Snow and frost turn the local landscape in the Zugspitze area into a true winter paradise!
The frost forms beautiful ice crystals on the plants and leaves, alpine lakes freeze, and fascinating patterns resembling waves or other shapes appear on the ice. Wet rocks and waterfalls turn into fantastic ice columns. You can enjoy the winter to the full on hiking trails, of which many are doable in winter, as long as you have good winter shoes on, possibly with spikes that you can additionally put on for a better grip.
1. The Eibsee Circuit
The 7.2 km long circular trail surrounding Lake Eibsee is open and regularly maintained in winter. The trail is relatively flat, except for a few small uphill and downhill sections. Basically this is a great circular trail for everyone, including families with strollers. Still, watch out for the ice spots that can be slippery. The Eibsee may freeze in winter, sometimes you can even use it as a huge skating rink. However, you should wait for the public announcement to enter the ice surface before you start using it as a special lake trail. The best way to enjoy the Eibsee is on the designated winter routes that let you enjoy the view from above. Here's something you shouldn't miss: when the Eibsee freezes, amazing ice patterns form on the surface, and the ice glows in subtle shades of blue! To reach the starting point of the trail from the Hotel am Badersee, take the Zugspitzbahn train or the Eibsee Bus.
2. From Lake Eibsee to Lake Badersee
To make the previous route a bit longer, just extend the Eibsee Circuit by walking back to the hotel at Badersee. A picturesque forest path leads steadily downhill back to Grainau and lets you enjoy wonderful views of the Zugspitze and the surrounding mountains on your way. In winter the path is easy to walk with non-slip winter shoes, you can even make it a snowshoe hike if there is enough snow. In frosty weather, watch out for icy patches or put on shoe spikes (Grödel) for a better grip. It would take you around 45 minutes to get to the hotel. If you are sporty enough, try walking this route in the opposite direction, from the Hotel am Badersee steadily uphill until you reach Lake Eibsee, in the end you can take the bus or the Zugspitzbahn train back to the hotel.
By the way, you can combine this hike with a visit to Mount Zugspitze:
3. From Lake Badersee to Neuneralm Chalet and Back to Grainau
With a total of 1.5 to 2 hours walking time, this picturesque circular trail offers gorgeous views of all the surrounding mountain peaks including the Zugspitze. From Lake Badersee, take the forest path in the direction of Lake Eibsee that starts behind the hotel. It goes slightly uphill until you reach the Eibsee road. Here you should turn left and follow the railway tracks for a few meters, until you reach the Neuneralm junction. Take the left turn and follow the road that takes you slightly uphill through the thick forest. After you reach the highest point, it goes downhill to the Neuneralm Chalet. Here the forest opens up with a beautiful view of the surrounding mountains. Continue on this route until you reach the trail to the centre of Grainau. Behind Grainau's picturesque little church and the Zugspitzbahn station 'Grainau-Badersee', you would reach the forest path that leads you back to the Hotel am Badersee.
4. The Hammersbach Trail ('Hammersbacher Fußweg')
In snowy weather, the Hammersbach field becomes a huge cross-country skiing area. As you walk by, you may see the cross-country runners on their daily training round. The trail also offers fantastic views of the Waxenstein peaks and Mount Alpspitze. A round on the Hammersbach trail would only take you 45 minutes, so it's a perfect option e.g. for a brief stroll before you stop for dinner at a restaurant in Grainau. You can reach the start point quickly by taking the Eibsee bus to Hammersbach. And enjoy the evening highlight at Hammersbach: after a sunny day, the evening sun bathes the mountains in a warm glowing white.
By the way, you can combine a walk along the Hammersbach Trail with a cablecar ride to the Alpspitze or Kreuzeck:
5. The Kramer Plateau Trail ('Kramerplateauweg')
The Kramer Plateau Trail connects Grainau to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, it takes you as far as the famous Werdenfels Ruin (about 12.5 km walk). In winter the path is well maintained and very popular with locals. After a brief steep ascent, the trail is almost level. You can descend to Garmisch at many points on the route and thus shorten the trail. Three chalets invite you to warm up and take a rest (check opening times before you go), including the Almhütte with its famous cream puffs, the restaurant at the picturesque Lake Pflegersee, which also freezes in winter, and the historical Werdenfelser Hütte next to the Werdenfels ruin. If you decide to walk the whole way to the Werdenfels ruin, you can descend directly to the bus stop at the Hotel Sonnenbichl. In Garmisch-Partenkirchen you only have to change to the Eibsee bus to get back to the hotel.
6. Through the Partnachklamm Gorge
In winter the Partnachklamm Gorge is a true winter wonderland. Giant icicles cover the rocks. The whole gorge looks like a gigantic cave with stalactites and stalagmites, but made of ice and snow. Here is where you can experience nature at its finest! The starting point for the trail is the Olympic ski jumping hill in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. So you can combine the hike with a visit to the ski jumping hill - connect with the tourist office in Garmisch-Partenkirchen to take part in a guided tour. The walk from the parking lot to the gorge entrance takes 10 to 15 minutes. However, you can spare this time by riding a horse-drawn carriage. The carriages can be found on the road next to the ski jump that leads to the gorge.
The Partnachklamm Gorge is one of the must-see sights in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, it's just incredibly impressive. As you go through, there are several options:
- Turn around at the end of the gorge and walk back to the car.
