Follow us on Instagram @moonhoneytravelers for hiking and travel inspiration!

Hesshütte Hiking Guide, Gesäuse National Park, Styria, Austria

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, Steiermark, Austria

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.

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. 

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)
  5. Kölblwirt, Johnsbach via Hochtor (very difficult)

1. Johnsbach to Hesshütte

Stadlalm, Johnsbach to Hesshütte Hike, Gesäuse National Park

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. 

Trail Stats Johnsbach – Hesshütte

Trailhead: Gasthof Kölblwirt in Johnsbach

Distance: 6 km point-to-point

Time Needed: 3 hours

Elevation Gain: 863 meters

Elevation Loss: 0 meters

Difficulty: Moderate

Minimum Elevation: 863 meters

Maximum Elevation: 1692 meters

Trail Number: 601 

Route: Kölblwirt (restaurant) – Untere Koderalm (alpine pasture) – Stadlalm (alpine pasture) – Gamsbrunn (spring) – Hesshütte

2. Wasserfallweg to Hesshütte

Wasserfallweg ascent to Hesshütte, Gesäuse National Park

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.

Trail Stats Wasserfallweg – Hesshütte

Trailhead: Parkplatz Wasserfallweg (on Gesäuse Strasse)

Distance: 4.6 km point-to-point

Time Needed: 3 hours

Elevation Gain: 1165 meters

Elevation Loss: 46 meters

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.

Minimum Elevation: 566 meters

Maximum Elevation: 1698 meters

Trail Number: 660

Route: Parkplatz Wasserfallweg – Hesshütte

Another option: Hiking to Hesshütte via Planspitze

After a good 2-2:30 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

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. 

Trail Stats Haindlkar – Peternpfad – Hesshütte

Trailhead: Haindlkarparkplatz / Haindlkar parking lot (on Gesäuse Strasse)

Distance: 7.4 km point-to-point

Time Needed: 4 hours

Elevation Gain: 1464 meters

Elevation Loss: 372 meters

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.

Minimum Elevation: 606 meters

Maximum Elevation: 2024 meters

Trail Number: 658, 663

Route: Haindlkarparkplatz (parking lot) – Haindlkarhütte (mountain hut) – Peternpfad (climbing path) – Peternscharte (gap in the mountain) – Hesshütte

4. Sulzkar Valley to Hesshütte

Hesshütte, Gesäuse / Xeis, Austria

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.

Kaiserschmarrn, Hesshütte, Austrian Alps

Trail Stats Sulzkar Valley – Hesshütte

Trailhead: Ennsbrücke (close to Hieflau) / Parkplatz beim Hartelgraben

Distance: 9.7 km point-to-point

Time Needed: 4:30 hours

Elevation Gain: 1355 meters

Elevation Loss: 180 meters

Difficulty: Moderate

Minimum Elevation: 522 meters

Maximum Elevation: 1818 meters

Trail Number: 665, 601

Route: Ennsbrücke (bridge / parking lot) – Hartelsgraben (forest road) – Sulzkaralm (alpine pasture) – Sulzkarhund (boulder) – Gamsbrunn (spring) – Hesshütte

5. Kölblwirt, Johnsbach via Hochtor (Peak)

Trail Stats Johnsbach – Hochtor (Peak) – Hesshütte

Trailhead: Gasthof Kölblwirt in Johnsbach

Distance: 7.4 km point-to-point

Time Needed: 4:30 hours

Elevation Gain: 1505 meters

Elevation Loss: 671 meters

Difficulty: Very difficult

Minimum Elevation: 863 meters

Maximum Elevation: 2368 meters

Spending the Night at Hesshütte

Hesshütte interior dining area, Gesäuse National Park, Austrian Alps

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). 

Open | Current Opening Times

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 | 1×2-person room 1×3-person room, 10×4-person rooms (Mehrbettzimmer) and dormitory-style rooms (Lager) available.

