Berchtesgaden is a National Park; the best way to spend your time is out in nature. There are many options, from extreme mountain biking trails to leisurely walking trails through the forest. No matter what level of adventure you are looking for, I’ll suggest some great options.
This list is meant to be used as a starting point only and is not exhaustive. You should talk to your host, hotel, or visitor center to get a map and plan precise hiking or adventure route suited to your needs, expectations, and skill level.
If you are missing any gear for your outdoor adventures, then stop by Intersport for rentals and purchases.
There are hundreds of hiking trails in Berchtesgaden and the surrounding area. The map below shows some possible routes, along with the difficulty legend. While the red trails are designated medium, they can be very long hikes altogether, making them what I would consider challenging hikes. For example, a few red walks cover a 25-30km distance. Not all the trails I suggest are on this map, but it helps provide a point of reference.
Wimbachtal is an easy mountain path through a ravine following the Wimbach River. This scenic hike includes waterfalls, wooden boardwalks, staircases, slot canyons, and brief moments of mountain views. You can hike as long or as little as you want, turning back at any point. On the above map, the trail starts at the Wimbachbrücke parking/bus stop. From there, it follows the blue path to hut 18. Hut 18 is the Wimbachschloss, which should take about 2 hours to reach with a slight increase in elevation.
If you wish to continue to hut 17, Wimbachgrieshütte, you’ll be clocking in a total of 17kms.
Kempinski Circut: If you made the excellent choice to stay at the Kempinski hotel, there is a lovely circular route that takes you from the hotel through the Obersalzberg forest and even past the Obersalzberg documentation center – which is worth visiting.
The route is only about 4km and only about 120m of elevation gain, making this an effortless and lovely walk even for those not staying at the hotel.
Steinerne Agnes – This was one of our favorite hikes during our 3rd anniversary trip to Berchtesgaden. The trail takes you to one of Bavaria’s most beautiful geological formations, The Stone Agnes or Steinerne Agnes. There is a legend that the rock formation was a dairy girl turned to stone to avoid unwanted advances from the devil. The lengths we women will go to just not be harassed – I’d rather be stone, to be honest.
In reality, the formation is dolomite with different layers prone to wind erosion, making it a unique mushroom shape. The hike here is a moderate walk starting at the Hallthurm Car Park in Bischofswisen. The trail zig-zags up a forested mountain before a traverse. Getting up to the Stone Formation is difficult with loose gravel and a steep climb. Don’t feel ashamed of just viewing it from the trail and moving onward. The last part of the hike is a lovely walk through pastures and forest trails.
Gotzenalm / Feuerpalfen – This was the hike with the view that Ganesh proposed to me. Several ways to do this hike can make it either a medium or hard difficulty. The most popular way to do this route is by taking the Königsee ferry to the Kessel boat launch. The ferry does not automatically stop here; you must request the stop. From there, you hike up to Gotzenalm, a steep and long zip-zagging trail – like it is no joke. You can take a slight detour to the Feuerpalfen, which is the viewpoint he proposed! Your return is a primarily downhill descent following signs for Schönau am Königssee which will also take you back to the original ferry terminal.
This is about 23 km and 8+ hours. On the map above, you can find Kessel on the lake, a red and blue route going to hut 10, and then a blue route back to Königsee.
However, we chose to skip the ferry, but our hike was still very long and very hard :-P. We started our day at the Hinterbrand Parkplatz and followed trail signs for the Gotzentalalm and Gotzenalm – you can choose to stay on a medium blue trail the whole way, making this a proper long medium. However, you can take a red difficult side trail that winds through the forest and traverses a steep cliff, which is what we decided to do. The gist of this hike follows the blue path connecting huts 4, 8, and 10 with options for detours.
We finished this hike bagging almost 30km, which took us about 9+ hours.
