Is cycling or mountainbiking allowed in forests?
The Forest Act 1975 stipulates that anyone may enter the forest for recreational purposes. Riding a vehicle and horse-riding in forests are subject to the permission of the forest owner or forest road maintainer.
Entering and spending time in forests
The Forest Act 1975 stipulates that anyone may enter the forest for recreational purposes. There are some exceptions to this rule, such as re-afforestation areas or closed forest areas.
Any other use of forests, such as riding a vehicle (e.g. a motor vehicle or a bicycle) or horse-riding in a forest, which includes forest roads and other forest paths, is subject to permission by the forest owner or the forest road maintainer.
Forest roads and forest paths
Forest roads and other forest paths are basically used for forest management, such as timber transport. Due to the general right of access to forests, these non-public paths (roads) are considered roads with public (pedestrian) traffic and are therefore subject to the road traffic regulations.
Is it allowed to mountain bike on forest roads or in open forest terrain?
Riding bicycles (mountain bikes) in the forest, which includes forest roads or other forest paths, is only permissible with the consent of the owner of the forest, and on forest roads only with the consent of the person maintaining the forest road, which in most cases is the forest owner. This consent can be granted to individual persons or generally, for example by means of signs as provided for in the Forest Marking Ordinance (“Forstliche Kennzeichnungsverordnung“). Illegal cycling is punishable by administrative penalties and civil lawsuits.
Liability of persons responsible for the maintenance of forest roads and other forest paths
The owner of a forest and any other persons involved in forest management are liable for the maintenance of (private) forest roads and other forest paths that the forest owner has expressly dedicated to use by the general public by appropriate marking.
Due to the duty to ensure a high level of traffic safety these persons are responsible for the proper condition of the path to the extent that its construction and maintenance is appropriate and acceptable for the relevant type of path. They can be held liable for any damage resulting from a defective condition of the road or the adjacent forest caused intentionally or by gross negligence.
As a basic principle, the forest owner cannot be held liable if the use of a path is recognisably unauthorised.
Riding a vehicle in a forest off forest roads or other forest paths that the forest owner expressly dedicated to public use (for cycling) is always at the risk of the cyclist as regards the condition of the forest soil and vegetation.
If a forest road that is visibly closed for general traffic is used in an inadmissible manner (by bicycle), a penalty of € 730 or a prison sentence of up to one week is to be imposed. Otherwise, unauthorised cycling in the forest is punishable with up to € 150.
Accident risks and liability risks for unauthorised cycling in forests
Unauthorised cycling on forest roads (or other forest areas) means self-endangerment and involves liability risks, for example in the event of accidents involving forest managers (timber transport) or pedestrians.
Agreed "mountain bike trails“
On the initiative of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Regions and Water Management, a "contractual model" has been developed according to which forest roads can, on the basis of agreements with the owners of the forests (road maintainers) be opened up for cycling ("mountain biking") where this is ecologically compatible (in respect of game) and allows for a balance of interests between forest owners and mountain bikers.
Where can I find the "official" mountain bike paths?
The following links, listed by Federal Province, provide detailed information on the mountain biking networks and individual mountain biking routes as well as on tourist facilities.
The Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Regions and Water Management would like to point out that the content of these internet pages does, in particular, not guarantee that they contain only those cycling routes that the forest owner (person responsible for the maintenance of the path) has made available to the general public for cycling (mountain biking).
Levels of difficulty for mountain bike paths
Similar to the ski slopes, also some mountain bike routes are classified according to levels of difficulty, which should help with the choice of route and equipment.
Blue route: easy
Red route: medium difficulty
Black route: difficult
Single trail: extremely difficult
The nine "FAIR PLAY Rules"
The nine "Fair Play rules“ are practical tips for cycling in forests. They have been created by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Regions and Water Management in cooperation with the Austrian agricultural and forestry enterprises and the Austrian Federal Forests Company (“Österreichische Bundesforste AG“).
1. Bike on marked paths only!
2. Don't leave tracks!
3. Keep your mountain bike fit!
4. Keep your mountain bike under control!
5. Respect others using nature!
6. Show consideration for animals!
7. Act responsibly!
8. Do something good for yourself and the environment!
9. Get ready - you can start right away!
- Forest Act 1975 (“Forstgesetz 1975“), Federal Law Gazette No 440/1975, as last amended by Federal Law Gazette I No 56/2016 "Rechtsinformationssystem"
- Forest Marking Ordinance (“Forstliche Kennzeichnungsverordnung“), Federal Law Gazette No 179/1976, as last amended by Federal Law Gazette II No 67/1997 "Rechtsinformationssystem"
- Bicycle Ordinance (“Fahrradverordnung“), Federal Law Gazette II No 146/2001 "Rechtsinformationssystem"
- Road Traffic Regulations 1960 (“Straßenverkehrsordnung 1960“), Federal Law Gazette No 159, as last amended by Federal Law Gazette I No 59/2011 "Rechtsinformationssystem"
Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Regions and Water Management
Directorate III 2 - Forest Legislation, Legal Policy and Vocational Qualification
Director Mag. Katharina Kaiser
Phone: +43 1 711 00 - 606681