Hiking From Thalkirchen to Schäftlarn
Updated: 2 days ago
A culture war is currently happening in the south of Bavaria. It might be laughably unimportant and petty compared to what is otherwise occurring in the world right now, but it is still a real problem. And this problem will persist and will increase in scope unless something is done about it. To explain it short and straightforward: Around six million people are living in the Munich metropolitan area. And while that is not a lot of people for a region almost as big as Belgium, there is one major bottleneck. The weekend. Because on weekends probably half the people living in that area flock to the alps in search of relaxation and recreation. With border-hopping to the Austrian side out of the question due to Covid, these streams of people became even more concentrated on singular locations.
With the local infrastructure already at capacity before the pandemic hit, the fact that people had to stop carpooling would have been enough to bring the system to its knees. But much else has happened as well. Fewer people likely use public transport for day trips like this, as the inherent risk of infection is simply a little higher, so this means even more cars on the roads. Also, the pandemic has brought a massive boom in the people interested in outdoor sports. And of course, these people, unfamiliar with all available options flock to the well known, easy-to-reach spots, never mind that these spots were already overcrowded pre-pandemic. And with that, it is pretty much inevitable that there will be conflicts between the locals and the outsiders. And I believe that these conflicts will only increase unless a significant effort is undertaken to manage the day-tourism to the region. Even if the pandemic would be over tomorrow, those Issues would likely persist.
This lead to me, thinking a little bit about my blog. And while I have no Ilusion regarding the tiny amount of my readers, I am still somewhat part of the problem – overhyping the Bavarian Alps, without ever looking closer to home. And while I was trying to limit my effect slightly by mainly covering some lesser-known tours like the Arnplattenspitze, even these tours would lead to more traffic on the same overcrowded roads. Instead, I decided to refocus my blog a little bit, at least for the next few weeks, and focus more on local tours. There are only three criteria I set myself:
Tours need to be within the 15-kilometre radius around city limits that would be implemented should the infection numbers climb further.
Tours need to be easily reachable with public transport.
Tours need to be so good that I would recommend them even if all Covid-related restrictions are lifted.
And with the purpose behind this section of my Website now fully explained, I would like to present the first tour:
Hiking from Thalkirchen to Schäftlarn
If the idea of hiking from Thalkirchen to Schäftlarn seems a little bit daunting to you, please stay with me for one second and will explain, why it is, in fact, the perfect tour to get into distance hiking. Quite simply put, there are plenty of options to cut the hike short in between these two points. If you are with young children, you could go only take the first five kilometres. If you would like to try out only half the distance, well at precisely the halfway point there is a great option to abort. And if you want to challenge yourself, you simply can go on all the way to the goal. But let me start from the beginning.
And that is the Subway station in Thalkirchen, in my case about half an hour after Sunrise. And already the first advantage of this tour became apparent. To start this early into your alpine hike means setting your alarm bell uncomfortably early in the morning. While here, you would be able to sleep a few hours longer. And well relaxed you would start, first along the Maria-Einsidel-Kanal, then over to the Floßlände, were you could watch some birds and such on the ice-encrusted lake. From here it is the right place to cross the Isar-Kanal, and the Isar itself on the Marienklause-Steg, towards the eastern shore of the river. Here you might discover the tiny chapel, hidden right at the fences separating the zoo away. And after it is time to turn upstream and start the hike for real. Here you will also truly enter the narrow Isar valley for the first time, with its massive, steep walls now enclosing the river on both banks, keeping out the sun a little longer and providing a fantastic scenery. Following the wide gravel road, on top of the embankment is likely the best call to action, as you might find it difficult and uncomfortable to hike directly over the pebble beaches of the river to your right. Also, there are plenty of small paths to your left, but those are part of the Isar trail-network, used year-round by mountain bikers. You would be allowed to hike on these trails, but staying on the top of the embankment will make a more pleasant experience for all parties involved.
Depending on your speed, and those of your accomplices you will soon reach the Großhesseloher Brücke, spanning the valley high above you. Here, on the shores along the river would be the right place for you to take a break. And if you are hiking with children, here would be a nice location to play with the pebbles and wood in the summertime, or snow during the winter. It is also the first location where a shortcut to the tour would be easily possible. Just climb the valley's eastern slope, and you are basically at the tram station, ready to go home. Or in case you would like to hike a little longer, you can cross the river with the bridge and turn around, back towards your point of origin.
