About Krimml Waterfalls
The Krimml Waterfalls were probably Austria’s most impressive waterfalls. Thundering forcefully over four major drops on the Krimmler Ache for a grand total of 381m in cumulative height, it also happened to be one of the tallest year-round waterfalls throughout Europe as well as reportedly Austria’s tallest.
Of all the waterfalls we had visited in Austria, this one by far had that touristy feel to it, which attested to its worldwide popularity as it typically would get over 400,000 tourists every year. Indeed, there was no shortage of gift shops, restaurants, tour buses, food stalls, and just about any other amenity you can imagine for a dedicated waterfall attraction.
Multiple car parks were set up (see directions below) to accommodate such a volume of visitors. This included a P4 lot that was free for visitors to the Wasserwelten Krimml (Krimml Water World) exhibit, which was good for our daughter when she had enough of seeing the actual Krimml Waterfalls themselves.
So it would be a pipe dream to have this waterfall to yourself. In fact, I noticed some pricey taxis and shuttles that appeared to cut out a large amount of the work of the long uphill hiking. And throughout the hike, there were always dozens of people around no matter how far up the waterfalls from the parking lot I went.
That said, to really get the most out of a visit to the Krimml Waterfalls, I did the trail that went all the way to its top while stopping for every named viewpoint along the way. Doing this took me about four hours round trip, which was a lot of time for a singular waterfall excursion considering you could conceivably spend maybe as little as 30 minutes here (and check out just the lowermost viewing spots).
Julie and Tahia made a shorter visit to the Krimml Waterfalls while spending more time at the Wasserwelten than I did. So that gives you an idea of the range of peoples’ fitness, level of interest, and time constraints that could be accommodated here. Indeed, you can spend as little time as you want, or as much time as you want.
In any case, the following was how my experience went (and what you can expect to see upon your visit).
From the car park, we walked over to the Wasserwelt Ticket Office since we bought a family pass that included the museum as well as the parking at the P4 lot (the closest lot to the walkway leading to the waterfalls). Further down the main walkway leading to the Krimml Waterfalls, there was a more mainstream point-of-entry ticket booth for admission to only the waterfalls.
We paid 20.30 euros for the whole experience (including parking, museum, and waterfalls). Peak season (April through October) prices as of 2018 for just the trail was 4 euros per adult, 1 euro per child (6-15 years old), and about 4-5 euros for parking. So we probably paid around 7 euros more for our visit to the Wasserwelt Krimml when you consider everything.
We then walked beneath the road bridge and along a paved path that went gently downhill pass some trinket shops, food stalls, and cafes before reaching the ticket booth area. After showing our tickets, we were let through, and then we could finally start the Krimml Waterfalls experience.
First, we encountered a fork, and we kept left to walk along a roughly 400m paved path down to the very bottom of the lowest drop of the Krimml Waterfalls. Whilst down there, we went through a plaza called the Kürsingerplatz named after a nurse from Mittersill who built the first trail taking in the waterfalls here in 1835.
The mist was intense as we faced the lowermost drop. The lighting was terrible in the mid-morning as we were looking completely against the sun. That said, we found a path that went a few paces further downstream, which allowed us to get a less misty and less washed out view of that first drop.
Backtracking to the main path, after passing by an area with lots of interpretive signs and abstract art as well as a lookout with an ibex, this was where I started on the long climb to each of the remaining lookouts. The path pretty much involved zig-zagging up numerous (mostly) paved switchbacks for the entire climb with a few breaks in between.
The first couple of lookouts (named after people who played key roles in realizing the walking path such as the Riemann Kanzel, the Regen Kanzel, the Sendtner Kanzel, and the Jung Kanzel) offered profile and top down views of the first or lowermost drop of the Krimml Waterfalls. From such vantage points, I was able to take advantage of the backlighting from the morning sun to see bold double rainbows refracting in the thick mist from the gushing waterfall.
The next lookout was the Jaga Sprung, which started to reveal the second main drop of the Krimml Waterfalls. Shortly after that, I was able to get a good look at the second and the third drop of the Krimml Waterfalls at the Bergersteig.
The trail then climbed above the third waterfall as it mades its way up to the Gasthaus Schönangerl, which was a cantina right above the brink of the third waterfall. According to the signage back at the start of the climb, it would have taken me 40 minutes to get to this point without stops. Of course, I made plenty of stops so I probably ended up taking twice that amount of time.
Amazingly, I noticed a road that went up here, and I’d imagine that was how the shuttles and taxis would make it up here. However, it didn’t seem like a very popular option given how infrequently I saw the vehicles pass by during my hike. Thus, I’d imagine it was too expensive for most visitors, which might explain the relative lack of shuttle vehicles encountered.
