Via Claudia Augusta: Part 3 Over the Fernpass

Published on:  | Last updated: 29 April 2017

The Via Claudia near Biberwier

The Via Claudia near Biberwier

At a glance

Distance

69 kilometres

Difficulty/​terrain

Moderate. This section involves more climbing than the section through Bavaria, but there are no really big climbs —and the climb to the Fernpass can be avoided by taking the shuttle.

Traffic

Mainly traffic-free cycleways or quiet roads.

Surfaces

A higher proportion of the route is on unsur­faced cycleway or forest road. Note in particular that the climb to and from the Fernpass is on mountain bike trail which at points is steep

Signs

Signposting is excellent.

Overview

Leaving Füssen and crossing the border into Austria you are now very much in the mountains. Until now the route has followed the Lech river, but it now leaves the river behind and heads for the Fernpass before descending into the valley of the Inn river. Increasingly it's the landscape that's the main highlight, but there are some inter­esting places along the way including the towns of Reutte and Imst.

Options

At Imst you could turn left instead of right and follow the Innradweg to Innsbruck (and on to Pasau) .

Map and altitude profile

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Distances
Füssen (border) - Reutte 12 kms
Reutte - Biberwier 25 kms
Biberwier - Imst 31 kms

Route description

Just after the Lechfall you may notice that the cycle route signs abruptly change - the most obvious indic­ation that you've just crossed the border into Austria (Österreich). Quiet roads take you into Reutte.

Austrian cycle route signs at the border near Füssen

Austrian cycle route signs at the border near Füssen

Reutte

As you come into Reutte along the Untermarkt look out for the Zeillerplatz (on your right-hand side opposite the Zum Mohren hotel). The name celeb­rates the Zeiller dynasty of painters who were based in Reutte and lived in the house (the Zeillerhaus) that looks out onto the platz. It was first owned by Paul Zeiller but the frescoes are the work of his son Johann Jakob Zeiller who also decorated the facade of the nearby Grunehaus (Green House) - now the Reutte museum.

Reutte the Zeiller Haus with frescoes by Johann Jakob Zeiller

Reutte the Zeiller Haus with frescoes by Johann Jakob Zeiller

Ehrenburg castle

The route climbs from Reutte to the Ehrenberg Klause. Initially the climb is quite steep. The Klause was a forti­fic­ation built to control (and of course tax) trade along this route - partic­u­larly the trade in salt. High above, on one side of the narrow valley, are the ruins of the Ehrenberg castle, and on the other side the Festung Schlosskopf and Fort Claudia (built in the 18th century). Linking the two is the Highline 179, claimed to be the world's longest pedes­trian suspension bridge. The complex includes a guest­house and restaurant so you could break your journey here. Information: ehrenberg.at (de only).

After the Klause you continue to climb, mainly on an unsur­faced road, to 1125m, before descending again into the village of Heiterwang. As you come into Heiterwang look out for the murals on the facade of the Gasthof Post. The route climbs towards Lahn before descending towards the village (and resort) of Lermoos which lies in a bowl surrounded by mountains.

Engraving by Matthäus Merian of the Ehrnberger Klause (1679)

Engraving by Matthäus Merian of the Ehrnberger Klause (1679). Source: Wikimedia Commons

To the Fernpass and the Inntal

Between Lermoos and Biberwier the route crosses a high plain that was once marshland. The Romans could have skirted round the marsh, but instead they opted to build the road straight across it. To do so they needed to fell tens of thousands of trees which were laid into a wide trench to form a platform and then they put thousands of tons gravel on top to form the found­a­tions for the road. All of this was of course done using hand tools and materials were carried in baskets. Look out for an inform­ation board showing arche­olo­gists excav­ating the old road.

After Biberwier (989m), and the brief interlude on the flat, it's time to start the climb to the Fernpass. The route goes through the old Fernpass (altitude 1275m) before reaching the modern Fernpass (altitude 1212m) on the Fernpassstraße. 

The climb from Biberwier to the Fernpass

The climb from Biberwier to the Fernpass (looking towards Biberwier)

Take the shuttle?

Although the climb to the Fernpass isn't partic­u­larly big, the descent from it is marked as a mountain bike route ( warning sign). It's a lovely route, but a little tricky in places, and really is most suitable for those with mountain bikes. I did see people with trekking bikes doing this part of the route so it is do-able, but whether they enjoyed the exper­ience I don't know.

If you are heavily loaded, or towing a trailer, I would defin­itely consider taking the shuttle. I don't think that the road is a realistic altern­ative. I saw no-bikes signs near Heiterwang (there are long tunnels near both Heiterwang and Lermoos) I think this just applies to those particular sections of the road, but the road is narrow and seemed fairly busy with quite a few lorries, so even if it is legal I wouldn't recommend it. 

From the Fernpass the route descends down to Imst (827m) and the banks of the Inn river. Along the way you pass through the old Burg Fernstein customs post with the ruins of the Schloss Fernstein castle on the hill above. 

Cyclists on the Via Claudia descending from the Fernpass

Cyclists on the Via Claudia descending from the Fernpass

Imst - The City of Fountains

The trail takes you through the passing through Nassereith (843m). Another enjoyable stretch takes you into Imst. 

As you come into Imst look out for the Pfarrkirche (church) on the right-hand side. Many of the frescoes on the side are faded, but there's a well-preserved Saint Christopher. 

Also look out for the fountains. Imst has more than fountains dating from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. The route takes you past a number of them. There's lots of inform­ation on the local tourist inform­ation website: imst.at: City of Fountains . You can also download a pdf of the brochure (de only) about the brunnen ( imst.at: Brunnenfolder) .

If you have the time you can also walk the Rosengartenschlucht (Rosengarten river gorge) which is just outside the centre of Imst.

Imst: Josefsbrunnen fountain - Schustergasse

Imst: Josefsbrunnen fountain - Schustergasse

More information

Places to stay

Hotels and B&Bs etc

The reutte.com and imst.at websites have accom­mod­ation search and booking facilities:

Hostels

According to Google the Jugendherberge at Pfunds is now closed (its web domain is for sale).

  Hostels map:  VCA-FT-hostels-mapshow map in overlay    |  VCA-FT-hostels-map  show map in new window 

Campsites

In Reutte I stayed at the Camping Reutte on the outskirts of the town. Further on there's a campsite a little way off the route beside the Heiterwangsee near, you guessed it, Heiterwang.

In Biberwier: I stayed at the Biberhof which is quite literally on the route itself. There's another site nearby (the Alpencamp Marienberg). I think Biberwier is a better option than Lermoos to break for the night. 

There are a couple of sites on the other side of the Fernpass: the Fernsteinsee which is right on the route as you descend from the pass, and the Camping Rossbach in nearby Nassereith.

In Imst I stayed at the aktivCamping Imst a nice site with a friendly, helpful owner. Also in Imst (and probably also a good bet) is the CampingPark Imst-West

  Campsites map:  VCA-FT-campsites-mapshow map in overlay    |  VCA-FT-campsites-map  show map in new window 

Transport and services

Bike shops on this section of the route

If you know of other bike shops, or you spot a mistake, please let me know.

Transport

There's a railway line between Landeck and Innsbruck with a station near Imst.

Resources

The Highline179

The Highline179. Photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Articles in this series

Get in touch

Please get in touch if you find any errors in the information, or if there’s anything, good or bad, that you’d want other cyclists to know.


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