About Finsterbach Waterfalls
The Finsterbach Waterfalls were a series of three waterfalls with heights of 23m, 21m, and 34m, respectively. To my knowledge, the first waterfall was called the namesake Finsterbachfall, the second waterfall was called Kesselfall (Cauldron Falls?), and the uppermost one was called the Schleierfall (Bridal Veil Falls?), which was by far the most impressive of the lot.
With teasing glimpses of the Lake Ossiachersee, this was kind of my waterfalling excuse to check out the partially geothermally heated lakes of the Austrian province of Carinthia, which by the way was a part of the country that I don’t think many foreign tourists have put on their itineraries.
Even though the foreign tourism route hadn’t really touched Carinthia en masse, these waterfalls were by no means unpopular. In fact, it was quite the contrary as I encountered numerous Austrian visitors during my later afternoon visit. This might have been aided by extensive trail renovation in 2015-2016 to make this trail more accessible to families, and there was certainly no shortage of the amount of families I had witnessed during my excursion to these waterfalls.
I began my hike after finding makeshift street parking on the main drag through the small town of Sattendorf (see directions below). I’m actually not quite sure if we were allowed to park there or not. In any case, right off the bat, I was treated to partial views towards the impressive Ossiachersee before I backtracked towards the signed Wasserfallweg leading uphill just to the left of the Finsterbach Creek.
This initial part of the trail was pretty much along a residential road flanked by homes sprinkled with a couple of guesthouses. The path then veered to the right as it went around some of the charming buildings here before continuing further uphill. Barely ten minutes into the hike, I encountered the first of the Finsterbach Waterfalls, which featured a heart-shaped frame for taking photographs as well as a short spur trail to get a closer look from its base.
Next, the trail then climbed more steeply as it made its way further up and above the first Finsterbach Waterfall. Eventually, there was another trail junction, where I kept straight to check out another spur trail leading to the second Finsterbach Waterfall (or Kesselfall). It took me about 15 minutes to get from the first waterfall to the second one.
The second waterfall had a small dam infrastructure, which was said to be the electricity plant at Schutzenhof. It was said to still run off the original turbine since 1920, and it was instrumental in supplying the town of Sattendorf power exclusively up until the 1950s.
There were also some concrete barricades to discourage scrambling right up to the base. Looking back downstream, I was able to get some pretty nice partial views towards Sattendorf and the Ossiachersee behind it.
Continuing on the waterfall trail, the trail became increasingly steeper and rockier the further I went. The stretch between the second and third waterfall was also the longest section without coming into contact with the Finsterbach so I’d imagine that this was the most difficult part of the hike.
Ultimately after getting through the steepest part of the climb, the trail climbed a bit more gradually as it undulated alongside the Finsterbach before entering a gorge. When I got to the first bridge cutting across the Finsterbach within this gorge, I noticed what appeared to be a sealed mine entrance or cave. Apparently, the rock supporting this gorge and ultimately the third waterfall was composed of marble.
Beyond the bridge, the trail continued to climb steeply up stone steps, then across another bridge, before making the final approach to the third Finsterbach Waterfall – Schleierfall. The trail dead-ended at this point with fencing to discourage any further scrambling to get closer as the giant boulders at the bottom attested to past rockfalls.
After having my fill, I returned back the way I came, and when I got back to the parked car, I wound up spending about 75 minutes away from the car. The return hike went way faster since it was pretty much all downhill.
Finally, I should mention that I’ve seen these waterfalls referenced collectively in other ways like the Finsterbacher Waterfalls, Finsterbach Wasserfälle, Finsterbacher Wasserfall, and Finsterbachfälle (literally Finsterbach Falls in German).
Although the closest big city to the Finsterbach Waterfalls was Villach, I’ll describe the driving directions from Klagenfurt am Wörthersee as well as Millstatt since those were the ways we did this drive. Driving from city to city beginning from other starting locations can be looked up in apps like GoogleMaps.
From Klagenfurt, we’d drive west on the A2 autobahn and then take the A10 autobahn north towards Spittau an der Drau (roughly 26km west of the A2/A37 junction just west of Klagenfurt). After about 4km on the A10, we then took the exit 179 and turned right onto the B94 towards Sattendorf. We then drove east on the B94 for roughly 3km or so before turning left onto Dorfstraße.
We then followed this street for about 400m, where we managed to find street parking just past the bridge over the Finsterbach Creek. Just before the bridge, the signed Wasserfallweg was not a public road for driving, which was what necessitated us trying to find street parking.
In all honesty, I’m not sure if it was ok to park on Dorfstraße, but the rest of the established spots further west in town were all taken during our visit. It’s conceivable that there could be other car parks closer to the lakeshore along the B94 since I saw walking paths from down there to the Dorfstraße along the Wasserfallweg as well Finsterbachweg, but I’m not sure about that.
Anyways, this drive would take us about a little over a half-hour.
Coming from Millstatt, we had a choice of going west on the B98 towards Seebach, then catch the A10 east, or we could have also taken the B98 east directly towards the B94 near Sattendorf. Either way, the drive would take somewhere between 30-60 minutes.
For geographical context, Klagenfurt was 40km (about 30 minutes drive) east of Villach, 85km (about an hour drive) east of Millstatt, 135km (90 minutes drive) southwest of Graz, 140km (2 hours drive) south of Admont , and 85km (1.5 hours drive) north of Ljubljana, Slovenia.
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