The Zugspitze is 2962m above sea level. NHN the highest peak of the Wetterstein Mountains and at the same time Germany ‘s highest mountain, which it shares with Austria. Thanks to the modern Zugspitze cable car or the nostalgic cog railway, visitors can enjoy the unique 360° view of 400 peaks in Germany, Austria and Italy, include the Großglockner or the Piz Bernina and even the TV tower in Munich. The breathtaking panorama on the Zugspitz summit is unique, on a clear day, miles of distant views give you an incredible feeling of space and freedom.
The first documented ascent of the Zugspitze was in 1820 by the surveyor and then lieutenant in the Bavarian army Josef Naus, his measuring assistant Maier and the mountain guide Johann Georg Tauschl. Today there are three normal routes to the summit: from the north-east from the Höllental, from the south-east from the Reintal and from the west via the Austrian Schneekar. One of the most well-known ridge routes in the Eastern Alps, the Jubilee Ridge, leads to the Zugspitze.
The mountain is now accessible with three mountain railways – the Tyrolean Zugspitzbahn, the Bavarian Zugspitzbahn and the Zugspitze cable car. In winter, several ski lifts also serve a ski area on the Zugspitzplatt. The Tiroler Zugspitzbahn and the Zugspitze cable car are cable cars. The Bayerische Zugspitzbahn is a cogwheel railway that runs on rails and mostly in tunnels to the Zugspitzplatt a few hundred meters below the Zugspitze, from where another aerial cableway leads to the Zugspitze.
The Zugspitze massif lies southwest of Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Bavaria and in the north of Tyrol. The border between Germany and Austria runs across its western summit. South of the mountain is the Zugspitzplatt, a karst plateau with numerous caves. Three of the five Bavarian glaciers are located on the flanks of the Zugspitze: the Northern and Southern Schneeferner, both of which are endangered in their existence, and the Höllentalferner.
Visitors can also enjoy tobogganing fun on natural snow in summer, explore the Glacier Adventure Trail and the Zugspitze Alpinpark and much more. In summer there are a number of demanding hiking routes, such as e.g. B. a glacier hike or various via ferratas for sporty ambitious. In winter, a ski area with twelve different slopes awaits you. Tobogganing is possible up here all year round.
Visitors will also find mountains full of nature experiences in the Garmisch-Classic area and on the Wank. On the AlpspiX viewing platform, which towers almost 1,000 meters above the abyss, the adrenaline is sure to rise in the panorama cabins, which can transport up to 100 people at once. The summit cross of the Zugspitze can be reached from the viewing platform via a via ferrata.
And also at the foot of the Alpspitze, the “Jewel of the Werdenfelser Land”, inviting hiking and adventure trails awaken feelings of exhilaration. The “Fascination Zugspitze” adventure museum brings visitors closer to a very special mountain world. Adventure and knowledge are combined interactively – and in this way amateur historians can delve deep into the exciting history of the Zugspitze.
Thanks to the privileged altitude between 2,000 and 2,720 meters, there is plenty of natural snow and bright winter sun for half the year, Zugspitze is a good place of winter sports. Exhilaration and great pleasure around the Zugspitze: world champion descents, freeride areas… Snow sports enthusiasts traditionally carve down finely groomed natural snow pistes early on on the Zugspitzplatt at around 2,700 m.
The Zugspitze belongs to the Wetterstein range of the Northern Limestone Alps. The Austria–Germany border goes right over the mountain. At 2,962 metres (9,718 ft) (eastern peak) the Zugspitze is the highest mountain of the Zugspitze massif. The massif of the Zugspitze has several other peaks. To the south the Zugspitzplatt is surrounded in an arc by the Zugspitzeck and Schneefernerkopf, the Wetterspitzen, the Wetterwandeck, the Plattspitzen and the Gatterlköpfen. The massif ends in the Gatterl, a wind gap between it and the Hochwanner.
