Along its 25 kilometers the third Section of the Spitzenwanderweg long-distance trail in the Zugspitze Region offers multiple highlights and fantastic views. Starting at the foot of the famous Olympic ski jumping hill in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, across the nature theatre in the Partnachklamm Gorge to the amazing panoramic views of the Wetterstein and the Karwendel chains, this is a way of nature wonders and discovery.
Difficulty level: difficult
Tour length: approx. 36 km
Ascent: 1000 m
Descent: 800 m
Map © 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 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 Wilms will walk the trail alone or sometimes with her colleague. Follow us on the route!
Image © spitzenwanderweg.de
Section 3: From Garmisch-Partenkirchen to Krün
„Hiking is my source of energy!“
Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, Austrian mountaineer, *1970
Today I'm not alone on the trail: my colleague Polly will share the third section of the Spitzenwanderweg with me. Starting from the third section, the trail slowly gains alpine character, so today we are supposed to ascend the first 1.009 vertical meters. We meet already at 7.45 am at the Ski Stadium in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, as the Partnachklamm is not that overcrowded in the morning hours. The gorge opens at 8 am.
For today we have packed enough provisions and drinks, though we plan to visit one or a few chalets. However, it's better to have your own food at any time. Before we start, we take a brief look at the Olympic ski jumping hill that once a year on January, 1st becomes a Mecca of the German 'Eagles' and other ski jumping nations. It is currently closed, but during the day many visitors come here for an excursion.
After we start, our first march is to the Partnachklamm Gorge. We are not the first hikers for today, beside us other groups of ladies are on foot in this early hour. But where are the gentlemen? It seems to be a women's day, really.
At the last crossing preceding the Partnachklamm I should temporarily say farewell to Polly. While she has visited the gorge many times, I've never been there in the summer months. So Polly will walk the upper road, while I will take the 'official' route through the Partnachklamm. We will finally meet again at the end of the gorge.
At the entrance I pay the fee (6 Euro) and enter the gorge. It is still quiet and deserted, so I can take time to make photos without anyone pressing me forward. The Partnachklamm is fascinating in winter with its giant ice formations, and now in summer I am impressed with the power of the water that is raging through the narrow rocky gorge. At some spots I need to look out for water dropping from above in order to keep me dry.
At the gorge exit the main direction goes to Reintal, to the Bockhütte Chalet, Mount Zugspitze, to the Schachen and Meilerhütte, but I take the way to the left in the direction of Graseck. After a couple of meters I suddenly meet Polly. She could really wait up there at the Kaiserschmarrn-Alm or at the 'Das Graseck' Hotel till I come, as they are located on the route. She will now have to go back and ascend a few more meters than needed. But Polly is quite sporty, so a couple of meters don't make a huge difference for her. In approx. 15 minutes we reach the Kaiserschmarrn-Alm that is still closed, but will soon open its doors for the hikers and chalet lovers again.
Next to the 'Das Graseck' hotel the route makes a right turn and from here on it goes uphill till you reach Eckbauer. This is quite a noteworthy ascent. Both of us are for the first time here, and we had never thought that you need so many turns to reach the Eckbauer Chalet. At one point I thought it was the light at the end of the tunnel, but it went further and further uphill. While Polly apparently had no problem with the ascent, I had to relax my legs now and then, as the back muscles slowly began to complain.
Luckily enough, every ascent has an end. We reach the Eckbauer just in time to see the chalet open its doors, so we decide to make our first break here. And we are not the only ones to have this idea, the terrace is quickly full of early hikers.
Morning coffee and tea help us relax after the ascent. The mountains are still somewhat veiled behind the clouds, but the view is fantastic, the sun is shining and it's simply wonderful. After two hours we have left the most demanding part of the trail behind us. There are a couple of small uphill sections, but they are not that dramatic. So we pack our belongings and there it goes again.
We march past the Eckbauer cablecar and follow the directions to Wamberg, which can actually be reached on multiple routes. Unfortunately the Spitzenwanderweg sign, that we only noticed once on the whole route, is nowhere to be seen, so we have to look for the way using other trail signs. After the cablecar the trail looks deserted. We reach the next crossing, no sign again. However, we checked the map in advance and we know our milestones. Here we should go straight, as the left way takes you to the Wamberg locality and the the right it goes to the alpine trail in the direction of the Elmauer Alm Chalet. Now the trail goes through the forest, which should later give way to alpine meadows with a great panoramic view.
Vast fields of wild peppermint attract Polly's attention and she starts collecting the herbs. Peppermint is great to make a delicious Mojito, icy mint-and-lemon water, or a warm mint tea. It was a good idea to pack a plastic bag in the backpack, which is now full of mint leaves within just a few minutes. We look forward to the drinks we would prepare back home.
Past the grazing cows, of which one has occupied the trail once again, so that we have to shoo it away, we walk cosily further in the direction of the Elmauer Alm Chalet. The way goes slightly downhill all the time. We have to check the route a couple of times, since we haven't seen a single Spitzenwanderweg sign so far.
