Laber Mountain: A Wonderful Hike That Will Make You Wish You Were Here

Laber Mountain to the Schartenkopf and back to Oberammergau is a circuit hike which offers incredible views over the Ammergau Alps and a little rock climbing adventure…if you’re up for it!

hiking laber schartenkoepfe to Oberammergau in the German Alps

Views of the Ammergau Alps from the more technical route up to Laber Mountain.

Despite being an avid hiker, I confess to having spent little time in the Ammergau Alps.  Instead, I hike more in the areas of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Walchensee, Tegernsee, Spitzensee and Mittenwald.

You can start this hike from the famous abbey in the town of Ettal, which makes for an easier hike, but when it comes to hiking, I’m not really one for easy.  Instead, we started at the Laber Bergbahn, a gondola which takes you up the mountain. And no, we didn’t take the gondola.  We did it the hard way, step-by-step up 786m – but heh who’s counting?

Stopping to enjoy the gorgeous scenery and views of the Ammergau Alps en-route.

Stopping to enjoy the gorgeous scenery and views of the Ammergau Alps en-route.

With a gondola comes the good….and the not so good.  The good thing is that the views will usually be amazing, otherwise someone wouldn’t have bothered of going to the trouble of installing a gondola.  The bad news is that unsurprisingly, gondolas attract crowds.  This is not so much of a problem while hiking, but at the summit where the world of hikers and gondola riders collide – usually at a restaurant on top of the mountain, of which every gondola in Bavaria (that I’m aware of anyways) leads.

Views over Oberammergau and the Alps from the more technical route up the mountain.

Views over Oberammergau and the Alps from the more technical route up the mountain.

But I digress, the hike starts at the Laber Bergbahn with signs indicating 2 1/2 hours to the Laber – the mountain we (my husband and I were hiking to.  One thing I really like about the trail is that it’s an actual hiking trail the whole way up, unlike many hiking trails in Germany in which for part of it you are hiking on a road.  The path is steep, but never too steep, just enough to keep you breathing hard without feeling like your heart is going to jump out of your chest.  After about an hour of hiking you’ll reach a point where you have two choices:  left or right.  The left way will take you up through the Soilasee (a lake which is often dry during the summer months) on a gentler trail up to the Laber Restaurant, which has a large terrace offering views over the Ammergau Alps and to Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

Sign pointing to the more difficult but scenic route up to Laber Mountain and Restaurant.

Sign pointing to the more difficult but scenic route up to Laber Mountain and Restaurant.

 

 

On the sign, shown in the photo of the left, you’ll notice that pointing to the right it says Labersteig über Schartenkopf and nur für Geübte, meaning only for the experienced. That’s the way we went. It’s flat for the first part which is deceiving as you find yourself puffing your chest out with pride going Look at me!  It’s for experienced hikers and I’m having no problems at all!

 

Then comes the challenging part, which involves a little bit of scrambling – using your hands and feet up some rocks and hanging onto a cable on a narrow ridge.  If you have good balance, good condition and are not afraid of heights, you will be able to manage it. I actually really love this kind of stuff – even more so than regular hiking!  However if you are afraid of heights, it’s definitely not for you – go the other way instead. I also wouldn’t recommend this way with small children, although I did see a couple of children ~ ages 10 doing it with no problem.  These photos show you the terrain so that you can decide for yourself:

Hiking up the Labersteig, the more technical route up the mountain.

Hiking up the Labersteig, the more technical route up the mountain.

 

You will climb this as part of the Labersteig way. At the top you can see hikers. It's not difficult, but you will be using your hands and feet on parts of it.

You will climb this as part of the Labersteig way. At the top you can see hikers. It’s not difficult, but you will be using your hands and feet on parts of it.

As a reward for your bravery, you get views like this, which you don’t have from going the easier way. I especially loved the view of the monastery in Ettal:

Views of Ettal and the monastery in Ettal as well as the Ammergau Alps.

