If you find yourself in the Bavarian Alps then you have plenty of options for beautiful day hikes. The popular mountain peaks Herzogstand and Heimgarten, which are connected by a ridge, are an easy to intermediate round trip hike rewarding you with beautiful views over Lake Walchensee and the smaller Lake Kochelsee. The hike takes roughly five and a half hours and is a loop, so you will start and end at the same point. With Herzogstand being 1,731 meters tall and Heimgarten 1,790 meters, you will gain about 1,400 meters of altitude during the hike. Your route can also be shortened by only climbing one of the two peaks as an out and back, or using the Herzongstand cable car instead of walking down.
Starting the Hike
You can either go up Heimgarten first and hike along the ridge to the top of Herzogstand, or do it the loop in the reverse direction. You’ll start from the base of Herzogstand, at the cable car station Herzogstandbahn. From there you can follow the signs for Heimgarten, which will lead you across a parking lot on your left and then past the outskirts of the village before entering the forest.
The first part of the hike to the top of Heimgarten mountain leads up a narrow path through the forest. The hike starts off easy and then continuously follows switchbacks uphill. Although you will gain quite a bit of altitude, the path never becomes really steep and the tree cover provides you with shade. Along the way you can catch a glimpse of Lake Walchensee through the trees, which can be a beautiful turquoise color if the light is right. After two hours you’ll leave the forest and cross a small green field before climbing the last steep half hour up to the top of Heimgarten. Just below the peak is a small lodge, where you can stop for food and drinks. We decided to have our lunch break at the peak, while enjoying amazing views over the beautiful Lake Walchensee and the Alps in the background.
After the peak the paths descends steeply for 100 meters or so down to the ridge that connects the peaks of Heimgarten and Herzogstand mountain. Following the narrow path along the ridge you’ll see both lakes below, while the trail side sometimes gives way to long drop offs. An hour of hiking, with some short sections where you’ll need to scramble a bit, will bring you to the summit of Herzogstand. There is another lodge just below the peak where you can enjoy a cool drink while taking in the views.
When we visited there had been only a few other hikers on our way to Heimgarten, but once we had reached the peak of Herzogstand we were surrounded by masses of people. The cable car there makes the mountain accessible for everyone, which means more can enjoy it, however it also means that you can expect crowds on Herzogstand, especially on the weekends.
Before starting our descent down to the valley, we made another small detour, to the Martinskopf viewpoint. A 15 minute hike up along a path of switchbacks lead us to the small peak. The views from here over Lake Walchensee and other mountains of the Alps on the horizon were our favorite of the entire hike.
Once we were able to take our eyes off the gorgeous views, we started heading down. The descent leads down a small trail, mostly covered by trees and it takes a little over an hour to reach the cable car station again. Over all it took us roughly five and a half hours to hike up Heimgarten and Herzogstand mountains, starting and finishing at the Herzogstandbahn cable car station. There is an alternate descent from near Martinskopf that will take you to Urfeld, a small bus stop with an easier trail to walk down, however the narrower trail back to Herzogstandbahn isn’t hard and is relatively pleasant.
Getting There by Public Transport
While it is fastest and easiest to get to the starting point by car, it is possible to get there using public transport. Coming from Munich you can catch a train from the central station heading either to Kochel or Garmisch-Partenkirchen. From either stop you will then need to switch to a local bus no. 9608 that operates between Kochel and Garmisch. You need to get off at the stop Herzogstandbahn (cable car), which is bit closer to the train station in Kochel, so this might be preferable over taking the train to Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Take into consideration when planning that the whole trip from Munich Central Station can take you up to two hours one way. If you start after 9am on a weekday or anytime on weekends, you’ll be able to buy a Bavaria Ticket for the entire journey to keep the costs down (25 Euro for one person, 6 Euro for each additional person). If you have the option to get there by car we would recommend it, as it is usually cheaper and faster. There is paid parking available at the Herzogstand cable car.