The Kaisergebirge Nature Reserve

The Kaisergebirge nature reserve is located to the east of Kufstein. Magnificent and unspoilt nature stretches across a wide mountain range directly from Kufstein.
Here it is important to protect plants and animals in their natural habitats. The rock and forest habitats are particularly striking in the Kaiser Mountains, but the alpine pastures, the moor and the water are also valuable habitats for flora, fauna and not least for us humans as a source of drinking water and recreational space.

The protected area at a glance

  • Area: 92.6 km²
  • Location: Kufstein, St. Johann, Ebbs, Walchsee, Kirchdorf, Going, Ellmau, Scheffau
  • Altitude: 480-2344 m
  • Nature reserve since 1963 (new ordinance 2013)

Each and every individual can make a decisive contribution to preserving the beauty of the Kaisergebirge nature reserve.

3Thank you for...

  • keeping your dog on a leash.
  • taking your rubbish and doggy bags back down to the valley.
  • respect the habitat of plants and animals.

3Thank you for...

  • not feeding animals and keeping a safe distance.
  • stay on the signposted paths.
  • do not light an open fire.

3Thank you for...

  • use official overnight accommodation.
  • enjoy the peace and quiet and refrain from making loud noises.
  • move with your own physical strength.

Informative events...

On 29 April 1963, the Kaiser Mountains were officially declared a nature reserve. That is why we are celebrating the 60th anniversary of the nature reserve this year. The focus of the anniversary is not a big official celebration, however, but rather raising awareness of and educating people about the nature reserve. Only with conscious behaviour can the beauty and untouched nature be preserved.


On 29 April 1963, the Kaisergebirge was declared a nature reserve. The initiator, Franz Schwaighofer, the owner of Berghof Pfandl in the Kaisertal valley at the time, had the following reasons: to protect the flora and fauna with all their local peculiarities, to prohibit any motorised traffic or (further) cable car construction, to preserve this unique mountain world for future generations and to preserve an "oasis of peace" in a time and society characterised by economic growth.

Learn more about the history of the nature reserve's origins

Background: How the Kaiser Mountains became a nature reserve

"Cable car operators versus conservationists", "business people versus people seeking peace and quiet", "farmers versus mountaineers" - these supposed conflicting parties and their disputes could just as well come from a current article on the subject of "Tourism in the Alpine Region". In fact, however, they describe events that already took place at the end of the 1950s around the Kaisergebirge, especially in the town of Kufstein. At the instigation of the owner of the "Pfandl" mountain farm, Franz Schwaighofer, a political and social debate began at that time about placing the Kaisertal and subsequently the entire Kaisergebirge under nature conservation. This debate was to occupy the local council, but also scientists, associations such as the Alpine Club or Friends of Nature, the Association for Local History and Heritage Protection in Kufstein, but also the German Nature Protection Ring or the Association for the Protection of Alpine Plants and Animals in Munich, as well as the political leaders of the Tyrol from 1959 to 1963.

"The undersigned hereby submits a motion to declare the area of the Kaisertal in its entire extent from the Kaiserbach outlet in the Sparchen to Stripsenjoch, including the Zahme and Wilder Kaisergebirge, as a nature conservation area, with special regard to the fact that this area should remain completely closed to general motorised traffic for all time to come and that any further development by road or path construction within the Kaisertal should only be permitted to the extent that it would be required by purely forestry needs." (...) "It has always been a popular destination for all friends of a quiet alpine world, high tourists, hikers or those seeking recreation, and especially in today's time of traffic congestion, noise and the other 'blessings of civilisation', it forms a place of refuge which they can rarely find elsewhere, or only under greater hardship. (...)" wrote the applicant in 1959.

