The nearest mountain from Salzburg, apart from the three house mountains in the city of Salzburg, is Untersberg. With almost 2000 meters of altitude and jagged cliffs, a hike to the peak of mount Untersberg is a challenge even for experienced hikers. The top of Untersberg, however, is accessible by public transport from Salzburg for travelers of all ages and fitness levels on a half-day trip or less.
To reach the Untersberg cable car from Salzburg, you take bus number 25 and get off at the last stop. The bus stops in front of the cable car. On top of mount Untersberg, you walk for five minutes to “Geiereck”, the highest point on the eastern side before you take an easy 30-minute hike to “Salzburger Hochthron” the peak of Untersberg in Austria.
How to get from Salzburg to the Untersberg Cable Car?
When going to the Untersberg cable, you should get a Salzburg card. The cable car and the bus is more expensive than the Salzburg card, and the card includes both. More about that in the ticket section below.
Bus number 25 from Salzburg Hbf to the Untersberg Cable Car
I recommend taking the first cable car in the morning and if possible, choose a weekday for the most pleasant experience. Untersberg is also popular among locals, and you can expect many visitors during the day. In the morning, Untersberg is least crowded. Also, if you have a Salzburg card, the first cable car in the morning is the way to use the card most efficiently.
Bus number 25 leaves from the train station every 20 minutes and passes Mirabell square before it crosses the river and heads south. Mirabell and the train station will be close to most accommodations while Rathaus and Mozartsteg on the left side of the river are close to the old town. If you head to the cable car after my free walking tour, you would go down from Mozartplatz to the river and catch the bus at Mozartsteg.
In case you don’t have a Salzburg card (not recommended), you get your bus ticket from the driver. You need cash for the ticket but no exact change. The price of the bus ticket is €2,70 (in 2020), and the ride takes 35 minutes. Take the bus from the train station, from Mirabell square or the Rathaus on the side on the riverside.
After 35 minutes on bus number 25, the bus reaches its final destination, the valley station of the cable car. The bus will stop right in front of the cable car about 50 meters from the entrance. In case you arrived by car, the parking is the same place.
The Ticket for the Untersberg Cable Car
The price for a ticket to the Untersberg Cable car is €25,- (in 2020). Student and Senior charges only apply for residents of Salzburg and surroundings. Children are €12,- (in 2020).
Now the beforementioned Salzburg card costs €29,- (in 2020) in high season and €26,- (in 2020) in the low season. If in 2020, you pay for the bus and the cable car, you would pay €30,40, and the Salzburg card includes most of the attractions in Salzburg, like Mozart’s birthplace, the Hohensalzburg fortress, history museums and many more. You get the card at most hotels and hostels and the tourist information. Here is an article on the most efficient use of the Salzburg Card.
With the card, you can skip the line at the ticket counter and head straight to the line for boarding the cable car. That’s not exactly a fast lane because you have to wait for the staff to start the check-in process. You can’t just go through.
Take the Cable Car up to Untersberg
Two cabins keep going up and down. They renewed the cars in 2018 and now take less than 10 minutes to rise 1300 meters in altitude so you won’t have to wait long for the next ride. The cable car now fits 50 people, and since the renovation, the ride is not bumpy and shaky anymore.
However, there is a spot along the way up, where the mountain is close to the cable car. When the cable car passes the rock, most people gasp for air as they realize how high they are, especially when the cart is full.
In case you are seriously scared of heights, the cable car might not be the right activity.
The Peak of mount Untersberg
When you leave the cable car, you will first want to enjoy the view for a moment. You then walk up and past a mountain pasture called the “Hochalm”. After Hochalm, you turn left and ascend to cross at “Geiereck”. Geiereck with 1806 meters, is the highest point on the eastern side of the mountain.
From the Geiereck, you hike on an easy path over to the “Salzburger Hochthron” the highest point on the mountain on the Austrian side. You take about half an hour and don’t require hiking experience or gear, even if the terrain feels alpine. Wearing proper shoes is recommended, but not a must. At the end of the 30-minute hike, you reach an altitude of 1973 meters, at the highest peak of Mount Untersberg.