Running eastwards away from the Zugspitze is the famous Jubilee Ridge or Jubiläumsgrat over the Höllentalspitzen towards the Alpspitze and Hochblassen. The short crest of the Riffelwandkamm runs northeast over the summits of the Riffelwandspitzen and the Riffelköpfe, to the Riffel wind gap. From here the ridge of the Waxensteinkamm stretches away over the Riffelspitzen to the Waxenstein.
The Platt or Zugspitzplatt is a plateau below the summit of the Zugspitze to the south and southeast which lies at a height of between 2,000 and 2,650 m (6,560 and 8,690 ft). It forms the head of the Reintal valley and has been shaped by a combination of weathering, karstification and glaciation. The area contains roches moutonnées, dolines and limestone pavements as a consequence of the ice ages. In addition moraines have been left behind by various glacial periods. The Platt was completely covered by a glacier for the last time at the beginning of the 19th century.
Three of the five Bavarian glaciers are currently counted on the Zugspitze. The Plattacher or Schneeferner on the Zugspitzplatt in the Atlas Tyroliensis (1774, terrain survey around 1762) is the first graphic depiction of a Bavarian glacier. The glacier area became significantly smaller as early as the 19th century, around 1900 the glacier divided into a northern and a southern part, a former eastern part has now completely disappeared.
On the Zugspitz glacier, snow and ice have shaped the mountain landscape for thousands of years and today form the framework for an attractive range of experiences. Approximately 30 hectares remain today for the northern Schneeferner, making it the largest glacier in Bavaria in terms of area and volume. The southern Schneeferner still has around 5 hectares of land. The Höllentalferner is located north of the Zugspitze in the Höllental and has an area of approx. 25 hectares.
Gletschergarten restaurant can be explored with rented “Zipfelbobs”. Five interactive stations provide interesting information about the various elements and high-alpine landscapes of the Zugspitz world. Those who prefer to keep their feet on the ground can treat themselves to culinary delights in the Sonnalpin glacier restaurant or in the glacier garden.
The alpine park will quickly become a favorite place for kids and adult climbing beginners. In the alpine park, children will find ideal conditions to playfully train their balance and dexterity for their first contact with the rock. With a seesaw, climbing wall, suspension bridge and the MinispiX viewing platform.
The chapel of the Visitation of the Virgin Mary at almost 3,000 m above sea level and, as the highest church in Germany, is the closest point of contact to heaven for believers. Excursionists and mountaineers also appreciate the small chapel as a place of rest and reflection.
Below the Zugspitzplatt chemical weathering processes have created a large number of caves and abîmes in the Wetterstein limestone. In the 1930s the number of caves was estimated at 300. By 1955 62 caves were known to exist and by 1960 another 47 had been discovered. The first cave explorations here took place in 1931. Other, largest exploratory expeditions took place in 1935 and 1936 as well as between 1955 and 1968. During one expedition, in 1958, the Finch Shaft (Finkenschacht) was discovered. It is 131 metres deep, 260 metres long and has a watercourse. There is a theory that this watercourse could be a link to the source of the River Partnach.
The 2,962 meter high Zugspitze is a mountain of superlatives. The largest elevation in Germany is home to three glaciers, a unique 360° panorama with Alpine peaks from four countries and an attractive range of experiences. At the mountain station boldly enthroned on the rock with a striking glass facade, visitors are initially drawn to the terrace to admire the legendary panoramic view of 400 Alpine peaks in four countries. If the conditions are good, you can even see the Bavarian capital of Munich. The golden summit cross near the viewing terrace is also a popular motif for souvenir photos.
The east summit is exactly 2962.06 m high, the rest of the summit area and the former west summit are built over. On the east summit of the Zugspitze is the well-known golden cross, which dates back to 1993. For the heavily frequented access from the visitor platform to the east summit, which is secured with steel cables and iron rungs, a head for heights and sure-footedness are required in addition to sturdy shoes. On the few meters of the short route, oncoming traffic is always to be expected due to the rush.
