Vienna Alps Hikes: Along the Cog Railway up the Schneeberg

The Schneeberg (“snow mountain”) often becomes visible on the horizon from where I live.

Across the Neusiedler See lake. On my train commute to Vienna.

It is the highest mountain of Lower Austria and the easternmost peak above 2000 m of the Alps – and thus, worth a visit.

The Train(s)

From Vienna’s main railway station, it’s 30 minutes to Wiener Neustadt, then nearly an hour on the small local train to Puchberg am Schneeberg.

Those not good on foot can get up the mountain taking the well-known cog railway.

Fast mountain runners have competed “man vs. machine” and tried to be faster than the famously slow (but not to be underestimated*) train.

If you are slower but good on foot, you can take the Cog-Railway-Trail (Zahnradbahn-Wanderweg) at your own speed, as I did.

The trail is a nice discovery tour, and good for fitness – and it could be connected with a bit of pleasure, too…

The Trail

First off, there is a tiny path right next to the tracks, then the path goes through a little village onto forest road hiking trails.

With very few interruptions, it is a constant uphill. Only sometimes do flat or downhill sections interrupt the slog up.

One regularly starts wondering if the tracks aren’t somewhere completely different by now, only to notice them just slightly further down the slope.

This way, the trail goes up, mainly through forest, past the Hengsthütte and, already quite a bit along, the Baumgartner train stop.

The Baumgartner Hütte (hut) here is famous for their “Schneebergbuchteln,” a pillowy yeast pastry. The calories from those would be good, but they might slow down the further ascent.

Having walked through that stop, the trail becomes considerably more alpine; it starts to become steeper and rocky.

A bit further up again, the trail crosses the rail tracks and climbs on truly rocky paths, first between trees, then above the tree line between dwarf conifers, rail tunnels upslope becoming visible.

There is still more climbing to do up to the Elisabethkirchlein and then finally, past it, to the Bergbahnhof Hochschneeberg (the “train station high snow mountain”), but it does not feel as bad as all the distance and elevation already walked before.

Located at 1800 m above sea level, this “railway station” is the highest in Austria.

From up here, the views into the east go far, to Vienna and across the Neusiedler See lake.

The view from the Schneeberg towards the east
The view from the Schneeberg towards the east

That change in perspective alone was a reason I wanted to finally climb this mountain. For once, I was not looking up and over to the mountain, but in reverse.

The Peak

Not high enough for you? If you want to get further up – or to continue on a different path – you can continue on to the real peak of the Schneeberg.

Past the Damböckhaus, the path continues on surprisingly flat ground to the trail that goes up to the actual peak, the Klosterwappen.

The 2076 m altitude are being put to rather curious use, though; the peak not only holds a cross, but also a signal relay station.

The view is still interesting, far as it goes all around.

On the one hand, again into the flat land around Vienna and the Neusiedler See, but also deeper into the Alps – and including in the direction of Kaiserbrunn, where I ran downhill.

It’s not only the physicality and the wide views that are interesting, it’s also the view at the immediate surroundings and back into history.

#LookCloser

The changes in vegetation around and surface underfoot which happen during the 15 km in distance and 1500 m of ascent are very noticeable.

It would be a good, comfortable place in which to make more pauses and actually use a guidebook to find out just what plants are around.

Certainly, it works well to see which plants one knows and how the mountain landscape changes with altitude.

Of course, the Schneeberg, as a mountain so close to Vienna, has its history, too.

Especially with a (metaphorical and literal) view to the cog railway. It will have been around for 125 years in 2022, during which time the Schneeberg has been a popular tourist destination.


*Even with the classical steam engine, the Schneebergbahn only takes 90 minutes for the 10 km distance of the track up. They may feel like walking speed, but require quite the good pace in running to beat. The steam train only operates sometimes, the now-regular diesel trains only need 40 minutes for the ascent!

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