Tischofer Höhle

Schäferhöhle - Bärenhöhle - Zottenhöhle

Useful Information

Location: Inntal (Inn valley) near Kufstein. A12 (E45) exit Kufstein Nord. Turn north towards Ebbs and Germany on B175. After 2 km turn right into Sparchen. At the end of this small village right at the city limits sign and the historic water power station is a parking lot on the right and the path starts on the left side. Walk uphill the steps of the Kaisertalweg, with nice views on Kufstein, and follow the this path for about half an hour. There is a small wooden sign at the Abzweig to the cave. The path leads down a steep shoulder and into the cave.
Open: no restrictions
Fee: free
Classification: SpeleologyKarst Cave
Light: no light necessary, you may bring an electric torch.
Dimension: L=40 m, A=650 m asl. Portal: W=20 m, H=8.5 m.
Guided tours: n/a
Bibliography: M. Schosser (1909): Die Bären- oder Tischofer Höhle im Kaisertal bei Kufstein, München 1909 (Deutsch - German)
Victor Büchel (?): Tischoferhöhle bei Kufstein, Die Höhle (Deutsch - German)
Address: Tischofer Höhle
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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1607 Schlosshauptmann Karl Schlurff from Kufstein sends his sovereign Erzherzog Maximilian a 6kg bone from this cave.
1809 used as a hideout by Tyrolian freedom fighters during the freedom fights.
1859 first excavations by the geologist Adolf Bichler.
1906 excavations by the Historischer Verein Kufstein and the paleontologist Max Schlosser.
1920 excavations in the nearby Hyänen Halbhöhle.
1960 scientific examination of both caves by O. Menghin and W. Kneissl.


The Tischoferhöhle is located in the Kaisertal, a narrow gorge between two mountain ranges, the Wilder Kaiser and the Zahmer Kaiser. To reach it, a steep walk of at least half an hour is necessary. Walking shoes and appropriate clothes are much recommended. The Kaisertalweg is a rather popular path wich starts at the historic water power station at Sparchen. It follows the tubes of the power station into the Kaisertal. The path is rather steep at first and pretty strenuous. After some time there is a small parking lot for the locals, which is reached on a single line road from uphill. Further up that road, after some 200 m, a narrow path turns right and leads downhill to the cave. It is signposted with a small wooden sign, which is easily missed.

The Tischofer cave is rather small, only 40 m deep, but it has an impressive entrance portal, 80 m above the sole of the valley, which is 20 m wide and 8m high. Its importance is not in the spelaeological, but in the archaeological and palaeontological field. This huge shelter was used by animals and man for thousands of years. So several meters of sediments containing the remains of cave bear (Ursus spelaeus) and man filled the cave.

The name Tischofer is rather strange. Originally this cave was called Schäferhöhle (sheperds cave) as it was used by sheperds. In 1809 when the Tyrolians fought for their freedom, the French and Bavarian troops entered the country several times through the nearby Inn valley. The cave was used as a strategic hideout, to store food and weapons. There was a desk in the middle of the cave and so the freedom fighters never talked about going to the cave, they always said to go to the "Tisch oba" (up to the desk) in their local dialect. This sentence became a sort of parole and was later falsely used for the cave in the first map of this area.

Over centuries, the visitors of the cave found strange relicts and bones in the dry dust of the cave. There were legends about witches dancing in the cave. It was visited by treasure hunters and later archaeologists. First digs revealed an enormous amount of bones which were identified to be cave bear bones.

The Tischofer cave had two layers containing remains. The lower layer beared the remains of at least 380 cave bears, 200 adult and 180 infant animals. Other remains of pleistocene fauna included cave lion, cave hyena and ren. Also eight bone tools from the late Paleolithic, probably the Aurignacien, were found. They were dated to be 26,000 years old, which are the oldest remains found in northern Tyrolia.

The upper layer contained mostly human remains. The bones of some 30 to 35 people were discovered, also the remains of pets and food. It seems the cave was used as a cemetery for some time during the Bronze Age. This layer was very strongly disturbed by the tresure hunters of the former centuries. Probably the broze tools in the graves were the source of the legends about treasures in the cave. The scientific value of this layer is the fact that a cave was used as a cemetry in this way, which is extremely exceptional. At approximately the same time the cave was also used as a workshop, remains of fires, ceramics, bronze and copper tools and a furnace were found. This remains are dated to 1500 BC.

The remains from the Tischofer Höhle can be visited in the Kufsteiner Stadtmuseum (City museum of Kufstein). A whole room is dedicated to the remains fromm this cave. Three reconstructed cave bear skeletons, bones of cave lion, cave hyena, ren, deer and others are on display. There is also a section of Bronze Age remains.