About Hoellentalklamm Waterfalls
The Hoellentalklamm Waterfalls (or Höllentalklamm Wasserfälle in German) were my introduction to the kind of gorge hiking that turned out to be quite common throughout the mountains of Southern Germany and Austria. In this instance, the “Hell Valley Gorge” happened to be where the Hammersbach drained the snow and glaciers of Germany’s tallest mountain in the Zugspitze thereby drilling into the mountainside and creating this deep chasm.
Indeed, I’ve pluralized the word waterfall because there were quite a few of them spilling into the gorge while others were on the Hammerbach continuing the drilling action and deepening the gorge. The gorge itself is said to be about a kilometer in length, but in order to even access it, I had to go on a bit of a strenuous uphill hike before the fun begins.
I began the hike from a parking lot between the towns of Grainau and Hammersbach (see directions below). I then walked alongside the Höllentalstraße towards the town of Hammersbach for about 500m. After crossing a bridge over the Hammerbach Creek, I then took the path paralleling the east bank of the rushing creek as it didn’t take long before the trail started climbing in earnest.
The trail would continue its steep initial climb for the next kilometer as it continued alongside the Hammersbach. Eventually, the ascent calmed down a bit once I got to a Jesus crucifix carving. At that point, it seemed like I joined up with an unpaved road, and thus I continued on a more gradual uphill trajectory as the trail now coincided with this road.
The reprieve in the uphill climbing lasted for about 1.2km. The tree cover of this stretch of trail ensured that this wouldn’t be too brutally hot, but that also limited the views of the surrounding mountains that loomed over the gorge. Every so often, I might catch a glimpse of the Zugspitzbahn going up to Zugspitze from Garmisch-Partenkirchen or a distant seasonal cascade tumbling down a cliff.
Eventually, when I got past the end of the road where there were what appeared to be shuttered food shacks, the trail then climbed in earnest once again. This climb persisted for the next 400m, and if the earlier climb didn’t take much out of you, this section surely would.
That said, as the trail continued its ascent, the views got better and better. Ultimately, the trail climbed above the tree line while passing beneath rockfall shelters, netting, and switchbacks, and eventually I reached the Höllentaleingangshütte, where there was a turnstile and kiosk to pay 5 euros for non-members as of my visit in 2018. A couple of scenic but light-flowing cascades were tumbling down a cliff opposite the entrance as I looked back towards the valley.
There was also a little cafe, which was kind of amazing considering how remote this place was. It kind of reminded me of some of the hikes I did in Morocco where they had set up cafes in some of the most unlikely of places clinging to mountainsides, where even the trail to get up there was difficult without gear!
Anyways, after paying my admission and going through the turnstile, I was now in the Hoellentalklamm. Now, the trail was a combination of ledges and wooden slopes and steps bringing hikers just above the rush of the Hammersbach which was now a constant cascading rush of water.
Where it would be too dangerous to have a trail in the narrowest or landslide-prone sections of the trail, there were tunnels going beneath those trouble spots. In some cases, I had a choice of taking an outside ledge trail (where some temporary waterfalls might spill onto the trail itself) or staying in the tunnel. And all throughout this exhilarating hike were some impressive plunging waterfalls on the Hammersbach itself.
Eventually after I spent nearly an hour of going up to the start of the Hoellentalklamm Gorge, I reached my turnaround point even though the trail appeared to keep on ascending. I then returned the way I came, which went by a lot faster now that it was mostly downhill and I already had seen what I needed to see. It only took me about a half-hour to return to the museum and the entrance area of the gorge.
After leaving the paid part of the Hoellentalklamm, I then continued back down the hiking portion of the trail, and after around 45 minutes, I finally made it back to the car park. All told, I spent about 3.5 hours away from the car on this solo hike. But even though I was doing this hike alone, I was by no means alone on this trail as it was very popular.
We managed to drive to the car park starting from Fussen and eventually making our way to Garmisch-Partenkirchen. I’ll spare you the details of that drive. Instead, I’ll start the driving directions from Garmisch-Partenkirchen from the east and from Ehrwald, Austria from the west. You can use GoogleMaps to link these towns from other cities or towns further afield.
From the Ehrwald, Austria (the town accessing Obermoos where we took the Tiroler Zugspitzbahn) turnoff on the B187, we drove north on the B187 Road as it became the B23 after crossing the border into Germany. We took this road towards a sharp right turn onto Schmölzstraße (there were signs pointing the way to Höllentalklamm at this point) at about 17km from Ehrwald.
Once we made a right turn, we kept right immediately to stay on the Schmölzstraße, which then became the Zugspitzstraße, and we followed this road for about 1.5km since leaving the B23. Then, we turned left onto the Höllentalstraße where we drove the remaining 350m to the P2 car park entrance for the Wanderparkplatz Hammersbach. The entrance was shortly after a railroad crossing.
Overall, it took us about 30 minutes to do this drive.
From Garmisch-Partenkirchen, we went west on the B23 towards the west end of town before turning left onto the Schmölzstraße at Schmölz. This turnoff was about 6.5km from where the B2 and B23 intersected just north of the Garmisch-Partenkirchen city center.
For context, Garmisch-Partenkirchen was about 23km (around a half-hour drive) northeast of Ehrwald, Austria, 59km (about an hour drive) east of Füssen, 64 km (a little over an hour drive) north of Innsbruck, Austria, and 89km (well over an hour drive) south of Munich.
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