Views of Ettal and the monastery in Ettal as well as the Ammergau Alps.

Carry on a bit and you will pass a cross that’s several meters above you, meaning that you’ve almost reached the summit, but it’s just out of reach and it stays that way – frustrating for someone like myself who likes to physically touch the cross to prove to myself that I made it!

Laurel Robbinsenjoying the views from Laber Mountain/Restaurant of the Ammergau Alps.

Me enjoying the views from Laber Mountain/Restaurant of the Alps.

A few minutes after that and you’ll reach the restaurant.  You’ll hear the crowd before you see them.

Laber Restaurant, where hikers and gondola riders meet...or collide...depending on your point of view.

Laber Restaurant, where hikers and gondola riders meet…or collide…depending on your point of view.

Amazing views over the Ammergau Alps it does offer, solitude it does not!  If the conditions are just right, you may also be able to catch a paraglider taking off as we did:

Paraglider taking off from Laber Mountain to sail over the Ammergau Alps.

Paraglider taking off from Laber Mountain to sail over the Ammergau Alps.

For the descent, you can either return the same way, or turn your hike into a loop, which we did, returning counter-clockwise back to Oberammergau through the Soilasee.  The first part of the descent is fairly steep, but is down a hiking trail, which turns into a road and I really dislike hiking on roads.  Fortunately there are shortcuts so you can minimize the amount of time you spend hiking on the road.

Descending to the Soilasee back to Oberammergau.

Descending to the Soilasee back to Oberammergau. (This is also the easier route when ascending).

Overall, I really enjoyed this hike, especially the scrambling part and the views.  I’d give it a 7.5/10 and my husband, J.P. gave it the same.

We did a count

We did a counter-clockwise loop.  Hiking up route 5, then descending down route 1.  Photo courtesy of Laber Bergbahn.

Know Before You Hike Laber-Schartenkopf in Oberammergau:

  • The ascent takes ~ 2 to 2 1/2 hours and the descent is ~ 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
  • The elevation difference is ~786m from the Laber Bergbahn.  Add another 60m or so if you’re coming from the train station in Oberammergau.
  • You can also ascend or descend from the gondola (which we didn’t use, but it is an option).
  • You could also descend down to Ettal and catch a bus from there to the train station.
  • From Munich, Oberammergau is ~ 90km.  It took us about 1:15 minutes by car (but of course it always depends on traffic).
  • You can also reach Oberammergau by train.  It’s ~ 1 1/2 hours by train from Munich.
  • If you start early enough you can also do some sight seeing. The abbey in Ettal is home to 50 Benedictine monks and is a popular tourist attraction.  Linderhof Palace, one of King Ludwig’s fairy-tale castles is also nearby. And if you’re hungry, there’s also the Schaukäserei Ammergauer Alpen located at Mandelweg 1 in Ettal.  Here you’ll find some of the finest cheese you’ve ever tasted!
  •  There’s also a NATO School in Oberammergau!  If you’re attending classes here, it’s only a short walk to the Laber Bergbahn.
  • Want to do another hike in the Ammergau Alps?  Then check out the Kofel by Tricia.  I haven’t done it yet, but it also looks like a good one. Also check out my other recommended hikes in the German Alps and best places to visit in Bavaria.
Laurel Robbins is the founder of Monkeys and Mountains, an adventure travel blog and company that helps people plan their active holidays in a sustainable way. Although Canadian, she lives in Germany. You can find her in the mountains on most weekends.
2015-12-29T14:13:34+00:00

9 Comments

  1. Barry September 29, 2014 at 10:44 pm - Reply

    Thanks for sharing. Excellent photos which give a real feel for the hiking experience. Incredible scenery.

  2. De'Jav October 1, 2014 at 3:24 pm - Reply

    Looks like a beautiful place to be out enjoy the beauty of nature. .

