Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Spirit Gorge

One of the most awesome hikes I’ve ever climbed is through the Partnachklamm, a gorge carved deep between steep limestone walls by the Partnach River in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. In the spring and summer, the aquamarine glacier water cascades beneath the trail at breakneck speed; in the winter one is surrounded by frozen waterfalls and enormous ice formations. Would I take my children here? No, not under the age of 13 or 14.

The Partnachklamm guard rail is unsafe for kids.
Europeans are just not as litigious as we are here in the states, so as a result, they don’t suffer from the same safety neurosis.  (I’ve seen tourists standing on the outer walkways around the Leaning Tower of Pisa; mind you, there were no safety rails!)  Basically, they figure, if your negligence causes you to get hurt, it’s your fault.  Well, the protective balustrade along the wet, slippery, narrow trail through the Partnach Gorge is just two iron cables with about a two foot gap in the middle.  That’s right:  no rail height or 4” sphere (the head of an infant) safety code enforcement here!  The risk to a young child is not worth it.

There is another dramatic gorge relatively nearby, however, called the Geisterklamm, or Spirit Gorge, on the German/Austrian border, with a trail designed for children.  Although the trail is over 250 feet high in some places, it is well protected with chain-link fencing, even across bridges.  Depending on the ages and endurance of your children, you can choose the shorter walk which begins in Mittenwald, Germany, where the entrance fee is 1.60€ for adults and 0.80€ for children, or the longer walk, accessible from Leutasch, Austria.  Here admission is free but 5.00€ for parking.

The ancient cliffs, the swirling water and cascading waterfalls are spectacular.  The trail is safe and easy to climb, and most of the walk is on metal gratings so you can see the raging river far below you (making it unsuitable, however, for strollers, dogs, and bicycles.)  Delightfully, frequent signboards featuring the friendly Spirit of the Gorge explain (in English, too!) the legends of the Infernal Water and Ghostly Castle, the Witch’s Cauldron and Devil’s Pool.  Children will learn how the surrounding rocks and geology were formed by glaciers during the Ice Age.  At the Mittenwald end of the gorge there is a breathtaking 75 foot waterfall, and at the Austrian end of the trail you can extend your walk along the stream through the Unterleutasch valley.


  1. Partnachklamm is a spectacular natural wonders lies in the Bavarian Alps. You can walk the length of the George along a path which is just a few meters above the river, its best go on sunny day as you could get to see the sunbeams play off the rocks and falling water. It is equally amazing in winter season, Ice from the waterfalls freezes and the walls of the George get converted into a stalactite, which worth’s seeing.

  2. The narrow gorge trail is unfortunately not suitable for strollers and dogs, you may not use bicycles on any section of the Geisterklamm trails.
    Visit here for water filter intallation.


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