The German and Austrian Zugspitzbergbahn operate viewing platforms on their respective mountain sides, which open up the entire summit area of the Zugspitze (with the exception of the eastern summit). From here you can safely enjoy the overwhelming panorama in all directions. Depending on the weather, the view extends more than 200 km to the south in the Central Alps from the Großglockner in the Tauern to the Wildspitze in the Ötztal Alps in the west and to the north in the foothills of the Alps to Munich and beyond. The price level of the catering establishments (German Zugspitzbahn, Austrian Zugspitzbahn and also Münchner Haus) also corresponds to the height of the mountain and even exceeds the costs for the ascent and gastronomy of the three-thousanders visible above.
Berghütte Münchner Haus
The accommodation house of the Munich Alpine Club was the first building on the west summit in 1879. The house is open in the summer months. The observation station of the German weather service is attached to the Munich house, see also the accommodation section.
Adventure museum “Fascination Zugspitze”
The museum of the Tyrolean Zugspitzbahn is located in the mountain station. Schneefernerhaus (2650 m) at the foot of the southern slope from Zugspitzplatt to Zugsitz. Opened in 1931 as the highest hotel in Germany at the time and at that time the terminus of the rack railway of the Bavarian Zugspitzbahn.
Today the building serves as a research station for the Federal Environment Agency and the consortium “Environmental Research Station Schneefernerhaus” (UFS) consisting of the German Weather Service, the Technical University of Munich and other research centers. The climate researchers find optimal conditions here because of the clean and almost emission-free air. From the seventh floor of the Schneefernerhaus, a corridor several hundred meters long, the so-called “Kammstollen”, leads into the rock of the Zugspitze to below the summit area and offers optimal conditions for researching the permafrost.
Höllentalklamm near Hammersbach
Höllentalklamm near Hammersbach/ Grainau – wild gorge with waterfalls, catwalks with bridges over the torrential gorge, stairs and narrow tunnels. From the paid car park in Hammersbach (753 m) near Graiau on the B23 in the direction of Ehrwald in approx. 1 ½ h to the entrance hut (1047 m, serviced) at the end of the gorge, in approx. 1 h through the gorge to 1193 m at the beginning of the gorge; another ½ hour to the serviced Höllentalangerhütte (1381 m) on the valley floor of the idyllic Höllentalanger with a view of the Zugspitze.
The igloo village Zugspitze, in the heart of one of the most popular ski areas in Germany. The unforgettable adventure in the Zugspitze Igloo Village includes much more than just sleeping in an igloo. The Zugspitze Igloo Village is rebuilt every winter. Artists decorate the rooms with great attention to detail – this is how new magical worlds of snow and ice are created every year. Immerse yourself in the ephemeral art world.
Your experience consists of a Swiss cheese fondue, a guided snow hike at night, a stay in the whirlpool and sauna, and breakfast in the Sonnalpin mountain restaurant. The offer ranges from multi-bed rooms for families, friends and groups to romantic igloos, with a private toilet on request. So that you don’t freeze at night, all igloo rooms are equipped with thermal mats and expedition sleeping bags down to -40 °C.
Guests from all over the world can comfortably get up close and personal with the glacier by glacier cable car from the Zugspitz summit or by cog railway from the Zugspitz train station in Eibsee. Refreshing active offers in summer: whizzing down the natural snow run on Zipfelbobs, exploring the Gletsch Erlebnisweg, scrambling in the Zugspitze Alpinpark and honoring the Maria Heimsuchung chapel.
The highest mountain in Germany attracts experienced alpinists. The rugged ridge between the summit of the Zugspitze and the summit of the Alpspitze is one of the most spectacular ridge crossings in the Eastern Alps and is a prime tour for experienced mountaineers. The ridge stretches over 5.3 kilometers and is characterized by constant ups and downs, which demands a high level of stamina, concentration and sure-footedness from the tour participants in 7 to 9 hours of walking. You will be rewarded with a fantastic view over the Werdenfelser Land and impressive views down into the Höllental.
In addition to the anniversary ridge, which can also be climbed in the opposite direction, many paths lead to the Zugspitze from the surrounding valleys. The route through the Reintal is considered to be the simplest, but the longest and most isolated variant, which, apart from the final ascent, hardly presents any technical difficulties.