- At the end of the gorge you can take a further route through the Reintal Valley - e.g. to the Bockhütte Chalet.
- At the end of the gorge, take the path uphill to Graseck. Here you can make a stop at the Kaiserschmarrn-Alm Chalet and take the Graseck cablecar back down to the valley, or walk down to the valley on the Graseck road. It also works the other way round: first take the cablecar up to Graseck, and then descend to the further end of the Partnachklamm.
Whichever way you decide to go, a visit to the Partnachklamm gorge is something you cannot miss!
7. The Philosophers' Trail ('Philosophenweg')
The Philosophers' Trail connects Farchant to Partenkirchen, this is a picturesque, relaxed route that locals love to stroll. The name 'Philosophenweg' comes from the fact that sayings by famous philosophers and authors are carved on the benches along the trail. So take your time, make a stop and read a couple of sayings. From the panorama standpoint, we personally find it better to start in Farchant and walk in the direction of Partenkirchen, as on this way you have the Wetterstein massive before your eyes all the time. To get to Farchant, take the Eibsee Bus or the Zugspitzbahn to Garmisch-Partenkirchen train station and change to the regional train to Munich. Once you leave the train in Farchant, cross the Loisach River over the bridge and keep to the right following the hiking signs to Garmisch-Partenkirchen. For a relaxed walk, you would need around 1 hour 45 minutes for the approx. 4.6 km long route. In the center of Partenkirchen you can take the Eibsee bus at the 'Sebastianskirche' to get back to the hotel.
8. Spitzenwanderweg Long Distance Trail - Sections 1+2
The 'Spitzenwanderweg' is a long-distance hiking route that takes you through the Zugspitze Area across 200 km of trails. However, Sections 1 and 2 are easy panoramic routes that run almost level through the valley, and they are well maintained in winter. With 21 km and 16 km these sections are quite long, especially for cold winter days, but you can shorten both by using the rail network of the regional train between Garmisch-Partenkirchen and Murnau. For example, you can finish the first section, which runs from Murnau to Eschenlohe, already in Ohlstadt and return by train. The second section goes from Eschenlohe to Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Here you can either finish the tour in Oberau or in Farchant, and take the train to go back to Grainau. The villages along the route all offer numerous refreshment stops to warm up on the way. It doesn't really matter whether you walk the complete sections - in any case, you would enjoy the views and experience the local nature at its full variety. Take your time to enjoy one of these landmarks on the route: the view from the 'Heldenkreuz' on Section 1, and the Kuhflucht Waterfalls, one of the highest waterfalls in Germany, that can be easily reached on Section 2.
9. The Barmsee Circular Trail
The Barmsee is a small lake in Krün, it offers a wonderful hiking tour in winter. Depending on the weather, don't forget to put on non-slip winter shoes or even shoe spikes (Grödel) for a better grip. The 5.46 km long circular trail starts at the 'Alpengasthof Barmsee' restaurant, here there is enough parking space for hikers (parking fees apply). The path is very well signposted except for one junction just behind the lake (when hiking clockwise), here you have to take the path into the forest to the right. On frosty days the lake gets frozen, and the reed grass on the lake shore gets covered with spectacular ice crystals. The majestic peaks of Karwendel rise in the background.
10. Through the Murnau Moor
The Murnau Moor ('Murnauer Moos') is a natural gem that also offers gigantic views of the Wetterstein and Ammergau Alps. Across 4200 hectares, the moors, wet meadows and special forest communities merge together to form the largest alpine moor in Central Europe. On frosty days a sparkling white blanket covers the moor, you can see the amazing snow-covered peaks in the distance.
The starting point for the circular trail is the 'Ähndl Kirchlein' parking lot for hikers. By car, you can reach the parking lot on the B2 road: follow directions to Murnau, then before entering the town turn left on the road that leads past the Alpenhof Murnau. With its 12.5 kilometers, this long and very impressive circular route would take you 2:30 to 3:00 hours, depending on your walking pace. Alternatively, you can take the short circular trail with only 2.5 km. The long trail rewards you with a versatile natural landscape, fantastic views and a wooden boardwalk. The small trail is perfect for a brief walk, for example to watch the sunset in the evening. By the way, in fine weather sunsets are extremely spectacular in the Murnauer Moos, so don't miss it!
11. The Small Staffelsee Circuit
The famous Lake Staffelsee is also located in Murnau, this is a great nature destination all year round. The small Staffelsee circuit is best suited for the winter with its only 5.4 kilometers and about 1:40 hours' walk. The hike starts at the large parking lot just next to the 'Seerestaurant Alpenblick' restaurant in Uffing. At the end of your hike you can make a stop here and enjoy the view over the lake from the restaurant conservatory. The small circular trail offers amazing views of the deep blue lake and the alpine chains in the background. Depending on the weather, you may often see the fog floating above the landscape, creating a mystical atmosphere.
If you don't mind the cold and would rather enjoy a longer hike around the lake, take the big Staffelsee circuit, which would take you around the whole lake. The Staffelsee is 4.6 km long and 3.7 km wide, so the big circuit is 20.7 km long. However, we recommend you to spare the last 6-7 kilometers between Murnau and Uffing, as this part of the route is not very spectacular. You can take the train from Murnau to Uffing instead, anyway, the train station in Uffing is not directly by the lake.
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