The Isel trail

Leisurely hiking by the last still free-flowing glacial river in the Alps

A unique route through a magical water wonder world with an individual choice of sections – exploratory tours possible as from now!

 

From the sunny Dolomites town Lienz in the green valley basin to the Arctic glacial gateway at the Hohe Tauern National Park. From a carefully cultured landscape into a secluded alpine wilderness. Always accompanied by the refreshing element of water, past water meadows, gravel bars, gorges, rapids and waterfalls: the new Isel trail reveals the pulsating artery of life of Osttirol as a string of fabulous pristine natural beauty. And nature enthusiasts – even without alpine experience – a grandiose mountain world at your feet. Sometimes rushing gently past picturesque scenarios, sometimes dramatically raging with unbridled temperament, sometimes mysteriously spraying – the river has many faces. Whether you are a nature lover, a leisurely hiker, a wilderness fan or a heat refugee: follow your river.

 

Explorations of the new Isel trail are possible as from now using GPS coordinates.

A continuously waymarked hiking route with many new viewpoints towards magical places will be opened in spring 2020- The Isel trail primarily uses existing paths. All the building measures were undertaken with great care to preserve nature. With a total length of 74.19 kilometres and a total of 2169 altitude metres, the Isel trail is divided into 12 individually selectable sections. It can be followed in three ways:

  • Free shuttles to and from the individual sections with fixed accommodation
  • Hiking from section to section with various accommodation
  • Hiking with a tent – from campsite to campsite

Attractions along the Isel trail

The Isel offers a series of natural beauty spots.

The tamarisk island world between Lienz and Huben:

As a gently flowing lowland river, the Isel reveals idyllic islands, water meadow copses, gravel bars with a backdrop of impressive high mountains – and the tamarisks as a plant rarity. Resting places by beaches are included.

The Daberer waterfall near Schlaiten;

Cascades flow wildly romantically with a refreshing spray rain into a deeply cut gorge.

The cataracts of Feld:

Wide gravel areas alongside foaming rapids, with shimmering water washing around the rock – a first impression of the wild Isel

The Virgen cataract:

In a secluded gorge, lined by natural mountain forests, the Isel plummets downhill over stone steps metres high – access planned for 2020

The Isel gorge near Bobojach:

In the roughly incised canyon, the biggest gorge on the Isel trail, the water seethes, roars and rushes impressively at a swift tempo – a new walkway is planned.

The gravel beaches between Virgen and Prägraten:

Flat water zones alternate in natural shore areas with rocky embankments – there is a swimming area near Prägraten.

The Zopatnitzen waterfall near Prägraten:

In a side valley near Prägraten, the Zopatnitzen stream shoots through a steep forest gorge and shrouds the rocky bowl in water mist

The Glo gorge near Hinterbichl/Ströden:

The unbridled forces of nature rage in a vertical giant cliff fissure – impressions of the gorge and waters are afforded by a viewing pulpit. A viewing platform is planned from 2020.

The Strödener waterfall:

Mysterious, hidden cataract, visible in the distance from the bridge at Ströden.

The Untere Umbalfälle waterfalls:

The raging water wilderness with glittering water spray is the main attraction of the valley – the famous water features can be admired along the water viewing trail and some platforms jutting out boldly into the spray.

The Obere Umbalfälle waterfalls:

Huge water masses spray over alpine chasms – a unique natural spectacle – access via a staked path planned from 2020

The Isel source:

The Hohe Tauern National Park features enchanting alpine expanses and relaxed seclusion. It is crowned by the source of the Isel by the glacial gate of the Umbalkees glacier…

The stages of the Isel trail

Iseltrail

starting point:
Lienz
destination point:
Gletscherzunge am Umbalkees
highest point:
2500 m
total walking time
22 h
distance
74.2 km
🔋
altitude meters uphill
2169 hm
🞽
difficulty
average

Stages outline

The Isel trail is divided into sections of different lengths that each run between settlements with catering and accommodation possibilities. The Isel trail can therefore be pursued very flexibly – according to your mood, fitness level, need for recovery or enjoyment of striding ahead. In the following you can find a suggestion for 5 stages:

Iseltrail

starting point:
Lienz
destination point:
St. Johann im Walde
highest point:
752 m
total walking time
4:30 h
distance
15.727 km
🔋
altitude meters uphill
122 hm
🞽
difficulty
average

Iseltrail

starting point:
St. Johann im Walde
destination point:
Matrei in Osttirol
highest point:
968 m
total walking time
4 h
distance
14.241 km
🔋
altitude meters uphill
229 hm
🞽
difficulty
average

