This tour is somewhat longer but from the Fockenstein you will have a great panoramic view. A part from the last tiny stretch before you reach the top and where you will have to scramble a bit there is are no difficulties and so almost everybody can go on this hike. Expect a great panoramic view over the Tegernsee and into the central Alps. You’ll even see the dominating summit of the Zugspitze in the far. You’ll have to walk a few miles if you follow my tour, but you can shorten it by descending the same way you came up the mountain from Bad Wiessee. If you want to do the tour following my footsteps, I do recommend that you take the train for your ride.
April was already pretty warm and so I decided to profit from the great weather on Easter Sunday and go on a first tour in the mountains. It was pretty clear that after those heavy snowstorms of the last winter there would still be tons of snow. So I chose a hike that doesn’t bring me to real high elevations and get a great panoramic view anyway. In the end I was shown that I wanted to climb too high.
For my last day of vacation in Südtirol/Alto Adige I chose an easier tour. After two days with quite a lot of feet in elevation I wanted to have it a bit more comfortable. The guide that was leading us to the Wilde Kreuzspitze talked about the Rodenecker Alp. Supposedly there is great panoramic hike to walk. From the Zumis parking lot sitting on 5660 ft. you will be walking without much elevation across the Rodenecker alp enjoying fabulous views of the Zillertaler Alps to the north and the Dolomites to the south. This tour is a treat for all of you not wanting to climb lots of feet but enjoy great panoramic views anyway.
Around the Vals valley there are a few summits that do offer great panoramic views of the Dolimite mountains in the south and the Zillertaler alps to the north. After not being able to get to the summit of the Wilde Kreuzspitze I decided to climb the Seefeldspitze the next day. The tour starts at the parking lot of the Fanealm too. Those who are in a hurry can take the shortcut over a steep path that mounts straight to the summit. If you want to have it less strenous then follow the forest road leading to the Tschirnaun alp. After this cabin there aren’t many signs showing you the way, but since you are in open terrain it is easy to orientate yourself and find your way. Curios? Then read on.
The Wilde Kreuzspitze is a summit with approx. 10,300 ft at the end of the Vals valley in South Tyrol close to the Austrian border. While preparig this trip this was the only hike that was described in guide books. I was tantalised already for quite some time to stand on a mountain with more than 10,000 ft. The ascent is not too strenuous but above 8,0000 ft. it could be that you encounter difficulties due to the thin air. The only part that is really steep ist the stretch between the Rauhtaljoch (9,100 ft.) and the summit. Unfortunately we couldn’t go all the way up since the weather changed dramatically and a strong wind blew snow clouds in from Austria. Curios how it went? Then read on.
During this tour you will have to bring yourself to take an ascent of arounf 1,500 ft. along a skiing slope. At some points it is a bit steep, but easily manageable. As soon as you have reached the upper end of the ski lift on a ridge called Tanne you will continue on a forest road comfortably downwards. The first part of the tour will offer great views of the Jochtal and Gänsbichl. Once you have reached Meransen you can enjoy panoramic views of the Dolomites with the Geisler group and the Pustertal. This is an ideal tour if you want to go for an easy walk. And you won’t have to renounce great views.
While I prepared this voyage I first chose the Hotel Falkensteiner Hof in Vals since it has a large wellness area which I have been using extensively. In a second step I was looking for possible hiking tours. This was a bit more difficult. Apparently the region is not as popular as other parts of this northern italian region like the Dolomites. The hiking area Gitschberg/Jochtal sits between the more famous Eisack valley (Brixen) and Pustertal (Bruneck). In the hiking guides I leaved through there was just one tour to be found bringing you to the „Wilde Kreuzspitze“. During my stay I was able to explore a diversified hiking destination with lots of Trails for every shape and need. I really did like it here and would come back instantly.
Vals in southern Tirol
The tiny village sits on 4,400 ft. in the Valler valley in the middle of lush green meadows. Around the valley floor the summits of the „Gurnatsch/Gaisjoch“ with 8,650 ft., the „Seefeldspitze“ (8,900 ft.) and as the highest point the „Wilde Kreuzspitze“ with 10,300 ft. are building an impressive scenery. These mountains are part of the massif of the „Pfunderer Berge“ that are sitting right on the Austrian border in the north and geographically belong to the Zillertaler Alpen. From the village to the south you have a great view of the „Geisler“ massif and other summits of the Dolomites.
