Umbal Waterfalls

Hinterbichl / Virgental / Matrei in Osttirol, Tyrol (Tirol), Austria

About Umbal Waterfalls


Hiking Distance: about 5km round trip
Suggested Time: about 2 hours

Date first visited: 2018-07-16
Date last visited: 2018-07-16

Waterfall Latitude: 47.00965
Waterfall Longitude: 12.31223

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The Umbal Waterfalls experience was actually a three-for-one kind of deal for us. While the main waterfall carrying the name Umbalfälle on the Umbalbach (which was also the headwaters of the Isel River) was a series of powerful cascades tumbling in nearly stair-stepping fashion, there were also two additional side waterfalls each of which could have been major waterfalls in their own right thereby adding to the overall experience.

The power from the Isel River (or still the Umbalbach until its volume increases by other tributaries further downstream) was the result of the Umbalkees Glacier melting. We showed up in the mid-Summer so the power of the river was in full effect.

Umbal_Waterfalls_160_07162018 - This was the namesake Umbalfälle tumbling powerfully on the Isel River or Umbalbach
This was the namesake Umbalfälle tumbling powerfully on the Isel River or Umbalbach

The other two side waterfalls were the Kleinbachfall (or Small Creek Falls) and Großbachfall (or Big Creek Falls). The Kleinbachfall was actually the big waterfall we saw from the Ströden car park (see directions below). It kind of threw us off guard because we thought it was supposed to be THE Umbal Waterfall that was featured on this hike (see the photo at the top of this page).

Meanwhile, the Großbachfall was a disjointed waterfall tumbling in multiple steps down towards a footbridge just before the trail reached the main namesake waterfalls on the Umbalbach/Isel River. Even though it had the “big” in its name, I thought the “small” one was prettier. Nonetheless, if you take all the waterfalls together, it was the kind of experience where you can see waterfalls in your sleep, and thus we gave this excursion the higher scenic rating as a result.

Speaking of the excursion, the literature tends to refer to it as being the “first European Water Trail”. While I’m not exactly sure what this means, apparently in the 1920s, members of the Vienna Boys Choir would come here in the Summer to enjoy the fresh air. Perhaps the resulting word-of-mouth led to tourism in the area, and maybe that’s why the association with being Europe’s First Water Trail had resulted (though plenty of other waterfall trails in Austria were in existence before this time).

From the car park, we hiked along a farm track leading past a couple of bear statues and towards the signed “Wasserschaupfad Umbalfälle”, which began right by a giant boulder towards the head of the Virgental Valley (the very valley we drove through to get to the car park). A sign here indicated that we were entering the Umbaltal, which was part of the Nationalpark Hohe Tauern.

Umbal_Waterfalls_148_07162018 - This was the Grossbachfall, which was one of the side waterfalls in the Umbaltal Valley
This was the Grossbachfall, which was one of the side waterfalls in the Umbaltal Valley

Then, we followed a different track going towards the waterfall we saw from the car park. After cutting across the wide and open valley of the Virgental, the path then ascended in the shade of the narrowing canyon of the Umbaltal. Along this stretch of the trail, we followed the course of the Umbalbach or Isel River for about the next 1.6km or so.

Towards the end of this initial stretch, we started to see the Kleinbachfall, which slowly revealed more of itself the further we went. Ultimately, it got to a point where the whole waterfall could be seen, and by that time (roughly a half-hour from the start of the hike), the trail veered away from the falls and ultimately reached a couple of cantinas or cafes called the Pebell Alm and the Islitzer Alm.

Beyond the alms, the trail crossed a bridge over the Umbalbach and started to reveal the main waterfalls on the rushing creek. On the other side of the bridge, the path then went right (I didn’t take the path on the left) as I continued towards the main waterfalls. At this point, the trail started to climb once again.

After another 200m, the path then reached the first lookout for the main Umbal Waterfalls. Now, the trail narrowed even more as it still climbed alongside the contours of the Umbalbach.