A popular but very demanding ascent leads through the varied Höllental. Between 6-8 hours must be planned for the route through the spectacular Höllentalklamm and further over the Höllentalferner up to the Zugspitze. A total of 2,200 meters in altitude must be overcome, which is why this route is only reserved for very experienced alpinists. The shortest and most direct ascent to the summit runs from the Eibsee or Obermoos via the Wiener-Neustädter-Hütte and the Austrian Schneekar.
From the Austrian village of Ehrwald, there are also two variants. One goes straight through the Western Flank, which is the shortest route overall, but rather hard. It includes a via ferrata, and there is a hut called “Wiener Neustädter Hütte” by the Austrian Alpine Club. An easier path leads via the Ehrwalder Alm, across a small pass called “Gatterl”, joining the Reintal path at the Knorrhütte.
Hike comfortably from the mountain and middle station down or up, there are countless ways to explore the sunny mountain of Werdenfelser Land. Circumnavigate the summit plateau on the 3 km long high-altitude trail. Or simply watch the launch preparations and maneuvers of the paragliders and hang-gliders from one of the numerous benches. The effortless ascent with the Wankbahn allows the whole family to enjoy the beautiful view from the panoramic mountain Wank.
Around the Wank you can see more and more sporty runners jumping over hill and dale. This is not only due to the captivating natural scenery: With its well-developed trails and hiking trails, the panoramic mountain has established itself as a popular spot for trail runners of all skill levels.
The offer ranges from easy trails for beginners to challenging routes for technically experienced competitive athletes. A big plus for recreational athletes and anyone who just wants to show their heels: the Wankbahn is a comfortable descent or ascent aid, which allows targeted training and exhaustion that is easy on the joints. Trail runners choose the routes according to their individual fitness and experience and combine the fun of running with the cable car in a relaxed manner.
For those wishing to reach the summit under their own power, various hiking and ski trails can be followed to the top. Hiking to the top from the base takes between one and two days, or a few hours for the very fit. Food and lodging is available on some trails. In winter the Zugspitze is a popular skiing and snowboarding destination, with several slopes on both sides. The Zugspitzplatt is Germany’s highest ski resort, and thus normally has sufficient snow throughout the winter.
Zugspitze is called “Top of Winter Sports”, Germany’s highest ski area lures with 20 kilometers of pistes. There has been a ski area on the Zugspitzplatt since 1949, currently operated by the Bayerische Zugspitzbahn Bergbahn AG at an altitude of 2000 to 2720 m. Skiers can reach it via the cable cars from Ehrwald and Eibsee or by cog railway. A large cable car takes winter sports enthusiasts from the Zugspitze summit station of the cable cars to the Sonnalpin station, where the only restaurants in the area are located.
Skiers are transported across the Platt by six lifts. There are two chairlifts and four drag lifts, two of which are operated as parallel drag lifts, i.e. with two installations of the same length that run side by side. The route from Ehrwald via the Gatterl is particularly important for ski tourers. The south-facing descent from the Schneefernerkopf to Ehrwald, called “Neue Welt”, is considered to be an extremely difficult and dangerous steep descent, which, in addition to gradients of up to 40 degrees, also has an abseiling point.
Already the ascent to the inviting natural snow slopes proves to be a spectacle. Thanks to the privileged altitude between 2,000 and 2,720 meters, skiers and snowboarders carve down finely groomed natural snow slopes from mid-November to early May. These often rise above the cloud cover while the valley sinks into fog. The easy and moderately difficult runs are pleasantly wide over the mountain flanks and are perfect for beginners and families as well as advanced snowboarders and sporty carving fans who appreciate large radii.
As the highest mountain in Germany, the Zugspitze also has the only German “glacier ski area”. The ski area has good snow reliability due to its altitude. The ski area can be reached directly with the cog railway (Sonnalpin station) and is characterized in particular by its location in a high alpine setting. From the point of view of the sporting challenge, the Zugspitzplatt can be classified as rather moderate overall: With the given steeper slopes in a glacier ski area, the glacier flow is usually crevassed here, these steeper areas of the glacier ski areas are therefore generally not accessible to piste guests.
