Adventure Action Austria Climbing Nature & Wildlife

3 Rock ‘n Roll Mountain Adventures near Mayrhofen in Austrian Tirol

Looking out over Zillertal from Penken in Austrian Tirol
Written by Kirstie Pelling

3 Rock ‘n Roll Mountain Adventures
near Mayrhofen in Austrian Tirol

Visit the Austrian Tirol and you can’t help getting close up to the mountains. They are what makes this region so special. And for us that means REALLY close up, with our feet planted firmly on rock and our hands holding tight to iron rungs, or blasting down through the air so fast that our rib cages hurt with the effort of gasping. Whatever you choose to do in Tirol, it’s a great way of getting to know the natural world, in a setting so pretty you could eat it with apfelstrudel. In this post, brought to you with the help of Visit Tirol, we get up close with nature trying out three different challenging mountain adventures. 

Mountain Biking and Paragliding in the Austrian Tirol on Penken

Mountain biker meets paraglider out on Penken in the Austrian Tirol

Getting closer through mountain adventures

In the Alps of the Austrian Tirol you can’t escape the power of nature. The mountains are omnipresent, beaming down at you whichever way you turn, filling your eyes with their luminous alpine beauty and always beckoning. And wherever you look someone is climbing up them, flying over them or slipping, sliding  or scooting down then.

After a while it seems strangely natural to want to join them, to test yourself, to get to know the mountains better.  So I invite Stuart and the kids to join me in a simple me vs the mountain challenge. It’s simple. Three new mountain adventures in three days. To get up close and feel the mountains. And to see who wins…

Family fun in the mountains of Zillertal, Tirol, Austria

Family fun in the mountains of Zillertal on KinderKlettersteig near Mayrhofen

1 Rock and Roll Swing

What is it?   

A kind of mini bungy jump. Mountain Sports Zillertal has been running the Rock and Roll Swing for ten years from a canyon near Mayrhofen. The swing is mostly a test of nerve – there’s only one moment that really matters – when I step off the platform and plunge downwards feet first for almost 50 metres, with the river gushing below and coming nearer by the second.

The world rushes past me in a blur of blue and brown and I can’t get enough breath as I freefall haphazardly. And then suddenly the rope tightens and I am Tarzan in a harness. I remember to scream but it’s a bit inappropriate now as I’m basically just swinging. The first bit is terrifying. The second bit quite pleasant and I want it to go on for longer. Or happen again. Thankfully you get two goes for your money. Now it’s a case of being brave enough to repeat the experience!

Level of difficulty/skill

Zero. Anyone over the age of nine can do this. It’s just walking. Without the ground. And then it’s just falling.

What do you need?

A canyon, a swing, a harness, a guy at the top to strap you in and one at the bottom to help you get back onto your feet as you finish swinging. All provided. Oh and a large helping of bottle. Er, that’s the part you need to supply.

Who wins?

In this case I’d say man and woman definitely conquered nature. Swinging I now believe, is the way to travel through a canyon. It’s certainly a good way to wake up!

Rock 'n Roll Canyon Swing, near Mayrhofen

Rock ‘n Roll Canyon Swing, near Mayrhofen

2 Via Ferrata

What is it?

Iron rungs. Basically. And a mountainside. The activity started in Italy and is a good introduction to climbing. You get your hands and feet dirty on real rock. You wear harnesses and clip in and out like climbing. But if you lose your grip on the rock there’s a fixed steel cable to catch you from tumbling too far.

Bernhard Neumann, our guide and the owner of Mountain Sports Zillertal, takes us to a local Via Ferrata (Klettersteig in Austrian) on the outskirts of the town, where there is also a kid friendly Via Ferrata (the KinderKlettersteig) that anyone can have a go at. But we were so great at the Rock n’ Roll swing that he wants us to try the harder Klettersteig Huterlaner. I do so reluctantly, placing my feet tentatively on the rungs, set at different intervals into the rock. But soon grade A becomes B and then C (E is extreme) and the rungs become further apart and the rock becomes more vertical and I am looking desperately for a handhold and a foothold.

About 100m above the ground the two routes merge and Hannah and I decide that in the name of journalism we need to try out the family one. It is a relief. For a while. Although some bright spark decided to introduce a flying fox and high ropes course between sections of the ferrata and next thing I know I am swinging on a rope again on a mountainside with Mayrhofen far below. This is becoming a habit!

