The Partnach Gorge outside Garmisch Partenkirchen in Germany is beautiful in summer, but the icy winter landscape is particularly spectacular. This guide applies to visiting at any time of the year, with additional tips for a memorable winter hike through the gorge.
Partnach Gorge Fast Facts
|Where Is It||Behind the Olympic ski jump in Garmisch Partenkirchen|
|Entrance Fee||€6 (adults)|
€3 (kids 6-17)
|Distance from Munich/Innsbruck||92 km / 63 km|
|How to Get There||Car, bus, train, tours (see reviews and prices)|
|Is it open?||Official gorge site|
3 Good Reasons to Visit the Partnach Gorge
- It’s only 700 m long, but with rock faces of up to 86 m high, it’s the most spectacular short gorge hike you’ll ever do. Its beauty and significance were recognized as far back as 1912 when it was declared a national monument.
- You’ll get to see the ski jump where legendary Eddie the Eagle (Michael Edwards) suffered some spectacular falls while training for the 1988 Winter Olympics. Tip: Watch the movie with Taron Egerton and Hugh Jackman before your visit.
- Not many alpine gorges are open in winter when snow and ice make them inaccessible. That’s what makes it a rare privilege to meander through the Partnach Gorge in winter and marvel at the ice formations.
The Partnach Gorge Hike
|Ski jump to gorge entrance||1,8 km|
|Inside the gorge||700 m|
|Way back through gorge||2,5 km|
|Way back over the top of the gorge||3,1 km|
|Total circular hike distance||5,8 km|
|Elevation gain from ski jump to gorge exit||80 m|
The road to the entrance of the Partnach Gorge is well-signposted from the Olympia Ski Stadium. Looking at the ski jump, go up the road that is to the right of it until you see a souvenir shop. From here, it’s easy to follow the signs.
It’s a nice and flat hike on a road until you get near the gorge entrance. Unless you’re really unfit, there’s no reason not to walk it in 25 minutes or under.
If you’re pressed for time (or like the romantic idea of it), you can take the horse carriage to or from the entrance. It operates on most days and costs €5 for adults and €2,50 for children (one way), with a minimum requirement of €20 per ride.
Although we visited on quite a busy winter’s day, there wasn’t much of a queue at the ticket office. From there on, there’s only one way to follow and that’s the waterside gorge trail.
The trail is well-maintained and just wide enough for two people to pass each other. Sometimes it’s open, with railings between you and the water, and sometimes you pass through tunnels in the rock. It can be dark inside the tunnels if your eyes struggle to adapt to the sudden change in light. I had to use the flashlight on my smartphone once or twice.
The key is to be patient, especially if you want to take nice pictures without other people in them. Let them pass you and then take your picture. My problem was that I wanted to take a picture around every corner. The ice formations against the rock backdrop are like artwork in winter. And then there’s the ice-blue water flowing through it.
Before you know it, you’ll be exiting the gorge on the other side. We hiked a bit further along the stream and warmed ourselves in the sun before returning through the gorge. We’re glad we did this because the angles and light from the other side made for a different experience on the return journey.
Alternative Route Back
If you don’t want to walk back through the gorge, you can go over the top via Mount Graseck. You’ll find signs to Eckbauer/Graseck a short distance after exiting the gorge. Follow them to the left and continue along this route. It does involve a bit of a climb, but refreshments await at the Kaiserschmarrn Alm or the Graseck Hotel.
You can also take a short detour to the steel bridge over the gorge while on this route. Back on the main route, you’ll join the road back to the Olympia Skistadion and parking area near the toilets close to the gorge entrance.
If you click to enlarge the map below you will clearly see the paths you can follow around the Partnachklamm.
Tips for Your Partnach Gorge Visit
- Make sure the gorge is open before you visit. It’s closed due to extreme weather conditions or for trail maintenance on some days.
- Take enough cash to pay the entrance fee in case the electronic payment facilities are out of order. The horse carriage operator also only takes cash payments.
- Dress warmly and wear sensible shoes with a good grip when visiting in winter.
- Mind your head. Where you pass through tunnels, the roof is sometimes only 1,75 m high. My poor husband (who’s over 2 m tall) really suffered at times.
- Don’t forget to pay for your parking if you arrive by car and display the ticket on the dashboard. Ticket machines are spread throughout the parking area.
- Dogs are allowed but put them (and your small kids!) on a short leash. We actually witnessed a child slipping on an icy surface and his dad grabbing him just in time before he went through the railings.
- There are clean toilets to use for a small fee (you need change) near the entrance. There are also toilets on the other side of the gorge, which are free to use, but there’s only one for each sex and they’re not as clean.
- Lastly, leave the gorge as you would like to find it! C flipped when he caught a group of youngsters breaking off a beautiful stalactite and having a big laugh about it. Of course, he gave them a good talking to, but the damage was already done.
More Things to Do Around Partnach Gorge
Olympia Ski Stadium
Long before Eddie the Eagle astonished everyone with attempts to jump from the big Olympic ski jump, athletes of the 1936 Winter Olympics competed against each other here.
A new ski jump with a 100 m tower was built in 2007. Garmisch Partenkirchen is still known for the competitions taking place here, especially the traditional New Year’s ski jumping as part of the Four Hills Tournament.
Viewing the ski jump and the stadium is free of charge. On Saturdays (and Wednesday from May to October) it’s also possible to take a guided tour of the ski jumps.
For us, the highlight was to visit the Olympiahaus restaurant which was frequented by Eddie the Eagle during his stay in Garmisch Partenkirchen. You can sit outside with a view of the ski jump, but we sat inside and enjoyed some very nice cake, coffee, and hot chocolate in a typical German Gasthaus atmosphere.
At 2,962 m, the Zugspitze is Germany’s highest mountain and easily reached from the Partnach Gorge. A round-trip on three different cable cars lets you experience the mountains around the highest peak from all angles.
A cogwheel train leaves the station at Garmisch Partenkirchen and makes its way via Grainau and the Eibsee to the Zugspitze Plateau at 2,600 m. From here, the Gletscherbahn takes you to the summit. Instead of returning with this cable car, the new Zugspitze cable car goes from the summit directly to the Eibsee where you can get on the cogwheel train again.
Mad King Ludwig II of Bavaria lived out his flights of fancy in this small palace with its vast park and gardens only 26 km from Garmisch Partenkirchen.
Linderhof Palace can be described as a mini-Versailles because that’s where Ludwig got most of his inspiration from. It’s the only one of his residences, including Neuschwanstein, to be completed while he was still alive. It’s definitely possible to visit the palace and the gorge in one day if you plan your time wisely.
Frequently Asked Questions
Plan for about two hours if you take the gorge trail there and back. The total distance is just over 5 km. If you return via the alternative route over the top of the gorge, three hours are a more realistic time. Add extra time if you want to stop for refreshments along the way.
By car, take the A95 from Munich to Garmisch-Partenkirchen. The highway becomes the B2 main road just before Garmisch. Follow this road in the direction of Mittenwald. Shortly after passing through Garmisch, you’ll see signs for the Skistadion. Turn right here on Wildenauer road. You can’t miss the stadium and the parking area around it.
By public transport, there are regular trains from Munich to Garmisch Partenkirchen. The Flixbus also covers this route.
It’s possible that the Partnach Gorge may be closed at or after times of extreme weather. That’s why it’s always wise to check the official gorge site to find out if it’s open on the day of your planned visit. In German, “Partnachklamm Geöffnet” means the gorge is open, and “Partnachklamm Geschlossen” means it’s closed.
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