Watzmann: While hiking on the eastern side of Königsee with views OF the Watzmann peak is enjoyable, some may want to hike the Watzmann. Usually, to hike Watzmann, you would need technical mountaineering skills, but there is an alternative to the Watzmannhaus just below the peak, in which you will bag about 15km and 1,100m ascent.
You don’t need to be a big hiker to enjoy the natural beauty of Berchtesgaden. In fact, there are many lovely walks in the area that will get you out enjoying the fresh air without a lot of elevation or off-roading.
If you drive or catch a bus to Piding, there is a lovely cultural and historical circular walking route. One of the best ways to learn about Berchtesgaden’s culture and natural history, the trail starts at Staufeneck Castle. The walking circuit has educational signs along the way, teaching you about local history, flora, and fauna.
Another easy option near Piding is the 1.2km bee trail. This very flat and easy trail takes you on a short walk to learn about the importance of bees and other pollinators.
Zauberwald, or the magic forest in Ramsau, is a lovely and easy walking trail along a Klamm or gorge. This scenic route can get quite popular, so I can recommend visiting early in the morning for a quiet and relaxing nature stroll.
Finally, along the Ramsauer river, a lovely stroll will take you past the iconic Ramsau Kirche or church.
If you’re unsure what Klettersteig is, you’re in for an authentic Alpine adventure. You traverse steep rocky mountain faces and gorges using harnesses and metal rungs. This adventure is also sometimes known as Via Faretta. Depending on the technicality, you need experience and the proper gear. Via Faretta trails are designated A for beginners to D for advanced mountain climbing.
Since Klettersteig involves technical abilities and equipment, your best bet is to book a guided tour with the Outdoor Center Baumgarten. With a guided tour, you can learn the ropes (quite literally) and enjoy one of Berchtesgaden’s iconic Via Faretta trails, the Schützensteig. You can also do this hike independently if you are experienced and have your own gear.
E Mountain Biking
Again, one of our favorite things about staying at the Kempinski Hotel is that you can rent Ebikes directly from their adventure concierge. Ganesh and I usually stick to hiking when we visit, but on the latest trip, we decided to try E-Mountain Bikes for the first time – and we had a blast! E-Bikes make mountain biking accessible for most people that are comfortable riding a bike for long periods.
Since we were new to the sport, we started with an intermediate trail called the Salzwand Rundweg. This circular route starts and ends at Kempinski and covers about 25km through forest trails and gravel roads and includes several chances for stops at mountain huts for a beer. It should take 3-4 hours with an elevation gain of about 700 meters.
For the more experienced riders, the Gotzenalm is a great full-day ride. You can refer to the hiking section by the same name and see that you can essentially do the entire route on a mountain bike. This is a great way to get the scenic views of Watzmann without expending yourself on a very long hike. The ride is about 44km and should take close to 7 hours with a climb of 1700 meters. You can start this from many spots, including the Kempinski, the Documentation Museum, or the Obersalzbergbahn, heading for the Gotzenalm and back.
The map included in the above hiking section includes mountain biking trails in blue and white for more ideas.
Canyoning and Rafting
If you want to get wet on a wild adventure, the surrounding area has plenty of canyoneering and rafting adventures. If you’ve never done either of these activities – have no fear; Outdoor Center Baumgarten can help you learn how to boss waterfalls and ride rapids.
For an introductory session to canyoneering in Berchtesgaden, you can book the beginning canyoneering tour that helps you build confidence and skills. The guided tour offers excellent views of Saalachsee and the lush nature of the national park.
If you have been canyoneering before then, there is a more extended, more advanced canyoneering tour. On this tour, you are encouraged to brave the heights with plenty of epic jumps into crystal clear pools in a slot canyon.
If you prefer to sit and ride the rapids, check out the white water rafting excursion in Berchtesgaden that includes a safety tutorial and even stops for the chance to jump into a natural pool.
If you enjoy getting wet without the extreme adventure aspect, you should visit the lovely naturbad or natural outdoor swimming pool in the Berchtesgaden region. Enjoy a refreshing dip surrounded by nature. Before or after your swim, enjoy a relaxing walk through the Märchenpfad or fairy tale walk. This nature path is full of fun carvings representing different fairy tales.
