A hike to Zugspitze – what it is like
Zugspitze is the highest mountain in Germany (2962 meters) and it is not an extraordinary beautiful hike, but a very challenging one. And a very diversified one. I especially liked this hike because it was my first hike of more days and felt kind of like a big adventure, to carry all the stuff you need for the night etc. And I loved the view from the top. Because you can see my favourite lake in the world, Lake Eibsee, from above, which is breathtaking.
Summary of the hike to Zugspitze:
Distance: 21 kilometres
Difference in Altitude: 2270 meters
Duration: 13 hours in 2 – 3 days
Parking: Karl-und Martin-Neuner-Platz, 82467 Garmisch-Partenkirchen
Possible routes and starting points:
There are various options to hike the highest mountain in Germany, as well as various routes and lengths. You can start the hike in Germany or Austria and choose between popular and off the path tracks. You can find a good overview of all various options on this blog.
We took one of the classical routes, through Rheintal (Rein valley), which starts in Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Germany and choose to do it on 2 days. Another option is the same route but in 3 days. This is especially recommended for families.
This is a summary of our route:
Starting point: Olympic ski jump at Garmisch-Partenkirchen
Day 1: Garmisch-Partennkirchen – Partnachklamm – Reintalangerhütte – Knorrhütte (overnight)
Day 2: Knorrhütte – exhausting shale field – final climbing part – peak
Way down: by cable car
Instead of staying overnight at Knorrhütte, you can stay at Reintalangerhütte, which is located about 2-3 hours before Knorrhütte. Find a description of our hike to Zugspitze in the following.
Description of the 2-day-hike to Zugspitze:
I loved the beginning of this hike. It starts in a gorge of the river Partnach. Normally this place is really busy on weekends but in the early morning on a weekday, you will have it all for yourself.
The hike continues along the Partnach river and feels pretty easy and idyllic in the beginning. After around 3 hours we reached the first hut Reintalanger, which also represents an option to stay-over night here. If you want to split the hike in 3 days. We chose to do the hike in two days. Therefore we had our lunch stop here.
This is Hut Reintalanger, where you could sleep, when doing the tour in 3 days. For us it was our lunch place.
And then the really tough part started, super steep paths, rubbles or I would even call it rocks all over and this for hours. The way from the first hut, Reintalanger, to the second on only other and last option to stay overnight, Knorrhütte (2051 m).
Only in the morning when the sun started to hit in the rock wall where the hut was located, we realized the beauty of this area. On this height was almost no more vegetation, but still many sheep and the hike from here on the second day was way more pleasant and easy as the second part of the first day.
After around 1 hour in this kind of rocky terrain, the challenge of the second day started: the steepest and most challenging part. It is a large shale field and you have to be really sure-footed and careful in order not to make rocks rolling down. And you have to be careful what comes from above. So keep well distance to the people in front of you.
After a lot of sweating the endorphins in our bodies slowly started to work and we were so happy that we made this challenge. The last part of the hike is quite fun and includes some little climbing and a very small path along a ridge which already gives you a glimpse of the amazing view from the top.
And finally, there we were at the top. With a thousand other people who came there by cablecar 😀 However, we felt proud that we were hiking up and not chose the easy way of the cable car.
Look at these views, the 2 days of sweating were totally worth it:
Staying overnight at Knorrhütte
Maybe you are wondering how staying overnight in a little hut located over 2000 meters above sea level is like? Well, basic. Don’t expect any luxury here. In fact, there are few double rooms which might allow more privacy but they are usually sold out throughout the whole year. The common room type is a dorm which is shared with 6 to 10 male and female hikers. There are dorms with real beds, similar to the ones you know from backpacking in Southeast Asia, but also these are normally sold out very quickly. And the 3rd room type is dorms which consist of mattresses on the floor. And these are not spacious at all. These are mattresses of around 70 cm next to each other, without any space in between the mattress of your neighbour and yours. If you are lucky – like me 🙂 – you will get a mattress next to the wall on your travel buddy will sleep next to you. If you are not lucky – like my travel buddy 🙁 – a fat, stinky person will sleep next to you and make you feel very uncomfortable. “The worst night of my life” is a quote of my travel buddy from this hike. I’m not trying to scare you, just trying to prepare you.
