June 18, 2017

Hoher Kranzberg - Ferchensee Loop

Kranzberg is a small mountain located in the Bavarian Alps, rising from the western edge of the charming village of Mittenwald.  There is a chairlift that carries riders part of the way up the mountain, with a hut located not far above the top of the lift.  We planned a loop hike that started with a ride up the the Kranzberg Sesselift, followed by a hike up to the panoramic viewing area at the top of Hoher Kranzberg, then a meandering descent that would take us by two alpine lakes, Ferchensee and Lautersee.  The maps illustrate five restaurants along the route: St. Anton, Kranzberghaus, Ferchensee, and two along Lautersee, so we brought snacks, but nothing substantial.  We planned on eating lunch at Kranzberghaus, the hut closest to the summit.

riding the Kranzberg Sesselift
The chairlift ride was so fun!  It is a one-seater, which had us somewhat concerned.  Research suggested that small kids ride on laps, but 6 years seemed to be a threshold for riding solo.  Frankie was initially quite skeptical about riding alone, but the guy running the lift just stuffed him right in, and he ended up loving it.  From the top of the chairlift, Berggasthof Sankt Anton is immediately visible, just 0.1 mile up a paved trail.  This is a full restaurant and offers lodging, too, as well as a playground and farm animals.  The views here are already astonishing.  We popped inside briefly so Erwin could buy a drink and it smelled amazing, but we wanted to make some progress before making a lengthy stop, so didn't linger long enough for a meal.

The climb up to Hoher Kranzberg is steady.  The trail is mostly paved, so the footing is easy, but there is little shade.  Looking forward to lunch kept us kept us motivated in the hot sun.  Unfortunately, as we approached the top, we discovered that Kranzberghaus is closed for renovations.  This was a bit of a disappointment for all three of us.  However, we rallied and made the last ascent to the lounge chairs at the summit and the views were more than enough to make up for it.  I gave Frankie some red pepper and cucumber to tide him over, and we eventually pushed on, hoping to eat at Ferchensee instead.  The trail crosses a grassy plateau filled with wildflowers before entering the woods and beginning the long descent.

The forest is dense initially, deep with welcome shade, replete with moss and crowberry.  Erwin mentioned that Smurfs live in this part of the world, and that they love woods like this.  Frankie has brought a Smurf along on many previous adventures, and seized on this notion with much excitement, looking and listening for Smurfs the entire way down.  Descending further, the woods become more open, with sunlight streaming through and peek-a-boo views of the mountains, particularly the jagged Wetterstein range.  Just gorgeous, all the way down.

We eventually popped out at Ferchensee, agog with wonder at the sight before us and more than ready for lunch.  We lucked into a prime table right by the water, and congressed with fish, big and small, as well as some ducks, including a mama with her fluffballs.  When we asked about menus, we were told that the lunch service was officially over, but the kindly waitress took pity on us and listed several options that were still available.  We gratefully seized on a few of those, sharing a dumpling duo and weinerschnitzel with fries, along with mixed salads.  Perfection!  Those dumplings were the best we had on the trip.  Others folks arrived hungry after us and were also given the benefit of kindness, making due with sausage salad and apfelstrudel.

After finishing our meal, we took the trail around the far side of Fershensee, to enjoy the views toward the Karwendel range, then headed on toward Lautersee.  Most of the descent had been completed, so the grades were easier here.  Although spectacularly beautiful, Lautersee is more developed, with both a hotel and a hut, along with some residences in between, so we were glad to have taken our longest break at Ferchensee.  We did stop to get Frankie some ice cream, though, to keep his tank fueled.  After Lautersee, there is another big meadow, then more open woods and more meadows, a slight rise and more gentle descending.  Astounding sights in every direction.

Finally, the last descent to the parking lot, and more glorious views over Mittenwald.  I was running the Map my Ride app on my phone, and Frankie was exuberant when I pointed out that he was setting a new personal distance record.  He immediately began agitating to walk into town after we drove back to our apartment, to get dinner and rack up another 1.5 miles for the day.  Go Frankie, go!   

This hike is stunning at every stage.  I cannot recommend it highly enough!

Bergstation Kranzberg Sesselift
view from Berggasthof Sankt Anton
 the Karwendel range towering above Mittenwald

playground at Sankt Anton
meadows along the trail up toward Hoher Kranzberg
northeast view toward Wildensee

lesser butterfly orchid (Platanthera bifolia)
lesser butterfly orchid (Platanthera bifolia)

lounge chairs to soak up the views at Hoher Kranzberg

Kranzberg Gipfelhaus

photo by Erwin
bird's-nest orchid (Neottia nidus-avis)

rampion (Phyteuma sp.)

bird's-eye primrose (Primula farinosa)

we had a late lunch at Gasthaus Ferchensee
view of the Wetterstein from the table

enjoying some erdbeereis at the Lautersee Hotel
Frankie loved the ice cream bowl
Kapelle Maria Königin
Kapelle Maria Königin

small cow-wheat (Melampyrum sylvaticum)

almost back!

This circuit includes 6.5 miles of hiking with approximately 900 feet elevation gain.  The parking lot for the chairlift facility is relatively small and was full the Sunday of our hike; plan on arriving early on weekends to secure a spot.  There are large maps posted at the base of the mountain and at the top of the chairlift.  We took pictures of the maps to refer to during the hike since we didn't have paper maps.  The trails are well-marked and generally easy to follow.  This is a spectacular hike!  
chairlift to St. Anton, 830 to Hoher Kranzberg, 813 to/around Ferchensee and beyond, 828 past Lautersee to chairlift parking
chairlift to St. Anton, 4a to Hoher Kranzberg, 4 then 6 to Ferchensee, 5 to Lautensee, 5a back to chairlift parking

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