As far as I am concerned, a picnic is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Whether it’s a romantic picnic for two with a bottle of bubbly; a hard-earned sandwich midway along a hike; or a family feast with plenty of room for the kids to run about, in the holiday region of Mayrhofen-Hippach you are truly spoilt for beautiful picnic locations. Everywhere you go there are breathtaking views begging to be enjoyed, and what better way to enjoy them than to spread a soft picnic rug on a grassy meadow, lie back in the warm sunshine and tuck into a delicious meal of local meats, cheeses and bread.
Since having a family, I have gained a further appreciation for picnics. On a picnic I can make sure that my daughter is catered for with food she will actually eat and I don’t have to force her to sit at the tablefor fear of disturbing other diners. If she makes a mess we simply leave her crumbs for the birds and animals to eat!
Also, her baby sister can be lain out on the rug and is happy just to watch the clouds move across the sky or gaze at the branches of a tree as they move in the wind.
Here are a few of our favourite family picnic destinations…
The Stillup reservoir is easily accessible by car and has some of the most incredible views in the Ziller Valley. A winding mountain road (local toll € 7 for a car) leads around the Ahorn, through thick pine forest to the dam at an altitude of 1116m. Just before you reach the reservoir, the landscape opens up into wild, lush alpine meadows which provide the perfect summer grazing fields for local cattle. The reservoir itself blends into the scenery as if it were a natural alpine lake, with its deep turquoise waters reflecting the tall mountains which surround it. Spectacular waterfalls cascade down the mountain sides and, at the far end of the valley, the snowy expanse of the Stillupkees glacier glistens in the sun.
The path around the reservoir is a very quiet road (reserved for private access only). Any cars drive slowly, and the peaceful location means that they can be easily heard in advance. The road is also very flat and so is an easy path for children to walk along or cycle. My daughter loves the opportunity to let rip on her balance bike! The footpath also leads through some short tunnels which we have nicknamed the ‘caves’ for their dungeon-like walls of dark, damp exposed rock and fantastic echoes.
From half way around the reservoir (about a 30 minute walk on little legs and with regular stops to pick up various sticks, throw stones in streams etc!), there are grassy meadows leading down to the water’s edge. From here any spot makes a great picnic location but, if you can make it to the far end of the reservoir, you will be rewarded with a stony beach for paddling (swimming is strictly forbidden) and the excitement of the white water of a gushing stream tumbling down into the lake.
Top Tip: The one thing that can’t be packed for a picnic is ice-cream. Reward and motivate little walkers with the promise of an ice-cream sundae at Gasthof Wasserfall before driving home. The guesthouse also has an incredible amount of children’s toys (trampoline, bobby cars, Wendy house etc) to keep the kids busy while parents relax and enjoy a beer on the sun terrace.
As soon as children arrive in Mayrhofen, they are fascinated by the Penken and Ahorn cable cars which are visible wherever you go in the village. My daughter has grown up here and still points them out to me on a daily basis! It’s always a real treat to take the cable car up the mountain – the ride is an attraction in itself. The Penken also boasts fantastic picnic spots, but our favourite mountain top picnic location is Lake Ahorn.
This picturesque little lake is just a ten minute (uphill) walk from the top station of the Ahorn cable car. We have an all-terrain buggy which manages the steep gravel path, but other buggies may struggle so consider using a carrier for younger children. Lake Ahorn is on the Leisure Trail, a one-hour gentle hike around the Ahorn plateau, with great views to the Ahornspitze and the full panorama of the Zillertal Alps. A surrounding fence means little explorers can’t run too far. Also, the water is only shallow so perfect for children to paddle and splash around in without getting out of their depth. Wooden benches and jetties circle the lake so parents can keep an eye on the fun from a comfortable distance. If you want to make your picnic a real event you can even order a BBQ from the Mayrhofen Bergbahnen.
For children the highlights of Lake Ahorn include a waterfall which is gentle enough to paddle up and play in, as well as the lake wildlife. On our last visit we saw hundreds of tadpoles, a little newt and two huge dragonflies. There is even a little sand pit so don’t forget your bucket and spade! A further highlight of the Ahorn mountain not to be missed is the Eagle’s Stage birds of prey display. Watching eagles and buzzards soar over the Ziller Valley (and low over the heads of the crowd!) is an unforgettable experience for children of all ages and makes the perfect conclusion to a wonderful family day out.
Top Tip: There are no trees around the lake to provide shade so, on hot days, make sure to pack a sun shade.
From the Schlegeis reservoir, this old smuggler’s path leads over the Austrian border into Italy. The approach to the path is spectacular in itself; the drive to the Schlegeis reservoir at an altitude of 1800m has 8 hairpin bends and 4 natural stone tunnels, the 131m high dam wall is imposing and impressive against its natural surroundings and the reservoir water is a brilliant blue. The Pfitscher Joch leads through a lush, green valley of grazing pastures, following a crystal clear river fed by waterfalls from the tall mountains on either side.
With a gentle gradient, the path is well-suited to younger hikers or parents with children in carriers. However, buggies can only make it a short distance into the valley. Almost from the very start of the valley you will be able to find suitable picnic spots on either side of the path. Large boulders along the path make great picnic benches! The Pfitscher Joch is not a circular route, meaning you will return on the same path you have taken. This is a blessing for families who can judge the stamina and mood of children and go as far along the valley as they feel able. With my young children we have not yet made it to Italy (approximately a two-hour hike at a leisurely pace), but families with older children (8 years +) can certainly aim to make it to the border crossing for a great picnic spot with views down into Italy.
Top Tip: Don’t forget your cameras! If you make it to the border there is a great photo opportunity by the border sign. It isn’t every day that you walk from one country to another!