The "Schmugglerweg" (Smugglers path) in Gargellen follows old smuggler trails up in the mountains, where people smuggled goods and livestock betwee Switzerland and Austria.
We had found the route description for the "Schmugglerweg" in the local tourist map and the Montafon website. Even though it sounded great, we couldn't quite decide wether visiting would be worth it. We expected loads of people there, while we were looking for a calm and less visited experience.
In the end we chose to give it a shot anyways, and we are so glad we did - the Smugglers path is a beautiful hike and was a lot less crowded than we had anticipated.
The trail officially starts at the "Schafberg Hüsli", the mountain side cable car station of the Gargellen cableway. So we drove to the bottom station parking lot and got really lucky as someone had left their unused parking ticket at the ticket machine for other people to use. What a nice surprise!
We took the cableway up the mountain and used the time to enjoy the view from the softly swinging cable car.
Once we reached the top station, we started the trail along a gravel road until we came to the first crossroads. Here there was a sign pointing towards the "smugglers path" - but beware, besides the hiking trail, there is also a via ferrata at the Gargellner Köpfe with the same name. That's not the one we had come to take, so we checked on our phones, where we had downloaded the GPX of the trail, and followed the correct path towards the "Antönier Joch".
The "Joch" is also the first border crossing from Austria into Switzerland. Right beside it is a tiny, dark Hut with dry-stone walls. Even though it's not the most pleasant place it probably is good shelter whenever the weather takes a suprising turn.
After crossing the trail follows the border along a ridge. This was in our opinion the most beautiful part of the trail. First the track ascends steeply across bare rock with some places secured with ropes. All around the view opens and offers beautiful views, especially towards Madrisahorn and Rätschenhorn. We were truly faszinated by the different shades and colors of the rocks that made up the mountains in front of us. While most of them were brown-ish, some had light gray sections that were so light they almost looked like glaciers from afar.
The track itself was nice too, quite a bit more demanding than we had expected, since the trail was advertised as a family-friendly hiking experience. While it's not exactly dangerous, we would suggest all family members to be surefooted and ideally not afraid of heights.
After passing over a crest, the trail started to descend more softly down into a small valley through green and blooming fields of grass. Soon we were able to see the blue-green glistening Gafiersee in front of us, down in the bottom of the little valley. Once we reached it, we decided to take a break and have lunch. There was no one around and we enjoyed the calmness and serenity of the place. And the wonderfull silence with only the sounds of nature around us.
Even though we had initially expected a crowded trail, we had so far only seen two other hikers. Only when we had already finished our lunch, we saw another two hikers slowly making their way to the lake. So we packed up and left, to allow them to enjoy the small lake and it's atmosphere as much as we had.
The trail now led us over a field of loose boulders towards the Gafierjoch. From up there we once again followed a ridgeline towards the steep rockfaces of the Gargellner Madrisa and the Oswaldskopf. Of course we didn't want to ascend them, and shortly before them a path suddenly forked to the left, leading us down in the direction of the Schafbergsee. Even though we had seen some dark clouds coming up, the weather changed pretty sudden, just after we had started the descent. We unpacked our rain jackets and continued our way during the short rainshower that came down on us.
Soon it cleared up again, and just as fast as it had come, the dark clouds were gone and the sun came out again. But when we reached the Schafberghüsli and the cable cars, they still were stopped due to the weather. We had to wait about half an hour until it operated normally again and we could take the cableway back down to the valley station, where we had parked our car.
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