As I’m writing this blog entry Germany (along with a lot of other places in Europe and North America) is back in lockdown mode, which means just about any form of travel is once again taking a back seat to bigger concerns of public health and safety. But hey, that doesn’t mean we can’t dream about the time when we can travel again, even if our first “trip” will maybe be a day spent mostly outdoors someplace close to home.
In that spirit, I’d like to add another entry to the Bayern Local Series, to share one of my favorite places for fresh air and killer views in the Bavarian Alps: Herzogstand.
The Herzogstand (rough English translation: Duke’s Pedestal) is a mountain (1,731m) in the Bavarian foothills, just above the village of Walchensee and the lake of the same name. The royal reference in the name is due to the fact that this area was a longtime favorite spot of Bavarian royalty, in particular Herzog Wilhelm IV for whom it was named.
The best thing about this mountain, apart from those ‘wow’ views, is its accessibility. For those who enjoy challenging hikes it can be done entirely on foot, with or without an extra ridge hike to the nearby Heimgarten peak. For the full loop (Walchensee-Heimgarten-Herzogstand-Walchensee, 1200m vertical) you should allow a full day of hiking. It’s also important to be aware that the trails can be snowy and icy in the winter season, and if there is significant snow it is not recommended to attempt this hike without proper gear and experience.
If you aren’t able or don’t wish to do any hiking, or only want to hike a little bit you can still access those killer views with the Herzogstandbahn (cable car) that takes you from the village of Walchensee to a spot about 45 minutes’ walk below the peak in a matter of minutes. Tickets can be purchased one-way or roundtrip, so it’s easy to mix and match hiking with the cable car.
There’s also a restaurant and guesthouse (yes, you can stay overnight, too!) just a short walk from the top of the cable car, which is open daily (except Tuesdays) during Summer and Friday through Sunday in winter.
Another interesting possibility: for alpine skiers/snowboarders it’s possible to ski down this mountain in winter (but only when there is snow, as there are no snow making capabilities). I wouldn’t go so far as to call this a ski area as there is only one main “run” with a few divided sections for intermediate vs. expert, but if you bring along your gear it’s a fun and fast way to get back down the mountain! A short bus ride, which is included in the ski ticket, takes you back to the base of the cable car, and you can do multiple runs with the ski ticket.
Getting there is also easy. Walchensee is accessible via a short and very scenic drive from the A95 (Munich – Garmisch-Partenkirchen) Autobahn. If you don’t have a car or don’t want to drive, trains run regularly from Munich to Kochel am See, where you can catch Bus #9608 to the base of the cable car.
IMPORTANT: at the time of writing the cable car and restaurant are closed due to COVID-19 restrictions. Of course, to avoid any unpleasant surprises it’s always important to check the current status before planning your visit. You can do that here for the cable car and here for the restaurant. The websites are currently available only in German, but the latest information is usually featured prominently on the front page and a quick copy/paste into a translator should take care of any language barriers.
Now for the only downside of this mountain: its great accessibility means it can be crowded, especially on sunny weekend days. There are sometimes waits of up to an hour for the cable car at peak times on these days, and the pathways at the top as well as the restaurant can get a bit crowded, too. Therefore, those who crave a bit more solitude should try to go on weekdays, and if possible consider hiking part or all of the loop to avoid the crowds on the cable car.
I’ve yet to do the full hike mentioned above, but as soon as both weather and coronavirus allow I definitely plan to do so! Have you done this hike before? If so, leave a comment to let me know what you thought of it!