hike from Walchensee to Ohlstadt
Uh, those mornings when your alarm sounds at what feels like the rudest hour of the day and you regret that you thought it was a good idea to catch the 8am train only a few hours earlier and a few beers into the then still young night/morning.
It usually doesn’t last long though. I open the blinds and poke my nose through the sunshades to check out the bike path across the street. Dry. September leaves falling to the ground. Bikers wrapped up in colourful rain jackets, pouffy downs and woollen scarves pedal by. I lift my head and scan the horizon above the rooftops of Sendling. Servus, Alpen. Nice to see you! We’ll be with you in 2 hours.
At Munich central station, we hopped on the Regio (regional train) to Kochel am See and 1 hour later switched to the bus R9806 that courteously waited for us after the train was delayed 10 minutes. The bus ride is quite beautiful as long as your stomach doesn’t mind you sitting on a bus that races up a street consisting of nothing but serpentines and going extra fast to catch up on the schedule. I felt incredibly relieved when we got off at the Walchensee/Herzogstandbahn stop and I had solid ground under my feet again.
The bus stops right at the trail head for two spectacular hikes: Heimgarten and Herzogstand. We opted for Heimgarten and a solid calf workout to justify a hefty lunch and the beers that would surely be drunk at Oktoberfest to following week. And a solid workout it was.
om nom nom – trees eating the trail signs
The Heimgarten tour is labelled extremely well. Simply cross the parking lot right by the bus stop and follow the signs for Heimgarten. The trail will become somewhat steep right away and will stay that way, save for a short, even section with spectacular views of the ridge connecting Heimgarten and Herzogstand.
But it wasn’t just the climb that shortened our breaths. Every other turn the view became more spectacular. To our feet the Walchensee glistened in the morning sun and the mountains spread out in all their fall glory.
crossing the saddle before tackling the last 45 min climb to the hut and peak
I have to admit, at times our sole motivator to not just stop and enjoy the view (and breath) for the rest of the day was knowing that – once at the top – we could order a cool Radler and a hot Kaiserschmarrn and enjoy that together with an even more amazing view. And after we managed the first 1 ½ hours of climbing we had acclimatised. Our steps became more and more certain, our breathing more even and the sweat reduced to a soft shimmer on our foreheads. Finally, we didn’t need to use the views as an excuse to stop anymore, but could make them the sole purpose thereof.
And it wouldn’t be Germany if there wasn’t some plead for responsible behaviour: “Short cuts destroy the vegetation. Please stay on the paths.”
By the time we were making our way downhill along an ever growing (wildly romantic as our guide book called it) creek, I had decided that this was my „most favourite“ hike to date. It is so versatile: views ranging from pine, and beach and oak forests, small town Bavaria, lake Walchensee peeking through the foliage, alpine meadows, flocks of sheep, trails on the neighbouring mountains, the surrounding peaks, the lakes Staffelsee, Riegsee, Ammersee, Starnberger See, even Minga (Munich) in the distance. The terrain, too, changed from soft and springy pine forest floor, to Stock-und-Stein type rocky stretches, to gentle paths through cow meadows, and finally the walk through the village of Ohlstadt to the train station.
Heimgarten – hike details
how to get there:
Take the regional train from Munich central station to Kochel (many of the regional train leave from platform 27-36 which is slightly hidden from the main platform. When at the main platforms where the big departure screens hang, walk all the way to platform 26 and then down platform 26 and to the right). In Kochel switch to the bus #9806 and get of the the stop Walchensee / Herzogstandbahn – chances are other hikers will gett off there, too (to get to the bus stop exit the train and walk to the right across the tracks and then turn right again – it’s right next to the old shed, not the station building. If the train is delayed, the bus will usually wait for transferring passengers)
how to get back:
The trail ends at a small parking lot just at the edge of Ohlstadt. From there, it’s another 15-20 min walk to the station. Follow the street into town, walking along old farm houses and apple trees. At the first intersection, which has a bit of a weird layout, wiggle straight and then keep walking straight until you hit the main through road, where you’ll turn left. Follow the main road for a few hundred meters – it’ll feel like you’re leaving town. Before the houses start up again, there a small street called Bahnhofsweg where you’ll need to turn right, it’ll take you right up to the small station of Ohlstadt.
Check the German train website for trip planning in either direction.
The trail up to the Heimgarten hut and peak is extremely well marked. Simply cross the parking lot at the bus station and then follow the signs.
There are multiple ways down (one of them is traversing over to Herzogstand – ca. 2 hours – and taking the gondola down). We chose to follow the ridge from the hut westwards and following the signs for Ohlstadt. Some of the first signs says Ohlstadt/Kaseralm – follow the other Ohlstadt pointer instead. You’ll be winding at first off the ridge and then through a forest before you start following and crossing an ever growing creek. At some point along the creek there’s a little power plant with a concrete water basin. From here on you’ll have to leave the creek and follow the forest road and again the signage for Ohlstadt.
equipment and condition:
You don’t need any special mountain equipment, but do make sure to wear proper footwear – at least sturdy running shoes with good grip, hiking shoes or boots are better. Especially the section right after the hut is very rocky and slippery – we saw a few butt landings due to inappropriate foot wear.
Also make sure to bring enough water since the first half of the hike is quite sweaty.
Our guide book said the hike was easy and would take roughly 3 hours up and 2 ½ down – we needed a little more time on the way down and would rather say that it’s not a leisurely stroll but a proper, sweaty hike.