The lucky mattress:
Anyways: Make sure to bring earplugs and a sleeping mask and you will get enough sleep.
Another thing you should know is that hot water is only available for a fee and you should definitely pay this fee for 3 minutes of hot water because otherwise, the water in the shower is cold as ice.
So now, let’s speak about the good things in the hut Knorrhütte: The food. The food is traditional hearty hiking food and very delicious. When booking your room you can even choose half board (which includes a soup, a main dish, and a dessert). So there is no need to bring your dinner for the hike to Zugspitze
How to book my nights at Knorrhütte?
This is the official website of the German alp association (Deutscher Alpenverein) which gives all the basic information about the hut Knorrhütte (in German – use the translation function of Google Chrome): https://www.alpenverein-muenchen-oberland.de/knorrhuette
And this is where you can book a room or mattress (in German – use the translation function of Google Chrome): https://www.alpsonline.org/reservation/calendar?hut_id=149&lang=de_DE
What to bring for the hike to Zugspitze
What you need to bring to the hike to Zugspitze:
Reusable water bottle
And at least 2 – 3 liters for the first day. (You can refill your water bottles or buy other soft drinks at Knorrhütte). For example, I can recommend this bottle:*
Snacks and optional lunch for both days
You can also have lunch at Reintalangerhütte, the hut where you can also sleep when doing the hike in 3 days.
Very important, believe me! There is nothing worse than a hike with hurting feet. And imagine this already happens on the first day?! You can, for example, take these blister plasters:*
Ear plugs and a sleeping mask
When sleeping in a dorm, this is essential! And good sleep is essential for having a good second hiking day.
Thin sleeping bag
Bringing a sleeping bag is mandatory in the huts (in most huts in Austria in fact). A good choice is a silk sleeping bag because it keeps you warm, but you can also use it for further travels, like to Southeast Asia, when you need the silk’s cooling effect. Have a look for example at this silk sleeping bag:*
Warm clothes in layers
It can get pretty chilly on the summit and during the last part of the hike, even on summer days. Therefore make sure to bring some layers to cover. Maybe even a hat and gloves.
The first day will be exhausting. Therefore bring a second pair of clothes for the second day.
Rain jacket for you and rain cover for your backpack
As weather conditions are changing fast in the mountains, you should be prepared for every weather condition.
First aid kit and emergency blanket
This is also essential for a long hike and can save lives in case of emergency. There are very compact kits especially for travelling or outdoor sports available on the market, like this compact emergency kit:*
What you DON’t need to bring to the hike to Zugspitze:
- Water for the second day
- lunch for both days (on the first day you can purchase lunch at the Hut Reintalanger; on the second day you can have lunch at the summit)
How to get to the starting point of the hike to Zugspitze
Start of the hike to Zugspitze is at the Olympic Ski Jump stadium in Garmisch-Patenkirchen which is located here: Karl-und Martin-Neuner-Platz, 82467 Garmisch-Partenkirchen. The easiest way is to come here by car. But public transportation is an option if you don’t have a car. Just go via regional train to Garmisch-Patenkirchen and take a bus 1 direction Klinikum and get off at the Olympic stadium. Here you can find more details about the bus https://www.gw-gap.de/ortsbus/streckenplan
Further information and detailed description of the hike
Here you can find live web cams of the peak and the area around Zugspitze: https://www.grainau.de/webcams . In May, June, September and October you should check if it is even possible to hike the mountain or if there is snow on top.
Where to stay before the hike?
If you are not from Bavaria or the region, you should already travel to Garmisch-Patenkirchen the day before your hike so that you can start your hike early in the morning. The closest hotel to the starting point of the hike is Olympiahaus,* which is a solid, mid-range hotel. You can get there by clicking here. *Another hotel, which is also close to the starting point and a bit more luxury is Dorint Sport Hotel.* It has a swimming pool as well as a few wellness facilities and is decorated in traditional bavarian couture. You can get to the hotel by clicking here. *
What else would you like to know about the hike to Zugspitze?
Did I miss any important information about the hike to Zugspitze in this blog post? Or is there any question you’d like to ask me? Just drop me a comment and I will answer the question and add it to this post.
I hope you liked this post and hope I could inspire you to do the hike to Zuspitze, the highest mountain of Germany. Never stop exploring the world!
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