Debate also outside the municipal council

This motion was followed by extensive correspondence from all those involved, in which at first only benevolent comments were received, all of which were in favour of protecting nature and creating or preserving an ideal "oasis of peace". Nevertheless: In the municipal council meeting of 9 July 1960, the motion to "place the Kaisergebirge under nature protection" was initially rejected by 10:9 votes, as economic disadvantages were feared as a result. The negative vote caused consternation, especially in mountaineering circles, and what followed was a so-called "press battle" on both sides of the border with Bavaria. Around 70 statements and letters of protest were also sent to the municipal office, which boosted the supporters in the municipal council and ensured that another vote on the issue on 3 November 1960 was in favour of an application to the Tyrolean provincial government to create a nature reserve.

It would be beyond the scope of this article to describe the entire political process - but all those interested should definitely read the text "Naturschutzgebiet 'Kaisergebirge' Ja oder Nein?" (Nature reserve 'Kaisergebirge' Yes or No?) by Prof. Kurt Fischer, the nature conservation commissioner of the district of Kufstein at the time, from 1962; because, as mentioned at the beginning, the content has lost none of its topicality and will certainly cause a smile or two among interested readers.

Referendum on 5 November 1961

In any case, the result of the political and social debate surrounding the nature reserve was that on Sunday 5 November 1961 a referendum was held on the following question: "Should the municipal council resolution of 3 November 1960 concerning an application to the Tyrolean provincial government for the issuing of an ordinance in accordance with § 4 of the provincial law LGBl. No. 31/1951 with the content of making the area of the Kaisergebirge a nature reserve be repealed?" Logically, the question could only be answered with "yes" or "no".

In the run-up to the referendum, postal mailings were sent to Kufstein households by both supporters and opponents of nature conservation. In the run-up to the vote, however, it was already foreseeable that the supporters would very probably prevail, because non-voters would count as "no votes" - i.e. as votes against the repeal of the relevant municipal council resolution and for the creation of the Kaisergebirge nature reserve - according to the legal regulations in force at the time.

The result: out of 7,124 eligible voters, 587 cast their votes. Of these, 585 were valid, 125 voted "yes" (i.e. against the nature reserve) and in contrast 460 voted "no" (i.e. for the nature reserve). It was thus clear that the Kufstein municipal council would not overturn its decision of 3 November. A few statements and discussions between the Office of the Tyrolean Provincial Government and the municipalities affected by the nature reserve later, the time had come: in its ordinance of 29 April 1963, the Kaisergebirge was declared a nature reserve.

Then as now: guests seek connection with nature

In his preface - this text is also recommended to the interested public - to the special edition "The nature reserve 'Kaisergebirge'", the Vice-President of the Tyrolean Parliament, Dr. Karl Erlacher, wrote the following lines in 1965: "Nature conservation is a human obligation and spiritual enrichment. In the age of massification and modern industrial society, we need the interaction between man and nature more than ever. Where else could we draw the inner strength to be human than from nature? Nature conservation can therefore not only be the task of a few special-purpose associations and idealists; the protection of nature is a state-political duty that no politically responsible person can and may evade. (....)

I do not want to claim that nature conservation does not play a role in the tourism industry. How many guests today, tired of the noise of the big city, seek a connection with nature and the lonely mountain village. Perhaps they will soon realise that the "Kaiser Mountains" nature reserve is an attraction for everyone. (...)"

And he was to be absolutely right about that - and possibly for longer than anyone would have dared to hope in the 1960s, given the nature reserve's turbulent history. For 60 years later, nature conservation is a central concern of the "tourism industry", which today is organised in tourism associations (TVB); the Kaisergebirge is still a centre of attraction for all those seeking peace and tranquillity in nature. Reason enough for the TVBs based around the Kaisergebirge - Kufsteinerland, St. Johann and Wilder Kaiser - to jointly reflect on this "treasure" and its protection on the occasion of the 60th anniversary.

Sources and further information:
Kurt Fischer: Nature Reserve Kaisergebirge "Yes or No?" (1962)
Dr Karl Erlacher: Foreword to the offprint "Das Naturschutzgebiet 'Kaisergebirge'" (1965)