I often get asked if winter is a good time for beer hiking and I have to be honest and say it can be. It depends on where you intend to hike. The trails in Franconia are generally low elevation and gentle. Even if there’s snow on the ground, it’s not likely to be a problem if you’re wearing shoes with decent traction. The biggest deterrent is a lack of sunshine. It can be a gray and dreary place in winter but the upside is the pubs will be less busy. This is not limited to Franconia. I live in Munich and we have plenty of dismal weather once November rolls around. Your best best to see the sun is to head south where you might arrive in the fog but find yourself basking in those warming rays you’ve been hankering for once you gain a few 100 meters of elevation.
head south for sun in winter
Mittenwald is a personal favorite. The town is quintessential Alps. If you can’t afford Switzerland. This is an affordable fix with wooden balconies adorned with flowers at every turn. The mountains surrounding the village are spectacular with the Karwendel seeming to rise directly from the train station. Oh, did I mention hourly trains from Munich from Munich. In under two hours, you’ll find yourself fighting the urge to yodel and craning your neck in search of Heidi. She’s not here and please don’t. Do head up to one of the peaks. Climbing the Karwendel requires some technical skill so my suggestion is to head to the Kranzberg. Not only is it much easier but when atop it, you have a magnificent view of the Karwendel, which is one amazing jagged massif. You can cheat and use the lift but be warned, it’s a single-seat one ill-suited for those afraid of heights. If you take the “easy way,” it’s a steep-ish 45 minute schlep to the top. It’s about 90 if you’re reasonably fit to walk from the lift area and under 2 hours from the train station.
sights in Mittenwald along the way & the way
We recently made the trek down on a fine New Year’s Day. No fog to be found, aside from the Bock-induced one in our heads. We’d seen the forecast. We’d made the plan. We’d organized our packs. We still stayed up late, enjoying the Eve. No worries, the train ride down was stunning and an Apfelschorle took the edge off. Whatever remained of our hangovers was soon worked off slogging uphill.
views from the train & the trail up the Kranzberg
It was unsurprisingly crowded on top. It was, after all, New Year’s Day and other-worldly nice out. We managed to get a reclining bench and were able to sit without jackets for a bit. It was that nice in the sun with no wind. That’s where the real luck comes in. You can return via the same trail but you’d miss the best part of the hike. As you walk towards the twin-jewel lakes Lautersee and Ferchensee, you are rewarded with some stunning alpine scenery. In winter, it’s pure magic.
great views from the route to the lakes
Once off the plateau, dropping down to the Lautersee and Ferchensee is straightforward and not painfully steep. The lakes are popular summer destinations in themselves, easily reached from town by a short trail or even bus. On this fine day, we found out the power of the sun.
heading down to the frozen lake
Whereas it was nearly toasty at the top, it was frigid at the lake where the mountains totally blocked out the warming rays. They were frozen and so were our hands. We had to use sticks due to the icy We’d not packed out gloves. Something those Bocks surely influenced.
Still it was storybook winter wonderland resplendent with a horse-drawn carriage of besotted patrons bundled in warm-looking comfy blankets. For us less fortunate pilgrims, we had to march on with the occasional photo stop.
the crowning touches
By walking briskly with our sticks, we warmed up quickly enough. We soon found ourselves with a great meal and view at Brauerei Mittenwalder’s Postkeller. Oh, the beer’s pretty damn good too. They’ve been brewing since 1830 and wouldn’t you know it, they had a Bock on tap.
For more detailed information on this hike (including a shortcut to the brewery) and 49 others around Bavaria, please consider consulting my book:
Books not your thing? Writing about beer sure makes a person thirsty for a beer. Please considering 🍺 Buying me a beer 🍺