But we are on the right way, so we reach the Elmauer Alm at last, exactly at lunch time. And we are very disappointed as a little boy tells us, already as we go in, that the chalet is closed. So our dreams of the delicious chalet cuisine accompanied with a cool Radler fall apart. The chalet terrace is quite full with hikers that had apparently been hoping to get some lunch. But a good hiker alway has a Plan B. My Radler is in my backpack, and we both have enough snacks to enjoy the break. Hopefully we can order a good lunch at Lake Barmsee.
Relaxed and fully saturated with the sun, we start on the next part of our hike. A half of the trail is now behind us, Kranzbach is no longer far away, and the path meanders cosily downhill past the forest and open meadows with countless alpine flowers, which we try to identify with the help of an info sign. We had already seen some of the orchids listed on the sign, as well as the pretty gentian ('Enzian'!) that typically blooms on the local meadows till August.
After a short time we reach the Hotel 'Schloss Kranzbach'. The trail makes a left turn here just before the hotel entrance. And here is really a Spitzenwanderweg sign. What a wonder! Sections 1 and 2 definitely had better navigation. A forest road takes us from the hotel to the small locality Klais, where we should cross the highway. After the tunnel we have to walk around 100 meters to the left in the direction of the gas station and then turn to the right on the forest trail, marked as 'Grubensee / Barmsee'. We dive into the forest again, and the noise from the car motors quickly gives way to birds twittering. On this section we met very few hikers as well, only a few voices could be heard in the distance.
Lake Grubensee, a popular bathing area, is very close from here. We had expected that our trail goes on the lake shore, but it didn't: except for one point where the lake can be seen from the distance, the trees cover the view. So bathers are separated from the hikers.
We easily find our way to the Alpengasthof Barmsee without any sign, and this time we are determined to get something delicious at last. There is a free table for us on the terrace, a big cold drink is ordered, so it's time to take a look at the menu.
What a pity! In the afternoon they only have a small limited menu. We would hardly be happy with a pizza or a large 'Knödel' in our stomach, taking account that we have a few more kilometers before us. And at the moment we don't want any soup either. So Polly orders nothing, while I decide to take an ice cream. After burning over 1.000 calories, I really deserve one, and besides I need some energy for the rest of the trail. So I order a banana split, it just looks great.
Now we are ready for our final sprint. Only one hour separates us from our goal. We even notice a Spitzenwanderweg sign showing the way... but only to the next crossing. However, we had taken a look at the map before, so we know that we should reach the small chapel on the hill and then along the repentance trail - and today we did enough repentance - arrive in Krün. At the end of the trail we cross the highway over an illuminated! pedestrian tunnel and find ourselves inside a residential area in Krün. Our goal is next to the church - from here starts Section 4.
Finally, we take a bus back to Garmisch-Partenkirchen. To make up for the missing gastronomic highlights, we reserve a table at a good restaurant in Garmisch to celebrate the completion of Section 3. Now that we can relax at last, we start to feel our muscles that fulfilled their mission to 100% today. Anyway, the pleasure from hiking overweights any sorrow. It was a great day once again!
Tips & Infos:
- Declared section length: 25 km, actual length: 36 km
- Walking time without breaks: around 7 hours
- Altitude: uphill 1.009 m, downhill 920 m, highest point 1.302 m
- Moderate hike, mostly hilly landscape, on field and forest 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 hier.
- Public transport: Eibsee Bus from the Hotel am Badersee to 'Rathaus' in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, from there you can take Bus Line 1 to 'Skistadion'. On the way back take the Bus 9618 from Krün town center to 'Rathaus' in Garmisch-Partenkirchen and change to the Eibsee Bus that will take you to the Hotel am Badersee. If you park your car at the 'Skistadion', take the Bus 9608 from Krün town center to 'Haupt/Dr.Wigger-Straße' in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, then change to the Bus Line 2 to the 'Skistadion'.
- Charges apply for the parking lots both at the 'Skistadion' and in Krün.
- Chalets on the route: Kaiserschmarrn-Alm, Berggasthof Eckbauer, Elmauer Alm, Alpengasthof Barmsee
- You can make the tour shorter in a number of ways. If you are already familiar with the Partnachklamm, you can take the Graseck Cablecar to the 'Das Graseck' Hotel (or go on foot). In fact, you can spare the whole ascent to the Eckbauer if you take the Eckbauerbahn Cablecar. Also, you can finish your tour in Klais and take the train back to Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
- Sturdy hiking shoes, enough food and especially drinks, sunscreen and in summer headgear are a must.
- The Spitzenwanderweg sign was hard to find on the whole route. Please follow the normal hiking signs in the following directions: Graseck – Eckbauer – Wamberg – Elmauer Alm über Höhenweg – Kranzbach – Gruben/Barmsee – Krün, or use ich-geh-wandern.de for navigation.
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