Alpenverein membership discount | Yes

Mehrbettzimmer | Current Pricing

Kasnocken, Hesshütte, Austria

Hikes around Hesshütte

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

Zinödl Circuit Trail

Zinödl Ridge, Gesäuse National Park, Austria

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. 

Panoramaweg, Gesäuse National Park, Austria

Trail Stats Zinödl Circuit Trail

Trailhead: Hesshütte / Ennseck Saddle 

Distance: 4.7 km circuit

Time Needed: 2:30 hours

Elevation Gain/Loss: 500 meters

Difficulty: Moderate 

Minimum Elevation: 1692 meters

Maximum Elevation: 2191 meters

Trail Number: 662, 61

Route: Hesshütte – Hochzinödl – Gass – Panoramaweg – Hesshütte

Planspitze Circuit Trail

Planspitze Summit, Gesäuse National Park

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.

Trail 663, Planspitze to Hesshütte, Gesäuse National Park

Trail Stats Planspitze Circuit Trail

Trailhead: Hesshütte

Distance: 5.9 km circuit

Time Needed: 3 hours

Elevation Gain/Loss: 626 meters

Difficulty: Difficult

Minimum Elevation: 1476 meters

Maximum Elevation: 2102 meters

Trail Number: 660, 663

Route: Hesshütte – Ebersanger (former alm) – Planspitze (peak) – Peternscharte (optional) – Hesshütte

Where to Stay near Gesäuse National Park


Midrange | Gesäuse Lodge


Budget | Landgasthof Buchner

Midrange | Jufa Hotel Schloss Röthelstein

Midrange | Hotel Spirodom

Look for accommodation in Admont.


Midrange | Kornbranntgut Hieflau (2 nights minimum stay)

Luxury | NaturparkResort Alte Schule

Look for accommodation in Hieflau.

Austria Trip Planning Essentials

Use our Austria Travel Guide and Austria blog archive to plan a unique and memorable trip to Austria. 

When to Visit Austria 

Summer and early Fall are our favorite seasons in Austria. 

Getting around Austria

Austria has an excellent public transit system. We’ve used it extensively to travel throughout the country. We highly recommend using transit if you’re visiting cities (Vienna, Salzburg, Innsbruck, Graz, etc…), and/or doing hut-to-hut hikes. 

Some areas like Mayrhofen, Schladming and Lech am Arlberg have wonderful seasonal transit systems in place (e.g. summer hiking buses). However, if you’re not visiting during the high season, bus frequencies are significantly reduced and it’s far easier to get around with your own vehicle. 

If you’re planning on visiting multiple destinations across  Austria, we recommend renting a car. 

Use these road trip itineraries for trip planning inspiration:

Car Rental 

We recommend using the car rental reservation platform to search for and book car rentals. This easy-to-use booking platform compares car rental deals from 500+ trusted providers, so that you can choose the best option for your trip.

Check car rental rates here

If you’re driving into Austria from a neighboring country, don’t forget to purchase a vignette at/near the border. 

Hiking in Austria

Where to Hike in Austria

Read Austrian Alps Hiking Destinations for an overview of where to hike in Austria, with tips on specific trails and where to stay. Also check out Best Day Hikes in Austria and these region-specific hiking guides:

Hut to Hut Hiking in Austria 

Austria is a premier hut-to-hut and long-distance hiking destination. The quality of the mountain huts are superb. We particularly love the high-alpine trails, which are called Höhenwege in German. We’ve summarized our favorite multi-day hikes in Trekking Austria. If you’re new to hut hiking, read this in-depth guide to Hut to Hut Hiking in Austria.

Hiking Essentials

What to See & Do in Austria

Austrian Hotels

Learn More about Styria

Moon & Honey Travel is an independent blog created by two passionate hikers. We are able to provide free content to you, because of ads and affiliate links. When you make a purchase using one of these links, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Happy travels and happy trails, Sabrina and Kati

Leave a Comment