Whether you are a fan of wandering around scenic towns or hiking the beautiful mountains, Garmisch-Partenkirchen is a great place to visit. For my family, no trip there is complete without hiking the Partnachklamm, the Partnach Gorge.
Our hike usually begins at the parking lot in front of the 1936 Winter Olympic Stadium. It’s hard to resist a quick walk around the inside of the stadium where we can admire the ski jump ramp before we continue on our way.
The road continues past the stadium, straight to the entrance of the gorge. It’s a short hike – five minutes unless you’re walking with young children, it usually takes us about 20 minutes. This is one of the times when our slow speed works to our advantage. The fields lining either side of the road fill your eyes with their seasonal wares, wild flowers one day and stacked grasses drying in the air on another. The new pale green trees of spring darken over the summer months before they explode with a final vibrant burst of color in the fall. Each season has its own personality and charm. Just when I think I’ve decided on my favorite we visit again, and view the familiar surroundings draped in an even lovelier curtain of colors.
There is often something of a bottleneck as visitors file past the cashiers at the gorge entrance. There is a nominal entrance fee to the trail – 3 Euros for adults and 1.50 Euro for children.
While the vegetation may change with the seasons, the gorge itself changes with the weather. Always refreshingly cool and deafeningly loud, the walk can at times be very, very wet. We’ve traversed the gorge in spring, summer and fall, but we’ve never gotten as wet as we did during our last visit. Rain feeds not only the river, but the run-off creates a continual path of waterfalls. Even on days when the sun is shining, you’d be wise to bring a raincoat to the gorge.
The footpath through the gorge is narrow, and the pedestrian traffic goes both ways. Passing fellow hikers on the narrow, sometimes slippery path with a rock wall on one side and a drop-off to rushing water on the other can be a bit nerve wracking, especially with small children. There are guard rails along all of the open portions of the trail, so it is safe as long as you’re paying attention. If you have little ones who are sensitive to loud noises, this section of the trail can be a bit of a challenge. While it’s not long or treacherously steep, it is quite loud.
Even with the dripping water, slippery paths and loud rushing water, or perhaps because of these unique aspects, the trail is one we’d definitely recommend. We’ve truly enjoyed it and found it that it provided just enough of a challenge for the children, so that they enjoy it as well. The trail through the gorge offers a combination of overhangs, tunnels through cliffs, and open areas. It is an ever changing journey displaying the power and beauty of nature. The gorge is open year round, although we’ve yet to get there during the winter months.
After we pass through the gorge, we turn away from the river and follow a trail up the mountain a bit. There are several hiking options available, but we always stick to the same one. It is challenging, but short enough that the children can walk it on their own.
The trail we follow is a series of switchbacks through the forest which eventually open to reveal several low Alpine pastures and beautiful Alpine houses. There are also several choices for refreshment on this part of the trail. We usually stopped at a lovely Gasthaus near the lift down the mountain. The restaurant offered beautiful views of the mountain and good food, but much to our surprise, we found the building partially demolished on our last trip.
Because our usual stop was (hopefully) undergoing restorations, we needed to find an alternate place for our lunch. Just a bit further down the trail, a small family run brotzeit place provided just that. On earlier trips, I recalled that they offered buttermilk and little else, but they had several tables set up under the trees across the street from their home. The menu was simple, but provided enough of an assortment that everyone was happy, and the food was fantastic. I had an egg and potato dish, my husband and son had a wurst plate, and my daughter had a fabulous kaiserschmarrm – a dish of warm chopped up pancakes, this one was served with applesauce. We left the restaurant refreshed and ready to face the rest of our walk.
We decided to continue forward rather than backtrack through the gorge. If you take this route, be forewarned that the road is very steep, and there is oftentimes traffic going up or down the twisty, narrow mountain road.
Coming down out of them mountains is always a bit deflating. But you once again enjoy the road back to the Olympic stadium, and if you’re not quite ready to call it a day at the end of the hike, you can give the summer rodelbahn a try.