The Carnic High Trail is one of most well-known long-distance hiking trails in the Alps. It takes you from Sillian on the western edge to Thoerl-Maglern in the very east in 8 stages. As you go, you'll encounter everything Alpine, from idyllic alpine pastures and dense Swiss stone pine forests to barren mountain meadows, rubble dumps, rocky mountain paths and adventurous peaks. What's more, as the hiking trail runs along the main ridge, you can expect fantastic views of some of the range's most powerful peaks, including the Sesto Dolomites, the Julian Alps, the Hohe Tauern and the Gailtaler Alps.
In a total of eight days, the Carnic High Trail will take you around 93 miles (150 kilometers) through the mountains, forcing you to contend with a total of around 25,000 feet (7,600 meters) of elevation gain. Fortunately, however, the altitude difference is evenly distributed over the eight stages with countless smaller summit ascents making up much of the altitude gain. In fact, there aren't any long, grueling ascents to contend with here.
On your hike, you'll cross the border between Italy and Austria over and over again. And while today, it's a matter of going where the trail takes you, this wasn't always possible. During the First World War, the Carnic Main Ridge was a fiercely contested border area, with soldiers' cemeteries, bunkers and fortified positions still being visible along the trail today. To keep these moments in mind so that this never happens again, you'll find numerous information boards along the edge of the trail. These give you an insight into what happened, why, and what it was like for the young soldiers caught up in the violence back then.
At each stage destination, you will find cozy Alpine huts and guest houses where you can recover from your hike. As you'll only pass a couple of huts as you hike the trail day to day, however, you'll need to take this time to stock up on supplies for the road ahead. The best thing to do is to discuss with the hut owners whether they can pack you a packed lunch.
If you'd rather shorten the walk, the Carnic High Trail can easily be divided into two sections. The first section from the Leckfeldalm to the Plöckenpass impresses with its barren high mountain landscape and is by far the most popular part of the long-distance hiking trail. From the Plöckenpass, the route is less dramatic — although no less beautiful — leading you through Alpine meadows and quiet mountain forests. The Plöckenpass is halfway along stage five and can be easily reached by bus from Kötschach railway station. That way, you can choose for yourself whether you want to hike the full trek — or stick to a section of it.
To get to the starting point in Leckfeldalm, take a taxi or walk from Sillian. Sillian is located on the railway line between Bolzano and Lienz and can be easily reached by train. Thoerl-Maglern, the destination of the Carnic High Trail, also has a train station to get you back home again.
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The sixth stage takes you through the picturesque mountain meadows that characterize the landscape of the eastern Carnic main ridge. Although you do not expect steep climbs and descents, you'll find yourself climbing a few meters on the long stretch of almost 24 kilometers. Just plan enough breaks on the hike to get in with enough energy reserves at the finish.
The eighth and last stage of the Karnischer Höhenweg has it all right again. Most of the time you walk on good and comfortable paths over the broad mountain ridge and through quiet mountain forests, but the long descent from the Göriacher Alm to the stage goal Thoerl Maglern can ever provide for trembling knees. Take a break here and enjoy the fantastic view of the Klagenfurt basin.