The “Jubilee ridge” (also jubilee path or jubilee ridge) is the connecting ridge from the Zugspitze (2962 m) via the inner, middle and outer Höllentalspitzen (2737 m, 2740 m, 2716 m), Vollkarspitze (2630 m) and Hochblassen (2706 m) to the Alpspitze (2628 m). The route requires mastery of the third level of difficulty on the UIAA climbing scale and is therefore reserved for experienced mountaineers.
The “New World” is a demanding high-alpine ski run and leads from the Schneefernerkopf to Ehrwald with a difference in altitude of 2000 m. The route has inclines of more than 40 degrees and a vertical cliff that can only be negotiated by abseiling down a steep gully. This downhill route is therefore reserved exclusively for excellent skiers and should only be attempted with the appropriate alpine experience and/or accompanied by a mountain guide. The best season is March/ April.
The highest ski area in Germany offers a lively alternative to classic skiing: three tobogganing options for families and two more challenging toboggan runs meander over the slopes of the snowy Zugspitz massif.
On the Zugspitzplatt, adventurous visitors can try several tobogganing opportunities. The tobogganing opportunities around the Sonnalpin glacier restaurant are recommended for tobogganing newcomers and families with children. To practice steering and braking, head down to the family-friendly Schneefernerkopf toboggan run, which is great fun for children and beginners.
More experienced tobogganists start on the Sonnenkar toboggan run down into the Weisses Tal. For tobogganing pros, the Wetterwandeck toboggan run demands full commitment even from the advanced. From the destinations of the Sonnenkar and Wetterwandeck toboggan runs, tobogganists can comfortably return to the start with the chairlifts. The Sonnenkar and Wetterwandeck toboggan runs are not suitable for families with small children.
The round trip with three different trains combines all the highlights around the Zugspitze. In addition to the train rides – from nostalgic to ultra-modern – fascinating views, high alpine activities and unforgettable impressions await visitors. The round trip starts at the Zugspitze train station in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. The ride on the cogwheel train leads via Grainau, Eibsee and through the 4.5 km long Zugspitz tunnel. A magnificent 360° panoramic view and a view of up to 250 km keep visitors in suspense next to the golden summit cross.
The glacier restaurant Sonnalpin and the glacier garden also attract with their outstanding cuisine. After a detour to the ultra-modern summit gastronomy, in the 10 minutes between the mountain and valley station, guests can enjoy the overwhelming view from the floor-to-ceiling glass cabins far into the foothills of the Alps and the wild and romantic Eibsee at the foot of the mighty Zugspitz falls. From the Eibsee, the cog railway then travels comfortably back towards Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
On April 1, 1928, a consortium with a capital of five million Reichsmarks received approval to build a railway between Garmisch-Partenkirchen across the Eibsee up to the Zugspitze, called the Bayerische Zugspitzbahn. Completion was planned for the start of the Oberammergau Passion Play in 1930.
In 1950 a connecting cable car was built between Schneefernerhaus and Zugspitzplatt, which was renewed in 1966. Between 1985 and 1988 the terminal station was moved down so that it has been in the middle of the ski area ever since. The railway runs as a friction railway between Garmisch (705 m) and Grainau (751 m) and then as a cog railway to the final station Gletscher-Bahnhof (2588 m). The route is 19 km long, of which 4.4 km runs through the Zugspitze Tunnel. A ride takes about 45 minutes.
The cog railway
Germany’s highest peak is marked by two special anniversaries in 2020: On August 27, 1820, the first person reached the west summit of the Zugspitze and on July 8, 1930, the maiden voyage of the newly built cog railway to the Schneefernerhaus took place in front of an amazed audience. Two historical milestones that brought the symbolic mountain closer to people. And two bold feats of strength that still deserve the greatest respect today.
