My new goal in life is to be one of the older adults we saw hiking through Berchtesgadenland National Park in Germany. If I am 70+ and still regularly navigating insanely beautiful national parks with trekking poles, I will consider myself one lucky lady.
And “insanely beautiful” are truly the words I would use to describe this part of Germany. Some others might be “lush,” “inspiring,” and “remarkable.” We visited Salzburg and Berchtesgadenland in the same trip. And for as cozy as Salzburg was, Berchtesgaden was equally majestic.
A hike through Almbachklamm
Almbachklamm is a natural gorge that happened to be a mere 10 minute drive from our Air BnB. Thanks to an incredible hiking app I stumbled across (called Komoot), we were able to find a 5 mile trail around that area that looked promising. Armed with Komoot, water, snacks, and rain gear, we hit the trail on our first full day in the area with little expectations.
And we weren’t disappointed. We walked through forests and fields, exploring our way to a hikers hut and a Madonna nestled along the stream. The hike ended with 20+ bridges that cut through the gorge and around waterfalls. And although everything was maintained, we still got to see some wildlife.
And to go back to my new life goal of hiking mountains as a septuagenarian, I should add that I envision myself following Daniel down the trails. While taking these pictures, I realized love might just be following your mate through all terrains in all seasons. (Daniel would adjust this idea to include “UPHILL.” Love is following your mate uphill even when you don’t want to.
Followed by a HIKE through the official National Park Berchtesgaden
With our appetites whetted by our previous hike, we set out the next day for a longer hike within the official borders of the national park. Like all true adventures, we experienced highs and lows (both metaphorically and physically) on what became a 12 mile trek.
Our first point of excitement came when we reached an alpine meadow with beautiful views…and some interesting inhabitants. With hindsight, the “Achtung” sign was very clear despite our inability to read German. But oh were we surprised when we walked into a new clearing and straight into the ferocious barks of 3 or 4 large sheep dogs. They were interspersed among a herd of sheep. And they were scary – electric fence and all. Daniel kept asking for pictures, but every time you stopped or looked too intently, the dogs went berserk. I finally humored Daniel with a couple photos once we were far enough away.
Our little surge of dog adrenaline propelled us along a while longer. But the affect was not permanent for poor Daniel. I find myself invigorated by hills. I’m like the Disney Pocahontas, except that for me it’s bends in the uphill trail – not riverbends – that inspire me to go farther and discover more.
The video below has Daniel being a trooper while he eats gummy bears for some fuel. I’m happy to report that he rallied and we forged ahead. At this point we were only about half way done with our day.
Thankfully our uphill trail turned into a downhill trail and led us to Lake Hintersee, and the perfect place to stop for lunch. I should mention that one truly remarkable thing about Berchtesgaden is its accessibility. Public buses stop frequently not just at the entrances to the park, but also along all the major roads and at various parking lots within. Despite the fact that we walked nearly 5 miles to reach this lake, we found ourselves surrounded by other vacationers. It was nice to do a little people watching as we ate.
But once again, the hills called me upward and Daniel lovingly obliged. Well, he obliged as much as he could. There was one point at which I desperately wanted to keep going up but he decided that wasn’t an option for him. So he took a nap where my trail diverged and I went on ahead. At one point he decided to follow me….made it like 15 feet…..and then sat down again. Despite the voice of reason in my head telling me never to hike alone, all was well.
And in fact, we were even fine when Daniel drank straight from the mountain stream before I could tell him not to. (The voice of reason also prohibits me from drinking unfiltered water in the wild).
The last stretch of our hike took us along the main road back to our car. And thankfully, it was flat. At this point even I had had enough uphill climbing. But more than just a rest for our legs, this part of the hike gave us a new type of scenery to visual feast upon. For some reason the combination of steep hills and green meadows never gets old.
Boating and then hiking through Lakes Konigssee and Obersee
It was after this 12 mile hike that we took a break to explore Salzburg. But just one day later we were back in the National Park, this time with Amy and Elizabeth. Our plan for this day was different. The bulk of our travels would be by ferry boat across the biggest lake in the park, Lake Konigssee.
This day, of all the days for us (maybe ever), produced the most beautiful pictures. In the middle of the lake was a monastery. Heeding the advice of our Air BnB host who said the monastery was best viewed from the lake and not from inside, we decided not to stop and continued on with the ferry.
After landing on the southern end of the long, narrow lake, we set off on a short 20ish minute walk to Lake Obersee. Lake Obersee was absolute glass – clear, polished, and reflecting the mountains all around it. I felt like I took the same picture repeatedly, and yet each time the angle and reflection ensured that it was, in fact, a unique photo.
We walked further on toward a waterfall where we stopped for pictures.
And on the way back we found ourselves cutting through a small herd of cows to get to a mountain hut rest stop.
Everything was idyllic. At the hut, hikers were enjoying mugs of fresh milk. Milk! Even having lived in Wisconsin for the past six years I didn’t expect that to be their hiking drink of choice.
This is one of the few times I don’t feel like I have to describe everything about this experience. I can’t imagine myself forgetting it anytime soon. And I hope that for you, even the cell phone pictures give you some idea of the grandeur of this place.
One last hike
Our last day involved a 3-4 hour drive back through Munich and on to Memmingen. Knowing we would have a day of driving followed by a day of flying, we squeezed in one final hike after we checked out of our Air BnB.
This hike was supposedly shorter in distance, but still steep. At one point we were informed we where in “Danger Of Life!” but we bravely forged ahead. Ultimately, though, we turned back early because the trail was covered in snow.
We left this trip oh-so-satisfied: tired in the right kind of way and refreshed in others. If Paris laughs at you and Salzburg pats you on the shoulder, then Berchtesgaden gives you their phone number…and you totally intend to follow through on that.