Beyond the Schönangerl, the trail followed further along the Krimmler Ache with the tallest and uppermost of the Krimml Waterfalls in sight. Eventually after getting close to the base of that waterfall at the Staubige Reib, the trail climbed more steeply up even more switchbacks. If the climb to get up to this point was tiring, then this remaining climb could be exhausting.
Yet, the higher I went, the less vegetated and more rockier the surroundings were. Indeed, I realized that I was probably in a different climate zone at this elevation, which was on the order of 1400m above sea level (the Kürsingerplatz was about 1070m above sea level). At the Bergerblick, I was able to get perhaps the cleanest and most satisfying look at the uppermost of the Krimml Waterfalls.
Eventually after over 2 hours from the start, I finally made it up to the Schettkanzel lookout, which was right at the brink of the last of the main Krimml Waterfalls just beyond one of those ubiquitous Jesus Crucifixes attached to a tree. Albert Schett was the director of construction of the waterfall trail in 1879. Even though the trail continued further upstream towards the Schettbrücke and beyond, this was my turnaround point.
By the time I finished the steep all-downhill hike back to the beginning to rejoin Julie and Tahia at the Wasserwelten Krimml, I wound up spending about four hours on the excursion. I’d say this was probably on the high end of the time spent on hiking here, especially since I didn’t stop at any of the cantinas to sit down, have a drink, and/or eat a lunch along the way.
Finally, when all was said and done regarding the hiking to fully experience the Krimml Waterfalls, we added to the overall experience by driving further up the road to additional lookouts revealing more contextual views of the waterfalls. I’ll get to those in more detail in the driving directions section.
The bottom line is that the first pair of stops revealed partial views of the lower three drops of the Krimml Waterfalls. However, further up the road still was the Wasserfälleblick (Waterfalls View) with the full contextual look at all the four drops of the Krimml Waterfalls with the context of the surrounding mountains supporting a hanging valley from which the waterfalls made their dramatic 381m cumulative drop.
As far as how the waterfalls’ names, you may have noticed that we’ve stuck with the plural form calling it the Krimml Waterfalls. However, I’ve also seen it spelled Krimmler Waterfalls, and Krimmler Wasserfälle in German.
We managed to drive to the Krimml Waterfalls from Zell am See, so that’s how I’ll do the driving descriptions in this section. There are many ways to arrive at the waterfalls, and it’s pretty straightforward to do a city-to-city route on an app like Google Maps to get from your nearest city to the town of Krimml, if you find my driving directions are not helpful for your situation.
From Zell am See, we headed south into the B311 tunnel, and when we emerged, we then kept right to head west on the B168 Road towards Mittersill. We wound up continuing on the B168 for about 46km towards the town of Wald im Pinzgau. At that point, we followed the signs, left the B168, and then followed the L113 through Lahn and towards Krimml. This final stretch was about 6km to the P4 car park.
The town of Krimml and the more general-purpose P1-P3 car parks were before the P4 lot.
In any case, this drive took us about an hour.
After visiting the Krimml Waterfalls, we actually kept heading west from the P4 car park on the Gerlos Straße. Within one kilometer (shortly after leaving a tunnel), there was a viewpoint that yielded a decent partial view of the Krimml Waterfalls’ middle and lower sections.
A little further up the road finishing the bend, there was another viewpoint but it was not as good as the first one despite its higher vantage point.
However, about 4.5km beyond the first viewpoint was the panoramic viewpoint signed the Wasserfälleblick (Waterfalls View). This was our turnaround point, but it was worth noting that had we kept driving uphill past this panoramic lookout for another 1.5km, we would have encountered the Gerlos Toll Station.
Lastly, I do have to mention that if you happen to be heading to the Krimml Waterfalls from the west (from say Zell am Ziller) via the shortest route using the Gerlos Straße, then you would have to pay the toll in order to descend to the Krimml Waterfalls.
I haven’t corroborated this, but it was said that this toll would also allow you to park for free since that fee was included in the toll. From my understanding, the reverse isn’t true (i.e. if you already paid for parking, the full toll would still be required).
Since we didn’t have to pay a toll when we came to the Krimml Waterfalls from the east, I suppose it’s possible to defeat this toll if you’re coming in from the west by not taking the Gerlos Straße to Krimml, and instead continue on the B165 towards Wald im Pinzgau before heading back down to the Krimml town and the Krimmler Achental.
If you do the drive from Zell am Ziller to the Krimml Achental in this manner, then the drive would take close to an hour (42km) instead of around 45 minutes (37km).
For geographical context, Krimml was 54km (under an hour drive) west of Zell am See, 42km (under an hour drive) east of Zell am Ziller via the avoidance of the toll on Geirlosstrasse, 91km (roughly under 1.5 hours drive) northwest of Lienz , and 97km (90 minutes drive) east of Innsbruck.