A Salzkammergut Scene – the Gosau Lakes

Between Golling and Hallstatt – about 36 km east of Golling and around 15km west of Hallstatt – a small valley branches off to the south, the picturesque Gosau Valley. At the head of the valley are three lakes, called the Gosau Lakes or “Gosauseen” in German. These lakes in their setting of mountains are one of the “must sees’ in the Salzkammergut, and they are a little off the well-beaten path.


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Hallstatt is known for its scenic beauty, for its fjord like setting in an idyllic landscape. The Gosau Lakes rival it for landscape grandeur. Here is a post card view of the area.

Vorderer Gosau See mit Dachstein – Image by Roman Klementschitz

In this post I’ll only elaborate on the Lower Gosau Lake (Vorderer Gosausee), because you can get to it quite easily by car.

Lower Gosau Lake is a natural lake, as are the other lakes. The valley was formed by geologic faulting, and the Dachstein glacier, as well as melting snows from the other mountains around, feeds the lakes.  However, the lower lake level  has been raised by a dam for hydro-electric power.

To reach the upper lakes you need to hike in.  If you are prepared, you could hike to the Dachstein glacier and beyond.  There is a hut, the Adamek Hut, at the base of the Dachstein glacier where you can stay overnight, if you wish, but it would take a a few hours for a fit person to get there.

The Lower Gosau Lake is also a good jumping-off point for extended tours into the high country of the Dachstein massif.  There is a cable car from the lake going up to the Gablonzer Hut, high above the valley floor, for different perspectives of the Gosau Kamm and the Alps beyond.

This generalized relief map gives you an idea of the the possibilities (from Wikipedia; creator of map: karelj).

Terrain Map of Dachstein Region and Gosau Lakes

Map of Dachstein Region and Gosau Lakes

Even if you only go see the Lower Gosau Lake, and you don’t plan on walking much, you’ll be rewarded with picure postcard beauty.

The lake is narrow and its waters are crystal clear. At the far end of the lake the Dachstein with its glacier seemingly rises out of the lake and wraps around to the south-east, i.e. to your left if you are looking down the length of the lake.  On the right, toward the south-west, the Gosau Kamm shoots nearly vertically up to the sky. The Gosau Kamm is a rugged mountain range of crags and pinnacles – Kamm means “comb” in German – and the range has been called the Dolomites of (the state of) Salzburg for a good reason.

But one of the most beautiful parts of the area is right in front of you. When the wind is still, the clear waters of the lake reflect all of the mountains around it, even when the sun isn’t shining. It’s sometimes hard to tell where lake ends and mountain begins.

Reflection of Gosau Kamm in Gosau Lake

Gosau Kamm Reflected in Lower Gosau Lake

The moods of the lake and landscape are shifting with the weather, and to take it all in, you should stay a few hours, or walk along the lake.

On one June day, as I was hiking along the lakes, water was flowing from the slopes of the Gosau Kamm in cascades and trickles, it seemed as if the whole hillside was one continuous sheet of water.  Panta Rheis – everything flows – goes the saying,  and it’s written on one of the signs placed around the lake explaining the various features of what you see.

If you’ve ever wondered what Panta Rheis means, and even if you haven’t – go visit this valley.

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  1. Rebeca Souza says:

    Dear Roland,
    This is a very nice blog post. Congrats! I´m planning a trip to Salzburg and Hallstatt and we have 3 days for getting to know these places. Since my friend and I are going during the summer, we would like to do some trekking or any other sport activities in the lake. What would you recommend?

    • Roland says:

      As it happens, I’m working on setting up a hut-to-hut trek in that area. However, our first trek, a shakedown trek actually, will be in September, a little too late for you.

      In short though, from the base of the Lower Gosau Lake you can hike around the Gosaukamm, the jagged, Dolomite looking mountain range flanking the lake. At a point you’d cross over the Kamm to the base of the Dachstein glacier and return to the Lower Gosau Lake from there. The whole trek would take around 3 days, but you could certainly extend it or make it shorter. There are a also several other variations on that theme.

      Also, to cross over the Kamm is best suited for experienced mountaineers. If you are not up for that, you can hike along Lower Gosau Lake and then continue on up to the Adamekhut at the base of the Dachstein glacier, a hike of some 4-5 hrs. Next day you return the way you came.

      Or you can take a cable car from the base of the lake to the top of the ridge and hike from hut to hut along the west side of the Gosaukamm for just about as long as you wish.

      That’s it in a nut shell. Keep an eye on our site http://www.hut-n-trek.com/. We are just developing it, but you’ll find it a great resource if you are interested in trekking in the Alps. I’ll add more information on the Gosaukamm within the next couple of weeks.

  2. bob says:

    We will be staying in Hallstatt so how do we get to Lower Gosau Lake, by bus?

    • Roland says:

      I’ve never taken the bus there, so I consulted a schedule. Here is what I found:
      Get on Bus 543 at Hallstatt Lahn (southern end of Hallstatt) and buy a ticket to Vorderer Gosausee. Change to Bus 542 at Gosaumuehle (just a few miles north of Hallstatt), and get off at Gosausee. From there you’ll have to walk a little, the schedule says 17 minutes, to get to Vorderer Gosausee.

      Here is the link to the bus schedule. It’s also available in English. http://www.oebb.at/

      Enjoy.

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