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: 12.30012

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The Umbal Waterfalls experience was actually a three-for-one kind of deal for us.

The main waterfall carried the name Umbalfälle since it flowed on the Umbalbach, which was also the headwaters of the Isel River.

Umbal_Waterfalls_004_07152018 - Looking towards the scenic Kleinbachfall in the Umbaltal Valley
Looking towards the scenic Kleinbachfall in the Umbaltal Valley

This waterfall 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.

This was just before the trail reached the main namesake waterfalls on the Umbalbach/Isel River.

Umbal_Waterfalls_148_07162018 - Looking up at the Grossbachfall
Looking up at the Grossbachfall

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.

Therefore, we gave this excursion the higher scenic rating as a result.

The “First European Water Trail”

Speaking of the excursion, the literature tends to refer to it as being the “first European Water Trail”.

Umbal_Waterfalls_298_07162018 - Bear statues near the signed 'Wasserschaupfad Umbalfälle' close to the head of the Virgental Valley
Bear statues near the signed ‘Wasserschaupfad Umbalfälle’ close to the head of the Virgental Valley

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.

That said, it seemed like there were plenty of other waterfall trails in Austria that were in existence long before the one pertaining to the Umbal Waterfalls.

Umbal Waterfalls Trail Description – hiking to the cantinas

From the car park, we hiked along a farm track leading past a couple of bear statues and towards the signed “Wasserschaupfad Umbalfälle”.

Umbal_Waterfalls_024_07152018 - Approaching the big boulder at the trail junction between the Umbaltal Trail and the one leading to the Umbalkees Glacier
Approaching the big boulder at the trail junction between the Umbaltal Trail and the one leading to the Umbalkees Glacier

This 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.

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.

Umbal_Waterfalls_051_07162018 - Looking towards the cascading creek of the Umbalbach as the canyon narrowed en route to the Pebell Alm and the Islitzer Alm in the Umbaltal Valley
Looking towards the cascading creek of the Umbalbach as the canyon narrowed en route to the Pebell Alm and the Islitzer Alm in the Umbaltal Valley

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.

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.

Umbal Waterfalls Trail Description – beyond the alms to the namesake waterfall

Umbal_Waterfalls_104_07162018 - Context of one of the alms in the Umbaltal Valley backed by the sloping cascade of the Umbalfälle
Context of one of the alms in the Umbaltal Valley backed by the sloping cascade of the Umbalfälle

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.

Umbal_Waterfalls_124_07162018 - Sloping cascades on the Umbalbach as seen from the trail just past the first lookout of the main Umbal Waterfalls en route to the overhanging lookouts above the actual waterfalls themselves
Sloping cascades on the Umbalbach as seen from the trail just past the first lookout of the main Umbal Waterfalls en route to the overhanging lookouts above the actual waterfalls themselves

Now, the trail narrowed even more as it still climbed alongside the contours of the Umbalbach Creek.

In another 100m, the trail reached a footbridge crossing over the Grossbach (Großbach or “Big Creek”).

Looking upstream from the bridge, I saw the disjointed waterfalls of the Großbachfall.

This was where I was able to spot some surprising tiers way up on the cliffs suggesting that this was indeed a pretty big waterfall.

Umbal_Waterfalls_143_07162018 - Context of the bridge fronting the Grossbachfall
Context of the bridge fronting the Grossbachfall

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.

Umbal_Waterfalls_174_07162018 - Context of one of the overhanging lookouts over the Umbalfälle for a more unusual frontal look at parts of it
Context of one of the overhanging lookouts over the Umbalfälle for a more unusual frontal look at parts of it

However, in hindsight, from studying the maps once more, I could have continued on this trail for another 30-60 minutes or so.

I didn’t know it at the time, but conceivably, I could have reached the Upper Umbal Waterfalls.

Perhaps there might have been another bonus waterfall along the way as well (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.

Umbal_Waterfalls_209_07162018 - Looking over the Umbalbach towards the Kleinbachfall as we walked back from the alms in Umbaltal Valley
Looking over the Umbalbach towards the Kleinbachfall as we walked back from the alms in Umbaltal Valley

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.

Authorities

The Umbal Waterfalls reside in the Nationalpark Hohe Tauern near the town of Matrei in Osttirol in the state of Tyrol (Tirol), Austria. It may be administered by Matrei in Osttirol government. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, you can try visiting their website.

