Spitzenwanderweg Trail - Section 1: From Murnau to Eschenlohe

 // by Sonja Wilms
Spitzenwanderweg Trail - Section 1: From Murnau to Eschenlohe
Monday, 26 July 2021

The Spitzenwanderweg Trail would be my tenth long distance trail that will definitely bring me a few more insights into the German natural and cultural landscape. It would be the trail with the highest altitudes as well, and I find this really impressive. However, the first sections are easy, so you can gradually gain tempo and get used to the trail.

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Map data © www.ich-geh-wandern.de

Spitzenwanderweg Long Distance Trail – Experience the Natural Landscape in the Zugspitze Region Across 200 Kilometers

The 'Spitzenwanderweg' was introduced just a few years ago. This long distance trail leads you in 12 sections across 200 kilometers through the picturesque manifold landscape of the Zugspitze region. With a total elevation of 6.800 meters, this route is quite sporty. But it's worth the effort. The route goes through a number of alpine landscape varieties and lets you visit numerous culture monuments. The trail starts and ends in the picturesque town of Murnau. On the way you would have to spend two nights at the alpine chalets: the 'Soiernhaus' and the 'Schachenhaus'. Across 200 kilometers hikers enjoy tremendous views of the Alps, blooming alpine and moor meadows, deep blue alpine lakes, whirling torrents, the spectacular Partnachklamm and Hell Valley gorges, pre-alpine hills with panoramic views, cultural monuments like Schachen and Linderhof royal castles, as well as the typical Bavarian localities like Murnau, Krün, Mittenwald, Grainau or Oberammergau. There is a lot to discover on and aside the path. 

Anticipation is the best joy, so we would hike one section after another, as the route will be a special experience for us locals as well. Sonja will walk the trail alone or sometimes with her colleague Polly. Follow us on the route!

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Image © spitzenwanderweg.de

From Murnau to Eschenlohe

You have only really been there if you did it on foot.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I start the first section on a Saturday morning shortly before 7 am, as the weather forecast predicts a shower already around noon, and I'd like to take advantage of this sunny morning to walk the complete section. In addition, it should get very hot, the forecast says 25 to 28 degrees Celsius, so my backpack includes 1.8 l drinks, things to eat on the trail, and an umbrella - for the case it starts raining earlier than expected. I park my car at the railway station in Murnau, this way I can take the train to get back here after I finish. The parking fee is currently only 1 € for the whole day. I tighten my backpack, and the hike can now start.

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From the railway station I first go to the town center. Here in the nice shopping street of Murnau, named the 'Obermarkt' and the 'Untermarkt' (that is, 'the upper and the lower market'), which looks pretty deserted in these morning hours, I discover the trail sign, that would accompany and lead me across the whole tour. I follow the sign to pass the 'Schlossmuseum' and St. Nicholas Chirch. Stopping at the cross, I briefly ask God to give me light feet, strength and endurance for the 23 km long trail. Next, the route takes me on a small detour over the Froschhauser Lake.

ATTENTION: At this point there is no sign marking the Spitzenwanderweg. After you reach the end of the street named 'Am Eichholz', you should continue on the small path in the same direction and then turn on the established footpath (corner of Hagener Leite / Leitenweg). Here you would see a hiking sign showing different routes in the Murnau area, as well as the signs of the 'Ammergauer Alpen Meditationsweg' (a yellow heart with a blue background). I walk past the last houses in Murnau until I reach a bench next to a crossing. Here I have to check once again which direction I need. Not straight but slightly to the left should it be, so I reach the forest following the sign to 'Froschhauser See / Riegsee'.

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From now on I gradually plunge into the nature, first on my way through a small forest, which soon opens to impress me with a view towards the Froschhauser Lake. The noise of the town is left behind. Birds' twittering, chirps and cow bells are now the dominating sounds. The way leads me into a small village where I take the right turn and pass by the picturesque Leonhard Church, which has been known as a pilgrimage church since the old times. Following the road, I leave the locality again.

The Froschhauser Lake now lies on my right side, and Lake Riegsee on my left.  Both lakes are bathing areas. Unfortunately the route doesn't go directly on the lakeshore, however, you can reach the Froschhauser Lake in no time for a brief swimming round, or just to cool your feet in the water. The bathing area is marked, while the rest of the lake shore is a protected area for the birds. I go straight until the trail forks slightly to the right from the road and then joins a forest road after the gravel pit. Past the meadows full of chirping crickets, I now follow the path in the direction of Hagen.

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After a small forest I am awarded with the first panoramic view crowned with the Zugspitze chain. The Murnau Moor lies in the foreground. This view deserves my first lunch break - two hours after I left the railway station. I enjoy my snack and the glorious view for some time. Now the hike can go on, and at the crossing on the edge of the woods I take the right turn. After some 100 meters the route takes me downhill to the small locality of Hagen. There I see the Spitzenwanderweg trail sign again.

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The steep road leads me from Hagen down to the main road. My route crosses the road. I approach the two bridges that definitely deserve a brief stop: the trail here crosses the Ramsach, a river with light-brown, muddy water, that merges into the blue-green Loisach at the second bridge. The difference in water colour is evident, even after the recent rains, while normally the water in the Loisach has even a stronger shade of blue.

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After the second bridge the route forks to the right again, and on the next kilometers the route leads me parallel to the Loisach. This is a nice small path, slightly sandy, so it feels softer to walk here. A pleasant change after the hard roads I walked before. After it rained yesterday, there are still puddles of water on the way, so walking is currently a bit like a parcours. To keep my shoes from getting too dirty and to avoid getting wet, I have to hop right and left, looking out for the dry spots. Sometimes I'm not that successful and my feet land in the puddle.

