Published on: 3 January 2017 | Last updated: 24 February 2020
At a glance
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.
Mainly traffic-free cycleways or quiet roads.
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
Signposting is excellent.
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.
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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|Füssen (border) to Reutte||12 kms|
|Reutte to Biberwier||25 kms|
|Biberwier to Imst||31 kms|
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
For more information see the Transport and services and Resources sections later on. Note: you need to book!
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.
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.
Places to stay
Hotels and B&Bs etc
Find and book places to stay with Booking.com
Booking.com pages for places on this section of the route:
About these links
If you use these links to book accommodation Booking.com will pay me a small part of their commission. This helps support the costs of producing this site.
I use Booking.com to find and book places to stay when there are no campsites in the area. The large majority of hotels and many hostels are now on ‘Booking’. I like it because it means that I can get almost-instant confirmation. The rating system is also a reliable guide to the quality of the accommodation.
I’ve never had a problem finding places to keep my bike —even if it’s a cupboard or store room. I always use the ‘special requests’ field on the booking form to tell the hotel that I’m travelling with a bike, which gives them the opportunity to let me know if there’s a problem.
Many properties offer free cancellation but it’s a good idea to check the conditions as these vary from property to property.
So far as I know, there are no hostels on this section of the route.
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.
Transport and services
There’s a railway line between Landeck and Innsbruck, with a station near Imst.
Shuttle over the Fernpass
There is a shuttle over the pass. Please download the pdf timetable leaflet (see Resources section below). According to the timetable leaflet, the bus runs from the MPreis supermarket in Biberwier and the Postplatz in Nassereith.
Booking your place on the shuttle
There is a booking system for all the shuttles, except for the bus to Nauders which is a regular public bus service. The pdf timetable leaflets give instructions on what you need to do: it’s pretty straightforward. The website says Bitte spätesten 24 Stunden vorher reservieren! (Please reserve at least 24 hours in advance!). The services are run by private companies, mostly local taxi firms, and if they have no bookings they probably aren’t going to keep the driver hanging around. If you leave it to chance, you may arrive and find that they have given the driver the day off, or found them something else to do.
Bike shops on this section of the route
If you know of other bike shops, or you spot a mistake, please let me know.
Tourist information websites
You can download the shuttle timetables as pdfs from this page on the viaclaudia.org website: viaclaudia.org: Shuttles über die Pässe. The page is in German, but you just need to look for the big PDF icon. The timetables are available individually or packaged together: Alle Pass-Shuttle inkl. Rückholbus.
The timetables are in German, English and Italian, and include the instructions for booking a place by text message.
Note: the pdfs available from the website are dated 2018.
Articles in this series
- The Via Claudia in Germany and Austria: Overview
- Via Claudia Part 1: Donauwörth to Landsberg Am Lech
- Via Claudia Part 2: Landsberg am Lech to Füssen
- Via Claudia Part 3: Füssen to Imst
- Via Claudia Part 4: Along the valley of the Inn
- The Via Claudia in Italy: Overview
- Via Claudia Part 5: The Vinschgau
- Via Claudia Part 6: Algund to Trento
- Via Claudia Part 7: Trento to the Lago di Caldonazzo
- Via Claudia 8: San Cristoforo al Lago to Feltre via the Valsugana
- Via Claudia Part 9: the Valsugana cycleway to Bassano del Grappa
- Via Claudia Part 10: San Cristoforo al Lago to Feltre via the Passo Croce d’Aune
- Via Claudia Part 11: Feltre to Treviso
- Via Claudia Part 12: Treviso to Altino (and Venezia)
- Via Claudia Part 13: Trento to Verona and Ostiglia