Introduction

To the north of Semmering are two of Lower Austria’s highest peaks, Schneeberg (2076m) and the Raxalpe (2007m). The area is easily reached by train from Vienna, making it popular for hiking.

The trailhead for hiking or taking the cogwheel railway is Puchberg am Schneeberg, where the tourist office can tell you about hiking conditions on Schneeberg.

Several huts are situated on the mountain for sustenance, accommodation or shelter. Hengsthütte and Baumgartenhütte are situated along the railway line; Berghaus Hochschneeberg is at the mountain railway station and Damböckhaus is on the plateau.

In Puchberg itself, Gasthof Pension Schmirl has comfortable rooms on the edge of town near the railway. Some have balconies; in others you can psyche yourself for the stiff climb ahead with window views of Schneeberg.

On the southern side of Schneeberg is the scenic Höllental (Hell’s Valley), a deep, narrow gorge created by the Schwarza River. Rising to the south of Höllental is the Raxalpe, another place for walkers; from Hirschwang, a small village in Höllental, the Raxseilbahn cable car ascends to 1547m and hiking trails. The Raxseilbahn is the site of Austria’s first cable car, built in 1926.

In Höllental, the Hotel Marienhof, a grand old dame with a restaurant (mains €11 to €14), is not far from the Raxseilbahn. Cycle hire is available. Across the river and up into the foothills from here is the Hotel Looshaus, a late work of Viennese architect Alfred Loos, dating to 1930. It's been a hotel and run by the same family since 1959 who've miraculously kept much of its high-Modernist interior intact. Come and spend a night here with Viennese mini-breakers and architecture buffs from around the world.