Head back to Salzburg
Salzburger Hochthron is where you end your exploration of the Untersberg mountain and find your way back to the cable car and Salzburg. There would be more hikes, but all of them are challenging, and you would have to be well-prepared. Therefore, take the same path back to the cable car and repeat the check in to descend.
If you are hungry and want to have lunch at a traditional Austrian restaurant with a great view before descending, I recommend Hochalm, the alpine pasture located just before you reach the cable car. I tried their Kasnockn and can recommend them.
If you descend before having lunch, Gasthof Schorn or Gasthof Simmerlwirt not far from the cable car valley station are both excellent. In case you visit in December, the St Leonhard Christmas market is on the opposite side of the street and worth the visit.
Visit Hellbrunn on the Way to Salzburg
If you bought a Salzburg card, a visit to Hellbrunn on your way back is recommended. Hellbrunn is halfway between the cable car and the city.
The first Hellbrunn stop is “Hellbrunn Zoo”. The Zoo is not a must, but if you feel like visiting, go for it! If you have a Salzburg card, it’s included. When entering the zoo, start your exploration by going to the right. You will eventually get back to the entrance you came from. Don’t leave the zoo from the same entrance to continue by bus but walk to the left to reach the second entrance and the park. From that entrance, you can walk over to Hellbrunn castle in a few minutes.
If you don’t visit the zoo, you get off one stop further at “Hellbrunn castle”. At the castle in summer, you visit the trick fountains. If the trick fountains are closed, you visit the castle and have a look at the park. The park is where the gazebo from the “16 going on 17” songs from the sound of music is located.
When you are done in Hellbrunn, take another bus at the same stop where you got off to continue your return. Remember, it passes every 20 minutes. Even a very brief visit to see the gazebo in Hellbrunn would be possible.
Can I hike Untersberg in the summer?
There are three main hiking paths up Untersberg mountain. Thomas Eder Steig on the German side of the mountain and Dopplersteig and Reitsteig on the Austrian side. These hiking paths, however, are not to underestimate! They are strenuous, challenging, and could be dangerous. I met people at the hostel reception who returned from an Untersberg hike saying the thought they will die. That’s not to scare you away, but if you consider hiking Untersberg, you have to know what you are up to.
Is the Untersberg cable car open in winter?
The cable car is open and operating in winter, same as in summer, but twice a year, once in autumn and again in spring, it is closed for maintenance for a few weeks. Before buying a Salzburg card and heading to the mountain, check the Untersberg cable cars website to make sure the cable car is operating!
Winter is just as impressive as the summer to visit Untersberg. If you came to Salzburg to experience snow and there is no snow in the valleys, you can still find snow on Untersberg in winter.
Do you recommend the cable car when the weather is bad?
When the sky is covered by clouds and its raining, the Untersberg cable car is still operating. Very few times, I have heard that they were not running because of bad weather. The best part of the mountain, however, is the view and there is a possibility that you wouldn’t have any under these conditions. I recommend checking the Untersberg webcam.
At the time of writing this article, the webcam was not working, but you can google it, and I will add a link once it’s working again.
What’s the cost of the Cable Car and why you need a Salzburg card
I know I am repeating myself, but this is important. The cable car costs €25,- (in 2020) and the Salzburg card in 2020 costs €29,- in high season. The Salzburg card includes all of the attractions in the old town and the cable car and the bus to reach the cable car from Salzburg. It’s cheaper to get a 24 hour Salzburg card than to pay for the bus and the cable car. There would be no point in not buying the Salzburg.
You will at least want to see the fortress besides your visit to Untersberg, and that would be free along with places like Mozart’s birthplace, the residence, and all other museums and attractions because all of that is included in the Salzburg Card. For more information on how to use the Salzburg card most efficiently, read this.
Untersberg is the highest mountain you can reach on a half-day trip from Salzburg. If you purchase a Salzburg Card, a journey to Untersberg by cable car is the best option to combine city sightseeing with impressive nature.