Iseltrail

starting point:
Matrei in Osttirol
destination point:
Prägraten am Großvenediger
highest point:
1267 m
total walking time
5 h
distance
15.378 km
🔋
altitude meters uphill
491 hm
🞽
difficulty
average

Iseltrail

starting point:
Prägraten am Großvenediger
destination point:
Clara Hütte
highest point:
2040 m
total walking time
4:30 h
distance
12.769 km
🔋
altitude meters uphill
852 hm
🞽
difficulty
average

Iseltrail

starting point:
Clara Hütte
destination point:
Gletscherzunge am Umbalkees
highest point:
2500 m
total walking time
5:30 h
distance
16.076 km
🔋
altitude meters uphill
475 hm
🞽
difficulty
average

Isel the natural wonder

Only few big rivers in the Alps can still flow freely today, unrestricted by dam walls. The Isel in Osttirol, alongside the Lech in North Tyrol and the Tagliamento in Friuli/Italy, is among these last major alpine wild rivers in Central Europe. Its water volume is not diverted anywhere for energy industry purposes or power plants. Along extensive stretches, the Isel therefore displays an unbridled and constantly changing riverbed with a special diversity of rare habitats and species, offering the unique nature experience.

youtube video

Pulsating artery of life

Contrary to the Lech and Tagliamento, the Isel is also a glacial river. It has its source at the Umbalkees glacier, high up in the wilderness of the Hohe Tauern National Park. From the glacier, it rushes as a pulsating artery of life of Osttirol down to its estuary into the Drau in Lienz. It thus links the expanse of alpine seclusion with the cultivated landscape in the valley basin.

 

Rare originality

With its tributaries, it forms a giant original waterway system. Its tributaries are also largely untouched, a guarantee for the purest water quality. A rarity in the landscape shaped intensely by people. The Isel is therefore the longest still free-flowing and therefore ecologically functional glacial river of the entire Alps.

 

Fluctuating water flow

Glacial rivers are different: their water flow fluctuates significantly depending on the time of day or the season, depending on the meltwater inflow from the glaciers in the catchment area. The water flow of glacial rivers in the summer months is determined by the glacial melt and displays a typical daily pattern: on a cool morning, a lot less water flows than in the evening, because the glacier melts less strongly. In the early afternoon, the incidence of sunshine on the glacier is the greatest, the ice melts away. In the case of the Isel, the meltwater reaches the valleys in the early evening and arrives during the night at the estuary of the Isel in Lienz.

 

Dynamic riverbed

In such as dynamic riverbed, floodwaters can flow around gravel masses and thereby create everchanging new islands, gravel bars and shore areas. This creates constantly new habitats that are then resettled. Specialists call this: pioneer sites. These are the condition for a series of rare flora and fauna, which have adapted to the constant change and need it for their continued existence.

 

The rare plant tamarisk

The German tamarisk (Myricaria germanica) is such a plant, the only one of its genre to exist in Central Europe. In the past, it was widespread by our rivers – every older botany book is witness to this. Today it is a rarity. As it needs a lot of light, but willow and alder trees easily overgrow it, it can only survive for the duration where new sand and gravel banks keep being created through the shifting activity of rivers.

 

Nature reserve as a flora-fauna habitat

The tamarisk is an unmistakable indication of the undisturbed dynamics and ecological functionality of a river. For these reasons, the Isel has been designated a nature reserve according to the Flora-Fauna-Habitat Directive of the EU. The tamarisks can be found especially in the lower Isel valley. Please appreciate the tamarisks from a respectful distance and do not step onto the gravel banks because of nesting birds!

The most important facts about the Isel

Source: Umbal glacier at altitude of 2600 m

Estuary: Drau in Lienz at altitude of 668 m

Altitude difference: 1932 metres

Total length: 57.26 km

Catchment area: 1200.36 km²

Proportion of natural/near-natural flow stretches: 100% 

 

Special fauna: sandpiper, grayling, grass frog, common toad, yellow-bellied toad, common otter, huchen

Special flora: German tamarisk

Important:

Take sun and rain protection, suitable mountain clothing (warm items) and sturdy footwear!

You may also be interested in

Debanttal
Schober trek

This alpine trek takes you to the most beautiful viewpoints of the Debant valley ...

Neue Reichenbergerhütte
Knappen trek
Newsletter

Subscribe to our newsletter and receive the best tips every month for current offers, mountain tours, events and much more.