The eventful history of the Alpine Pass

Gerlospass links Zillertal and Salzachtal. Even 3500 years ago, people were living on both sides of this mountain pass, and it was presumably crossed at that time too. When gold was discovered on the Rohrberg, high above Zell am Ziller, the importance of the road suddenly increased. After all, Zillertal and its gold deposits were owned by the Archdiocese of Salzburg until the end of the Napoleonic Wars. However, the only path to it proceeded via Bavaria and Tyrol. To avoid any dispute about profits from mining, in the 17th century the Salzburg archbishops set up an ‘internal’ access route to the gold. 

The path to gold

a path for carts through the mountains

Work to extend the 30 km sumpter path from Wald im Pinzgau across the Gerloss pass to Zell am Ziller commenced in 1630. The intention was to transport gold ore in carts from the mines on the Rohrberg and Hainzenberg, to the furnaces in Mühlbach bei Bramberg and Lend. Within one year, 70 workers had completed the small, 3.5 m wide road, which was then soon destroyed by flooding and landslides. What remained was the “Ronachweg” for pedestrians. Later plans for constructing a railway line across the Gerlos pass and crossing it with a cableway were quickly discarded. 

From planing to ground-breaking ceremony for the Gerlos Alpine Road

Historical picture with machines for the construction of the Gerlos Alpine Road | ©

The motives for constructing the Gerlos Alpine Road where similar to those that led to the construction of the Grossglockner High Alpine Road and the Villach Alpine Road. A lovely panorama road aimed to give tourism a fresh boost, while also taking into account the growing requirements of steadily increasing levels of vehicular traffic. Delays to the start of construction abounded – there were endless discussions on routing, protecting the natural surroundings and the necessity of the planned route. Then came World War II. After years of postponement, it finally happened. The plans for constructing the road were made in 1949 by Franz Wallack, constructor of the Grossglockner High Alpine Road, finally became a reality when state governor Josef Klaus turned the first sod on 20 July 1960.

Facts, details & figures about the construction

Opening of Gerlos Alpine Road | ©
1st December 1962

Gerlos Alpine Road was opened on 1st December 1962. And even on day, 300 vehicles travelled on this new panorama road! 

Historical picture of the Gerlos Alpine Road  | ©
12 km Road

Gerlos Alpine Road, planned by Franz Wallack, comprised a route of 12 kilometres from Krimml to the summit, Pinzgauer Höhe. 

Machine asphalting the Gerlos Alpine road | ©
558 metres ascent

In total, 558 metres ascent were covered, with a maximum incline of nine percent and eight hairpin bends. To this day, this section of the road is regarded as the ‘Queen stage’ of the mountain road, which bears the unmistakeable signature of ingenious planner, Franz Wallack.

Historical picture of the construction of the Gerlos Alpine Road with equipment | ©
2 years later

Two years after the opening, gaps in the road between Passhöhe and Gerlos village were closed to construct Durlassboden reservoir.

Would you like to drive on and find out more about the historic Gerlos Alpine Road for yourself? Get information now about prices & opening hours for this fantastic Carinthian sight!

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