In the village there are a few hotels and about 3 shops. Apart from that there is nothing else to do. Since the hotels offer a 3/4 board (breakfast, dinner and coffe/cake or soup in the afternoon) a outside restaurant would find it difficult to survive. I bought a new camera especially for this trip which fell onto the street during my first round of the village and broke for good the very next day. What a bummer!
Vals is is a village in the district of Mühlbach at the entry to the Pustertal. There is a road through the forest leading into the valley and to the village of Meransen belonging to the same district. About Meransen I will write in a later post. All of you that are looking for tranquility and relaxation in a spectacular surrounding will find the perfect spot here.
Hotel Falkensteiner Hof
At the beginning of October you can’t be sure to always have great weather. So when I was looking for a hotel I made sure to find one with a large wellness area where I could spend a rainy day. The Falkensteiner Hof offers exactly that. On about 11,000 square feet you will find 4 different saunas, a steambath, a whirlpool and a bright relaxation area. That’s all fairly new and nicely designed. I am not so sure though if I really like the idea that the late Mrs. Falkensteiner, founder of the hotel chain, looks at me when I am sitting in the Whirlpool. One floor up there is an interior pool and a spa. I did book a Südtiroler Holzstabmassage, where they churn you with wooden sticks. A real treat and with €65.- for a 50 minute treatment really affordable.
The rooms have been renovated recently and are decorated with lots of wood from swiss stone pines which makes them very cozy. When I arrived there was a bathrobe lying on my bed and on the wardrobe was a bag with a huge sauna towel. That’s very handy when you want to use the wellness area. I had a real single room which was a bit smaller than the other rooms but sufficient for my needs. The closet did offer enough space for my belongings.
I didn’t take any pics of the interior since that would have meant that I would have to stroll through the house in the middle of the night. During the fall school holidays and with the 3rd of Ocotber (German national holiday) being on a wednesday the hotel was fully booked.
The interior is a mixture of modern elegance and a bit of regional charme. For my taste it could have been a bit more rustic and regional. The way it is, it’s very nice but somehow also exchangeable.
The breakfast buffet offers cold cuts, cheese, great selection of bread, jam and a cooking station where you can order freshly made eggs or pancakes. Perfect to get prepared for a big tour.
Dinner was served as a daily changing menu. One night italian, one night fish and on one evening also regional food. The meal started with a selection of starters on a buffet, followed by at least one more starter served at the table, main course and desert. The choice of the menu always included also a vegetarian dish. The servings weren’t too big so you left the table saturated but not full. Those who were still hungry had the possibilty to help themselves on a cheese and fruit buffet on top. The food was really very tasty.
Hike to the Jochtal
For my first day the forecast announced bad weather but when I rose that moring the sun was shining and it looked perfect. After breakfast I went to the reception and asked them for their opinion. There is a man working that is a certified mountain guide. He should know what it’ll be like. He meant that the good weather would last for a bit so I went for my first hike.
From the hotel to the valley station of the Jochtal gondola it’s about 10 minutes by foot. In the hotel rate included is the Almencard Plus. This allows you to use the Jochtal and Gitschberg gondolas as well as all public transportation. That saves quite some money. I didn’t use the public transportation since they don’t run very often in the late season and most of all they never went where I wanted to go.
Turns out that the weather is perfect for a hike and so I decide not to take the gondola to the summit but follow the signs to a trail leading up the mountain. The first stretch leads along a small tarred road uphill. The view of the valley is rather impressive. Further up the valley I can see the summit of the Seefeldspitze. I do like it here.
Just a short time later follows a crossing and the signs lead me to a small path in the forest. This mounts slowly in serpentines through the woods. Every now and then I do get a glimpse of the Gaisjoch on the opposite side and of the valley. Unhurriedly I continue my ascent. Here in the woods it’s a bit fresh and so I am happy that I brought a jacket. Unfortunately there aren’t any flowers this late in the year but I do find the first fall foliage.
About half an hour later the path ends right on the ski slopes. There are no signs so I guess I have to follow this slope upwards. As per my map I should reach the Nockalmhütte soon. While I am ascending over the slope suddenly there is a fresh wind blowing. I am walking straightforward up the mountain. That’s the most strenous part of this tour.
