Hoher Ifen | 2.230m

23 Jun. 2021 · experience nature up close | Summer Activities

Pearl of Kleinwalsertal - The European Protected Area Ifen-Gottesacker

On your way into Kleinwalsertal, the first thing that catches your eye is one mountain: The Hoher Ifen. Due to its unusual shape, it is one of the most striking peaks in the Walser mountains. Find out what makes the area so special.

Ifen summit | © Kleinwalsertal Tourismus eGen | Photographer: Steffen Berschin

Extraordinary peak

With its 2,230 metres and its remarkable plateau, the Hoher Ifen thrones above Kleinwalsertal. Not only is it an impressive sight - its unique vegetation and geology make the Ifen and the nearby Gottesacker plateau a European nature reserve (Natura 2000 site). The 4,916 hectare nature reserve is split more or less equally between the German and Austrian sides of the border. Due to its nativeness and special vegetation, the Ifen-Gottesacker area is one of the most important karst landscapes in Vorarlberg.

Gottesackerplateau | © Kleinwalsertal Tourismus eGen

And now you might ask yourself, what is a karst landscape? In short, it is structured-weathered carbonate rock that has been eroded by water. Yes, that sounds a bit complicated... let's try to describe it more simply: The weathering (karstification) of the limestone surface of the Gottesacker plateau creates cracks and gaps in the rock. If water enters the limestone through these cracks, it also dissolves the stone inside and underground caves and tunnel systems can form. Quite simple really, isn't it?

These cave systems not only swallow whole streams, such as the Schwarzwasserbach, which partly flows underground to Riezlern, they are also the habitat of endangered animals. Especially in winter, they provide shelter for bats and birds.

The Gottesacker

North of the Ifen summit, the 10 km² Gottesacker plateau offers a bizarre but spectacular picture. At first glance you see little - a barren area characterised by a cracked surface. But looking closer, you realise that moisture and blown-in seeds collect in the cracks, from which a unique alpine flora develops. Plants such as the rare Hungarian gentian, red-glowing alpine roses or the Swiss man's shield stand out colourfully against the grey limestone. If you want to take a closer look and experience the special features of the plateau, join the guided tour on the Gottesackerplateu.

 

Schwarzwassertal

On the other side of the Ifen summit, in the direction of the Schwarzwassertal, you will find further protected areas of the Natura 2000 site. The landscape is characterised by alpine grasslands, meadows  and spruce forests. Due to the rapidly draining water that collects at lower altitudes, moors are common in the area. The different habitats provide living space for a variety of rare plants and animals. Various species of woodpeckers and owls, majestic golden eagles, reptiles but also smaller inhabitants such as the greasy fritillary or the adder can be found around the Ifen. So it's worth keeping your eyes open! 😊

Gottesacker Plateau in summer | © Kleinwalsertal Tourismus eGen | Photographer: Steffen Berschin

Smart in nature

We now know, the list of interesting flora and fauna in the Ifen Gottesacker European nature reserve is long. According to the motto "Natur bewusst erleben" (experience nature consciously), I would like to give you a few tips for your next hike in the Ifen area - so that this list remains as extensive as it is for as long as possible.

  • Please leave plants and plant parts where they belong - in nature.
  • Binoculars are the best way to observe undisturbed flora and fauna.
  • Keep quiet to avoid disturbing birds and other animals.
  • Keep dogs on a leash
  • Take garbage of all kinds with you and dispose of it in your accommodation
  • Stay on paths and marked trails
  • No drone footage
  • Bivouacking and camping is not permitted in the entire European protected area

Now you've got the urge to see this natural spectacle for yourself? Experienced hikers explore the area on two different tours -over the Gottesacker plateau or to the Ifen with a descent via Schwarzwasserhütte. The nature trail to the Ifenhütte is also suitable for leisurely laps and offers a great view of the entire area. Do not forget to plan a snack at the Ifenhütte. ;)

Note: From an altitude of around 1900 meters (also applies to the Gottesacker plateau and Ifen), snow fields are currently to be expected. Please note that markings, signs and fuses are therefore not visible or not present.

Blooming Garden | © Kleinwalsertal Tourismus eGen | Photographer: Louisa Hieke

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