Kranzhorn Mountain Hike, Germany (& Austria!)

We may not get to *actually* travel much this year, but I can at least say I’ve been to Austria twice! ANNDDD technically I’ve walked across the border, so if that’s not an adventure then I don’t know what is.

View over the Kranzhorn Alm. Not quite the summit.

We’re pretty lucky to have two friends from Groningen also living in the Munich area, so when Theresa invited us for a weekend hike, we obviously said yes. This week’s trip was unique because the mountain straddles the border of Germany and Austria. At the summit, if you look to the left, you’ll see Schieben, Austria. If you look right, you’ll see Windshausen, Germany.

The summit (1366 m), looking left over Austria.
The summit, looking right over Germany.

Technically speaking, this was an easier hike than our Ehrwald adventure. Wide, clearly marked paths, no bolted metal cables required. It lulls you into a sense of hiking security… but be prepared for a sore butt the next day. The first ~1.5 hours are nothing but up!

The mountain can be approached from either side, but we started our adventure in Nussdorf (aka ‘nut village’), Germany. This (less traveled) route starts directly from the small (free) parking lot towards the Kranzhorn Alm. The more popular route begins on the Austrian side, in Erleberg (with paid parking). The path is mostly through the woods, and although you’re constantly going up, it’s never too steep. We were even passed by several mountain bikers and power-hikers.

The two best parts?

You walk between Germany and Austria!

As I said before – walking across country borders makes me feel cool. The borders are marked by these painted rocks, so keep an eye out!

Blue and white for Bavaria, red for Tirol.
The beer hut, Kranzhorn Alm, has a petting zoo with the fluffiest chickens I’ve ever seen.
Black and white fluffy chickens!

One thing you can’t miss – the summit crosses.

You’ll find a cross on almost every summit peak in Bavaria (and Tirol), which are predominately Catholic states. The summit crosses started in the 1400s but picked up steam in the 19th century when mountaineering became more popular. The cross was obviously a religious symbol (as the mountain peak is closer to Heaven), but also a sign that the mountain itself had been summited. For some, a picture next to the cross is proof you made it all the way up.

We may not be religious, but I certainly think they make for lovely photos.

A third cross, on the Austrian side, for a smaller peak.

Since the Kranzhorn straddles the border, the summit actually has two crosses – one for Germany (the wooden one) and one for Austria (the metal one). Unfortunately, a picture of both at the same time was practically impossible, given the small summit area.

The Austrian summit cross.

And don’t worry. If all that hiking makes you hungry, the Kranzhorn Alm has got ya covered.


Practical Info

How to get there: Check out here (for Windshausen) and here (for Erlerberg) parking / starting info. Windshausen was only ~ 1 hour drive from Munich.

Distance from Munich: By car, ~1 hour. ~2 hours with public transportation (train + bus) .

Hike Direction: Head for Kranzhorn Alm (follow the fork/food symbol!)

Difficulty: Easy. Suitable for beginners or families – nothing special required!

Time: 3 – 4 hours, depending on your speed and how long you linger at the top.

Rating: 🧡 (if there’s time)

Not ‘highly recommended’ simply because there’s no convenient public transportation option. If you have a car and are looking for an easy day trip to the mountains, then definitely check it out!


Wednesday is our 4 year anniversary (!) and the mountains are calling us! So, until then…

Tshüss,

Whitney

Hiking in Ehrwald, Austria

If I could insert googly-eyes, I’d do it.

I know we’ve only been in Munich for 2 months, but I’ve been dying to get to the mountains. So, when a soon-to-be-whenever-Germany-lets-Shane-finally-work (ugh) colleague invited us to tag along on a day trip to the Alps, we jumped at the chance. So, last Friday we headed (only) an hour and a half south to Ehrwald, Austria.