The Zugspitzbahn should be the last tourist rack railway in the Alps to be realized. While it runs as a friction railway from the Garmisch-Partenkirchen train station in the valley, it travels further up the mountain from Grainau as a rack railway with the »Riggenbach« rack and pinion system. The ground-breaking ceremony took place in the autumn of 1928. The section between the Eibsee and the Platt was the first to be tackled in order to be able to push ahead with the construction work in the tunnel in winter as well. The 4,453 meter long underground route through the mountain massif between Riffelriss and Schneefernerhaus is one of the boldest railway projects of the time, a technical and logistical challenge.
After only two years of construction and production costs of 22 million Reichsmarks, on July 8, 1930: the grand opening trip to the Schneeferner station took place. In the history of the Bayerische Zugspitzbahn, this successful pioneering act is to be followed by many more courageous development projects. Thanks to them, mountain lovers from all over the world experience a unique combination of comfortable ascent aids and original alpine nature around the Zugspitze. The cogwheel railway has also asserted itself – after constant modernization of the carriages and a new tunnel route directly to the Zugspitzplatt in 1985 – to this day as a nostalgic draft horse alongside the ultra-modern Zugspitze cable car and as a reliable means of transport on one of the most exciting railway routes in Germany.
Zugspitze cable car
The first cable car to the Zugspitze massif was the Tiroler Zugspitzbahn. Since December 21, 2017, the state-of-the-art Zugspitze cable car has been opening up the highest mountain in the country with the highest level of comfort for passengers. A total of six years of planning and construction work, partly under the most adverse conditions at an altitude of almost 3,000 meters, went into this superlative project, which is an undisputed highlight not only for the Bayerische Zugspitzbahn Bergbahn AG, but for the entire region, which is predominantly tourist-oriented.
The two large, floor-to-ceiling cabins offer space for up to 120 people each and can transport up to 580 people per hour to the summit without waiting times. They pass the world’s highest steel construction support for aerial tramways at 127 meters, overcome the world’s largest total height difference of 1,945 meters in one section and the world’s longest free span at 3,213 meters. Three records that passengers can enjoy with a full panoramic view of the picturesque Eibsee, the Waxensteine and the Alpspitze, among other things, and which aroused anticipation of a top-class mountain railway experience even during the construction period. The integrated windscreen heating enables an unclouded view even in bad weather and when the sky is clear you can even see far beyond Munich.
This incomparable cable car experience takes alpinists, summer excursionists, winter sports enthusiasts and tourists from all over the world up to the summit of the Zugspitze in first-class comfort. Up to now, around half a million visitors have been transported annually, but on busy days the historic Eibsee cable car from 1963 reached the limits of its transport capacity.
The first plans for a cable car from the Eibsee to the Zugspitze existed as early as 1909 with the approval for the project, which was extended in 1911. However, the project initially failed due to lack of funding. In 1960, Bayerische Zugspitzbahn AG received the concession for the Eibsee cable car. By December 1962, a 4500 m long cable car was built between the Eibsee (1000 m) and the summit. It ran over two pillars, 65 and 85 meters high, and climbed 2,000 meters. The slope was up to 46 degrees. In 2017, the old cable car was replaced by today’s more powerful cable car. On December 21, 2017, the new Zugspitze cable car was put into operation.
The Zugspitze experience begins in the newly built valley station, which houses the entrance and exit to the cable car cabins and a spacious entrance area with a clear view of the Eibsee and Zugspitze on a single level. Thanks to a sliding platform, i.e. a movable center platform, passengers can now board and disembark much more comfortably and efficiently. The cable car ride is crowned by the new mountain station, where three guest levels allow access to the glacier cable car, the gastronomic infrastructure and the summit terrace with a 360° panoramic view. Visitors can also reach the Munich House and the Tyrolean Zugspitzbahn via the terrace. The fully glazed platforms, which provide unimagined perspectives when boarding or alighting, are particularly eye-catching. The spacious, glazed staircase on the south side of the mountain station building also offers a clear view of the Alpine peaks.