This ride begins with an easy climb into the pre-Alp foothills along a quiet stream. Interesting wind-swept rock formations and the occasional waterfall keep you company along this part of the route. You feel far from civilization as you climb deep into the forest.
At the top of this first climb, you pop out of the forest and across the border into Germany to the Winkelmoos Alm ski area. A well-earned meal at one of the restaurants gives you a chance to admire the surrounding peaks.
After enjoying Winkelmoos, you return to the forest, and more climbing. Even better views await from the Möseralm and Loferer Alm ski areas (each with their own restaurants) along this stretch. Loferer Alm features the best views. From Loferer Alm, a fast, steep 900 m (3000-ft) descent takes you quickly down to the starting point on the Saalach River.
This route starts at a parking area off the main B178 road on the Saalach River just south of Unken, Austria.
After a short road section, you follow the Unkenbachtal
gravel forest road. It climbs steadily into the forest, initially at an easy grade, along the Unkenbach stream. The valley is narrow at times, and there are some interesting wind-formed rock formations. (When I rode this, there was a sign at the beginning that said to ride at your own risk because the wind made the cliffs prone to rockfalls, although it never seemed dangerous).
At the 7 km (4.3-mi) mark, you'll reach an intersection called Schwarzbergklamm (Black Mountain Ravine). This marks the end of the easy climbing. Just after this intersection, an unmarked sharp left turn takes you on a short path down to a hut with water if you need it.
At Schwarzbergklamm, take the right fork (don't cross the bridge) and begin a stout (15% grade) climb for 1 km (0.6 mi). At this point, you leave the Unkenbach stream behind and after a short descent, the climbing begins again.
Finally at 12 km (7.4 mi), you'll reach a clearing with a 4-way intersection called Tanzanger. This is the end of the first and largest climb. Continuing straight takes you to Winkelmoosalm just across the border in Germany. How can you not go to a place called Winkelmoosalm? The border is pretty clear as the forest abruptly becomes a clearing and there is a sign: "Achtung Staatsgrenze" (Attention - State Border). Winkelmoosalm is the base of a little ski resort, and there are several cozy hotels and restaurants. After Winkelmoosalm, head back to the Tanzanger intersection.
At Tanzanger, turn right onto the Schwarzberghöhe
forest road. It climbs another 250 m (800 ft) to the next ski area, Möseralm. The forest breaks just before you reach Möseralm after you cross under a ski lift. Here is also your second chance at a restaurant. The next kilometer or so is all open as you begin descending to lose all the altitude you just gained. There are some breathtaking views of the mountains towards the west from this clearing.
Once you cross the last of the ski lifts, you'll enter the forest again. The next 8 km (5 mi) takes you deep into a heavy pine forest. The only sign of civilization is a solitary, rustic hunting cabin. At the 26 km (16-mi) mark, you'll just about reach the Schwarzberghöhe (1328 m; 4,357 ft) summit before beginning another quick descent.
Another 250 m (800 ft) climb, takes you up to the Loferer Alm ski area. This is the last of the climbing. You'll know you're getting close when the forest opens to a large clearing and a number of ski lifts come into view. There are a couple of restaurants down at the base of this ski area just off this route. You've earned a hearty meal and beverage after the long climb if you haven't had one already!
forest road takes you from the Loferer Alm ski area back to the Unkenbach valley. There are a couple of outstanding long-range views of the Alps off in the distance near the top. The forest road passes in the shadow of the Dietrichshorn
(1542 m; 5,059 ft), which dominates the local landscape.
After that, you pass through some agricultural fields at lower elevations. You won't have much time to notice anything because you can really fly down the steep descent. Dietrichshorn
deposits you onto a low-traffic paved road where the descent continues back down to the Saalach River.