About Rothbachfall and the Koenigssee Waterfalls
Rothbachfall and the Konigssee Waterfalls (or Röthbachfall and Königssee, respectively, with the umlaut) were a series of waterfalls that we managed to experience in a singular excursion involving a boat tour on the lake that included a hike to a smaller and even more scenic lake at Obersee. The waterfalls were merely our excuse to immersively experience the beauty of the Berchtesgaden National Park, which might be recognizable in some of the opening scenes of the Sound of Music (before Julie Andrews sings).
In any case, we bent over backwards to visit the Rothbachfall (or Roethbachfall) in particular because it was said to be the highest waterfall in Germany at 470m. Add to that the mirror-like reflections of the Obersee fronted by a half-submerged boathouse (great subject for photographs) along with the surrounding mountains and you end up with a divine scene that makes me think this could very well be the most scenic part of natural Germany.
Our excursion started from a huge car park at Schönau am Königssee (see directions below), where a short walk took us past some cafes and eateries towards the boat ticket office and dock right on the northern shores of Lake Konigssee (or Koenigssee). After paying for the boat tickets, we then took an hour-long boat ride that made a stop at the St Bartholomew village and church (St Bartholomä with the umlaut) as well as a second (and last) stop where we got off at the far southern end of the lake at Salet.
Along the way, we spotted a couple of waterfalls. The first one was the Koenigsbachfall (or Königsbachfall), where the Koenigsbach dropped into the east side of the lake pretty early in the boat tour between Schoenau am Koenigssee and St Bartholomew.
The second waterfall was the Scharinbachfall where the Schrainbach fell more voluminously into the far southwestern part of Lake Koenigssee. The latter waterfall was easily visible from the dock at Salet in addition to from the boat itself.
From Salet, we then took a short 15-minute hiking trail that went south beyond the headwaters of Lake Koenigssee, where there were some restaurants along the trail. It then crossed the Saletbach before continuing on a wide valley path until reaching the mouth of the calm Lake Obersee.
At this spot, we were able to see the iconic boat shed fronting the reflective mirror-like lake, and we could see the majestic Roethbachfall in the distance on the opposite side of the lake.
Unfortunately during our visit, we couldn’t risk missing out on the return boat ride, which was at about 6pm. The signs suggested that hiking to the base of Rothbachfall took 1 hour and 15 minutes in each direction (or 2.5 hours round trip), which made it too risky as I would have started this hike at 4:30pm. Thus, I had to be content with the views from the mouth of Lake Obersee, which I thought was good enough though I certainly would have liked to get closer for a more immersive experience.
In any case, we returned the way we came, boarded a 5pm boat (they typically leave every 15-30 minutes), and by 6:30pm or so, we finally made it back to the car park. And thus, we managed to experience the three main waterfalls in Lake Koenigssee (which meant “King’s Lake” by the way and it was the country’s deepest lake) with a minimal amount of physical exertion.
Lake Königssee was accessed from the huge car park at Schönau am Königssee. We managed to get there from the car park at Kehlstein (by the Dokumentationszentrum Obersalzberg), which involved driving west on the B319 from the car parks at Obersalzberg.
After 3.3km on the B319, we then turned left to go onto the B305. After about 650m, we then entered a roundabout where we took the 4th exit for the B20 towards Schönau am Königssee. We then followed the B20 for a little over 4km to the busy car park. Overall, this drive took us about 15-20 minutes.
From Salzburg, we’d drive south on the B150 then continue south on the B305 after passing the A10 autobahn. We’d then drive about 10.5km on the B305 keeping right to remain on the B305 (note that going left here would lead up to Obersalzberg and the Kehlstein).
Continuing straight on the B305 for another 4.5km or so before reaching the roundabout, where we’d then take the 4th exit onto the B20 and follow that road another 4km to the large car park at Schönau am Königssee. Overall, this drive would take about 45 minutes.
For context, Salzburg was about 29km (over 30 minutes drive) south of Schönau am Königssee, 72km (about 90 minutes drive) northwest of Hallstatt, 107km (under 90 minutes drive) north of Zell am See, and 144km (over 90 minutes drive) east of Munich.