Of course, as I mentioned, there is plenty to do in winter. In fact, I recommend visiting in the winter – outside of school holidays as summer activities in the region can be pretty crowded.
Fulfill your dream of ice skating on an outdoor pond. With the right temperature and conditions, you can ice skate or play curling at Thumsee or Hintersee. If the conditions aren’t great for ice, you can always head inside for a skate at the Berchtesgaden Ice Rink.
If you didn’t book a hotel with a nice thermal spa, you could visit the Watzmann Thermal Spa for a winter spa experience.
One of my favorite things about the German Alps is they know how to do epic sledding with traditional wooden toboggans. The sledding hills at Hirscheckblitz and Obersalzberg even provide lifts to take you up, so you don’t have to hike.
There are 6 ski regions in Berchtesgaden. You can purchase a 3 or 6-day pass to access all 6 regions. The areas are Jenner, Götschen, Rossfeld, Gutshof Obersalzberg, Hochschwarzeck, and Zinken. The ski areas range from small resorts to just hills with a simple T-bar lift.
While Berchtesgaden is ideal for outdoor activities and adventure enthusiasts, there are plenty of activities for the history buff, culture connoisseur, or nature appreciator.
Ride the Königsee Ferry to Obersee
Perhaps the most popular and iconic thing to do in Berchtesgaden National Park is to ride the Königsee ferry across the stunningly blue glacier lake. The ferry can take you all the way to Salet, which from there is just a short walk to Obersee, a more secluded lake surrounded by mountains. If you continue past the lake, you’ll find Germany’s tallest waterfall, Röthbachfall.
The best way to optimize your experience on the ferry is to buy a round-trip ticket to Salet, which is 25 euros. Explore Obersee before making your way back to Schönau am Königsee. Make sure you stop at St. Bartholomew’s church on the way or back and enter the church for free. St. Batholomew’s place of pilgrimage was founded in the 1100s, but the church was built in the late 1600s.
You can buy tickets online, but their ticketing page is in German. Unless you know what you need, I recommend you buy them in person from the ticking office at the Schifffahart Königsee at the boat dock.
Take the Jennerbahn
If you want amazing views without the strenuous hike, I suggest you ride the Jennerbahn. This is a gondola that departs from Königsee. The best way to experience the gondola is to buy the full mountain round trip ticket (Ganze Berg und Talfahrt). This will get you to the top of the mountain and back. Once you reach the end of the gondola ride, it is about a 15-minute leisurely walk to Jenner Peak, where you can expect amazing views of the Königsee and Berchtesgaden National Park.
House of the Mountains
The house of the Mountains is the Berchtesgaden visitor center and museum. It is often an overlooked destination in Berchtesgaden, but in my opinion, a must-visit for environmental education and sustainable tourism. There is a permanent exhibit called the Vertical Wilderness, which takes you through all the different ecosystems of the national park with plenty of educational and engaging aspects. There is also a cinema, cafe, rotating exhibits, and more.
Entry is 2 euros for kids and 4 euros for adults. Budget 1-2 hours to get the whole experience.
Visit Schloss Berchtesgaden
The Berchtesgaden Castle has one of the best views of the Watzmann peak. To get it, you’ll embark on a 1 hour guided tour of the castle, exploring many of the rooms in detail. There are 3 tours: general, special, advent, and evening. Inside the castle, there is a deer museum. While the deer exhibit focuses on the history of hunting in the region, it is now used for scientific research. The castle is still occupied, so only some areas are accessible.
Tickets are 15 Euro for adults, with the deer museum an additional 5 Euros. Closed on Saturdays.