Tackling the Via Ferrata, Huterlaner Klettersteig in Mayrhofen

Tackling the Via Ferrata, Huterlaner Klettersteig in Mayrhofen

Level of difficulty/skill

It depends on the Via Ferrata you plan to tackle, but if you are going self guided you do need a little experience (or confidence) in getting up a semi vertical or sheer rock using a mountaineering harness and safety karabiners. There are many different routes and variations of this climbing discipline which is popular throughout Europe and the world. Some Via Ferratas are in really wild and crazy places and all have an element of challenge. There’s a grading system and you should check before going that you know what the grade is and that your skills are up to it as it’s a one way system. Take a note of the emergency number also, just in case.

What do you need?

A harness, and Via Ferrat karabiner attachment. Good, strong mountain shoes with sticky soles. For the regular Via Ferrata, take a guide if you are inexperienced. For the kinder version then probably a kid if you don’t want to look a little sad. “My four year old can do that one,” says Bernhard.

Who wins?

I’d say this time the mountain storms ahead. By the time we switch onto the kiddie version my arms are tired and I’ve expended a huge amount of mental energy. “Relax it’s just you and the rock. Working together. You are not against each other.” says Bernard.  I laugh like a woman who has just inhaled helium gas from a kid’s party balloon.

Upper sections of the Kinderklettersteig in Mayrhofen

Upper sections of the Kinderklettersteig in Mayrhofen

3 Electric Mountain Biking

What is it?

Uphill and downhill fun on wheels. But hurrah for an engine! Unusually for us, our day out is turbo charged. Stefan Kröll, who runs Bike Guide Zillertal from his parents’ business Hotel Dornauhof in Finkenburg, offers offers my family the choice of regular bikes or electric ones and is nearly run over in the rush for the motorised variety. Finkenburg is a beautiful traditional village and the thought of a whole morning biking terrain like this gets everyone excited. But we aren’t staying here; Stefan knows 800km of trails on the mountains around Zillertal.  After a quick cable car ride the family is soon powering along the green, green paths of Tirol. Check out the video to see how the kids got on.

Level of difficulty/skill

Obviously you need to know how to ride a bike but the motor takes most of the strain so you can get away with only being moderately fit. 24 year old Stefan knows all the secret trails from many hours of training in the saddle and gears the ride to people’s skills and experience on these paths. Armed with cones he teaches some basic skills and then leads everyone on a ride. There’s one puncture, one blow out and a few scratched knees and bruises but a lot of fun is had on the way down the mountain. Skills are acquired, confidence grows and electric mountain bikes are added to Christmas lists.

What do you need?

Long trousers for protection. Trainers on your feet. Bikes and helmets are provided. As is the electricity. You just need to gently pedal. And steer your way over the lumps and bumps.

Who wins?

We do. Mountain biking with an engine feels a bit like cheating but we soon get over that. So, in your face nature!

Electric mountain biking on Penken, Zillertal, Tirol

Electric mountain biking on Penken, Zillertal, Tirol

Practical Information

Our accommodation for our stay in Mayrhofen was Hotel Neuhaus, possibly one of the most lovely and traditional hotels I have ever had the pleasure of visiting. Everything from the outside inwards is in keeping with the Tirol landscape. Our room has a delightful view of the mountains and offers two double beds and a single in a family suite. We stay half board which entitles us to a six course dinner in one of the many alcoves and restaurants areas in the hotel. Staff are charming, food delicious and you constantly feel you are in a picture book. Check out the doll house tree house outside the front door that lights up at night or use the outdoor pool with a view.

Mountain Sports Zillertal offers a dizzying range of active sports. Activities are divided between land and river and include the quirky Riverbugs.

Stefan at Bike Guide Zillertal offers training and guiding at every level including professional. He is based at Hotel Dornahof in Finkenburg, about fifteen minutes drive from Mayrhofen.

Hotel Neuhaus at night,Mayrhofen,Austrian Tirol

Hotel Neuhaus at night,Mayrhofen,Austrian Tirol

Disclosure Note: Our trip to Tirol was arranged and supported by Visit Tirol and the Zillertal Tourist Board. Thanks also to DFDS Seaways who supported our crossing to Europe between Newcastle and Holland. As ever, all the swinging, biking, and climbing highs and lows are our own. As are the words, opinions, experience, photography and videography.

About the author

Kirstie Pelling

Kirstie is the Editor of The Family Adventure Project. A professional writer and poet, she's the creative and journalistic force behind many of the stories and features published here. She's a co-founder and co-director of The Family Adventure Project and also works as the #poetinmotion producing and performing poetry for print, video and live performance.


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We're Kirstie & Stuart. We share an adventurous spirit, a passion for indie travel and 3 kids. The Family Adventure Project is our long term experiment in doing active, adventurous things together. Find out more...


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