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Do you want to hike to Lake Schrecksee, Germany’s highest alpine lake?

I have to admit that despite having grown up in Germany, I hadn’t heard of Lake Schrecksee until I did some research for our holidays in Southern Germany. But the moment I saw a picture of the lake, I knew I wanted to go there!

What could be better than a turquoise lake with an island in the middle, surrounded by high alpine meadows?

If you want to hike to Lake Schrecksee yourself, keep on reading, and we will give you all the information you need.

How to hike to Lake Schrecksee

Brief summary

Lake Schrecksee

First of all, let us give you a summary of all facts and stats you need to know about Lake Schrecksee.

Length of hike: 15km

Duration of hike: 6-8 hours, depending on your walking speed

Difficulty: medium – difficult

You don’t need any special hiking or rock climbing knowledge to hike up to Lake Schrecksee. But if you’ve never gone hiking in the mountains before, you will find this hike exhausting because of the large altitude difference you have to cover.

Altitude difference: around 1000 metres

Swimming in the lake: Highly recommended in summer, less recommended in spring or autumn

How to get there

Ilona on her way to lake Schrecksee

To start hiking to Lake Schrecksee, you first need to make your way to Hinterstein.

Hinterstein is a tiny but beautiful village in the Alps, located very close to the Austrian border. While in theory, you could come here on a day trip from Munich, we highly recommend that you stay somewhere in the area.

Driving from Munich takes about two hours, so we suggest that you find either a hotel or an AirBNB somewhere closer. We stayed in Marktoberdorf ourselves, from where we had to drive for less than one hour.

In theory, you could also get to Hinterstein by public transport. As the buses don’t go very often, we recommend getting a rental car. You will find it much easier to go here by car than by bus. But buses are an option if you cannot drive at all.

In Hinterstein itself, you should start your trip at the parking lot “Auf der Höh”, at the very end of the village.

Try to arrive as early as possible. We got here by eight, and the parking was almost full already. It was a hectic day, due to multiple reasons (fantastic weather, it was the weekend, lots of national tourists because nobody wanted to travel internationally etc.), so you might be luckier when you visit. But even on a weekday with cloudy weather, try to be there between eight and nine at the latest.

After all, you also have a long hike before you.

The hike

The first part of the hike

From the parking lot “Auf der Höh”, you can walk straight, following the road. The path is pretty flat and even and eventually joins the main road. “Main road” might be an exaggeration, as you will very rarely see traffic here, but it is bigger than the path you were on.

Keep walking until you reach the hydropower station. You will find this white building on your left, and just behind it, you can see a fence.

Here, you need to turn left and start your ascent.

If you want to skip this first part of the hike, you can take a bus to “Auele”. These buses leave from the parking lot and take you to the hydro plant from where you can then start the hike.

The ascent

Ilona walking throught the forest to go to lake Schrecksee

Follow the markers towards “Schrecksee”. For the first part of the ascent, you will climb across a meadow, but you will soon reach a forest. The incline is pretty steep, and you have to keep going for a few more hours, so don’t waste all of your energy here.

After a while, you reach a small lake with a dam on your left. Keep walking through the forest. Not much longer, and it’ll get less steep.

Once you leave the forest, the path evens out a bit. It still takes you uphill but nowhere near as much. You can enjoy the next 30 minutes of walking through this valley.

As you reach the end of the valley, the path starts climbing again, snaking up its way along the mountainside. See that mountain in front of you? The lake is just behind the crest.

We found this part of the hike hardest. We were already exhausted from the first steep climb and then had to keep walking uphill for much longer. Plus, the path is pretty rocky, with loose rocks all over. Be very careful where you step so you don’t slip!

After a lot of climbing, you will finally reach the top. From here, it’s an easy walk across a valley. You will go slightly down and slightly up, and then you will finally reach Lake Schrecksee.

It took us four hours to reach the lake. If you’re well-trained, you’ll be faster. We saw many hikers passing us on the way up (sometimes even little kids – those children growing up in the mountains are insanely fast going uphill). But if you only go for a hike once in a while, you’ll likely need at least three to four hours.

