Berchtesgaden National Park is the crown jewel in the Germany’s park system. While there is a rather large handful of stunning mountain lakes in Bavaria, it’s centerpiece Königssee is arguably the most awe-inspiring.
the stunning Königssee
Hemmed in by steep mountains, the relatively narrow lake is fjord-like in appearance and a boat trip traversing its 8km length is a must. It is conveniently used by hikers to gain easy access to trails which would otherwise be much more time-consuming and even non-hikers stop to stretch their legs at the idyllically situated St. Bartholomä.
the boat trip on Königssee is not to miss
As if the sublime lake weren’t enough, the park features a mountain massif to rival the best. While not as high as the more famous Zugspitze, the Watzmann is for me the iconic image of alpine Germany. We even chose it for the cover of Beer Hiking Bavaria.
the Watzmann massif is a spectacular sight
Though a major tourist attraction, we’d never made the trip until moving back to Munich in 2010. Once there, we wondered what had taken us so long. The hiking was about as good as we’d ever done but perhaps the most awe-inspiring moment was waking up to find the Watzmann aglow from our balcony. Sometimes my inability to sleep in pays off.
the Watzmann at sunrise
We vowed to return soon and often but as with many such self-promises, it didn’t come to pass until writing a book on beer hiking in Bavaria seven years later. I may have forgotten to mention in all my enthusiastic gushing over the alpine scenery, but Berchtesgaden also has a pretty fine little brewery in town too. Hofbräuhaus Berchtesgaden would ensure its place.
The only hitch was the short window I had to complete the book. The final draft was due the end of June and if you’re an alpine hiker, you know there is generally still snow up high even if it’s warm at the lake that time of year. We planned it for as late as we could and hoped for the best.
it would be tough to top our first trip
I’d be lying if I said we weren’t worried about being disappointed. Areas like this are prone to highly changeable weather and we’d had about as good weather as anyone could hope for the first time around. We arrived, oddly enough, in stifling heat. In fact, we could only manage a short stroll on the lake that afternoon. The next day was a little cooler but not an ideal temperature for clambering up a mountain. Despite an early start, we arrived to lines at the boat dock but that would be the least of our problems. When I asked for a one-day ticket to St. Bartholomä, the salesperson asked how I expected to get back. I explained our plan to hike back over the Rinnkendl and Grünstein, only to be told that trail was closed due to all the trees down from the particularly hard winter. She said there was still a lot of snow on the trail too.
getting dropped off to start the hike
Thankfully, I had a plan B up my sleeve. I’d anticipated snow might be a problem this time of the hiking season but hadn’t counted on the fallen trees. Instead, we got one-day tickets to a smaller dock across the lake. The boat trip was a little shorter but still gorgeous. The water wasn’t as reflective as the first time around and the air was hazier but our new drop off point was surely less crowded than our original choice.
straight up on a shady trail with some mountain views
The other plus was we were on the shady side of the lake for a morning hike and the trail, while steep, was pleasantly cool. There were occasional glimpses of the mountains across the lake to egg us on.
the pretty route shared with locals & a beer
The route meanders through some cow pastures as anyone who has hiked in Bavaria will have experienced before. They like to use the trails too so give them a wide birth if you come across them. One advantage of it not being a true wilderness is you don’t have to wait until the hike is over to grab a beer! Of course when you do get back, head over to the Hofbräuhaus Berchtesgaden. It’s gone through a few changes along the way but they’ve been brewing beer there since 1645 and I can personally say their Dunkles is a fine one.
a beer worth the walk
Berchtesgaden lies in Upper Bavaria (Oberbayern in German). There are 14 hikes in this region in my book Beer Hiking Bavaria along with another 36 from all over Bavaria. Each includes detailed descriptions of the hikes as well as information on the breweries along the routes plus some tasting notes on my favorite beers at each establishment.