Good to know
The Zugspitze, standing at 2,962 meters, is the highest mountain in Germany and one of the highest mountains in Europe that can be hiked without climbing equipment.
For several years, Jo had been nurturing the desire to hike to the Zugspitze, and this wish has now firmly settled in Georg’s mind as well.
“But how do you manage that with a dog? Is that even possible?”
The ascent from Garmisch-Partenkirchen takes approximately 10 hours of walking, covering around 23.6 km with an elevation gain of 2,400 meters. It’s quite a challenge, which is why staying overnight in one of the mountain huts is often recommended. However, for us, an overnight stay was not an option due to a prior reservation on the hut and to stay flexible in responding to the changing weather conditions, especially with our dog. Keep in mind that dogs are often not welcome in huts, so make sure to check beforehand on the internet.
Since we didn’t want to hike back the same route, we opted for the “comfortable way” and took the cable car down to the valley. However, it’s essential to note that the cable cars from the Zugspitze operate only until a certain time in the evening, in our case, it was 5:45 PM. The Partnachklamm (which could be part of the route) opens regularly at 8:00 AM. Therefore, we recommend visiting the gorge separately to have more time to enjoy it. During the ascent to the Zugspitze, you can either bypass the gorge or take the route we went.
From Garmisch to the Partnach-Alm
To set off early in the morning, we decided on a parking lot where we could comfortably spend the night, leave our cars securely, and easily return after the hike without having to walk long distances back. We skipped the recommended starting point at the Olympic ski jump because the parking lot there wasn’t pleasant and had a fee.
The night before, we packed our backpacks, including Momo’s, which contained food, water, Vaseline, and necessary first aid supplies.
When the alarm went off at 4:30 AM, we were all a bit groggy, and Momo looked at us as if we were out of our minds. Half-asleep, we placed the espresso maker on the stove, got dressed, enjoyed a small bowl of muesli, sipped on coffee, and brushed our teeth - and then we were off.
Our route, influenced by our starting point, led us from the wave pool to the Kochel-Alm and then to the Partnach-Alm. The recommended route usually goes through the Partnachklamm, but in June 2021, it was closed due to a storm.
As the sun rose, we passed by the Kochel-Alm. Just before reaching the Partnach-Alm, our route intersected with the one recommended by the tourist information, and here we encountered the first hikers who had probably also started at 5 AM from the ski jump.
From the Partnach-Alm onwards, our route matched the recommendation provided by the tourist information.
Partnach-Alm - Reintalangerhütte
From the Partnach-Alm, we continued our hike passing through the Laubhütte, Bockhütte, and Reintalangerhütte. The ascent to the Reintalangerhütte was easy and well-maintained. We could comfortably take a short break in the shade along the banks of the Partnach. So far, everything was going well, and we were making better time than the trail signs indicated. However, we had only gained an elevation of 600 meters over a distance of 16 km.
Reintalangerhütte - Sonnalpin
From the Reintalangerhütte, the difficulty level significantly increased. The paths towards the Knorrhütte became steeper, narrower, and filled with scree. About a kilometer before reaching the Knorrhütte, we accidentally deviated from the planned route and took the rocky ascent. Momo handled it remarkably well, with a few rest breaks. We thought that might have been the most challenging part since we had gained about 1 km in elevation over the 1.7 km distance between the huts. At this point, we were already at 2,100 meters, and the summit was “only” another 800 meters higher. However, right after the Knorrhütte, the steep ascent continued.
From here on, there was no greenery left, and consequently, no shaded areas to cool Momo down. Thankfully, there were still small patches of snow about every 200 meters, which Momo used to cool her paws. The heat was definitely her biggest challenge.
Eventually, we arrived at Sonnalpin, a base station with a lift that takes visitors up to the summit. For those feeling tired at this point, they have the option to take the gondola up, especially since the gondola ticket for the return trip is included. However, for us, this option felt wrong. After all, wouldn’t we then not have truly hiked to the Zugspitze?
Taking the lift would have felt like skipping a significant part of the journey, and it wouldn’t have given us the same sense of accomplishment and fulfillment as reaching the summit on foot. So, despite being tired, we decided to continue hiking and push ourselves to reach the Zugspitze summit entirely by our own efforts.
