Hiking Zugspitze: Hut-To-Hut Trek to Germany’s Highest Summit

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Hiking Zugspitze: Hut-To-Hut Trek to Germany’s Highest Summit
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Surely everyone has heard of Germany's highest mountain the Zugspitze. At 2,962 meters (9.717 ft), this impressive peak rises far above sea level and few other peaks match the panoramic views of the Zugspitze. Weather permitting, at the top of your Zugspitze hike, you can see not only the Eibsee but also the Feldberg in the Black Forest, the Watzmann and the imposing Grossglockner; Austria's highest mountain. Quickly grab your hiking boots and find your way to Germany's highest point! Auf geht's!

The Zugspitze Tour, also called the Zugspitztour by the Germans, is a unique tour with the ultimate goal of climbing and hiking the Zugspitze. The mountain range is equipped with enough cable cars to reach the top in one day, but only a hut-to-hut tour makes the experience a real triumph. In just 3 days, you can climb the Zugspitze while spending the night at cozy mountain huts and crossing the German-Austrian border at over 2,000 meters (6.561 ft) altitude. During the hut tour, enjoy the famous Partnach Gorge, waterfalls and streams in the Rein Valley and challenging steep rock sections. Will we see each other at the top?

What and Where Is the Zugspitze?

The Zugspitze Tour is a 3-day hike that takes you to Germany's highest point in 38 kilometers (23,6 miles). The Wetterstein mountain range, to which the Zugspitze belongs, is largely part of the German Alps, but part of the mountain range can be found in Austria. You can therefore start the linear route from both countries. At Bookatrekking.com, we have chosen to start in Germany so that the level of difficulty can be built up slowly. Whereas the first day starts relatively easy, it will get considerably steeper on days 2 and 3. In total, you will overcome 4,440 altitude meters (14.566 ft) during the Zugspitze.

The route starts in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. A place you might know from its annual ski jumping competition on New Year's Day or as a well-known winter sports village. From here, you can climb the Zugspitze via 4 different hiking routes. The most common route leads up through the beautiful Reintal valley but the Höllental is very popular among experienced adventurers. During this tour, a spirited 3-kilometer (1,9 miles) via ferrata leads up the mountain walls for the optimal mountain goat experience.

What and Where Is the Zugspitze?

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Did you know that we can book all huts and refuges for the Zugspitze Tour for you? Check out all our options here.

World Records of the Zugspitzbahn

No use is made of this cable car during the 3-day Zugspitze Tour, but the Zugspitzbahn is a unique piece of infrastructure that commands some admiration. After three years of planning, testing and construction, the cable car went into operation in 2017. In just 8 minutes and 47 seconds, the glass cabin takes 120 passengers from the Eibsee to the top of the Zugspitze. However, this is not what makes the lift so special. In the mere 10 minutes you spend on the ride in the cable car, you witness the three world records it holds to its name.

The Zugspitzbahn traverses a record-breaking 1,945 altitude meters (6.381 ft), and that while it also has the world's longest free span (3,213 meters/10.541 ft). This means that while the Zugspitzbahn climbs more meters/feet than any other cable car, the cable is unsupported by poles for more than 3 kilometers (1,9 miles) during this trip. In addition, the small number of poles you do encounter are immediately the highest lift poles in the world (127 meters/416 ft). In short, a unique piece of engineering that is definitely worth admiring when you are on top of the Zugspitze.

World Records of the Zugspitzbahn

Is Hiking the Zugspitze for Me?

A mountain climb sounds complicated but is the Zugspitze Tour therefore only for experienced mountain hikers or can less experienced hikers also get to the summit. In short, is the route for you? The Zugspitze hut-to-hut tour is a great trek where you will find many different experiences in 3 short days. The trails are generally easy to navigate and passable, but the hike requires some preparation and the right mindset. Indeed, you will find the challenge during the second day, when you actually climb the Zugspitze. Here you balance over the ridge and, with the help of steel cables, you will walk along deep precipices. Because of this, your step should be sure-footed and fear of heights is out of the question.

In short, if you are up for a challenge and do not shy away from steep stony passages and a hike over the ridge, then the Zugspitze Tour could be the perfect option. For a long weekend away or a week in the versatile area, you should not skip the Zugspitze ascent when you reach this southern tip of Germany.

Not sure yet or want to discuss your plans for the Zugspitze Tour with one of our trekking experts? Get in touch today and turn your dreams into memories!

What Is the Best Season for the Zugspitze Hiking?