Explore the Salt Mines
Salzberg and the Berchtesgaden area – Obersalzberg get their name from Salt (salz). These areas were in a powerful position to mine and distribute salt throughout Europe. Many of the mountains were rich with salt deposits because, as I mentioned before, the tectonic plates caused the seafloor to form the mountains – the sea floor = lots of salt! You can tour these old mines independently or with exciting tours.
To visit independently, you can drive or take public transportation from Freilassing. I suggest you buy tickets online in advance. You do need to put on protective or traditional miner’s clothing, and the underground area is relatively cool, so bring layers. The cost is 21 Euro for adults with a children’s discount.
These are great options if you want a guided experience from Salzberg.
Take a full-day tour that includes a trip from Salzberg to the Berchtesgaden salt mines, the epic slide to get down, and a boat through the subterranean lake. It doesn’t stop there as we return to Austria to visit hidden gems like St. Gilgen and St. Wolfgang. Ganesh and I have been camping in this area and just love the region – I highly recommend visiting.
For the Sound of Music lover, you can combine a Salzberg Sound of Music Tour with a tour of the salt mines.
If you just want a quick half-day trip to the mines, including a stop in Berchtesgaden to explore, consider this half-day tour from Salzberg.
Drive the Panorama Strasse
If you are on a road trip as part of the German Alpine Strasse, you will want to drive the Panorama Strasse or Road. Ganesh and I drove this road, and we squabbled over who had to drive because the views were just out of this world! The route starts in Obersalzberg, and you just follow the 999 highway called Rosfeldstrasse. Expect swepping mountain views, crossing the border into Austria, and tight mountain turns.
Eagle Conservation Center
Eagles are culturally significant to both Austria and Germany. They are powerful predators in the alpine region. There is a conservation center for eagles and reptiles called the Adlergehege Obersalzberg. This is more than just a zoo as they care for injured species with the intent to release them back into the wild. Stop by to see lovely birds of prey and learn about their conservation efforts.
Take in the View from Lockstein
If you want an exceptional and off-the-beaten-track view of Berchtesgaden National Park, then make sure you drive up Am Lockstein for a panoramic view!
Learn from WWII History
Berchtesgaden is a beautiful and well-preserved natural landscape, but it does have a dark history. Hitler had a mountain retreat high in the mountains where members of the Nazi party met. Hitler had a soft spot for this mountain region, and there are plenty of things to do to educate yourself on this dark history and horrific events at the hands of the Nazi regime.
The Dokumentation Museum is a place of learning and remembrance regarding the events of WWII, the Nazi Party, and the broader impacts of the National Socialist Regime. The museum has a permanent exhibit, special events, lectures, and rotating features.
NOTE: The museum is closed until 2023 for renovations.
Kampfhäusl is the remains of a small hut near the Dokumentation Museum. The remains were once a simple mountain hut where Hitler spent some time. Most notably, this is where he wrote the second half of his book Mein Kampf. Nearby is also the Berghof, which was Hitler’s summer residence.
Finally, most people visit Berchtesgaden for the Eagle’s Nest or known locally as the Kehlsteinhaus. This mountain retreat was infrequently visited by Hitler and notable members of the Nazi party. The area is only accessible by a designated bus that departs from the Kehlstein parking lot, which you can reach by personal car, public transportation from Berchtesgaden, or via trains and busses from both Munich and Salzberg.
Once you arrive at the Kehlstein parking lot, you can ride the bus up the mountain; from there, you can hike up or take the elevator. At the top, eat, drink, enter the house, which now acts like a museum, and hike around to stretch your legs. This costs about 28 euros for a round-trip excursion.
Of course, you can also book a guided tour to help with the hassle of navigating here on your own. You can book a fast and furious 4-hour tour from Salzberg to experience the Eagle’s Nest.
There is also a private tour for a more personal experience to learn about the Eagle’s Nest from your guide on a 5-hour, 5-star tour from Salzberg.
If you are coming from Munich, there is a 12-hour day tour that takes you to the Eagle’s Nest and allows for some time to visit the Documentation Center. This also includes an epic drive along the scenic alpine road.