Umbal_Waterfalls_209_07162018 - Context of the Kleinbachfall with the Isel River or Umbalbach flowing before it
Context of the Kleinbachfall with the Isel River or Umbalbach flowing before it

In another 100m, the trail reached a footbridge crossing over the Grossbach (Großbach). Looking upstream from the bridge, I saw the disjointed waterfalls of the Großbachfall, where if I was able to spot some surprising tiers way up on the cliffs suggesting that this was indeed a pretty big waterfall.

Then, in the next 100m or so, the trail climbed up to a series of protruding metal overlooks almost edging out over the Umbal Waterfalls. This was about as close as I was going to get to these powerful waterfalls, and I really had to make sure nothing would get dropped since the footing at the lookouts were metal grates.

Since I was near the top of this series of waterfalls, I turned around at the second overlook to rejoin Julie and Tahia back at the alms. However, in hindsight, from studying the maps once more, I could have continued on this trail for another 30-60 minutes or so (not really sure) until I would have reached the Upper Umbal Waterfalls and maybe another bonus waterfall (thereby making this more than a three-for-one waterfalling excursion).

When all was said and done, we returned to the car park after about 3 hours away from the car. Since we had lunch at the Islitzer Alm, I’m guessing that the total hiking time was on the order of about two hours or more less.

Umbal_Waterfalls_006_07152018 - Looking across the head of the Virgental Valley and into the narrower Umbaltal Valley, which was where we were about to hike
Umbal_Waterfalls_011_07152018 - As we got closer to the trail leading into the Umbaltal Valley, it looked like some surprise cascade was revealed on the Isel River or Umbalbach
Umbal_Waterfalls_013_07152018 - A pair of bear statues seen on the way to the Umbaltal Valley Trail
Umbal_Waterfalls_018_07152018 - This creek came from a different valley than the Umbaltal, which I think belonged to the meltwaters of a glacier further up.  I was able to glimpse the glacier from the second car park in Ströden
Umbal_Waterfalls_304_07162018 - This was that glacier that I saw from the second car park in Ströden
Umbal_Waterfalls_024_07152018 - Approaching a huge boulder next to the branch where the trail on the left leads towards the Umbaltal Valley
Umbal_Waterfalls_030_07152018 - Now on the farm track approaching the Umbaltal Valley from the Virgental Valley
Umbal_Waterfalls_039_07152018 - Now looking towards the Virgental Valley and the small village of Ströden
Umbal_Waterfalls_042_07152018 - Hiking on a gentle uphill slope as we were within the Umbaltal Valley
Umbal_Waterfalls_050_07162018 - As we were following the trail in the Umbaltal Valley, there were some surprise cascades that would roar beneath us
Umbal_Waterfalls_053_07162018 - An Austrian couple checking out the view down into the Isel River or Umbalbach from a protruding platform
Umbal_Waterfalls_058_07162018 - The morning shade was very welcome as the Umbaltal Trail kept doing its gentle climb
Umbal_Waterfalls_061_07162018 - This trail that started across the footbridge over the Isel River or Umbalbach was closed so there was only one way left to go
Umbal_Waterfalls_064_07162018 - As we continued on the Umbaltal Trail, we were catching glimpses of attractive peaks in the distance
Umbal_Waterfalls_073_07162018 - Finally, we started to get far enough where the Kleinbachfall was starting to make a reappearance
Umbal_Waterfalls_077_07162018 - Context of the Kleinbachfall and the Untertal Trail
Umbal_Waterfalls_091_07162018 - The Kleinbachfall was revealing more of itself the further we continued along the Untertal Trail
Umbal_Waterfalls_094_07162018 - Context of the Kleinbachfall and the continuation of the Umbaltal Trail as it started to reach the alms
Umbal_Waterfalls_104_07162018 - Looking towards the Islitzer Alm as the Umbalfälle was tumbling behind it
Umbal_Waterfalls_112_07162018 - Beyond the alms and the footbridge, I then had to continue past this fence and onto the trail to get closer to the Umbalfälle
Umbal_Waterfalls_115_07162018 - After a short climb, I reached this signed overlook area with my first closer look at the Umbal Waterfalls
Umbal_Waterfalls_124_07162018 - Angled view of the lower sections of the Umbal Waterfalls
Umbal_Waterfalls_139_07162018 - Context of the trail and the Umbal Waterfalls
Umbal_Waterfalls_145_07162018 - Looking up at the Grossbachfall from the footbridge traversing the Grossbach
Umbal_Waterfalls_150_07162018 - Depending on the angle of the view, the Grossbachfall seemed to reveal more hidden tiers further up the cliffs
Umbal_Waterfalls_151_07162018 - The trail continuing to climb as it was now starting to follow the slope of the Umbal Waterfalls
Umbal_Waterfalls_153_07162018 - A spur junction with the path on the right leading down to one of the overlooks of the Umbal Waterfalls
Umbal_Waterfalls_155_07162018 - The first of the overlooks right above the Umbal Waterfalls
Umbal_Waterfalls_172_07162018 - This was the view of the Umbal Waterfalls from that first overlook
Umbal_Waterfalls_187_07162018 - This was the view of the Umbal Waterfalls from the second overlook
Umbal_Waterfalls_199_07162018 - After deciding to turn around, this was the view of the Untertal Valley as I was descending towards the alms
Umbal_Waterfalls_107_07162018 - Back at the Islitzer Alm where we were going to have a lunch before heading back
Umbal_Waterfalls_228_07162018 - After having our lunch, it was time to head back to the car park and finish the Umbal Waterfalls excursion
Umbal_Waterfalls_236_07162018 - If we really wanted to reduce the amount of hiking, it might be worth doing one of these horse-drawn carriages.  Perhaps that would have allowed me to go even higher up to the Upper Umbal Waterfalls, which I didn't have time to do on this day
Umbal_Waterfalls_246_07162018 - Almost back at the Virgental Valley as I could see some of the mountains I recognized from the car park
Umbal_Waterfalls_268_07162018 - Looking back across the Virgental Valley towards the Ströden village and car parks

