One of my favorite trails, the path past the Sonnstein peaks between Traunkirchen and Ebensee, offers a small dose of everything a fun romp into the mountains has to give, all in a compact tour that is not very difficult or dangerous:
You move out of (and back into) quaint towns, up into mountains, across meadow-like sections and through forest, past rock faces and over rocks.
One section adds a bit of “climbing” and the peaks, low as they are, offer nice views…
Oftentimes, with the Traunstein imposingly rising up from the Traunsee lake’s shore on the other side, the Feuerkogel (and with it, its plateau and the whole, if comparatively small, range of the Höllengebirge following it) close by, the Sonnsteine go overlooked.
The Kleiner Sonnstein (Small Sonnstein) is easy enough to spot and looks inviting enough for a view across the lake, but still pales in comparison to the Traunstein – but it offers even better views and experiences than one might expect.
The trail here is also much easier to reach, whether by car or public transport (train), with both offering parking spots/stops in pretty much perfect places close by, where the paths to and up the Traunstein require quite a bit longer an approach (even by car, but especially when coming by train).
The only issue with the trains is that they do not always stop at the closer of the stations in/for Traunkirchen, so that a bit of planning ahead is highly recommended. But then, that’s always a good thing to do, especially when going into mountains.
For a bit more flexibility with things to do and trains to catch, I would recommend starting out in Traunkirchen.
That way, it may take a bit longer to really start hiking up into mountains, because you first have to move along roads to get to the trail. But, that is nicer to count as warm-up than to have after the climbing.
And, all the trains stop at Ebensee Landungsplatz.
So, if you make this the station at the end, you won’t have any trains just pass by – and if you still have more time and energy, being in Ebensee would make it possible to extend the tour up the Feuerkogel.
Often enough, however, as happened to me the last times I went here, it becomes more attractive to start at Ebensee Landungsplatz and finish at one of the stops of Traunkirchen (if you do not want to walk for quite long at the beginning of the tour, along roads).
Then, of course, you have to see if you can get to one of those trains that stop at Traunkirchen Ort railway stop, or you will have to walk along roads much farther, to Traunkirchen Bahnhof, at the end of the tour…
Anyways, let’s not get hung up on train timetables, let’s get on the trail!
(Video recorded end of February 2017, by the way. Mentioning that because the 360 photos below are from February 2016.)
The Start (in Ebensee)
Starting in Ebensee, at Ebensee Landungsplatz (careful, that is not Ebensee Bahnhof railway station but one before that!), you head towards the church visible towards the nearby mountains.
On the way there, you should already notice one or the other of the yellow hiking trail markers that guide you toward the Bartlbergweg and the Grosser Sonnstein.
At the church comes a sharp turn onto a road going up past the elementary school, up a mountain, and soon leading to some houses where the turn onto the real trail comes.
And then you follow that…
The next noteworthy point, first, is the creek you come past while on the constant climb up; I’ve used that to fetch water (or cool down in summer, if it still has water then) often enough.
Later on, not surprisingly, the peak of the Grosser Sonnstein is a first high point.
(360 photo from February 2016, one year before the video.)
To cross over to the Kleiner Sonnstein, you actually need to trace your steps back a bit from the peak, and find where the trail diverges, over the edge.
(Actually, you could also go a bit farther down to find another trail leading to the Kleiner Sonnstein trail, passing this steep section by. I have just never taken it…)
And on you go to part 2 of the trail:
Between Grosser and Kleiner Sonnstein
After that climb down, where you really need to pay attention and also use your hands to stay safe, you cross a little “valley” which tends to be quite snow-filled for a long while during the cold part of the year, then has pretty lush vegetation when it’s warm.
At its end, you start on the part of the trail going along the bottom of a rock face, crossing along the slope for quite a while… until it suddenly tapers out, you cross with the slope and get a view back down to the lake again, and get to another trail section still along the rock face of a ridge, a bit below it.
There, though, you increasingly get to parts where you move down with the slope more, then get to a bit of an overgrown bit (again, especially when it’s warmer; in between it also gets rather muddy quite often).
“Down” in a saddle from that descent, you are at the turn down the trail or, first of all, up to the Kleiner Sonnstein.
This may be only the “Little” Sonnstein, but its peak is flatter and wider than that of the Grosser Sonnstein, as well as closer to the lake.
All of that makes for all the nicer a view – over to the Traunstein, north to Gmunden at the far end of the lake and deep into the lowlands of Upper Austria beyond, down to Traunkirchen, or back to Ebensee, the Feuerkogel, and the mountains and ranges that beckon to the South…
(360 photo from February 2016, one year before the video.)
Down the same way again, but this time taking the turn down the trail towards Traunkirchen, the trail becomes different again.
Kleiner Sonnstein to Traunkirchen
This way, the path becomes easier again, with rather more mud and just a wider path, but do not underestimate it here, either.
The rocks and roots and gravel and leaf litter can still cause falls. It is also rather a lot of fun to run, though…
This trail just winds down for quite a bit, crossing the Siegesbach creek very nicely at a spot with a bit of waterfalls (and near a wilder aspect of the creek, yet again a little later) before it again gets to houses and finally down to the road.
If you are moving by train, as I suggest, you’ll still have to cross the road and follow it for a bit into Traunkirchen, either to the train stop at Traunkirchen Ort or, if you planned a bit badly, on for quite a bit longer to the railway station of Traunkirchen Bahnhof.
The houses and the views over the lake are nice enough to distract a bit, but that does just become road running/hiking, if you have to go on, which isn’t quite as nice as the tour before.
So, plan well, and you’ll have all the better an experience. I highly recommend it.
If you want a guided tour, get in touch, maybe we can manage; if you’re just looking for the route on Suunto Movescount (or to download the GPX/KML from there, it’s here) ;)