route: Haindlkarparkplatz (parking lot) – Haindlkarhütte (mountain hut) – Peternpfad (climbing path) – Peternscharte (gap in the mountain) – Hesshütte

We didn’t hike this route, though we met a few people who did. Peternpfad is a climbing route between Handlkarhütte and Peternscharte. Only do this if you’re an experienced climber, or with a guide. 

4. Sulzkar Valley to Hesshütte

Hesshütte, Gesäuse / Xeis, Austria
Kaiserschmarrn, Hesshütte, Austrian Alps
  • Trailhead: Hartlsbrücke (close to Hieflau) / Parkplatz beim Hartelgraben
  • Trail Number: 665, 601
  • Distance: 9.7 km
  • Elevation: 1300 meters ascending / 92 meters descending 
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Time Needed: 5 hours 
  • Route: Hartlsbrücke (bridge / parking lot) – Hartlsgraben (forest road) – Sulzkaralm (alpine pasture) – Sulzkarhund (boulder) – Gamsbrunn (spring) – Hesshütte

From the Hartlsbrücke bridge, this ascent route follows the Hartelsgrabenbach stream along the Hartelsgraben forest road to Sulzkar Valley. You’ll hike to the alpine pasture of Sulzkaralm, where you’ll find a small alpine lake and an Alm hut. 

From the open pastures of Sulzkar flanked by Zinödl and Seemauer, you’ll ascend to Sulzkarhund (a striking boulder shaped like a dog). From here, you’ll descend to Gamsbrunn and continue on the 601 to Hesshütte.

Spending the Night at Hesshütte

Hesshütte interior dining area, Gesäuse National Park, Austrian Alps
Kasnocken, Hesshütte, Austria
  • Open: May 19, 2021 – October 26, 2021 (if the weather is great, until November 7, 2021)
  • Showers: None
  • Drinking-Water: Tap is safe to drink
  • Electronic Charging Stations: There are no charging stations in the room or dining room. You can ask the staff if you can charge your appliances/phone. Bring a power bank
  • Payment: Cash
  • Food: Great
  • Half Board or à la carte: Both available. You can decide at dinner.
  • Rooms: 4-person rooms (Mehrbettzimmer) and dormitory-style rooms (Lager) available.
  • Alpenverein membership discount: Yes
  • Prices (as of summer 2020):
    • Large Beer / Radler: 4.90 EUR
    • Verlängerter (Americano): 3.20 EUR
    • Soup: 3.70 – 6.50 EUR
    • Dinner: 13 – 15 EUR
    • Breakfast: 12 EUR
    • Mehrbettzimmer: 20 EUR per person

We loved our stay at Hesshütte. We visited in early June, and there were only 8 – 15 guests per night. Consequently, our whole experience was relaxed and personal. 

The food was also very good. On a sunny day, nothing beats lunch on the hut’s outdoor terrace.

You can book a night at Hesshütte on the Alpenverein website (alpsonline). 

Hikes you can do around Hesshütte

From Hesshütte, you can hike to the summits of Zinödl, Planspitze, and Hochtor. We’ll explain the former two below. 

Zinödl Loop Trail

Zinödl Ridge, Gesäuse National Park, Austria
Panoramaweg, Gesäuse National Park, Austria
  • Trailhead: Hesshütte / Ennseck Saddle 
  • Trail Number: 662, 61
  • Distance: 4.7 km
  • Elevation: 470 meters ascending / descending 
  • Difficulty: Moderate 
  • Time Needed: 3 – 3.5 hours
  • Route: Hesshütte – Hochzinödl – Gass – Panoramaweg – Hesshütte

From Hesshütte, ascend to Hochzinödl (the highest point of the Zinödl mountain) via trail 662. It takes a bit less than 1:30 hrs to get to the top. From the summit, follow signs towards Panoramaweg (trail 61), signed 1:30 hours. 

You’ll initially follow the ridge of Zinödl. Directly in front of you, you’ll see Enns valley and the Buchstein mountains. To your left, you’ll also see Hochtor and Planspitze. After about 1.1 km of descending along the ridge, you’ll reach an intersection (“Gass”). Make a hard left and follow the Panoramaweg back to Hesshütte. 

Lined by dwarf pine, this balcony trail ushers you back to Hesshütte on an easy, mostly flat path. The views of Hochtor are fabulous. 

Planspitze Loop Trail

Planspitze Summit, Gesäuse National Park
Trail 663, Planspitze to Hesshütte, Gesäuse National Park
  • Trailhead: Hesshütte
  • Trail Number: 660, 663
  • Distance: 5.9 km
  • Elevation: 688 meters ascending / 610 meters descending 
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Time Needed: 4 hours
  • Route: Hesshütte – Ebersanger (former alm) – Planspitze (peak) – Peternscharte (optional) – Hesshütte

Another loop trail you can do from Hesshütte is to Planspitze peak (2,117 m). Note, you can also hike to this peak when you ascend to Hesshütte via Wasserfallweg. 

We were advised to hike the loop counter-clockwise, first descending 1.3 km along 660 to Ebensanger. From Ebensanger, you’ll start the 2-hour ascent to Planspitze on trail 663. The path zigzags up through the forest until reaching the Planspitze ridge. The trail then continues just below the ridge to the summit. Planspitze peak is marked by a giant cross. From the summit, the views of Enns valley and the surrounding Ennstaler Alps are unforgettable. 

To continue the hike, retrace your steps 18 meters and then locate the trail that continues towards Peternscharte. This initial descent is a bit tricky. Some of it is secured, but not all. Go slowly.

Eventually, the trail levels out and you’ll wrap around the mountain slope (crossing large snowfields in early summer) until you make the final descent to Hesshütte.

Where to Stay in Gesäuse National Park

Accommodation is very limited in the actual park. You can stay at the Gesäuse Lodge at Gstatterboden or the camping ground Forstgarten. 

However, just beyond the park boundaries, you’ll find the towns of Admont and Hieflau

Romantics and castle lovers should consider staying in Hotel Schloss Röthelstein in Admont. 

We stayed in Villa Elisabeth for one night in Admont and the owner expressed that she only wants to host long-term guests. While the location is absolutely perfect, the owner is unable to provide helpful tips regarding hiking trails in the region. Also, if you don’t speak German, communication will be difficult. Our room was clean and tidy, though we could hear the owner’s TV at night. 

Book your Stay in/near Gesäuse National Park

Related: Best Places to Stay in Austria in Summer

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