Umbal_Waterfalls_001_07152018 - Looking across the Virgental Valley into the Umbaltal Valley with the Kleinbachfall in the distance as seen from the car park
Umbal_Waterfalls_006_07152018 - Context of the Umbaltal Valley as seen from across the head of the Virgental Valley at the car park before we started hiking
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. I wasn't actually sure what these bears were for though
Umbal_Waterfalls_016_07152018 - Another look across the head of the Virgental Valley and into the narrower Umbaltal Valley towards some cascade directly on the Umbalbach
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, which I think was called the Umbalkees Glacier
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 from the trail leading to the Umbaltal Valley
Umbal_Waterfalls_040_07152018 - Continuing across the head of the Virgental Valley and entering the narrower Umbaltal Valley
Umbal_Waterfalls_042_07152018 - Hiking on a gentle uphill slope as we were within the Umbaltal Valley
Umbal_Waterfalls_046_07152018 - Context of the wide trail which also seemed to double as a road en route to the alms within the Umbaltal Valley
Umbal_Waterfalls_050_07162018 - As we were following the trail in the Umbaltal Valley, there were some surprise cascades on the Umbalbach 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, which was straight upstream towards the alms in Umbaltal
Umbal_Waterfalls_064_07162018 - As we continued on the Umbaltal Trail, we were catching glimpses of attractive peaks in the distance
Umbal_Waterfalls_069_07162018 - Proceeding ahead past a large rock with a hollowed out interior that supported a rest bench in its shelter
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_099_07162018 - Looking across some pastures towards the Kleinbachfall while hiking closer to the alms of the Untertal Valley
Umbal_Waterfalls_101_07162018 - Contextual look at part of the Kleinbachfall and the pastures below it as we got even closer to the Untertal Valley
Umbal_Waterfalls_105_07162018 - Looking towards another alm in the Untertal Valley with a hint of the Kleinbachfall above it
Umbal_Waterfalls_107_07162018 - Looking back at one of the alms in the Untertal Valley as I continued hiking towards the Umbal Waterfalls
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_113_07162018 - The trail continuing to climb as it made its way 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_130_07162018 - Angled view of the lower sections of the Umbal Waterfalls
Umbal_Waterfalls_139_07162018 - Context of the trail and the Umbal Waterfalls as it continued to skirt along the Umbalbach
Umbal_Waterfalls_140_07162018 - Approaching a bridge spanning the Grossbach en route to the Umbalfälle
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_156_07162018 - A rainbow appearing in the mist of the Umbalfälle
Umbal_Waterfalls_159_07162018 - Looking downstream from an overlook of the Umbalfälle towards the alms and the open part of the Umbaltal Valley
Umbal_Waterfalls_172_07162018 - This was the view of the Umbal Waterfalls from that first overlook
Umbal_Waterfalls_175_07162018 - Another trail junction leading to the second of the overhanging overlooks of the Umbalfälle
Umbal_Waterfalls_187_07162018 - This was the view of the Umbal Waterfalls from the second overlook
Umbal_Waterfalls_194_07162018 - Looking towards the context of the second overhanging lookout of the Umbalfälle
Umbal_Waterfalls_197_07162018 - Descending back down towards the Grossbach bridge on my way from the Umbalfälle to the alms
Umbal_Waterfalls_199_07162018 - After deciding to turn around, this was the view of the Untertal Valley as I was descending towards the alms and back out of the narrower paths along the Umbalbach
Umbal_Waterfalls_203_07162018 - Returning to the fence at the boundary of the alms and the opening of the Untertal Valley as the trail descended back towards that area
Umbal_Waterfalls_204_07162018 - Back at the Islitzer Alm where we were going to have a lunch before heading back
Umbal_Waterfalls_226_07162018 - I noticed these bugs while hiking back from the Islitzer Alm as we were concluding our hike to the Umbalfälle. I couldn't tell if these bugs were ticks or something else
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_231_07162018 - Continuing downstream along the gentle trail from the Islitzer Alm to the trailhead for the Umbalfälle
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_253_07162018 - Approaching the head of the Virgental Valley as we were leaving the Umbaltal Valley
Umbal_Waterfalls_256_07162018 - I did take some time to explore this other path leading closer to the Umbalbach near the Virgental Valley just to see where this trail went
Umbal_Waterfalls_259_07162018 - The side trail ultimately got me to this footbridge over the Umbalbach though the cascades that I thought I saw earlier weren't really visible from here
Umbal_Waterfalls_263_07162018 - The cascade further upstream from the bridge over the Umbalbach was really all there was to show for my efforts of checking this place out
Umbal_Waterfalls_266_07162018 - It looked like the other side of the footbridge led to this trail on the other side of the Umbalbach
Umbal_Waterfalls_268_07162018 - Looking back across the Virgental Valley towards the Ströden village and car parks
Umbal_Waterfalls_276_07162018 - Approaching the giant boulder at the start of the hike to the Umbalfälle at its junction with the trail for the Umbalkees Glacier
Umbal_Waterfalls_289_07162018 - Returning to the car park to end our excursion to the Umbalfälle
Umbal_Waterfalls_292_07162018 - Back at the bear statues near the car park that we had parked at when we started our excursion to the Umbalfälle

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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 and directly west of Matrei im Osttirol.

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.

Driving from Zell am See to the Umbal Waterfalls

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.

Umbal_Waterfalls_007_07152018 - The car park at the end of the L24 Road to the head of the Virgental Valley at Ströden
The car park at the end of the L24 Road to the head of the Virgental Valley at Ströden

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_008_07152018 - The WC building at the car park at the head of the Virgental Valley at Ströden
The WC building at the car park at the head of the Virgental Valley at Ströden

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.

Driving from Lienz to the Umbal Waterfalls

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.

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

That was 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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