Partly due to its isolated location in the high mountains and the lack of interest in cave exploration back then, this cave was completely unknown until the end of the 19th century. It was not until the nature explorer Anton von Posselt-Czorich from Salzburg penetrated about 200 meters into this dark cave by himself in 1879 that the Eisriesenwelt was officially discovered. A year later he published a detailed report of his exploration in an Alpine association newsletter. Nonetheless, the cave was soon forgotten again.

Alexander von Mörk, founder of the Salzburg Cave Explorers, realized the significance of Posselt’s documentation. He continued the latter’s research in 1913, joined by other pioneers in cave exploration, like Angermayer and Riehl.

After World War I, researchers such as Friedrich and Robert Oedl and Walter Czernig embarked on the truly trailblazing explorations of the extensive labyrinths inside this cave system.

As this unique natural wonder became increasingly well-known, its value as a tourist attraction also grew. An explorer’s lodge was built as early as 1920, along with the first primitive climbing installations up to and into the cave to make it easier for the public to visit.

By 1924, the entire icy part of the cave was walkable on simple wooden planks. In addition to the explorer’s cottage, a refuge was constructed in 1925 - at a size that was quite considerable for the conditions of that time - and named after Friedrich Oedl, in recognition of his research at the Eisriesenwelt.

For about 35 years, the cave could only be accessed on foot. Starting in 1953, an initially unpaved, single-lane road provided vehicle access under rather adventurous conditions; this was followed by an aerial cable car in 1955 that could traverse the steepest part of the footpath (from 1084 m to 1586 m) in just a few minutes.The Eisriesenwelt site belongs to the Austrian Federal Forests. The Salzburg Association for Cave Research initially entered into a lease with this agency.
In 1928, after the start of a dedicated Eisriesenwelt company, the lease was changed into long-term agreements.The Federal Forests receive a significant percentage of the annual entry fees.