Are you looking to hike up the tallest mountain in Germany? Well, you have come to the right place because this guide will go over everything you need to know about climbing Zugspitze mountain. At 9,718 feet / 2,962 meters high, Zugspitze stands tall among the rest, and it is sure to be one of the most rewarding hikes you ever accomplish. Read on for how to tackle the summit in one day as part of the Reintal Valley route.
1) Zugspitze Hiking Facts
When doing research on how to climb Zugspitze in one day, I did not find too much helpful information out there. I am hoping this guide can help answer all your questions to better prepare you for your climb.
The Zugspitze mountain lays on the border of Germany and Austria. There are actually two cable cars that reach to the top of the mountain, one from each country. While you can easily take a cable car up, there are also several different hiking routes to the top from each side.
This guide will be going over the Reintal Valley route, which is the most common route to climb up from the German side. Not only can you complete this route in a single day but you also do not need any sort of climbing equipment. The rest of this guide will be focusing in on this particular route.
Below are some helpful facts about Zugspitze mountain and the hike to the summit.
Mountain Name: Zugspitze
Mountain Elevation: 9,718 Feet / 2,962 Meters
Route Name: Reintal Valley
Location: Garmisch Partenkirchen
Starting Point: Olympic Ski Jump Parking Lot
Ending Point: Zugspitze Summit
Length: 20KM / 12.5 Miles (one way)
Duration: 8-10 Hours
Elevation Gain: 7,448 Feet / 2,270 Meters
Terrain: Gravel / Dirt / Rocks
→ Enjoy the hike up Zugspitze as part of a longer Bavaria Itinerary
2) Zugspitze Hiking Map
I thought it may be helpful to start off this guide with a map of the Zugspitze Reintal route. Below is a screenshot from the maps.me app, with the long route up to the top of Germany.
The route start near the Olympic Ski Jump / Partnach Gorge parking lot and then makes its way through the gorge, along the river and valley, and then slowly up to the peak of Zugspitze.
3) How to Reach the Starting Point
If you are looking to tackle the Reintal Valley route, the best place to base yourself would be in the town of Garmisch Partenkirchen. This small Bavarian town has plenty of accommodation options to choose from and actually hosted the winter Olympics back in 1936.
As mentioned, the starting point of the hike is at the Olympic Ski Jump / Partnach Gorge parking lot. You can either drive your car there and pick it up at day’s end or if staying close by, just walk on over to begin your hike.
When it comes to renting a car in Bavaria, I would highly recommend checking out Rentalcars.com for potential options. By going through Rentalcars.com, you will have the chance to compare car prices among a variety of rental companies, and choose the best option for you.
I have also included some other helpful points of interest on the map so you can better visualize the area around Zugspitze. From the parking lot, you will head to the Partnach Gorge entrance, then onto the remainder of the trail passing by the two mountain huts, and finally towards the Zugspitze summit.
From the summit, you will catch the cable car down to Lake Eibsee, where you can then hop on the cogwheel train back to Garmisch Partenkirchen.
Below is the Google Maps view of the circular route that you will be taking for the day:
4) Where to Stay in Garmisch Partenkirchen
The town of Garmisch Partenkirchen is full of hotels and guesthouses that are frequented both in the winter months for skiing and the summer months for hiking. Below are some highly rated options that you can choose from when hiking up Zugspitze:
Mid Range: Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten | Biohotel Garmischer Hof
Book Your Stay at Biohotel Garmischer Hof Today!
5) Zugspitze Mountain Huts
Along the Zugspitze Reintal Valley route, you will find two mountain huts – Reintalangerhütte and Knorrhutte. These two huts are perfect places to rest your legs, have some food, fill up your water, and use the restroom.
These huts also offer the chance to sleep overnight in one of their rooms. Since this guide is focused on a one day hike up Zugspitze, booking a room won’t be necessary.
However, if you are looking to break up your hike into two days, then feel free to make your reservation beforehand. I would recommend staying overnight at the Knorrhutte as that does break out the elevation gain more evenly. Be sure to book ahead of time as they do sell out in high season!
6) Zugspitze Weather
One of the main reasons I did want to take on Zugspitze in one day was because of the weather. I had a few days to spend in Garmisch Partenkirchen and I wanted to be as certain as possible that I could choose the best day to climb Zugspitze.
If I opted to book an overnight ahead of time, I would just need to hope for the best that the weather would be on my side.