The wind picks up more and more and the sun is hiden behind big clouds now. Suddenly a space hopper for kids is flying my way. This can only come from the cabin. I pick it up and take it with me. Effectively I do see the Nockalmhütte a short time after. Even though I am just an hour into my tour I decide to take a break. I am the only guest and the innkeeper is really happy that I brought back the hopper.
We start talking. Due the 3/4 board in the hotels there are less guests coming for a snack. On top most of the people take the gondola to the summit and don’t walk up anymore. The cabin is very nice and has obviously been redone just a little while ago. It’s open form mid-May through the end of October and then from December to Easter. There are more guests in the winter since it sits right on the slopes. Full of hope that the weather will hold for another while I continue my tour. My drink is on the house since I brought back the toy.
When I leave the cabin I realise why this is called the Jochtal. Up to now I was climbing a mountain and there was no valley to be seen. Here on 5,800 ft. begins a valley. I like the fall colours of the blueberry bushes. They would be shining bright in the sun. The wind continues to blow and it is rather fresh now. Meanwhile I am closer to the mountain station of the gondola than to the valley and so I decide to walk at least to the summit.
The path runs almost evenly through the valley. Only at the end of it there is a short climb. Despite the weather getting worse I do enjoy my first tour here. I still have the whole week in front of me and will be going on a few more tours. And the forecast for the rest of my stay looks pretty good.
Soon I reach the Valler Jöchl, a ridge sitting on 6,350 ft. From here I could take a panoramic trail leading along the summits of the valley. This would take a couple of hours and I don’t think that there is another cabin on the way. The wind gets even stronger and I was hit by the first drops of rain. So I will walk up to the gondola and then decide if I continue to walk or go back to the hotel.
On the short stretch between the Valler Jöchl and the summit I am making only about 230 ft. The path mounts slowly alongside the mountain. During the short walk to the summit the rain gets heavier and the wind blows it horizontally over the mountain. Since I will have a few more days here I decide to go back to the hotel, warm me up in the sauna and spend a relaxed afternoon in the wellness area. During the 10 minute walk from the gondola to the hotel I get soaking wet and am looking foward even more to go hide in the sauna.
Mühlbach in Südtirol
Later in the afternoon I am warmed up and feel fresh and restored. In my room there is a fridge but it’s empty. So I decide to drive down the hill to Mühbach and buy some drinks before going to dinner.
Mühlbach sits on the entrance of the Pustertal on 2,400 ft. There is not much to see. The biggest building is the Ansitz Freyenthurn, sort of a castle, which houses a convent school called Herz-Jesu-Institut.
Meanwhile it has stopped raining but it is rather cool. So I do take a short stroll around the village before going shopping. Due to the weather it is very quiet here. Summer season is coming to an end so there aren’t that many visitors around either. After 30 minutes I have seen most of it and I do go shopping. My first day in Südtirol comes to an end. It wasn’t exactly like I had it planned but very relaxing. And I still have a couple of days to do one or the other tour. That’s what I am looking forward to now.
This tour is amongst my top ten. Enchanted alpine lakes in which the surrounding moutains are being mirrored, spectacular views and not too strenous. A dream hike that doesn’t ask for too much condition but offers a lot of variety. Sensational too is the situation of the Coburger Hütte above the Drachensee (lake). And most of the time you have a great view of the Zugspitze. When you see the pictures I am sure you want to get going right away. So what are you waiting for?
Ehrwald in Tirol
This seemingly never ending summer brings us still more bright days in September and so I decide to go on another hike. The school holidays haven’t ended yet and since I am fearing the heavy traffic around Garmisch-Partenkirchen I am taking the train once more and ride to Ehrwald in Tirol just across the German border.
The small town sits on the southern side of the Zugspitze on approx. 3300 ft. in an ancient swamp. Leermoos and Biberwier are situated in the same valley bottom. From the town there are two gondolas bringing you up into the mountains. One of them to the Zugspitze and the other to the Ehrwalder Alm. From the train station busses are running around the valley. When you arrive you will reach the gondola in about 10 minutes but when you return you will have to do the complete valley tour includng Leermoos and Biberwier or you get off the bus at „Ehrwalder Kirchplatz“ and walk the 10-15 minutes to the Ehrwald train station. I did the longer trip through the valley on my return. The timetable of the bus is coordinated with the train departure. If the bus gets stuck in a traffic jam on its way this can become a challenge.