  3. Tricia October 11, 2014 at 6:04 am - Reply

    Greetings Laurel, looks like you conquered the Laber the proper way! We set out to hike it last autumn, but since we got a very late-afternoon start, opted for the gondola instead. We’re returning to Oberammergau for another visit in the coming weeks, and perhaps we’ll have enough good weather to give the Laber a whirl. Given that I’m a bit timid when it comes to heights, I probably won’t go the way of the Geübte. 🙂 Appreciate that pointer. Thank you also for sharing my Kofel hike post with your readers.

  4. Ram Chandra Basnet November 3, 2014 at 4:38 pm - Reply

    Everest Base Camp – Kalapathar Trek is With eight of the world’s ten highest peaks, Nepal is loaded with spectacular mountains vistas. Everest trek is not only famous for its proximity to the world’s highest mountain (8848m.) but also for its friendly Sherpa people, picturesque villages, great variety of cultures and traditions, colorful festivals and monasteries. The flora and fauna are other ornaments of the Sagarmatha National Park. The story of the yeti is still a mystery in the world from the Khumbu region.
    This trek gives you the grand tour of the famous Khumbu valley. This is a strenuous trek leading to Gokyo Lake and over the Cho La at 5,430m making a circuit of Tawache (6,367m.) and Cholatse (6,440m). Emerging into the Khumbu valley above Lobuje the trail continues up to Kalapatthar and then back to Lukla via Tengboche and Namche Bazaar. The small herding settlement of Gokyo (4750m) lies on the banks of the third lake in a series of small turquoise mountain lakes and on the ridge above Gokyo, the four peaks above 8000m of Cho You, Everest, Lhotse and Makalu expose themselves. In addition to this you can have a look at the tremendous ice ridge between Cho You and Gyachung (7922m), considered one of the most dramatic panoramas in the Khumbu region. There are many options for additional exploration and high-altitude walking, including the crossing of Cho La, a 5420m-high pass into Khumbu and a hike to Gokyo Ri. Strenuous trekking is continuously rewarded with dramatic Himalayan scenes, including four of the world’s highest peaks: Cho Oyu(8,201m.), Makalu (8,463m.), Lhotse (8,516m.) and Everest (8,848m.).
    Breathtaking mountain vistas are complemented by visits to Sherpa villages, homes and monasteries offering you an insight into the quiet but, culturally vibrant Sherpa way of life.

  5. Gabriel January 1, 2015 at 8:48 pm - Reply

    BEAUTIFUL pictures! That looks like a really fun hike!

  6. Kip Cone April 1, 2015 at 8:55 pm - Reply

    Thanks for your pictures and descriptions of the hike above Oberammergau. They were a help to me. Over ten years ago, I was there with my wife and two boys, who were 7 and 10 at the time. We hiked up to the Laber mountain, but at the very end, where it got steep, I kept my boys from going any further, as I figured it was too dangerous for them. They were not happy with me. We could see the summit, but I wouldn’t let them go up. They have held that against me ever since. This summer we are returning to Germany. Top on my boys’ list is to complete that hike. I figure they’re old enough now. After all these years, I wasn’t sure I could find the exact same spot. In searching the web, I found your article and the description of the hike. When you described the “Labersteig” I knew that was the exact spot. So, now I know where I’m going and the boys will get to fulfill a dream. Thanks.

    • Laurel April 18, 2015 at 2:10 pm - Reply

      @Kip – Very cool and glad you found the post useful. Let me know how your boys like it!

  7. James Cumby April 24, 2017 at 4:21 pm - Reply

    Thanks Laurel. I have enjoyed your tour of Oberammergau, Kofel and Laber. I was stationed there with the U. S. Army in 1959-1961, I have climbed those mountains, Kofel 3 times. There is a very interesting story about Laber that I never see in writing. The area looks a bit different now than it was then.

    • Laurel May 1, 2017 at 9:58 am - Reply

      @James – Thanks for your comment. Interesting to hear that it looks so much different now. Would be fun to come back and see how it’s changed.

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