The final stretch: Sonnalpin - Summit Cross (2962 meters)
This last section was indeed extremely challenging, appropriately marked with a black difficulty level. We first had to ascend a very steep scree slope, with the ground being very loose. Even Momo struggled on all fours, constantly slipping back. Some careless hikers with their poles and oversized boots accidentally dislodged large rocks - which posed a danger for everyone below. After about an hour of zigzagging through the scree, we reached the next trail sign, where the ground became firm again. However, the paths along the mountainside were very narrow and steep, with gradients of up to 78%. Thankfully, the Alpine Association had installed steel cables along the way for support. Momo fought bravely, and we did too, alongside her. She leaped up steps about 1.5 meters high, with steep drops on both sides. Momo was secured with a leash attached to her harness. Still, Georg always made sure to have one hand on the safety cable and the other on the handle of her harness. This allowed us to overcome these obstacles slowly but steadily. We are incredibly proud of Momo. On one hand, she was visibly scared and exhausted, but on the other hand, she climbed on bravely without any fuss. You could really tell that she knew nothing bad would happen to her.
In the end, we reached the summit (Münchnerhaus) of the Zugspitze - quite exhausted but happy.
Interestingly, up there with all the people in flip-flops who took the Zugspitzbahn, we felt a bit strange. We first found a bench, and Momo could rest.
As planned, we then took the second-to-last cable car down to the valley.
The Zugspitze Cable Car
Taking the Zugspitzbahn and the Zahnradbahn (cogwheel train) back to Garmisch-Partenkirchen cost the tired hiker a total of 37€ (as both were booked together). The transportation fee for the dog was 5€.
Before heading back, you had checked the train schedules and decided to take the second-to-last train down to the valley.
Well-being of the dog
Lastly, we would like to point out that the well-being of our dog is of utmost importance to us. Proper preparation and aftercare are essential when embarking on such a tour with a dog: providing sufficient sleep and rest, offering good and plentiful food, as well as applying paw balm to soothe the paws, which are heavily impacted during such a journey. At the time, Momo was a 1.7-year-old female and very fit, which allowed us to take her along with a clear conscience. Depending on the dog’s fitness level, it determines whether such a tour is suitable for them.
Packing list for a day hike (with a dog)
We really enjoy hiking.
We also love hiking outside of Germany, like to the Elbquelle in the Czech Republic, in the Sarek National Park in Sweden, or on Mount Psiloritis, the highest mountain in Crete. So you don’t always have to think about what you need, here is our packing list:
- Functional shirt We swear by merino shirts after countless tests and now primarily use them. The great thing is that even after long hikes, you can simply air them out and wear them again! This is especially convenient for us, with a limited amount of clothing and washing facilities.
- Outdoor pants Zip-off pants are our favorite, as they make you ready for any weather.
- Hiking socks (You can find them with and without wool content, both have advantages and disadvantages, and we have one pair of each type.)
- Well-worn hiking shoes. We highly recommend buying hiking shoes in a store. The feeling in a shoe and the ability to compare shoes extensively is essential when it comes to hiking shoes because you cover a considerable distance.
- Headgear, depending on the season, a hat for cold and cutting wind or a cap for the sun can be really useful.
- Jacket, it might rain at any time or you might start your hike in the morning when it’s not very warm yet. The season in which you are hiking is also decisive. But keep in mind that you may have to pack the jacket in your backpack during the day if it gets warm!
- Water in refillable bottles. On the way, you might find places to get water. Therefore, we love our stainless steel bottles that we have had for a long time.
- Apples and carrots, we both like them, and so do our dogs.
- Nut mix
- Sandwiches Georg is the master of sandwich-making for us. When we go hiking, he makes sure that the fillings don’t make the bread soggy, like jam. Cheese works great (including vegan alternatives), especially with a few pickles on top. But cucumber sandwiches are also excellent!
- Mobile phone
- Power bank and the appropriate cable
Remember to download and save the right map for your hike in advance. Not everywhere has a signal.
Both weigh and can quickly overload your backpack, so consider carefully whether you want to carry the extra weight.
- First aid kit
- If not included in the first aid kit, blister plasters
- Toilet paper
- Vaseline for blisters and your dog’s sore paws!
- Hiking backpack for humans and dogs Dog hiking backpacks do exist, and Momo is big enough to carry quite a bit. But when packing, remember that it must not exceed 3% of her body weight!
- Identification, insurance card
- Small trash bag for waste
- Pocket knife
- Headlamps (especially for autumn and spring hikes, but don’t forget to charge them beforehand!)
- Insect repellent
- A little money in the local currency
For the dog
- Dog backpack (please make sure not to overload it!)
- Harness and collar
- Water bottle
- Dry food/dry treats
- Water bowl
- Vaseline (included in our first aid kit)