Up at the lake

View of lake Schrecksee from a nearby mountain

Now that you’ve reached the lake, you can relax. Find a nice spot by the water and enjoy a picnic. You’ve earned it!

Or change into your swimsuit. Lake Schrecksee is cold but also very refreshing. If you come on a hot summer day, going into the lake will help you cool down.

If you’re good at swimming, you can even swim to the tiny island and back again.

Remember to leave no traces and to pack all your garbage and get rid of it at home. 

Lake Schrecksee might look like the perfect place to pitch a tent and stay overnight. But as it lies in a protected area, you are not allowed to camp up here!

If you want to stay up in the mountains, look into the Willersalpe, a cute mountain lodge. It’s a 4-hours hike from Lake Schrecksee.

You can stay in a dorm here, but you need to book in advance by calling a mobile phone number (+49 171 9939847). As of now, you can’t book the hut online yet. So definitely give these guys a call, either yourself or with the help of your hotel reception.

Enjoying the viewpoints of Lake Schrecksee

Daniel looking ath the mountains near lake Schrecksee

Lake Schrecksee is beautiful when you’re standing right next to it, but it’s even nicer when you see it from above.

Remember that sign you passed when you reached the lake? Here, the path splits up. Go straight up the mountain to get a good view of the lake. If you turn right at the top, you can reach the border with Austria. From here, you also have a pretty nice view of the neighbouring village.

The descent

Ilona going down lake Schrecksee

After taking a break and enjoying the view, you now have the choice. If you want to, you can hike once around Lake Schrecksee. Or you can do like we did and go back down.

If you brought hiking poles, now is the moment to use them. You have to go back down the same way you came up.

Remember all those loose rocks? They are very slippery as you make your way down the mountain.

The first steep part is the hardest one. Once you get to the large meadow, you can relax a little bit. It’ll get more vertical again towards the end, but it won’t be as slippery as up on the mountain.

Going down from lake Schrecksee

In the end, you once again have the choice between walking back to the parking lot and taking the bus. We were very sure we were going to walk, but when we finally arrived down at the bottom, we were so exhausted that we decided to go by bus.

It’s up to you to choose what you prefer.

What to pack

The Alps of souther Germany

Try to pack as light as possible while also carrying enough food and water with you. Here is our recommended equipment:

Make sure to bring enough water! You will not have a chance to refill your bottles along the way. Even though you’ll cross a river with clear water, you shouldn’t drink from it. Cows often graze in the mountains above, making the water unsuitable for drinking.

The only way you can enjoy this water is by sterilising it or using a water filter. We carried a SteriPen with us, which turned out to be a lifesaver after running out of water.

Turns out that 1.5 litres were not enough on a hot summer day. Therefore, make sure to carry at least 2 litres!

With the right preparation, you will find the hike to Lake Schrecksee much easier. Therefore, check out our day hiking packing list, on which you can find in detail everything you need for this trek.

As for the hiking boots and hiking poles, you can do the hike without them. I always hike in trainers because I find them very comfortable. But hiking boots will make the trip a bit safer and more comfortable.

We also highly recommend hiking poles, especially if you go in autumn or spring. The moment it rains, it gets so slippery that you will have a tough time going down without them. We wished multiple times that we had some – and that was on a dry and sunny day.

When to go

View of the valley near lake Schrecksee

You can hike up to Lake Schrecksee from late April to October. The best time to go is in summer, so you can swim in the lake.

If you decide to go in spring or autumn, make sure to check the weather forecast! You shouldn’t hike up here if you can still find snow on the mountain top. It’ll make the path far too slippery and unsafe. Don’t take any unnecessary risks.

Do you have any further questions? Then leave us a comment below, and we will do everything we can to find the answer for you. We hope you found this guide useful. Go and hike up to Lake Schrecksee. It is worth it!

While in the area, you should also visit some of the other amazing sights you can find here. We absolutely loved Neuschwanstein Castle, so if you’re planning on going, check out our complete guide on how to visit this fairytale castle!

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Ilona is a world traveller passionate about sharing her experiences and giving advice to fellow travellers. Having visited over 70 countries, she is always excited about her next trip.

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