Hiking the Austrian Alps
I love to hike. So much so I’ve written an E-book about my favorites around Stuttgart. I like challenging myself too. Every year while we are stationed here in Europe, I want to climb a different mountain. Last year, we hiked the Zugspitze, the tallest Alp in Germany. We had such a fantastic time with our guide, Bert, I didn’t hesitate when planning this year’s trip to contact Michel at the Garmisch Alpinschule. Hiking the Alps is no joke.
With a year under my belt I felt like I had a good idea of what to expect this year…however, when I planned on hiking for several days in a row, I thought I just had to be physically strong. Our little group of eight not only learned what our physical capabilities were but also how mentally strong we were.
Here’s our 5 day journey through the German and Austrian Alps. Since we had an early wake-up on Thursday, we decided to spend the night in Oberammergau, Bavaria.
DAY ONE – TRAVEL TO BAVARIA
Oberammergau – this adorable little town is one of my absolute favorites in southern Germany, about 10 minutes from historical Ettal and 20 minutes from Garmisch this tranquil, quieter town is most notable for The Passion Play. Every ten years the town puts on an enormous Passion Play in thankfulness for God sparing the town during the plague. A promise made hundreds of years ago still going on today – the next play is in 2020.
On this visit to Oberammergau we stayed at the Hotel Alte Post its location perfect right in downtown and the setting is idyllic. This family-run hotel is average priced and nice rooms with a fantastic breakfast.
DAY TWO – HEADING TO MEILERHüTTE
On our first day of hiking we met Bert at the Olympic Ski station in Garmisch.
We bought a 3-day parking pass (remember to take change/coins – €5 for 3 days.)
Next, we headed out to Partnach-Gorge. Hiking to the Partnach-Gorge could be a day trip if you are staying in Garmisch too, just to get you started.
This incredible breathtaking cavern would be our first pit-stop on our day long trek to the oldest forest hut (Meilerhütte) on the German/Austrian border.
This first day we would hike over 7,000 ft. luckily it was not all vertical but instead was varied terrain, some being in the woods, some on rocky roads and occasionally we came across cold water lakes that were stunningly gorgeous.
Meilerhütte was built in 1898 and the views were incredible. You could only reach the hut by foot, supplies arrive by light rail but Bert tells me and only comes up occasionally. The accommodations are primitive. We slept 8 in our room – bring earphones or plugs if you sleep lightly. The potty’s were ummmm…. (well from 1898.) HA! However, the incredible opportunity to stay the night in this very old hut with equally stunning views was unforgettable.
DAY THREE – HEADING TO WETTERSTEINHUTTE – Going down is harder
After waking up pretty early on our second day, we headed down the hill – literally. Bert is amazing and so incredibly patient. Even though I don’t have a fear of heights or vertigo the steepness of the slope on these mountains was a little daunting. Today we would hike about 10 hours. We took our time, unfortunately, I had broken my toe a week before the hike – but I had been training so long I felt like I could muster through it. Going down is definitely harder.
We decided to change the route a bit and walk a little further and find a flatter terrain even though it took longer our views were amazing. We walked through the towns of Leutasch and Gasse. These little Alpine towns are also spa towns and are great for cross-country skiing in the winter. I hope to investigate these a bit more in the future.
A few of the hikers caught a ride up the mountain, while the rest of the crew tackled the challenging last 500 meters to the Wettersteinhütte. With hiking sticks in tow we conquered a very steep mountain at just over 3,000 feet.
We arrived in time for warm, homemade Käsespatzle and salad served family style and also met new friends and hut owners – Beate and Hans Schütz.
After an exhausting day – similar to any hard working day on the farm, we hit the hay. Our room slept 12 however we were the only group in the room. With down comforters and blankets, we were all nice and cozy and slept like babies as the rain began outside.
Wetterstein has lots of trails around the hut, so making a longer stay here would also be wonderful.
DAY FOUR – OFF TO CöBURGERHüTTE
On our last full day of hiking we left early in the morning from the Wettersteinhütte, however it began to rain. Luckily, we all had rain gear and backpack covers so no one got too uncomfortable.
Hiking the Alps is no joke! After climbing 3,000 feet and 30 miles in three days a few of the hikers headed back to Garmisch. With hugs and tears and promises to meet up at the end the rest of the crew continued on. With one last mountain to conquer we headed out towards Ehrwald.
We stopped off at the hiking hut for a bit of lunch and the trail we continued on was an actual biking trail. Because of the rain we decided this would probably be safer.
Bert gave us a heads-up that the final trek to the Cöburgerhütte was going to be sharp and steep. Right before you have to tackle the incline you’ll bump into the Seebensee. An absolutely astonishing Alpine lake – loaded with ducks – happy to greet you ~
WE MADE IT!
Finally, we made it to the Cöburgerhütte and it was WONDERFUL!! We all had plenty of time to kick off our boots, take a REAL shower (although there was a €1 coin fee for hot water) that lasted about 2 min. (REMEMBER to BRING COINS!) Since we made reservations with HALF-BOARD, it included our lodging, breakfast and dinner.
Dinner tonight would be steak stew with brown bread and salad. With a little red wine and LOTS of water this hearty dinner meal was very much LOVED!!
This hut was packed and from what we found out a very popular LOCAL weekend hike!
COMING DOWN THE MOUNTAIN
UGH, we gotta go down again? It’s all good ~ on our final decline to Ehrwald we all began to reflect on the physical and mental challenges over the last few days. As we grew closer to the popular ski resort town we met several hikers, walkers, outdoor enthusiasts, and puppies. These travelers were just out for a fun day, they had no idea of our incredible journey or the challenges we faced, the obstacles we overcame, the paths we had to navigate, the blisters and more. Everyone became an encourager, supporter or needing it along the way – it was such an amazing journey. We were so proud of our accomplishments and what we had done, I think we all look forward to more adventures ahead.
If you are looking to challenge yourself not just for a little “hike” but a true experience I recommend a long weekend in the German and/or Austrian Alps. Give Bert a holler – you’ll need him for sure!
Know before you go hiking to Austrian Alps
- Organize a certified guide, it is so worth it!
- Train – hiking the Alps is not like hiking in the Black Forest, the Adirondacks or Shenandoahs – they are FOR REAL!
- Have great equipment – boots, poles, jackets (different weights)
- Take lots of pictures
- August is the busiest month in the Alps for hiking – you must make your HUT reservations typically NLT June 1