Against my usual habit I am taking the gondola uphill today. Otherwise this would mean another 1600 ft. in the ascent and descent meaning that it could get tight at the end with the train departure. While I am floating up the mountain I already can see the summits of the „Hoher Lehner“ and „Tajaköpfe“. This is the region where I will be hiking today. I am lucky once more and the weather is just perfect.
To the Seebener See
After arriving at the alp I start my tour right ayway. A well kept forest road leads me further up the valley at the bottom of the Zugspitze. On the pastures are grazing Scottish Highland cattle. The scenery is impressive. Especially the massif of the Wetterstein mountains with the Zugspitze looks great from the southern side. Just behind the restaurant „Alpenglühen“ (Alpenglow) the road takes a long loop and rises slowly uphill. I am now surrounded by dense forest and it is pleasantly cool. There are quite a few people around plus of course mountain bikers. But the road leaves space for everybody.
After a while the trail descends a bit to the crossing with the trail leading to the „Igelsee“. I won’t see this lake today but there will be three other lakes with a great location. The surrounding summits are showing above the tree tops from time to time. I won’t be climbing an actual summit during my tour. The „Tajaköpfe“ would be on my tour but again I fear that this wouldn’t fit into my time table. On top you will actually have to do some rock climbing to the „Tajakopf“.
Soon the forest gets less dense and to my left I can see the Seebenwände. A huge rock wall that looks inviting if you are into rock climbing. To the right I get views of the Zugspitze every now and then. Back at the alp I saw a sign that said that you can walk to the summit in „only“ 6 hours. Will be placed on my bucket list. To descend you can take the gondola. The trail rises slowly and so this feels more like a promenade than a hike. Since I will have to climb 2900 ft. in total there will be stretches that are steeper. In the forest I come across grazing sheep. Since I haven’t seen any fences I am wondering how the farmers will bring them back into the valley in the fall.
The scenery can only be described as breath taking. Light forest alternates with green pastures. At a crossing I am leaving the forest road and continue on a soft path. You can stay on the road. This will bring you to the „Seebener alp“ as well. I prefer the small path running through the woods.
Soon after I do reach the „Seebener Alp“. When you did start from the valley you will reach the continuing trail here. I could take a break at the cabin but it still is in the shade and rather fresh. So I keep walking. It is too early for a break after just one hour of hiking. And always those great views of the Zugspitze on the opposite side of the valley. But you can also see the valley and a mountain called „Daniel“ in the far.
Right behind the cabin I reach the first real ascent. Between the starting point and now I have only made about 230 ft. So it has to get steeper at one point. The forest road ist sometimes steep but mostly it runs in serpentines alongside the mountain. About 20 minutes later I am standing in front of the first lake. In front of me the summits of the „Tajaköpfe“, „Drachenkopf“ and „Hoher Lehner“ are towering above the lake and I can see them mirrored in the water. Awesome. Such beauty more or less in front of my home.
While I am walking along the shore I am again and again fascinated by those reflections. Don’t you think they are marvellous? I haven’t seen such a thing before. Blue sky, blue water and in between green forest and impressive summits. They should have built the cabin here and not farther down the moutain.
Just before I reach the end of the lake I see the Zugspitze being reflected in the water. A majestic sight. This I have to enjoy for a few moments.
From the lake the path leads over a pasture towards the end of the valley. There follows the next ascent that will be a bit steeper. The path winds itself uphill in serpentines. It is getting warmer now in the sun. But at the end of this stretch there will be a reward in form of the „Coburger Hütte“. It’s astonishing how many fellow hikers are around. On the other hand the trail was rather easy to walk up to now so it can be done even when you are not in perfect shape.
During the ascent to the cabin I keep looking back into the valley and to the Zugspitze. Right behind the cabin a rock wall is mounting towards the blue sky. To my side the path is flanked by the „Tajaköpfe“. Every now and then I have to stop to admire this beauty. And here in the alpine pine woods I come across about more sheep. Would be easier to find fodder on the valley floor.
Finally I have made it. I am standing in front of the Coburger Hütte (only in German). And a breath taking view in my back. A perfect place for a lunch break. The menu features typical tirolian food but also Spaghetti Bolognese. That’s something I can have at home. Up here I am going for the cheese dumplings with salad. Yummy. I could stay here forever. This must be a dream.