However, if you wish to continue, you should stay on the eastern shore, following the gravel road further upstream. Very quickly you will notice, that the paths along the river are now somewhat more devoid of other hikers. Most turn around at the bridge, leaving you with more silence to enjoy for yourself, only the sound of snow crunching under your boots, and birds singing in the trees. As you approach the Pulach Hydropower-Station, you will find a path leading directly along the shore, blocked somewhat lazily with construction fencing. The fact of the matter is that the way is very well passable, and no construction is going on here now, or in the foreseeable future. Passing here will allow for a great view at the river, and the Castle Pullach, overlooking the valley from atop the western bank. From here on you will also share the path with the mountain bikers, but during wintertime, only a few ride that far out from the city. Here you will also find two benches, overlooking the river and providing an excellent opportunity for a break.
Shortly after that, you have to manage the first ascent up the wall of the valley. This short but exhausting climb would allow you to have a closer look the Grünwald Castle, maybe take a picture, perhaps nock on its richly decorated door. Here there would be the second opportunity to cut short the tour and take the tram home. Now there comes a short section of hiking through the actual town of Grünwald. Of course, if you wanted, you could descend right back into the valley, but coming up now is a lovely section along the wall's edge, passing by a few nice spots, for breaks and views down into the valley. Once you reach a bench from which you can spot the southern end of the Grünwald Hydropower-Station, it is time to take one last glimpse of the magnificent view, before descending back downhill. You would follow another gravel road, somewhat removed and out of sight of the river until you reach a big stone with a hunter's seat atop. Here you should turn right, on a much smaller path that will soon lead you back towards the shore, and just in the right place to spot the Georgenstein a little bit upstream. This giant boulder, protruding from fast-flowing water, right at a bend in the river, was feared and disastrous to many a timber rafter over the centuries. So much in fact, that a statue of St. Georg was mounted onto it. This was believed, to provide the necessary guidance and protection for that section.
For you, it is, of course, an excellent opportunity for another photograph. From here, there is still a lot of walking to be done, with plenty of nice spots to take a break, sit on one of the benches and enjoy the scenic views. Right after passing the Georgenstein, you might follow my track on a tiny path, leading in windy turns through the thick forest, until you reach the shores again, and step onto another gravel road. This will now guide you, directly along the river, towards the Mühltal Hydropower-Station. You might want to take a break here during summertime and watch the timber rafts go down the ginormous waterslide. There is also a restaurant and beer garden here, that offer take away services right now, so if you are one for the quick snack, you can get some here. Now you cross over the bridge, onto the Island between the Isar and the Isar-Kanal and walk right past the power station's machine room. Once you are back on the gravel road, you should keep your eyes open, because right here, there is a concise and tiny spot, from which you will be able to spot some mountains on the horizon. It is only possible from the road, lower on the embankment, and only possible for so short a time you might miss it if you blink.
Anyways after passing that spot, you might want to go up the embankment of the channel and keep following it upstream, now on the last leg of your tour. Not much is happening here, aside from even more nice views, and even more, nature, until you reach another bridge, now finally bringing you back over to the western shore. From here on out it is a short hike along the road until you enter Kloster Schäftlarn. And here is one more gem hidden in plain sight. Once in the settlement, the road turns sharp right, but you should continue straight on, because right ahead, a little difficult to spot, is a staircase in the side of the valley's walls. Climbing up these stairs will lead you to a viewpoint, where you could take another great picture of the monastery. Now there is only one thing left: the final ascent up the valley, and towards the Train station Schäftlarn. Form here there is a Train going back into the city centre every twenty minutes, and it will bring you back home, despite the heavy legs you will undoubtedly be feeling after such a long hike. And if you made it that far, you can really pat yourself on the back, as the hike, is a physical challenge, probably also to plenty of people that feel at home in the Alps, and keep claiming that there is nothing as taxing close to Munich. Well turns out, there is, and it is a great hike, to experience.