Hiking the German and Austrian Alps
If you love adventure, breathtaking scenery, and hiking this trip is for you. You don’t need a heavy backpack or even a tent to take on this 7 day adventure.
The German and Austrian Alps have a huge trail and hut network to make hiking across the mountains a wondrous and enjoyable experience. Just like any trail network you have easier and harder routes with different mileages and challenges along the way. You can spend a few days to a few weeks traversing this beautiful landscape.
Doorway to the Alps
We started this epic adventure in Oberstdorf where we stayed at the Ferienparadies Spielmannsau located in southern Germany. This was a nice little hostel with dorm like rooms, shared bathrooms, and a restaurant. The architecture here is Bavarian in nature and what you would see in those little U.S. tourist towns trying replicate German structures. This is the ideal place to begin your hiking adventure. Don’t plan on sleeping in though as all the cows wear bells and they move around at daybreak! No more Cowbell, lol.
The first day of our hike we had bad weather with virtually zero visibility. It was pretty much straight up the mountain slogging through the rain. It was cool in an eerie kind of way as we made our way through the fog and clouds. As we crested a small rise what appeared to be a castle loomed in the rolling fog ahead. It was multiple stories and made of brick. At first I thought we had stumbled upon an awesome ruin but as the fog parted I realized it was our first hut! This was the Mindelheimer Hütte. Now hut is a loose term, as it had hot showers, hot meals, and beer on tap. It’s here we learned the German word “Trockenraum” which meant “Drying Room”. This is a room where you hang your wet gear after a day on the trails. Our gear definitely needed it after the day we had.
Knife Edge Peaks
On day 2 the weather parted and the views were magnificent. We hiked over and along several intense knife edge peaks and passes as we found our route amongst the clouds. Some areas required scrambling and climbing over exposed areas. Two of the girls in our group decided this was too crazy for them and had to be roped to our guide for safety while traversing these sections. If the exposed cliffs and peaks didn’t provide us with enough excitement our friend Anya thought loosing her footing while crossing a small glacier would add to our adventure. Luckily the Glacier wasn’t too steep and she managed to stop her slide about a 100′ down and we pulled her back up with rope.
The rain was on and off in patches for the next few days but the weather stayed mostly favorable. We ended up crossing a few more exposed areas in the rain which kept our pace slower due to the slick rock. This was truly and epic adventure we had undertaken.
Summiting the Hochvogel
Nick, Kelly, Anya and myself opted for a side hike from the Prinz Luitpold Hut to climb the Hochvogel. The rest of the group decided to relax at the hut and drink beer while admiring the breathtaking views from the outdoor deck. Summiting the Hochvogel involved some interesting bridges and almost technical climbing in spots. Our guide provided us with climbing harnesses and we had to clip into iron cables that had been fixed to the rock. This is called “Via Ferrata” or “Iron Road”. It’s almost like rock climbing, but significantly easier. Part of the way up the group joked about wishing we had stayed at the hut and drank beer. Those jokes were soon forgotten as the epic 360 views from the summit overwhelmed us as we stood frozen staring in awe. You could see for what seemed like more than 10 miles across the tops of the mountains. It was absolutely amazing, don’t stay in the hut to drink beer and miss this or you will regret it.
Our journey continued out of the rugged peaks and into high alpine meadows like the one featured in the main photo. The views were endless and a photographers dream. Our trek ended at a popular ski slope where for the first time in my life I arrived at the top vs the base. There was of course no snow and we rode the tram down to the city below where we picked up a bus to take us back to our cars.
There is a pretty decent public transportation bus system around the alps so hiking from point to point is very feasible.
Lee’s Recommendation: Awesome journey, worth it. We paid about $750 for a guided tour. You can do it a lot cheaper on your own. The language barrier might be your only problem. Lots of people speak English but I wouldn’t count on it. Everyone is super friendly though.
Tour operator: Alpina Tours
*You can by meals at all the huts if you plan your own route. If you accompany a tour everything except beer is included.
Some of the huts held over 400 people in multiple buildings. The huts had a central great room where you could grab food, a beer on tap and even find games to play with your group. The rooms ranged from small private rooms with 1 double bed to bunk rooms holding 20 to 30. Most if not all of the hut had drying rooms so you could wear the same hiking gear every day. Cold showers were provided with your sleeping fee but you could also purchase a token for 5 Euros to turn on the hot water.