For those that want to climb it in a single day though, be sure to choose the clearest day possible. Since it is the highest point in Germany, you can imagine that clouds, wind and rain often can get in the way of the hike and of the views from up top.
When searching for weather, do not just simply look at weather for Garmisch Partenkirchen. Instead look for the weather forecast of the mountain itself. I always rely on Meteoblue for my mountain forecasts, where you can search for the weather of Zugspitze mountain.
You can also take a look at the Zugspitze webcams, if you want to compare the current weather forecast vs what the summit is actually like.
I should also note that the safest times for a climb will be in the summer months from June to September. Depending on snow coverage, I probably would not recommend a climb outside of these months.
7) What To Bring on the Hike
This is definitely one hike you will need to prepare for since it is quite long. Below you can find some of my go to items that I bring along on most of my hikes. For a more detailed view, be sure to check out the Hiking Packing List up on the site. It includes many essentials and will better prepare you for hikes all over Germany.
Also, be sure to bring at least 2-3 liters of water. This way you can have enough water for the first few portions of trail and then fill up at both mountain huts along the way.
The list includes several different essentials such as:
→ Hiking Shoes | Keen Targhee
→ Water Bottle | CamelBak Chute
→ Action Camera | GoPro Hero
→ Rain Jacket | Columbia Watertight II
→ Backpack Rain Cover | Joy Walker Cover
→ Portable Charger | Anker PowerCore 5000mAh
→ Hiking Backpack | Osprey Talon 22
8) The Zugspitze Hike
Before jumping into the hike, I wanted to point out a few very important things:
1) This hike will take you around 8-10 hours to complete (if you are very fit, then maybe 6-8). You need to start as early as possible to complete it in one day and catch the last cable car back down.
2) The cable car hours are from 8:00AM – 5:45PM in July & August and 8:30AM – 4:45PM from September to June. You simply need to make sure to get there before the last cable car. The one way cost down does not come cheap at 37.50 Euro.
3) The Partnach Gorge now opens at 8:00AM from June to September. That means only faster hikers will be able to get to hike this route and make it to the summit before the last cable car (note the parking lot to the gorge is about a 20 minute walk).
4) However, on the maps.me app, there does seem to be another route that goes around the gorge and meets back up with the trail past the gorge. I cannot speak for this route, but if you do want to start before 8AM, you will most likely need to take this secondary route to get around the closed gorge.
A helpful commentator mentioned, “You can do this easily by going up the very steep road immediately before the first ticket office, trundle through the little farming village at the top and follow the signs for Reintal to meet the trail.”
With that said, let’s get into the details and pictures of the hike. I have split the trail into a few main sections and also noted approximate hiking times for each. If you are an experienced and very fit climber, you will be able to shave off some additional time from those mentioned.
A) Parking Lot Through the Partnach Gorge (45 minutes – 1 hour)
The first portion of the trail will take you along a paved path from the parking lot to the gorge itself. Once the gorge opens up at 8AM, you can begin the walk through one of the highlights of Garmisch Partenkirchen.
While it costs 6 Euro to enter the gorge, the person who opened up the gate knew we were just trying to hike up to Zugspitze, so we did not need to purchase a ticket.
This part of the trail will be done in the very early hours of the day, so it is very nice to enjoy a place like the Partnach Gorge without the crowds. You will pass by the rushing water between the gorge walls for about 20 minutes or so before the gorge opens up into a wider river.
Update: now with the gorge opening at 8AM, you will most likely take the alternative route that goes around the gorge and meets up on the other side
B) The Forest and River (1.5 – 2 hours)
After exiting the gorge, continue along the route, where you will soon see a sign pointing you up to Zugspitze.
From here is a pretty flat gravel pathway in the forest. You will be surrounded by trees and greenery, as you hike along other trekkers and some bicyclists who share this portion of trail.
After heading through the forest, things will start to open up a bit more as you get your first peek of some mountains out in the distance and the beautiful glacier fed river alongside the trail. There will be a bit more forest to go through too until you reach a small mountain hut (not one of the main ones, which are further along on the trail).
When I passed by early in the morning, the hut wasn’t opened just yet but it could be a nice place to take a quick break before moving on.
C) The Reintal Valley (1.5 – 2 hours)
Once past the hut, the valley will begin to open up even more. You will continue the slight incline trail up along the river, with more and more mountains coming into view all around.
