Two Bavarian mountain towns to the south of Munich provide great bases for hiking in the Bavarian Alps — kind of the front range of the Alps on their northern flank. Both towns are near the Austrian border and are way-stops on train routes into Austria. Road signs proclaim this region as “Zugspitzland” after the Zugspitze, the highest peak in Germany at 2,962 m (9,718 feet) above sea level in the part of the Bavarian Alps called the Wetterstein Mountains. The Zugspitze towers above the adjacent towns of Garmisch-Partenkirchen just to their south.
The border with Austria runs across the peak. Mittenwald is in a valley on the eastern flank of the Wetterstein. Trains run frequently to Garmisch from the center of Munich and the trip takes about an hour and a half. The train route splits at Garmisch (or GP as locals often refer to it) with one branch going east around the Wetterstein to Mittenwald (and then in the direction of Innsbruck) and the other proceeding southwest to Reutte in the Austrian Tirol before curling back into Germany.
These are beautiful small towns that offer skiing and other sports in winter, and a wealth of hiking options through summer and fall. Various mountain lifts operate year–round in both places and can be a pretty handy accessory for hikers. There are numerous small pubs and guesthouses sprinkled along mountain hiking routes that provide way-stops for food, beer, and other refreshments. Most of the beer in the area comes from the big Munich breweries, but I did manage to hunt down a local brewery option or two.
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Mountain Hike in Garmisch
My accommodations were at a family guesthouse in central Garmisch so my hike began and ended there. A footpath from the center follows the glacier fed stream called the Partnach from the open valley floor up a narrow valley past the 1936 Winter Olympic Stadium and ski jumps. The valley narrows into a gorge called the Partnachklamm where a cable car known as the Graseckbahn provides the option to lift you quickly above the gorge to a mountain guesthouse called Das Graseck. There are multiple routes that can be taken from that point, but I chose one that wound its way up to Hintergraseck before circling back down to walk through the Partnachklamm from top to bottom. The narrows of the gorge is over a half mile in length and a pathway is carved through the stone wall along stream level. The cliffs tower more than 260 feet (80 meters) above stream level. A small fee is charged to walk through this section of the route.
Beers and Breweries in Garmisch and Mittenwald
Both Garmisch and Mittenwald have local breweries, but the Brauerei Mittenwald is a larger operation with multiple pubs while the Brauhaus Garmisch is a start-up with no public-facing presence – I found their beer at the grocery store. Mittenwalder is an attractive operation brewing a broad range of traditional beer varieties. I enjoyed an excellent dunkel and an excellent marzen. The food is great and the pubs are attractive. Although located at multiple sites, all are easily walkable from the train station. Brauhaus Garmisch is a very different but interesting story. It is a project attempting to revive a hundreds of year old brewing tradition in Garmisch that died out in the 1970″s. At the time of my visit their sole offering, a helles, was contract brewed by Herrnbräu in Ingolstadt. Plans are underway to re-establish brewing in Garmisch. The former, historic brewery is now home to Bräustüberl Garmisch, an attractive, traditional pub and restaurant that is not connected to the revival as far as I could determine.
Two Mountain Towns in Bavaria
These are two attractive small towns both situated in spectacular mountain settings. If I had the time, I would have liked to have spent many more days exploring a variety of other hiking routes. I’ve been fortunate to visit and hike this area many times over the years, and it has never failed to disappoint. Readers of this article who are U.S. Army or Air Force veterans will be somewhat familiar with Garmisch as there has been an “R&R” (rest and relaxation) resort presence there for many decades.
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