The unique landscape of the Kalkalpen.
The Kalkalpen National Park protects Austria’s largest forest wilderness in the highly karstified Sengsen and rugged Reichraminger Hintergebirge mountains. Alongside hidden gorges and untouched mountain streams, the green splendour is allowed to be what it always used to be: a silent and yet multi-voiced miracle of nature, which provides a habitat for even the rarest of species.
With an area of 20,850 ha, the National Park in Upper Austria protects the largest continuous forest area in Austria.
8% mountain pines
6% alpine pastures and meadows
5% rock and rubble
The Kalkalpen National Park was founded in 1997 and was Austria’s first World Heritage Site, with the wilderness area of Dürrenstein.
The only lynx population in the Austrian Alps lives in the forests of the Limestone Alps.
The unique landscape of the Kalkalpen.
The green wilderness of the Limestone Alps has many faces: 32 types of forest dominate the natural environment. This includes highly endangered biotopes, such as willow, spruce-fir or grey alder swamp forests. However, the old beech forests, which form part of the UNESCO World Heritage site and occupy 5,250 hectares of the National Park territory, are highly unusual.
The forest wilderness with its stock of dead wood defines the character of the natural environment here, as do the distinct karst landscapes with caves, sinkholes, shafts, pipe systems and (giant karst) springs.
The abundance of water in the Reichraminger Hintergebirge mountains, the mountain pasture landscapes that are home to a variety of different species and the peaks of the Sengsengebirge mountains with magnificent views add to the diverse profile of the Limestone Alps.
The fauna of the Kalkalpen is extraordinarily diverse.
Forest wilderness, natural landscapes with streams, and caves create an ideal habitat for many rare species. In addition to red deer and chamois, forest birds, hundreds of butterfly species, amphibians and reptiles, numerous beetle rarities can also be spotted: the 22 primeval forest relict species detected so far (in particular sophisticated species inhabiting dead wood) include the Alpine longhorn beetle and the peltis.
Thanks to successful reintroduction efforts, the lynx also returned to the National Park area. There has been a “newcomer” in the last few years with the black stork and the survival of the Danube trout species was secured by preserving its habitat.
The shy lynx returned to the Kalkalpen, following a long absence, in the late 1990s. It was first spotted in the National Park territory by camera traps in 2000. Today at least six lynx (Skadi, Luzi, Aira, Lakota, Karo and Juri) have their territories in the forest wilderness of the protected area.
The white-backed woodpecker is the rarest species of woodpecker in Austria. Due to the fact that it depends on large deposits of dead wood, its habitat is limited to original beech and mixed beech forests. This bird, which is protected across Europe, has found an ideal habitat in the forest wilderness of the Kalkalpen National Park.
The cave ground beetle developed as a result of insulation through several ice ages. The endemic beetle, which lives in constant darkness and is six millimetres in size, doesn’t appear anywhere else in the world other than in the caves at the Kalkalpen National Park. The first time it was discovered in 1970 even brought the Rettenbach cave the status of a natural landmark.
The flora of the Kalkalpen is extremely rich in species.
The Kalkalpen Forest National Park is home to an extraordinary diversity of woody plants. A total of 32 out of 65 native tree species in Austria and over 50 different shrub species can be found in the protected area. With the oldest known beech in continental Europe, the Kalkalpen National Park even sets a plant record: it can be dated back to the year 1473.
Moreover, the National Park flora is enriched by 927 vascular plant species (= one third of species occurring in Austria). This includes 42 wild growing orchid species.
The beech is benefitting the most from the fact that the Limestone Alps have returned to being forest wilderness. The typical deciduous tree found in the rainy and snowy locations on the fringes of the Alps is reclaiming territory, which before it had to cede to the spruce for forestry reasons.
