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25-01-2023 | Herman Nekkers

The highest climbs of Europe #11 - Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse

When people start talking about famous cols, Austria is mentioned not too often. But this country hosts some of the most exceptional climbs in the world. The Edelweissspitze is perhaps the most iconic one. A brutal climb in the magical surroundings of the Grossglockner.

Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse EdelweissspitzeEdelweissspitze. in the distance the Hochtor


Country: Austria
Height: 2571 meters


The Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse was constructed in the 1930's as a tourist attraction. It's not a typical climb. The highest point is not on the main road, but at the end of one of the sideways. The main road connects the towns of Fusch in the state of Salzburg to Heiligenblut in Carinthia. Hochtor is the highest point (2504 m), which has a short tunnel. 

There are two dead ends on the climb: on the south side there's a road to the Kaiser-Franz-Josefs-Höhe (2370 m) - a real must do. From this place you'll face the Grossglockner and the Pasterze. The highest mountain and biggest glacier in Austria respectively. On the north side, there's another dead end, leading to the Edelweissspitze. This cobblestoned 1,5 km long road leads to a viewing point at 2571 meters, which makes it the highest point of the Hochalpenstrasse. It offers a stunning view on the snow-packed mountain peaks.

The north side

From Fusch, it is 22 kilometres of climbing and you continue without a break to the Edelweissspitze. It really is a beast of a climb, as the last 14 kilometres have an average of a whopping 9.7%. The last one and a half kilometres to the summit are truly murderous. Apart from the moderate cobbled road surface, you also get gradients of up to 14%. But once at the top, the reward awaits in the form of breathtaking views.

After descending again on the same road, you can continue the route. You will then pass the Fuscher Törl. The road here winds around a mountain peak like a snake and offers great views of the Grossglockner. A short descent is followed by another 4-kilometre climb to the Hochtor.

The south side

Reaching the Edelweissspitze is a three stage rocket. Stage 1: the brutal, long climb to Hochtor, with multiple kilometers well above 10%. It's highly recommended to interrupt this stage with a back-and-forth towards Kaiser-Franz-Josefs-Höhe. After reaching the Hochtor, there's a short decent, after which you'll have conquer a short but steep climb towards the Fuscher Törl. From here, you take a right for the final cobblestoned road to the Edelweisspitze.   

Cycling on the Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse with the Edelweissspitze and the Kaiser-Franz-Josefs-Höhe is an adventure of a lifetime. This should be on every cyclist's bucket list (it's actually the number 1 on mine). Take into account that this a popular tourist attraction. Traffic can be dense in high season.

Book your accommodation near the Groosglockner Hochalpenstrasse

Heiligenblut, Fusch an der Grossglocknerstrasse

Don't wait to book. Many hotels offer free cancellation.


Cycling history

The Giro d'Italia passed by twice. In 1971, the finish of stage 17 was at the Hochtor (2504 m). The riders climbed the mountain from the north. Swedisch rider Gösta Petterson took the pink jersey at day, and he never gave it away that Giro. It made him the first and only Skandinavian Giro winner to this day.

In 2011, stage 13 finished on the south side at the Glocknerhaus (2137 m). Rujano (Ven) won, Contador came in second. Look at the footage. Contador strengthened this position in the GC and would eventually win the Giro. This victory was however taken away from him following the clenbuterol gate.  

Also worth mentioning is the fact that the (at the time) unknown 18 year old Charly Gaul won his first big mountain stage at the 'Grossglockner'. The victory marked his definitive breakthrough as a climber. 

Gran fondos


Edelweissspitze  Edelweisspitze north

EdelweissspitzeEdelweisspitze south

Franz-Josefs-HöheFranz-Josefs-Höhe south

Routes and tours

Riding the Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse entirely (from Fusch to Heiligenblut and back) will yield 102 kilometers and 4000 meters of elevation. This includes a back-and-forth to Kaiser-Franz-Josefs-Höhe and the Edelweissspitze. A classic, comparable to the Cinglé du Mont Ventoux (3x).


Click on the images to download the routes.

The highest climbs in Europe, the list

01 Pico Veleta Spain 3375
02 Tiefenbachferner Austria 2829
03 Cime de la Bonette France 2802
04 Col de l'Iseran France 2770
05 Passo dello Stelvio Italy 2758
06 Kaunertal Austria 2750
07 Colle dell’Agnello /
Col Angel
Italy /
08 Passo Gavia Italy 2652
09 Col du Galibier France 2642
10 Colle del Nivolet Italy 2632
11 Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse
Austria 2571
12 Timmelsjoch /
Passo Rombo
Austria /
13 Pass Umbrail Switzerland /
14 Colle delle Fauniera /
Colle dei Morti
Italy 2481
15 Nufenenpass /
Passo della Novena
Switzerland 2477
16 Col du Grand-Saint-Bernard /
Colle del Gran San Bernardo
Switzerland /
17 Furkapass Switzerland 2436
18 Roque de los Muchachos Spain 2426
19 Hochwurtenspeicher Austria 2421
20 Col du Granon France 2413


Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse EdelweissspitzeThe north side, directly after the 'Mautstelle'

Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse EdelweissspitzeThe cobblestone climb to the Edelweissspitze (Peter Beukenkamp)

Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse EdelweissspitzeEdelweissspitze (right)

Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse EdelweissspitzeSwitchbacks

Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse EdelweissspitzeEdelweissspitze turn left, through traffic towards Hochtor turn right

Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse EdelweissspitzeThe steep cobblestone road to the Edelweisspitze

Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse EdelweissspitzeFranz-Josefs-Höhe

Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse EdelweissspitzeGrossglockner Hochalpenstrasse seen from the Edelweissspitze

Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse EdelweissspitzeFuscherl Törl

Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse EdelweissspitzeBetween Fuscherl Törl and Hochtor

Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse EdelweissspitzeHochtor

Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse EdelweissspitzeParking Edelweissspitze

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