hike from Walchensee to Heimgarten and Herzogstand
Barely home from our honeymoon and I’m already dragging Dub to Walchensee for a day hike. Two weeks ago I went on a day tour up Heimgarten with a bunch of friends from Toronto and despite the sweating and panting on the climb up it was a phenomenal hike!
Since this weekend we didn’t feel like doing any planning but still wanted to get out and get going for a few hours we simply did a variation of the Heimgarten hike. We started out the same way: train to Kochel, bus to Walchensee/Herzogstandbahn and then tackle the 2 ½ to 3 hour hike up to the Heimgarten Hütte. Rather than winding our way down to Ohlstadt and take the train back to München from there, we traversed from the Heimgarten peak over to Herzogstand (=„duke’s look out“) and Martinskopf and sailed back down to the trail head in a gondola – the Herzogstandbahn.
While last time the trees had just started turning this time autumn was fully underway. The path to Heimgarten winds uphill through beech and fir forests and the forest floor was tiles with golden brown leaves. The silver thistles that were in full bloom before were dried up rather that wilted yet a few busy bumble bees were still trying to suck a few droplets of nectar from the fragile blossoms.
9:30 am at Walchensee: As we get off the bus the sun is just barely breaking through the fog, immersing the lake in its silvery light.
Heimgarten is the trail of “trees eating signs”
The traverse from Heimgarten to Herzogstand – die Gratwanderung – is quite a bit different from the climb to Heimgarten – it’s alpine. Left and right beautiful views into the northern/central Alps and the Bavarian Voralpenland open up. While you climb along the trail rocky cliffs drop down right at your feet.
The beauty about hiking on the well developed path system in the Northern Alps is how many trails lead to a serviced hut – and by serviced I mean serving beer and warm food, providing beautiful panoramic terraces and cozy indoor seating in the Stubn. At Heimgarten they make a delicious eggy, rasin-free Kaiserschmarrn. Especially on busy days that may take a while, so if you’re trying to catch a certain train or bus, make sure to order as soon as you get to the hut.
Heimgarten Hütte is only open in the summer, from Christi Himmelfahrt (Christ Ascension) in May to Kirchweih in October (Dub still shakes his head at the Bavarian custom of referring to dates in terms of holidays or patrons).
how to get there:
Take the regional train from Munich central station to Kochel (many of the regional trains 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 off the the stop Walchensee/Herzogstandbahn – chances are other hikers will get off there, too. The bus takes off shortly after the train, it’ll wait if the train is delayed.
how to get back:
The gondola ends right at the parking lot which is also the trail head. Check bus times in advance (like when getting off the bus on the way up) because buses don’t run every hour.
Check the German train website for trip planning.
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.
The Heimgarten peak lies just another few minutes behind the Heimgarten hut. From there follow the signs to Herzogstand. You can see the ridge trail and the other peaks that you’ll come by right from the Heimgarten peak.
equipment and condition:
The hike to Heimgarten isn’t hard but does require some condition to be enjoyable since it’s quite steep, but it’s not technically challenging. The traverse over to Herzogstand on the other hand only has short climbing sections followed by flat and downwards bits. However, it is a lot rockier with steep drops right next to the path. In some sections wire cables serve as extra hand holds. Some hiking experience is recommended and you should only do the traverse with proper footwear!
Our guide book said the hike was easy and would take roughly 3 hours up and 2 hours across. This time we climbed a little faster and were at the hut after around 2 ½ hours, the traverse was somewhere between 1:40 and 2 hours.