Soon you will come across a raging waterfall as you continue up the trail. Throughout this section you will gain some elevation but nothing too tough or steep. Once past the waterfall, continue along the river until you reach the Reintalangerhütte.
By now you may have hiked up to 4-5 hours already, so feel free to rest up a bit and stretch those legs before continuing on.
D) Up to the Knorhutte (2 – 2.5 hours)
After leaving the hut, cross the river and start the trek up to the Knorhutte. The landscape will really open up here and you will be walking through the large valley on some rocky terrain.
As you continue along the rocky path, you will see the zig zag trail that will take you up to the next section of trail. This is where the elevation gain comes into play as you slowly make your way up.
The trail will become more technical and rockier here so do watch your step as you make your way through. For the next hour or so you will be gaining more and more elevation as you follow the tricky terrain and up towards the next section of trail.
Soon the rocky trail will turn its way towards the right side of the valley, and that is when the Knorhutte will come into view up above. Continue along the path until you reach the hut, where I am sure you will need to rest up after the large elevation gain.
E) Knorhutte to Zugspitze (2.5 – 3 hours)
The last portion of trail is going to take you from the Knorhutte all the way up to Zugspitze, your final destination. Here is where you will really start to exit the valley and start climbing its walls up to the summit.
Once above the hut, the landscape around you changes as you get to enjoy the valley down below and all the various mountain peaks out in the distance. You will follow this dirt/rocky trail as you pass by herds of animals and more views with every step.
As you continue the climb, you will probably come by a view glacier spots on the trail. These sections shouldn’t last too long but just watch your step on the ice. Once through the ice, it is time to prepare for the last push to the summit.
From here to the summit is no joke. After countless hours of hiking, the last push is going to be the toughest part of the entire hike. You will be able to see the Zugspitze station up above as well as the Gletscherbahn out in front of you.
The trail up to the summit is steep, rocky, and sandy which makes it very tough to get a good grip in some sections. You will also find that there is a fixed line in certain spots, where you can grab onto to help your balance.
Be sure to stop and turn around once in a while because the views behind you just get better and better as you go along and get higher up. Follow the fixed line until you finally get to the Zugspitze summit platform, where you will unfortunately be greeted with hundreds of other people, but will fortunately have some incredible views.
9) The Zugspitze Summit
Usually when taking part of such a climb, you may reach a peaceful summit, where you can fully enjoy what you have just accomplished. That is not the case though at Zugspitze. As I mentioned there are two cable cars that go to the top of the mountain bringing along thousands of people each day.
Instead of that peace and quiet, you will be welcomed to quite a lot of noise and crowds.
Even so, I would recommend taking a walk around the platforms and enjoying the 360 degree views on the top of Germany.
Here is the very annoying part though – the actual summit of Zugspitze is not on the platform technically. Just off to the side of the platform is the true summit. And all of those tourists you see all around you – they want to stand at the summit too.
So, unfortunately you will need to wait in line with everyone else as you slowly move closer to the summit and the cross that stands on top of it. You will find a ladder and fixed rope section here, making the process to get to the top even that much slower.
Once you do reach the cross though, congratulations, because you finally made it to the top of Germany! Take some pictures, enjoy the view, and then make your way back to the main platform.
10) Getting Down from Zugspitze
After making the 7,000+ foot climb and spending some time on the top of Germany, it is time to head back down to ground level. Since I doubt you will want to make the hike back down, your next best bet is to take the cable car to the bottom.
Remember, there are two cable cars – one down to Germany and one down to Austria. Be sure to get on the correct one since you don’t want to go to the wrong country!
Once the quick 10 minute cable car is complete, you will be right next to Lake Eibsee. I would recommend checking out the lake, going for a swim, and cooling down those leg muscles.
You can then make your way over to the Zugspitze cog wheel train, which runs once an hour, that will take you right back into town. The cable car ticket includes the cost of the train so no worries about purchasing an additional ticket.
From town you can either walk back to your hotel or hop on a local bus back to the parking lot to pick up your car.
That about wraps up your guide to hiking Zugspitze in one day. I hope this has helped you out with planning your climb. If you do have any additional questions or comments feel free to write them in below.
If you enjoy Zugspitze, why not check out some of the other top things to do in Garmisch Partenkirchen during a visit.
If heading to Garmisch Partenkirchen, you may also want to head into nearby Austria to visit the town of Mayrhofen. There you will find plenty of hiking opportunities including the Olpererhutte Hike and the Ahornspitze Hike.
Have fun out there and safe travels!