Adventure in Bavaria and Austria

Mountain biking in Garmisch-Partenkirchen
Take on the trails

The German language is notorious for huge words constructed out of smaller ones, but why dub a village with such a tongue-twister? United to give the '36 Winter Games a single host, Garmisch and Partenkirchen were once two separate communities (their borders had expanded over the decades, narrowing the GAP gap). On the Garmisch side of the Partnach River, check out the high-summer bloom of Fr|hlingstra_e (Spring Street, actually), where the old, traditional houses that line the quiet block feature woodwork balconies festooned with flower boxes.

Partenkirchen's Ludwigstra_e offers wrought-iron signs, cobblestones underfoot, and beautiful Luftmalerei—large murals painted on the outer walls of houses and buildings. The colors may last for three generations, so many are quite old.

Ski Germany's Highest Point

Peaking out at 10,000 feet, the Zugspitze offers excellent snow conditions from November through May. Germany's highest ski area, the Zugspitze Plateau (6,000 to 8,490 feet), is a wide glacier offering a variety of groomed runs. Powderhounds can tackle the bowls and steeps off the beaten track, and snowboarders will enjoy a fun park and half-pipe. A day of Zugspitze skiing (including a cable-car ride roundtrip) will set you back about $30; add neighboring resorts—113 lifts total in both Germany and Austria—with the"Happy Ski Card" (three days for $65).

To reach the slopes, take a cog-wheel train from the foot of the Zugspitze or the GAP train station. The train tunnels through part of the mountain on its way up, and the cars offer handy storage for your skis. For a quicker, more scenic ride, take the cable car to the summit—a 10-minute ride climbing into the clouds, with the valley and lake below (the back windows have the best view). Another cable car takes you down to the plateau, but explore the summit before you head off to ski: When it's not too icy, take a quick hike over to the eastern summit, marked by a cross. Cross the border into Tirol, Austria, by walking through a skyway.

Zugspitze by Foot

There are two ways to climb the Zugspitze—the hard way, and the really hard way. If you lack mountaineering experience and equipment, grab a guide and head for the Olympic Ski Stadium just south of Partenkirchen. From there you can hike through Partnach Gorge into the Rein valley. A forest trail climbs upwards, past the small Blaue Gumpe Lake and three mountain refuges. Eight hours of hiking brings you to refuge number three—which is serviced by helicopter! Another hour and a half and you've made it to glacier restaurant Sonn-Alpin (8,530 feet) on the Zugspitze Plateau. Take the cable car from here to the summit.

Mountain Biking

Challenge your lungs and legs with the switchbacking trail that leads up from the Kruezeck cable car, southwest of GAP. You can jam north as high as Osterfelderkopf (6,300 feet), or cut an easier course eastward before looping back to town. Be prepared for some tough climbs and remember to bring your camera for the sweeping Alpine views. Fast descents and hillside roller-coasters make the high-altitude effort worthwhile (GAP itself sits at 2,362 feet), and you can always rest and refuel at one of many mountain huts. Get a front-suspension bike from the Trek-Pro-Shop (011-49-8821-79528)—$20 for 24 hours.

Valley Cycling

For something less strenuous, try a gentle cruise through the valleys north, east, or west of GAP, past small towns and along the Loisach River (north and west).

Getting Here

Garmisch-Partenkirchen is merely an hour from Munich by train. Check out the skier-friendly rail-ticket combos that include a ride up the Zugspitze.

For more information:
Kurverwaltung, Postfach 15 62, 82455

Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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