The Waalweg trails
Scenic walking routes along ancient irrigation channels
The Waalweg trails

The Waalweg trails

Scenic walking routes along ancient irrigation channels

The Waale are man-made water channels designed for the irrigation of vineyards and orchards. The narrow trails along these channels are called Waalwege, and are a peculiarity of Merano and Environs. They date back as far as the 13th century, thus being a part of the local cultural heritage, and are popular hiking routes.

The history of the Waalweg trails

Due to the irregular rainfall in Merano and Environs, local farmers already built Waal water channels centuries ago, with the water being taken from streams in high-altitude valleys. The word Waal is derived from the Latin "acquale". The trails along the canals were initially only used by the Waaler, the guardians of these irrigation systems, who were in charge of their maintenance and had to ensure that the rules regarding the Roaden were obeyed (a Roade being the one-hour time unit, during which the farmers had the right to take water from the Waal). In some places, the flow of the water is still signaled by a Waalschelle bell, its regular knocking indicating the smooth water flow; whenever the water wheel stops turning, the water’s passage is obstructed somewhere.

The Waalweg trails today

The Waalweg trails rank among the most popular hiking routes in Merano and Environs. They run through forests, orchards and vineyards, past historic monuments and marvels of nature. They have a combined length of about 60 kilometers and are mostly passable in every season. Depending on general weather conditions, the Waal channels carry water from the beginning of April to the end of October.
The Maiser Waalweg trail
from Saltusio to Maia Alta

The Maiser Waal channel branches off from the Passer River in Saltusio/Saltaus and leads across partially wooded hillsides to the Maia Alta/Obermais part of Merano/Meran.

From the Torgglerhof inn, the Waalweg runs to the Labböden and to the Waalerhaus hut with the characteristic Waalschelle bell. After crossing another footpath (the Riffianerweg), the trail continues to the Petaunerhof inn and to the Rothalerweg, with the rush of the Passer River providing an atmospheric sonic accompaniment to the hike. The Waalweg trail then leads past rocky hillsides to a bridge across the Schnuggenbach stream and on through woods to the Leiterweg footpath. The sparse forest covering the segment to the Sonnwendhof farm allows for splendid views of Maia Alta and Merano. After running through vineyards and orchards, the Waalweg ends at Planta Castle in Maia Alta.

Length: 8 km
Walking time: 2.5 hours
Altitude gain: negligible
Taverns and inns along the trail: Torgglerhof
Bus service: 240 (to Saltusio | bus stop "Funivia Hirzer/Saltusio"), 3 (to Maia Alta | bus stop "Asilo Maia Alta")

The Algunder Waalweg trail

from Quarazze to Tel

The Algunder Waalweg trail runs parallel to the Plarser, the Algunder and the Gratscher Waal channels, with the three Waale transitioning seamlessly into one another. The water for the Algunder Waal comes from the Etsch River, below Tel; the canal leads through meadows, vineyards and mixed woodland, from Plars to Lagundo and Quarazze.

The Waalweg trail branches off just below and to the east of Tel (parking lot and bus stop). After crossing a road (the Vellauer Straße), the path continues to the Gasthof Leiter am Waal inn, before running through vineyards and chestnut groves to Café Konrad. The next section includes the crossing of a narrow road, before leading to the road towards Thurnstein. There, a short descent ends at the St.-Magdalena church in Quarazze. The hike can be continued to Merano on the Tappeiner Trail.

Length: 6 km
Walking time: 2 hours
Altitude gain: negligible
Taverns and inns along the trail: Leiter am Waal, Konrad
Bus service: 213 (to Parcines | bus stop "Deviazione Plars di sopra-Waalweg di Lagundo"), 237 (Citybus Lagundo | bus stop "Deviazione Plars di sopra-Waalweg di Lagundo"), 235 (to Velloi | bus stop "Deviazione Plars di sopra-Waalweg di Lagundo"), 236 (to Castel Torre | bus stop "Peterbach") or 3 (to "Quarazze" or "Martinsbrunn" - the latter stop is only approached in the direction of the train station)
Impressions of the Waalweg trails