Whether you walk a hut-to-hut trek in Austria, Italy or Germany, the season generally falls within the same months. Between mid/late June and mid-September, the trails are mostly snow-free and you can reach the huts well. Because the Zugspitze is of course a peak and therefore high up, snow can be found here for longer. This snow can prevent the trek over the ridge and, as a result, we keep the end of June as the start of the hiking period. This altitude and snow also mean that temperatures can also be lower but this is not a problem with the right equipment.You see, preparation is essential for a hut hike.

Furthermore, southern Germany generally has warm summers with pleasant temperatures at altitude and plenty of sunshine. However, the Alps are unpredictable and the weather can easily change. If one day you can fully enjoy the bright sunshine, the next day it can rain liters. Fortunately, rain often comes in the afternoon, so if you start your stage early, you may be able to avoid the rain.

What Is the Best Season for the Zugspitze Hiking?

Zugspitze Hiking Tour Map and Navigation

The Zugspitztour is a well-known phenomenon in Germany, and because of this, there are many different maps and guidebooks available to help you navigate. To help you even further on your way, we have provided a map below showing the full 3-day route, and all the stages involved.

Spending the Night in Bavarian Mountain Huts

In Germany, they realized early on that there were many opportunities in the mountains. To take full advantage of these, the Deutscher Alpenverein (DAV) was formed in 1869 and merged with the Österreichischer Alpenverein (ÖAV) in 1873. The result was the DÖAV. After years of cooperation and some changes, the two associations split again permanently after World War II. Good relations remained, however, and to this day the DAV and the ÖAV work closely together. They are constantly concerned with the well-being of the mountain trails, the surrounding nature and the maintenance of their affiliated mountain huts.

During your 3-day Zugspitze ascent, you will stay in two different mountain huts that are both affiliated with the DAV. These huts are cozy and simple but offer a special and unique mountain hut culture. Together with other hikers, you can enjoy a piece of German history, good food and the always helpful hut staff. In the evening, you'll leave on time for your dormitory, where you'll snuggle up warm in your sleeping bag liner. The next day, you get up early to start the next stage on time. Of course, you will first enjoy breakfast and the beautiful surroundings in which the huts are located.

In case you have done a hut tour in Germany, or perhaps Austria, before, you will have a good idea of what to expect from Bavarian huts. Compared to Austrian mountain huts, however, you will also find small differences. For one, in Germany it is common for hikers to take their own rubbish back down into the valley, for which they have to bring their own bag. To help you prepare for your stay in a German mountain hut, we have compiled a packing list later in this blog. That way you can be sure you won't forget anything essential.

Hiking Zugspitze Itinerary: From Day to Day

The hut tour to the Zugspitze is a unique route that starts in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany but then crosses the border into Austria, where its ends in Ehrwald. While the summit of Germany's highest mountain is easily reached by cable car, there is of course nothing better than climbing the peak independently. To help you prepare, we've worked out the 3-day trek by day for you so you know exactly what to expect.

Day
1

Garmisch-Partenkirchen - Reintalangerhütte

Duration: 05:40 h
Distance: 14.2 km
Ascent: 680 m
Descent: 40 m
In Garmisch-Partenkirchen, the Zugspitze Trail starts next to the famous ski ramp. From this point, you will walk steadily uphill on a wide path until you are left at the entrance to the Partnach Gorge after 1.8 kilometers (1,1 miles). This passage (for a fee) leads you between two gigantic rock formations with the Partnach river on your right and this forms one of the most beautiful highlights of the trail. After this, you walk further up via the Reintal valley, past the Bockhütte and an impressive waterfall. At the end of the day, you will arrive at the Reintalangerhütte. Here you can fully enjoy the surrounding scenery as the Partnach flows past.

Reintalangerhütte

Info
Reintalangerhütte
Day
2

Reintalangerhütte - Zugspitze - Knorrhütte

Duration: 08:15 h
Distance: 11.5 km
Ascent: 1540 m
Descent: 860 m
Today is all about the highlight of this tour, summiting the Zugspitze. Before you can start the climb to the summit, you will first walk up steeply for 3.5 kilometers (2,2 miles) until you arrive at the Knorrhütte. This is also where you will spend the night, but for now you can leave some belongings there and continue your trek to the Zugspitze with a lighter daypack. From the Knorrhütte, the steep climb continues in a stony landscape. After covering another 3 kilometers (1,9 miles), you will be at the foot of the tough climb to the summit. Using steel cables, you climb and scramble over the ridge. This makes for panoramic views and in the distance you can see the Zugspitze slowly looming up. Once you reach the top, you will find the Münchner Haus and the memorable golden cross; welcome to Germany's highest point. When you've had enough of the stunning views, turn around and walk back to the Knorrhütte via the same challenging rock faces. Here it's time to celebrate your victory with a cold beer and the other hikers.

