Snow, thaw, frost, ice and thaw all over again. That’s Hamburg right now. We even went down to minus 8 degrees Celsius last week. And I though moving closer to the ocean would at least bring milder winters! The only good thing about winter right now is that the days are getting longer again, if only a little, and we may start to think about outdoor adventures again. For longer day hikes you simply need enough light to make it back in time. So guess what I did between the years – I filled up on fresh air in my lungs and the feeling of pure freedom you only get in the ocean, in the desert – or on a mountain top! Here’s my latest favorite for the intermediate hiking trip just for you: The Hochgern by Germany’s largest lake, the Chiemsee. Breathtaking views, lots of fun on the way and no treacherous climbing guaranteed!
Duration: 3 – 4 hours
Difficulty: Easy to Intermediate
Season: Spring to late fall, only in mild winters
Difference in Altitude: 1150 Meters
Summit: 1750 Meters
As I’ve already mentioned: the hike is not too demanding and a great way to stay in shape between Christmas and New Year. From the parking lot to the top and back a weekend-hiker can easily make it in four hours, more sportive hikers can do the tour in less than three – at least in the summer time. If you go in winter though, you might want to check the weather first. From November you usually have some serious snow up there and you want to make sure you bring proper boots and hiking poles, crampons can be useful. Also, the last section to the top can turn out to be too difficult and dangerous, due to too much snow, too – so make sure you’ll ask some of the locals before going beyond the little alpine Restaurant “Hochgernhaus”!
This year, however, Germany had a really late winter, so there was only some snow and ice on the last stretch up to the top. In any case bring enough water (you’ll find fresh water wells on the well, but they can be frozen in winter), food and warm clothing, including scarf, gloves and tuqe. A pair of spare socks also never hurts. And of course: don’t forget proper sunglasses against sun and snow, sunscreen and your Swiss army knife. (Never had a hike, I didn’t need it!) Hot tea and your favorite chocolate for your victorious break at the summit cross are an add-on.
How to get to the Hochgern: Make sure you got winter tires!
You reach the parking lot via Highway A 8 Munich-Salzburg taking exit Bernau, driving through Grassau to Marquartstein. In the village of Marquartstein you turn left and cross the bridge to Altmarquartstein. Turn right after the bridge, and drive by the Restaurant “Post”. In the next bend to the right you turn left towards the parking lot. You can park either on the right on a level gravel lot or on your left parallel to the logging road. Don’t forget to shift your car into gear there, it’s pretty steep!
You start your hike from the upper parking lot on your right. The little path leads you right into the woods on the foot of the Hochgern. Soon, the path turns into a gravel road which is easy to walk and draws families and mountain bikers. Just follow the signs towards “Hochgern Gipfel.“ On your way up walking a serpentine logging road and then path, you‘ll pass the Agergschwendtalm, the Enzianstüberl and finally arrive at the Hochgernhaus. Especially from the deck of the Enzianhaus you have the most breathtaking views over the Chiemgau, the area around the Chiemsee. From spring to fall and sometimes even on good days in the wintertime, you can enjoy hearty Bavarian cuisine, like soup with pancakes or bread with fresh bacon. (no vegan food here! In case you want to eat vegan, I actually recommend to bring food with you whenever you want to dine out, as I don’t know of any Bavarian receipt without meat, butter or eggs) The original Bavarian Weizen beer, however is not only delicious, but vegan, too. Prost!
Don’t miss Bavarian Hospitality with stunning views at the “Enzianstüberl”
You may want to take a rest at the “Enzianstüberl” on your way up, down or both. The good food, view and friendly staff is clearly worth it! From here it’s about another 45 Minutes to the top and what might have been a nice walk so far turns into a steep, proper hike. After about 15 Minutes you arrive at the first subsummit and a meadow stretches before you. Here, you can either take a left or a right to get to the top. Especially in fall the left path can be really tricky.
Two ways to the top. Your reward: Breathtaking 360 degrees of the Chiemgau
The other path leading around the right side of the summit is your alternative. In any case it’s a good idea to walk it on your way back, as the left side of the mountain is shady, too and what had been demanding to climb up, is a hassle to climb down at the very least. The alternative path starts after about a third of the crest-shaped path along the edge of the mountain flank. You simply leave the narrow path and turn right. Here you leave the mountain on your left and climb across the huge rocks right by the wall. After a little bit of climbing (No free climbing involved. The edge is pretty far away). Then, just walk straight until you see the summit cross!
If you chose to hike the left path, this is where you’ll need your hiking poles. It’s slippery when wet, even in fall you may have some snow and ice and you’ll walk the whole crest right by the edge of the mountain flank. After crossing the flank you climb up the peak on your right in tight bends until you see it: The summit cross! From here you can enjoy a 360 degree view, with the Chiemsee on one side and the mountain tops on the other. Make sure you bring a good map (or ask a local) to be able to name all the other summits!
This was my third “little Winter Escape” about what I dream of, when I think of summer. What are your summer dreams about? Share your best days of sunshine with us!
And…Enjoy the ride!