This hidden Austrian gem near Lake Constance delights hikers with magnificent caves, free flowing waterfalls, tasty huts and lush forests with deep blue gorges carved into the mountains.
tl;dr: Moderate 5.57 mile day Rappenlochschlucht hike trail guide based on my personal experience to these massive gorges in Vorarlberg. Including GPS stages for your phone, travel tips and best places to stay and other activities nearby.
This absolutely scenic hike goes from the flat valley floor near the Rolls Royce museum, through two dramatic gorges (some of the biggest in Europe) with wooden walkways over the plunging rivers up to a church like massive cave.
It’s one of the best things to do in Dornbirn (and there’s a lot to do here)! It’s on my top hikes in Austria list. And unlike many Alps gorge hikes, this one is free!
Great for late Fall hiking as it’s not very high elevation despite rugged terrain. I rented a car and drove to the trailhead just outside Dornbirn.
Morgan’s Rappenlochschlucht Hiking Youtube
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You’ll find a lot of caves in this area near Dornbirn, Bregenz and Feldkirch. Despite being very close to the almost sea-level Lake Constance, there is a wild ruggedness that makes for very dramatic, yet lush hikes.
Rappenlochschlucht Hike Quick Guide
- Starting: Gutle Parking
- Distance: 5.75 mi (9.25 km)
- Type: Lollipop Loop
- Time Needed: 3 hours
- Elevation Gain/Loss: 1,375′ 419m
- Difficulty: Easy-Moderate
- When to Go: Late April-Nov
- Where to Stay in Dornbirn: Hotel Messmer (midrange), Hotel Germania (family), Luxury Penthouse Bregenz (luxury)
⛰ More Adventure? Book a Hut to Hut Hiking Tour
- 6 Days in Austrian Alps
- 8 Days Culinary Austrian Hut to Hut Hike
- Weekend Culinary Hut Tour
Who is this hike for?
Almost everyone. Waterfall, gorge and cave lovers.
Who is this hike not for?
If you hate steep hills you’ll want to skip the caves at the end because it’s a pretty steep ascent, wear real hiking or running shoes. Also it is not wheelchair accessible.
Craving More Adventure in the Bregenzerwald?
Don’t have time to read the whole article? No Problem! To sum up, here are the three best things to do in addition to awesome hiking.
- Locals Guided Tour
- 1.5 hours
- English and German
- English and Dutch
- Medieval architecture
- 30 min from Dornbirn
Rappenlochschlucht Hike Map
How to use this map: Use your computer mouse or fingers to zoom in and out. Click on the icons to get more information. Click the arrow on the top left corner for the written index. Click the star next to the title of the map to add this map to your google maps account. To view the saved map on your smartphone or PC, open google maps, click the menu button, and go to “your places”/ “maps.”
Rappenlochschlucht Hike: My Experience
Parking – Start of Rappenlochschlucht (10 min)
This hike starts off with a bang. You’ll park near the Rolls-Royce museum and walk through a small museum area in Gütle along the river. There are multiple restaurants and mountain huts here to grab a snack or meal.
You get to walk along a wooden path with waterfall views in multiple directions
Rappenlochschlucht – Staufensee Lake (:30 min)
There must have been a recent rockfall here because the main section of the path is diverted onto a road. There is construction going on here to repair it but I imagine it will take years as it’s incredibly steep.
The road winds along the mountain forest to the west of the river gorge but you still get great views. You’ll walk to the Staufensee lake with it’s near perfect crystal clear waters and Autumn is a great time for this walk.
Staufensee Lake – Alplochschulcht (1:00)
You’ll walk over the ancient Ammans bridge and a small valley will open up. Stop by the hut near the cutest power plant of all time. They sell really cute gems and good wine.
Alplochschulcht – Kirchle Cave (2:00)
Once you enter the Alploch gorge get ready for wonder. It’s really stunning and you walk on a wooden plank over the rushing river. The gorge is dark and moody. Once you are out you will find a sign to Kirchle Naturdenkmal. The path becomes very steep and single track. There is a staircase down into the caves.
Read ➡️ The Best Headlamps for Hiking
Kirchle Cave – Parking (3:00 hours)
The final walk back to the car is incredible at sunset. You’ll wind down a soft wooded trail with peekaboo glimpses of Lake Constance. Once you reach Rappenlochschlucht you’ll cross over the car bridge and return along the same path to your car.
Things to Know About Dornbirn Austria
Is Dornbirn Worth Visiting?
Yes! If you love the outdoors and charming villages that aren’t pretentious. It’s not the typical alpine village with buildings plastered in malerei and geraniums. It’s very local with interesting victorian buildings, a lot of activities and restaurants.
The mountains here are very low in elevation but rugged and sensational. The town sits in the Rhine river basin where it dumps into Lake Constance.
Located only 15 min from the more touristy hot spots along the lake, Dornbirn is a great break from the tourist overwhelm and the focus really is on immersing in Nature and adventure.