Here and there the riverbank has open spots where you can access the water. Of course, cooling your feet in the river sounds great, however, the current is so strong at the moment that there's a risk of getting sweeped away. The path goes through a green tunnel consisting of trees, bushes and reed grass. From time to time on the open spots I can see a panorama of the Alps.

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What I really didn't expect is the oodles and oodles of mosquitos that are now circling around me. Naturally, the river bank offers perfect conditions: humidity and sultry air. It's only 10 am but it's getting really hot. As long as I stop to make a photo, dozens of mosquitos attack my arms and legs. I put enough sunscreen on me, but who would think of mosquito repellent? It was a good idea to put on long trousers, otherwise my legs would be bitten in no time.

I will never forget a hike I did with short trousers in La Réunion. My legs looked as if I had chickenpox. I counted 47 mosquito bites! This should never happen again. Should you have no repellent at hand, just run what it takes. So I switch on a Nordic Walking tempo, until I leave the river bank behind me and open meadows dominate the landscape again. It's too hot for the mosquitos here and I can breathe out at last.

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Luckily however, my bite-away stick is always in my camera bag, so I treat the first visible bites on my arms straight away, to avoid itching that would irritate me the rest of my route. Let's see what the next checkup in the evening shows. After the nasty mosquitos are not there anymore, the next section of the trail is very enjoyable. The meadows are covered with orchids and lysimachia. Ohlstadt is no more that far away, I come across the bike trail that leads me to the village. But a short break with a great view goes first.

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I was actually planning to stretch my legs on the bench, breath fresh air and let myself regenerate for half an hour, but suddenly it gets cool and windy - no trace of the summer heat. Grey clouds are gathering in the sky. I start feeling uncomfortable on my bench, so I choose to put on my backpack and start further to Ohlstadt. 

Here I find a bench in the slipstream for my break and watch out if the weather really changes. There's a railway station nearby, for the case if it suddenly starts to rain. My weather forecast suggests it should stay dry, but in the mountains you never know.

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The grey clouds disappear as quickly as they had emerged, and the sun resumes its rule. In no time the temperature goes up, so I can feel the midday heat on my skin. Let's hope that the last section of my hike between Ohlstadt and Eschenlohe goes through a shady forest. 

At first, I have to walk under the blazing sun. The good thing though is the great view. Then the trail dives into the forest at last, the temperature goes down and the way gets pleasant again. The twittering birds create a wonderful musical background all along the way. The sun is shining through the trees, bringing the leaves to gleam.

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I really wonder why I am alone on the route. Shortly before Ohlstadt I saw numerous bikers that were apparently exploring the nice biking routes between Murnau and Garmisch-Partenkirchen, but I hardly met any hikers. Only here in the forest I've seen a few, but there are really not so many of them. The advantage is, however, that nothing disturbs my contemplation of nature.

A big stone attracts my attention. According to the info sign, this used to be a border stone between the communities Eschenlohe and Ohlstadt. Until the secularization in 1803 Ohlstadt belonged to the Schlehdorf Abbey, while Eschenlohe was part of Murnau, which was under the 'Pfleger' rule of Ettal. The stone still keeps the symbols of both areas dating back to 1670. I take a look at them before I leave.

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The trees step aside once again, allowing me to see my goal Eschenlohe in the distance. This view is just the right one for my last lunch break, before I start my final sprint. So I take my still icy alcohol-free 'Radler' out of my backpack, along with the salad I had prepared for lunch, and enjoy the amazing panorama to the full extent.

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After the break I look into the Bahn App. The next train from Eschenlohe in the direction of Murnau leaves in 40 minutes. After that I would have to wait for another hour. That means, be quick and walk non-stop to Eschenlohe, as it would be great to catch this train. So I leave the detour to the Heroes' Cross for the next time, I can visit the small hill when I have more time. After a 21 km walk I'm really dreaming of my hammock with a view of the Zugspitze.

I reach Eschenlohe, cross the bridge and come to the station just in time to buy me a ticket, before the train comes in. So I did it! The first long section is behind me, and it was quicker than I thought. And it was a very eventful one, so I'm definitely ready for more.

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Tips for Section 1:

  • Declared section length: 21 km, actual length: 25 km, plus walking to and from railway stations Murnau & Eschenlohe - about 1 km
  • Walking time without breaks: around 5 hours
  • Moderate hike, mostly hilly landscape, on forest and blacktop roads
  • The Tourist Office unfortunately provides no overview map of the Spitzenwanderweg route. The official Spitzenwanderweg website offers no digital map either. Therefore, the best navigation is here.
  • If you don't want to start too early, you can take the train to Murnau and back from Eschenlohe. Trains run every hour from Garmisch-Partenkirchen in the direction of München over Eschenlohe, Ohlstadt and Murnau. From the Hotel am Badersee you can take the Eibsee Bus or the Zugspitzbahn to the Garmisch-Partenkirchen station and take the regional train from there.
  • In Murnau there are numerous bakeries and a supermarket where you can buy a meal for your hike.
  • In Ohlstadt and in Eschenlohe there are a couple of restaurants.
  • If this section is too long for you, you can divide it in two days by stopping in Ohlstadt on day 1 and starting from there on day 2.
  • The route is available in winter as well, the roads and trails are well maintained. Due to open sunny spaces, we highly recommend to cover your head and take sunscreen with you in summer. Also, don't forget the mosquito repellent.

To Section 2: From Eschenlohe to Garmisch-Partenkirchen (in German)