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Tauferberg Cave Hike & Großer Stein

Out from the depth of time

We shouldn't be talking here. We should actually let nature speak for itself. Nature is talking to us by the call of the jaybird, the sound of the wind in the tree tops - at eye level. But it doesn't work. The impressions of Niki's favorite place are far too strong, I would like to learn much more about it. So let's talk.

You don't need to have a special relationship to each other in this magical place at the heart of Tauferberg, the hike through the dark caves creates closeness, requires and promotes trust in each other. No matter if in a group or only in two. And there is really no one who doesn't feel the same.

Niki Leiter
About Niki Leiter

Year of birth: 1976
Marital status: married, 2 children
Activity: has been working at Hotel Tauferberg for 22 years - main job: receptionist but often also bartender in the evening. Other: certified mountain hiking and Nature Park guide. Volunteer: mountain rescue and avalanche commission

About favorite place

Starting point: car park, hamlet of Lehen (football field)
Walking time, both ways: 2 ½ - 3 hours
Difficulty level: easy
Difference in altitude: approx. 200 m

Like from the depth of time

It happened almost 10,000 years ago. The Niederthai high Alpine plateau was formed by the huge Köfels rockslide. The elemental force corresponded to a magnitude 7.5 earthquake on the Richter scale. The rock masses thundered into the valley, spread over an area of about 12 km², by forming a ridge on the opposite side - "Tauferberg Area". For Niki Leiter it is "a very special place".

A magical mountain made of holes in the ground, grottos and granite boulders as high as a tower, which are piled up within the rockslide forest. Enchanted, mysterious. A cold breath blows from the grottos as from the depth of time. "On many walks I tried to find the ice cellar that everyone knows about, but nobody knows its exact location or can describe it," says Niki. "Meat used to be stored in this rock hole - as a natural refrigerator. Tauferberg was our playground. I spent a lot of time here with my friends, I looked for adventure, discovered new paths that are so entwined and winding that no one will ever know them."

At that time they set out without a specific destination, climbed over rocks, balanced on tree trunks that no one had ever cleared out of the way until they came to the caves. "You always have to look at the floor and be sure-footed," says Niki. "Alone you would hardly find access through the thick berry bushes and the natural forest." And certainly not the highest point at the end of the cave hiking path. His favorite place.


Silence is the sound of the mountains

"Großer Stein", the big stone, wants to be discovered, the mystical place has to be conquered. We wade through dense bushes of berries, bend down under deep ceilings of rock, find our way back to the light along dark walls, shimmy over narrow granite bridges. Actually we find the exit of this millennia-old maze. And then it lies in front of us - at the highest point of the cave hike. Powerful, impressive, incredibly breathtaking in its simple form: Großer Stein - the big stone. Not to be confused with "Hoher Stein" which can be found at another point on Tauferberg. It rises completely smoothly at a certain angle towards the sky, then falls vertically downwards with a sharp edge as if sawn off. Formed by the glacier, moved by primal forces. A giant monolith.

A green carpet of moss in front of us, we accept the invitation and climb the gentle slope. It's fairly easy, the many narrow channels make slipping almost impossible - even for less experienced mountain hikers. I dare to walk to the edge until I start to understand. Why this stone is Niki's favorite place. Because every artist would have won a prize for its shape. And because it's a fantastic vista point! In front of us, the wide open sunny plateau of Niederthai, framed by eye-catching summits. Niki knows them all: "The view stretches from Bergle over Narrenkogel, Poschachkogel and Peistakogel to Weites Kar, Zwieselbacher Rosskogel and from Brand to Hemerkogel." A widescreen panorama reminding of a sentimental film. Only in real. And without an acoustic amplifier. You don't need it here. Silence is the sound of the mountains. "Although the stone is very close to the marked hiking trails, it is completely isolated. There is no distraction here," Niki states. "Here you can simply reflect, lie in the sun or enjoy the view."


Magical powers in a magical place?

"With my love for this very special stone, I am continuing my aunt Edeltraud's legacy," says Niki. "If she wanted to get away from everyday life, she used every free minute to come here." And then he is silent for a moment. Allows the film that is currently in his head to rewind to the end. After a while he continues: "I got to know every corner of the cave hike together with my aunt. Now I'm leading enterprising guests myself." It's good to know that Niki works as a voluntary mountain rescue expert. "The trail alone, whether you branch off from Tauferberg Loop Trail or ascend directly from the forest path to the stone, is a really special experience." That's exactly right!

Then he gives an insight into a particularly amusing scene of the "film" which is still looping through Niki's heart and brain: "In the past, my grandma used to pick berries that grow around the stone: blueberries and "Granten", like we call the cranberries in Tirol. I took grandma to a place where they grow particularly lush and gave her a cell phone just in case. I myself ran up to the stone to watch her picking from above. Then I called her and said: 'I have the feeling that the bucket is only half full, why are you taking a break now?' Believing that I had already returned home, my grandma asked in astonishment: 'How do you know that?' - 'I feel it,' I replied and let her believe for a moment that I had magical powers."


Place of strength, fairytale forest, adventure playground

In fact, there is something mystical about the stone. A meeting place for all good spirits of the forest. I close my eyes, let Niki's favorite place work on me and after a while I hear him say: "I find total peace and calm on this stone. When I go back home, I feel much more comfortable than before." No matter how often Niki goes on the cave hike, his enthusiasm never wanes: "Each time the hike is more impressive. For the adults, it's the deeply rooted history of Tauferberg Area combined with the experience of this wild, original landscape that amazes them. For the children, it's simply adventurous to climb around close to caves and mysterious paths. My favorite spot can be a place of strength, a fairytale forest, an adventure playground or even a hike. For me it's all together."

Niki picks a fresh pine cone with transparent resin pouring out of its tip. The resin looks like a mini icicle, and the whole apartment smells of it even weeks later.

Further Favorite Places in Niederthai

Tauferberg Area


Enchanted forest of earth holes, grottos and boulders

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Brand Area


Exhilarating Alpine roses

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Untere Hemerach Alm


A place like from fairytale books

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