Bregenz is the closest big town.
Best Things to do in Dornbirn Austria
All Season Outdoor Adventure – Hiking and winter sports are the highlights, but Dornbirn has it all.
1. Gorge Hikes at Rappenlochschlucht and Alplochschlucht
This family friendly hike offers dramatic views, yummy huts and an emerald colored river gorges.
2. Skiing and Snowboarding
The slopes at the Heumöserlift ski area are in nearby Ebnit, Austria. The ski area is ideal for beginners and families with gentle slopes and offers two 1,250-meter long runs from the mountain station to the valley station. Additionally, there is a family slope and a racecourse available for skiers.
Dornbirn, Austria offers a wealth of activities and attractions for visitors to enjoy. Start by exploring the town’s rich history at the Inatura museum, which showcases the natural history of the region.
For art enthusiasts, the Kunstraum Dornbirn provides a unique space to admire contemporary art exhibitions. The Stadtmuseum Dornbirn in Austria offers guided tours of their special exhibition for interested visitors.
For car lovers, the Rolls Royce musuem is a must do.
If you’re looking for a more immersive experience, consider attending one of the town’s many festivals, such as the Dornbirner Herbstfest, a popular autumn festival that celebrates local culture and cuisine.
Whether you’re interested in art, history, or music, Dornbirn has something to offer.
4. Ride the Karren Chairlift
The Karren Dornbirn Mountain is another must-visit attraction, offering stunning panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. There’s a lovely restaurant and panoramic viewpoint.
5. Rock Climbing
One of the most popular climbing areas in the region is the Rappenlochschlucht, a stunning gorge with towering rock walls that offer a range of climbing routes. Another popular destination is the Dornbirner Steinbruch, a former quarry that has been transformed into a top-notch climbing area with over 100 routes.
The Schuttannen climbing area, located just outside of Dornbirn, is another must-visit destination, offering a variety of routes for climbers of all abilities. Additionally, the nearby Bregenzerwald region is home to several climbing areas, including the popular Kanzianiberg and Bürser Platte.
6. Mountain Biking and Cycling
One of the most popular areas for mountain biking is the Bregenzerwald region, which features a network of well-maintained trails that wind through picturesque alpine landscapes.
The Karren Dornbirn Mountain is another popular destination, offering a range of trails that cater to both beginners and experienced riders. Additionally, the nearby Silvretta Montafon resort is home to a variety of downhill trails and bike parks, making it a popular destination for more adventurous riders.
For those looking for a more leisurely ride, the Rheindelta nature reserve offers a scenic route along the Rhine River.
Best Places to Stay in Bregenz
Based on my personal experience, these are my recommendations for hotels near Rappenlochschlucht based on your situation.
- Hot Tub
- Beautiful views
- Private apartment
Best for Family
Hotel Germania offers a peaceful and relaxing stay in the heart of Bregenz, with a beautiful lake view and hiking trails nearby. The hotel also features a spa and wellness center, making it the perfect place for a rejuvenating getaway.
Most Sustainable & Best Budget
Hotel Messmer has an amazing breakfast and really modern rooms. It’s young and vibrant and will even pack your breakfast to go if you want an early start on the trails.
Luxury Penthouse Bregenz is a place you’ll never forget. It’s nice to have your own private apartment to indulge in comfort and your own hot tub.
More Allgaüer Alps Travel Blogs
How do I navigate the Rappenlochschlucht hiking trail?
You can use Komoot to navigate this trail easily. My Rappenlochschlucht komoot GPS has everything listed so you don’t get lost. The trail is not well marked but fairly easy with a hiking app like komoot.
How do I say this in German?
In German, this hike is called Rappenlochschlucht wanderung. It’s a 9.25 km hike through some of Europe’s biggest gorges.
More Hiking & Outdoor Gear Resources
Here’s more awesome gear to empower your journey. I have written in-depth comparisons of products that make hiking and exploring the Great Outdoors safer and more fun, especially if you’re a beginner (or like me, a little rusty in the knees).
Physical Therapist Curated Gear Guides for Hikers
- 🧎 Make your knees feel better while hiking and walking: Best Knee Braces for Hiking
- 🌳Make the downhills stop hurting and hike with more confidence Best Trekking Poles Review
- ⌚ Never get lost on the trail and navigate the wilderness safely with My Review of the Best GPS Watches for Hiking
- ❄️ Go hiking on uneven terrain safely: The Best Hiking Boots with Ankle Support
- 🥾 Don’t get lost in the backcountry during a big hike: My Review of the BEST PLB – Personal Locator Beacons
My Guides to Bucketlist Hikes in Europe
(That I’ve personally done and loved.)
I hope this guide to the Rappenlochschlucht hike has given you all the information you need to enjoy this awesome hidden gem.
Author profile: Morgan Fielder is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and passionate hiker who believes in exploring the world on foot with good food. Follow her journey as she shares science-based hiking tips and advocates for sustainable tourism.