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The Umbal Waterfalls sat in the Umbaltal Valley, which was a side valley at the very head of the Virgental Valley. This valley was accessed from the B108 Road south of the Felbertauerntunnel toll station and north of the city of Lienz.

Umbal_Waterfalls_255_07162018 - In the distance in this photo was the first car park at Ströden
In the distance in this photo was the first car park at Ströden

I’ll describe the driving directions from Zell am See as well as from Lienz. Any other starting location can be routed by apps like Google Maps using Ströden (or just Stroden since GM seems to understand some keyboards don’t have umlauts) as one of the destinations.

From Zell am See, we headed south into the B311 tunnel. As we emerged from the southern exit of that tunnel, we then kept right and headed west on the B311 towards Mittersill for about 24km. Then, at the roundabout, we took the third exit to go south on the Felbertauernstraße (B108).

We then drove south on the B108 for about 37km before taking the exit towards Tauerntalstraße in the town of Matrei in Osttirol. At that point, we then followed the Tauerntalstraße west through town, which then became the L24 along the Virgener Straße. We took this road all the way to its end in 17km at the car park in the village of Ströden.

Umbal_Waterfalls_001_07152018 - This was the view from the first of two car parks in Ströden, which revealed the attractive Kleinbachfall
This was the view from the first of two car parks in Ströden, which revealed the attractive Kleinbachfall

When we made our visit in the Summer of 2018, there was a person there collecting 6 euros for us to use one of two car parks.

Overall, this drive took us about 90 minutes.

From Lienz, we’d head north on the B108 Road for 28km to the exit on the right at Matrei in Osttirol. This off-ramp would take us onto the Tauerntalstraße, where we’d head west and follow the directions as stated above to drive all the way to the end of the road at Ströden.

Overall, this drive would take about 45-60 minutes.

For context, Lienz was about 66km (under an hour drive) south of Mittersill, about 92km (over an hour drive) north of Zell am See, 75km (an hour drive) west of Millstatt, and 74km (over an hour drive) east from Brunico (Bruneck), Italy.

Short video showing what turned out to be a side waterfall in the Umbalfalle hike as seen from the first car park


Checking out the Kleinbachfall from a few different (albeit similar) positions


Semi-circular sweep of the Umbalfalle from the first official lookout


Short semi-circular sweep of the Umbalfalle from the second official lookout

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Tagged with: umbaltal, hinterbichl, matrei in osttirol, austria, waterfall, tyrol, virgental, european water trail, pebell alm, islitzer alm, stroden



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