A trip from Salzburg south to Badgastein can become much more interesting by taking a less traveled route, part of which involves a delightful "yellow road" from Maria Alm (southeast of Saalfelden) to Route 311, or another - though much less direct - east to Bischofshofen. You'll need a detailed map such as Mairs Die Generalkarte #7 for Austria.
Out of Salzburg, take any road to Bad Reichenhall. From there, follow the little yellow road past Thumsee and pick up Route 21 to the Austrian border. Then take Route 312 past Unken in the direction of Lofer. (If you are coming from Munich, take the Traunstein exit, head south through Inzell on Route 305, and then turn toward Lofer where the road intersects Route 21.)
From Lofer there are views of several mountain peaks and the drive on to Saalfelden is through the Saalach Valley beside the Saalach River. Along the way are caves open for tours and places to stop for a wander through wooded gorges.
At Saalfelden, turn toward Maria Alm then on to Dienten. Maria Alm is a very picturesque little village with many hotels and restaurants, and an abundance of flowers decorating the buildings. The road from there to Dienten is quite interesting, particularly that portion past Hintertal. But from there on it is narrow, seldom more than a car and a half wide and climbs to a summit shortly before arriving at Dienten. The trip from Maria Alm to Dienten is, as the Mair's map indicates, quite scenic and there is an abundance of flower-covered houses. It is an interesting driving experience.
Dienten, a ski resort, is an exceptionally beautiful town. Buildings are decked completely with flowers. One house was covered with fuchsias.
Here you have a decision to make. Your first option is to go straight south. This road, to the main highway between Zell am See and St. Johann, is very narrow and mostly only wide enough for one car. (Too narrow for a yellow line in the middle). There are turnouts, of course, but traffic is light and there are few trucks. The road is curvy and most of the way is downhill to Route 311. At this point a turn to the west will take you to Zell am See or on to Kitzbhl. If you cross 311 and continue south, you enter the beautiful Gasteiner Valley leading to Bad Hofgastein and Badgastein.
The other option at Dienten is to continue east through Mülbach and on to Bischofshofen by way of the Hoch Königstrasse. Though this a lesser road even than a "yellow road" (the map shows it in white with gray borders) it is paved and well marked. It, too, is a lovely drive.
At Bischofshofen be sure to follow the Zell am See signs or you'll end up on the freeway to Salzburg or Graz. Once back on red road 311 heading west toward Zell am See, you'll soon see signs for the road south to Badgastein.
This drive was first suggested to us by our "Yellow Roads" guru, John K. Bestor, who also wrote this piece. You'll be rewarded whichever route you choose.