Knorrhütte

Info
Knorrhütte
Day
3

Knorrhütte - Ehrwald

Duration: 05:20 h
Distance: 12.5 km
Ascent: 140 m
Descent: 1180 m
Today you will wake up in the Knorrhütte and after a good breakfast your trek towards the Austrian border will begin. You start quietly on a path without too many altitude differences and slowly you will pass through the same stony landscape of yesterday. After more than 2 kilometers (1,3 miles), you arrive at the border where you can still find the old transition signs. Shortly after you take your first steps on Austrian soil, the path starts to descend sharply. You then continue downhill on a well-trodden path until you pass the cozy Hochfellner Alm. Take a short break here if necessary and enjoy an Austrian apple strudel. Not hungry yet, walk on to the Ehrwalder Alm which is 2 kilometers (1,3 miles) away. From here you can also take the cable car down and skip 2.5 kilometers (1,6 miles) and 380 altitude meters (1.246 ft). The end point for today's stage is in Ehrwald and from here you can be back in Garmisch-Partenkirchen within half an hour by public transport. Here your Zugspitze trek is over and you can proudly say that you stood on the highest point in Germany. Gut gemacht!

At Bookatrekking.com, we not only book your huts, we also send you on your way with a comprehensive hiking guide with the most important information for your Zugspitze Tour, including interactive Komoot maps. Browse all our options here and turn your dreams into reality.

How Do I Get to the Start and End Points?

The Zugspitze is right on the German-Austrian border and because it is a linear route, you start and end in a different country. However, this does not make traveling on and off more difficult. Garmisch-Partenkirchen, where you find the starting point, is easy to travel to from Munich but Innsbruck is also nearby.

Car
One of the easiest ways to travel to Garmisch-Partenkirchen is by car. Munich is the closest major city in Germany and within an hour and a half you will travel from here to the starting point. In short, if you are coming from the north, this is a good starting point to stick to. If you are coming from a more southern point, stick to Innsbruck. From here it's just under an hour to Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

Public transportation
In addition to the car, Garmisch-Partenkirchen is also very easy to reach by public transportation, especially from Munich. In the fastest case, you can be next to the starting point within 1 hour and 22 minutes. If you travel via Innsbruck, it will take you on average just under 2 hours to arrive at your destination.

Plane
Geographically, Innsbruck is closer to Garmisch-Partenkirchen but both the frequency of air travel and the surrounding infrastructure make Munich airport the practical choice. From the airport you can get to the main train station by public transportation within 3 quarters of an hour. From here you can travel further to your starting point by direct train within 1.5 hours.

The Zugspitze hut-to-hut tour ends in Ehrwald. Here you will find a small train station and within half an hour you will be back in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

How Do I Get to the Start and End Points?

Packing List for the Zugspitze Tour

It doesn't matter where you are going trekking or for how long: Carrying the right equipment with you is paramount. For a hiking trip in the mountains, you will need, first and foremost, a good backpack. Its size will depend on how many days you will be spending in the mountains, the season, and the clothes you will be taking with you. We have prepared a packing list with some essential clothing that you should include and some extras that you may find useful:
  • Essentials

  • Extras

What to Do in an Emergency?

An emergency occurs when a human life (yours or someone else's) is in danger and there is nothing you can do to resolve the matter. You should call for help if there has been an accident, if someone is stuck, if you are lost or in trouble and can't go any further because of the time of day or weather conditions, or if you are stuck because of technical climbing challenges beyond your capabilities.

The most important thing to do in an emergency situation is to stay calm and survey the situation. Do not panic or take useless risks if those in need are difficult to reach. In case of an emergency, call the rescue services first and foremost. When you do so, be sure to communicate the location, number of victims and type of injuries. Then protect the victim from cold and other environmental threats and provide first aid, if you can.

Emergency numbers for Germany

  • General emergency number: 112
  • Police: 110

What to Do in an Emergency?

Safe hiking tips for the Zugspitze Tour

When you go on walking holidays it is wise to be aware of a few points. Even if this is not your first time, you should never underestimate the mountains. Good tour planning and compliance with the regulations on the mountains will significantly increase safety. To ensure that your hiking holiday is a safe and enjoyable experience, here below you can find a list of 8 recommendations for safe hiking in the mountains:
  • Know your limits

    Hiking the Zugspitze Tour is the perfect outlet to escape from daily life. It is an endurance sport along with a beautiful nature experience with a positive effect on body and mind —as long as one is in good shape and has a realistic picture of one's possibilities and limits—. Never overestimate yourself or underestimate the route. Don't overdo it! Always choose the slower variant and take more time for your plans. Hiking under time pressure is not fun and at too fast a pace it can be dangerous. Be wise!