The Austrian spurge is an endemic species, found exclusively in the north-eastern Limestone Alps. The shrub which grows to a height of approx. 80 cm is called “Wolfsmilch” in German, which is literally translated to “wolf’s milk”. The plant gets this name from the white milky sap, which is discharged in case of injury and has a caustic effect. It serves as wound closure and repellent for the plant.
The forests of the Limestone Alps house one of three native wild lily species with the Turk’s cap lily. When in full bloom, the plant can grow up to one metre high and is clothed in bright purple flowers, which resemble the shape of a turban. This makes it one of the most eye-catching flowers in the whole of the forest wilderness.
Whether it be an idyllic hike, an authentic alpine pasture experience, a demanding mountainbike tour or ranger-led expedition: visiting Austria’s last forest wilderness is always an intensive experience.
The Great Canyon in the Reichraminger Hintergebirge mountain range has only come into being thanks to the persistence of water: its “canyon bends” were shaped by the Große Bach in the dolimite rock over thousands of years. Woodcutters bypassed the natural obstacle with a footbridge, parts of which are still preserved today. Secured with steel ropes and iron steps, the cattle track climb leads from the Schleier waterfall to the Annerlsteg bridge.
At the feet of the Hoher Nock lies the idyllic Feichtau mountain pasture, with its crystal-clear lakes. The mountain pasture that has been scuffed by cattle is surrounded by natural mountain forest and cannot be accessed by any access path. This means that the peace and tranquillity in the area are undisturbed. You can climb the ascent via the Bodinggraben and Blumaueralm pastures, among others. If you’re sure-footed and have good stamina, you can also climb the Hoher Nock (1,963 m) from there.
Surrounded by the peaks of Wasserklotz, Kampermauer, Hexenturm and Pyhrgas, the Hengstpass mountain pastures are situated in the south of the National Park. You can clearly see the transition from mountains to cultivated landscape here, resulting in rich biodiversity. Rare orchids can also be often found here, as well as falcons, butterflies, wild bees and beetles. Stations that are specifically designed for visitors to come into contact with nature as well as the Pugl and Laussabauer mountain pasture are easily accessible via the circular hiking trail “from mountain pasture to mountain pasture”, which is particular popular with families.
Learning to understand the voice of the forest wilderness better: you can get to know the voice of the forest through the varied range of information and visitor activities at the Kalkalpen National Park.
The Molln National Park Centre is the first point of contact for nature enthusiasts in the Steyr valley. In addition to providing advice on walking and cycling tours, the service point also offers guests the opportunity to book National Park excursions. The “Bergwald und Wasserschloss” exhibition also provides visitors to the centre the opportunity to learn about the rich biodiversity of the National Park forests. The affiliated National Park shop supplies hiking maps, field guides and special souvenirs.
Molln National Park Centre
Nationalpark Allee 1, 4591 Molln
Tel.: + 43 (75 84) 36 51
The Ennstal visitor centre lies on the Enns River between Reichraming and Grossraming. Its “Wunderwelt Waldwildnis” exhibition provides insights into the flora and fauna and describes how it was transformed from a commercial to a primeval forest. The centre is pleased to own it’s own cinema, where visitors can lose themselves in the secluded gorges of the Hintergebirge and learn alongside the black stork and lynx. A forest workshop, information point and a visit to the National Park shop are just some of the great ways you can enhance your trip.
Ennstal National Park Visitor Centre
Eisenstraße 75, 4462 Reichraming
Tel.: +43 (7254) 84 14 - 0
The National Park Panorama Tower at Wurbauerkogel promises to provide the best views over the Tote Gebirge mountain range, the Haller Mauern mountains and the Sengsengebirge. Through its “Faszination Fels” exhibition and National Park cinema, it also brings fauna and flora over the boundary of the forest and closer to the visitors. A restaurant, a National Park shop and action-packed outdoor experiences make any visit here a perfect family experience.
National Park Panorama Tower Wurbauerkogel
Wurbauerkogel 29, 4581 Rosenau/Hengstpass
Tel.: +43 (7562) 200 46