Right behind the cabin the next highlight follows. In a deep dell lies the small „Drachensee“ lake. Again this turquoise water refleceting the surrounding summits. Isn’t that just beautiful? You see, I was really overwhelmed by such beauty. I don’t think I have used the words great, awesome, beautiful and so on as often as in this description of my tour. So stop thinking about doing it and get going. And afterwards I want to have the attributes you gave this tour.
After my break I have to descend a bit almost to the level of the lake. This is when I see two people actually swimming in this lake. I admit that the water would be too cold for me. Once you have passed the lake the path rises steeply into another dell where there are grazing sheep. Surprise! And a few hikers before me did apparently decide to become artists and created small pieces of art with the sones they found up here. Looks funny.
After that slide show with the „Drachensee“ and its great reflections here a few more pics from my ascent to the „Tajatörl“.
After crossing this dell it gets real rocky and you have to be sure footed. Over rocks and rubble the path rises steeply uphill. As close to those rock walls they become even more impressive then from afar. Meanwhile a few harmless white clouds are showing up on the sky. They are welcome since they add a bit more colour to the secenery. The last bit up to the „Tajatörl“ is the most strenous part of this tour. But not bad enough to make you lose your breath.
After a while I reach the highest point of this tour the „Tajatörl“ on 7400 ft. To the summit of the „Tajaköpfe“ it would only be another 500 – 600 ft. The walking time on the sign showing the way up there ist shown as approx. 30 minutes per way. But today I am not in the mood to climb any higher. Amidst the rubble up here there are two women waiting for their husbands that didn’t want to leave the moutain without having been on the summit. All these rocks give you the impression of being in the middle of a desert. But the view is magnificent.
To the west I can see the „Drachenkopf“ and the path I’ve been walking up from the „Coburger Hütte“. To the east I have a view of a field of seemlingly endless rubble which I will be crossing in a moment. At the horizon I do see the mountains of the „Mieminger“ massif and the „Igelskopf“. The region that lies below my feet is called Brendlkar and is apparently famous amongst ski hikers. Too bad that I don’t have snow to glide over. Today I will have to harry over and through the rubble.
At some points there is a path visible between the rubble and I am making good progress. But at other parts there is no path. The rubble is constantly moving so it wouldn’t make sense to built a real path. My tip: Thrust your heels strongly into the rubble. This will give a you more solid stand and you don’t slip that much. This way you will get a bit easier through this impassable area.
The hike through this rubble gets a bit long. But it looks worse than it actually is. It is rather easy to cross. And while you walk downwards slowly you will still have some time to admire the beautiful scenery. Apparently I am the only one taking this trail. It seems that the other hikers did walk back to the „Coburger Hütte“ taking the same route as they did in the ascent.
Finally I have made it throught this rubble and am back on grassy grounds. After I haven’t seen the Zugspitze for a while it comes up on the horizon when I take another turn. Unhurriedly I continue towards the valley.
Soon I do reach the third lake of today. This one is pretty small so the reflections don’t work as well here as on the other two lakes. Next to the path I can see alpine roses with leaves that have taken on their fall colours. Looks almost as pretty as if they were in bloom. The path now leads straight towards the Zugspitze.
Then the trail takes a turn to the left and leads directly towards a rock wall. Here follows another short stretch of rubble which is a bit nasty. So I thrust my heels into it and glide more than I walk through it. Goes pretty fast. Behind that stretch follows a smooth path leading through the woods.
While crossing this forest I come again across some sheep and am asking myself again how the farmers will find them again. The views of the Zugspitze are now being crowned by white clouds. The forest is sometimes dense and sometimes not that much and it is comfortably warm in the afternoon sun. I enjoy the silence which is history when I reach the road I’ve been walking this morning when I was hiking to the „Seebenalp“.
Just a short walk and I am back at the „Ehrwalder Alm“ where I do see a few more „exotic“ cows. The two calves don’t let them be disturbed by us humans. Aren’t they just cute lying there all rolled up on the pasture?
Before I am taking the gondola back to the valley I am having another snack on the terrace of one of the restaraunts here on the alp and enjoy the great views for a last time. What a perfect day. Reaching the bus station in the valley I realise that the bus takes the big turn around the valley floor before reaching the train station. Checking the time I find out that the time should be sufficient to go on this „sightseeing“ tour.
I hope this post did awake your appetite. Let me know how you liked it, especially after you walked it yourself.