The hike starts at the Ehrwalder Almbahn – the village’s cable car – and loops around the mountain, following signs to the Seebensee (Seeben Lake). Head around the lake and take the path straight ahead (and up) to the Coburger Hütte (hut) for some refreshments and a nice view of the next lake, the Drachensee. To return, backtrack past the Seebensee and keep right following the signs for the Almbahn. Finally, a left on to the Immensteig Trail cuts down the mountain and back to the parking lot.

Sounds easy enough, right?

Wrong.

Can you spot me? (Photo thanks to Justin & Alice)

“It’s rated as difficult, but it’s only 800 m of elevation gain, so it can’t be that hard!”

From the 800 m elevation gain (~2600 ft), 12.5 km distance (~7.5 mi), some scrambling, and some “oh shit” moments – this route earns it’s difficult rating, but man, it was worth it!

Ehrwald village in the background.

The hike itself started out easy enough. Were my quads already burning? Sure. Was I embarrassingly out of breath after a whole 5 minutes? Absolutely. Regardless, we trudged on, my lungs figured out this whole ‘altitude’ thing, and we headed for the Seebensee.

The start.
Up we go!

It may have “only” been a total of 800 m in elevation gain, but I swear the first half of the hike was nothing but up. It was one of those experiences where you can SEE the top, but the top never seems to get any closer. Luckily, there were some built in break spots with phenomenal views – which you needed to start the next portion of our “probably not that difficult” adventure. The scrambling. At least there were cables, right?

Started from the bottom now we’re here. -Drake. (Literally, we started at the parking lot in the photo.)
Mountain-mounted handrail cables.

After about 3 hours (from the start) we arrived at the first lake – the Seebensee! The water was incredibly clear and there were lots of people – families with small children included – sunbathing and swimming. Obviously, there was an alternate route to the Seebensee…

Seebensee – Coburger Hütte straight ahead!

At this point, we were hot & had been promised a hut with beer. We didn’t realize it yet, but we could literally see our destination. We had a little more work to do first…

An unexpected bonus? COWS! Free-range cows with giant bells! Apparently this is a ‘thing’ in the Alps. Sheep & cows are put out to graze wearing bells so their owners can find them again later. Too bad for you if you’re a sleepy cow – in this area, the bells were constantly ringing. For a while, you could only hear them, but we did eventually get close enough for a cow-photoshoot. They obviously see humans all the time because they didn’t give two shits about us.

Can I pet dat cowwww?
Caught in action.
My masterpiece. What a beauty.

I digress. Onwards and upwards to the hut! Thanks to my one track mind (nooo… not beer. Fanta, actually, with a beer accouterment. Does that make it a two-track mind?), I forgot to take a proper picture of the Coburger Hut. From above you could see the second lake, Drachensee. We intended to go swimming, but honestly it was kind of chilly up there! By the time we were properly refreshed we were also properly cold, so we skipped the swimming.

The hut from below.
The Drachensee from the hut.
View over the Seebensee from the Coburger Hütte (1910m, ~6250 ft).

After that, it was time to turn around! It was another ~2 hours back to the car. I think at this point, everyone was happy to be on flat ground for a while… little did we know we were going to be scrambling straight down the side of the mountain with those cables again.

Photo thanks to Alice.

So, note-to-self: Trust the hike ratings. It was certainly a difficult hike, but if you’re feeling fit and confident in your feet then it’s by no means unmanageable. Honestly, going up and down with the cables felt a little sketchy at first (especially going down), but you get the hang of it and it’s really fun! I would absolutely recommend this hike, and do it again.

Here’s a link to the hike on Komoot. And if you’re considering it, here’s what you can expect on the Immensteig Trail (at the end of the hike). Conversely, you can just be surprised, like we were. 😜

If you’re interested in the Seebeensea and the Coburger Hütte but a difficult hike isn’t for you, then I recommend checking out the official tourism website. They list all the trails and their difficulty.

Our group – Us, Josh, Alice, & Justin.
Drachensee.

Until our next mountain adventure –

Tschüss,

Whitney