  • Plan carefully

    Good planning is half the work! Hiking maps, literature, the Internet and expert advice are invaluable when planning the route in the Zugspitze Tour and enable you to determine the length, altitude difference, difficulty and conditions of the hike. When planning group treks, the itinerary should always be planned for the weakest member of the group! The weather in the mountains can change incredibly quickly and rain, wind and cold all increase the risk factor. For this reason, always check the weather forecast beforehand and contact our trekking experts to find your way around before you start.

  • Be fully equipped

    Equipment is everything. In the most extreme case, it makes the difference between life and death, and in any case, it definitely makes the difference between having fun and having a bad time. Food and water, sunscreen and waterproof and warm clothes must always be in your backpack, as well as a first aid kit and a mobile phone with a full battery (in case there is an emergency). However, packing light makes walking easier, so don't take too much extra luggage with you. Your equipment should always be suitable for the terrain you'll be hiking on in the Zugspitze Tour.

  • Wear suitable footwear

    Good walking shoes protect your feet and provide a better fit. Shoes with a good fit, with non-slip soles, water-resistant and lightweight are a must for additional walking pleasure during the Zugspitze Tour. Trail running shoes are great for a weekend in the mountains, but on longer hikes or more technical trails, you'll want at least A/B hiking boots. That means it is recommended wearing high mountain shoes that are water-repellent with extra ankle support to prevent sprains.

  • Stay on marked trails

    Zugspitze Tour has endless marked hiking trails, which are controlled and maintained and should not be deviated from. It may be tempting, but it's not a good idea to take shortcuts or alternative routes through unmarked terrain. It increases the risk of disorientation and you're more likely to get lost and have accidents or fall in the mountains. Even steep slopes of packed old snow are often underestimated and dangerous. Are you in doubt? Better don't do it. For easy navigation we work with our trusted partner Komoot, whose interactive maps, also available offline, provide you with the necessary digital means to get from A to B. As a backup, make sure to bring a hiking guide or a paper map with you. FYI, 75% of stumbles occur due to carelessness on marked paths or roads, not in open terrain!

  • Take regular breaks

    Remember you're on a hiking holiday. Timely and regular breaks not only provide welcome relaxation but also make it possible to enjoy the Zugspitze Tour. The body needs a regular food and drink intake to maintain performance and concentration. Our advice is that if you have little time, it's better to follow the short itinerary than to speed up the long one.

  • Stay reachable

    If you are hiking solo or in small groups it is advisable to inform people back home about your plans, what route you are taking and when you plan to return. Even small incidents can lead to unpleasant emergencies so make sure you are available at all times. Bring a charged phone containing at least the phone numbers of immediate family members, your accommodations en route and the emergency phone numbers operating in the Zugspitze Tour.

  • Respect nature

    Leave no rubbish behind, prevent noise, stay on the marked trails, do not disturb wildlife or grazing animals, and respect protected areas.

How Much Does Hiking the Zugspitze Cost?

A hut tour through Germany really doesn't have to be expensive. Huts are usually simple, but offer everything you need to recharge your mental and physical batteries for the next hiking day(s). For the 3-day Zugspitztour you can count on about 80 EUR per hiking day. This includes route description, navigation aid, your accommodation in a mountain hut and half-board. For hut tours in general, we then recommend taking 40 to 60 EUR pocket money with you. This is for lunch and your drinks. Most of our pocket money usually goes to that ice cold beer in the next hut!

How Much Does Hiking the Zugspitze Cost?

Where Can I Book the Zugspitze Tour?

At Bookatrekking.com you can book the self-guided Zugspitze Tour and many other treks. We take care of all the details for you, including arranging accommodations and providing you with relevant information well in advance of your trek. Find our offers here. Our easy-to-use platform allows you to browse and compare different trekking options and find the perfect fit for your interests, abilities, and budget.

If you have any questions about a specific trek or need help choosing the right one for you, our team of trekking experts is here to assist you. Simply reach out to us and we will be happy to provide you with personalized recommendations and advice to help you plan the trekking adventure of a lifetime.

Is the Zugspitze Tour not your cup of tea and are you looking for other epic adventures? Check out one of our following blog posts:

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