Seebensee’s glacial blue waters are surrounded by dense forests, lush meadows, and rugged mountain peaks, creating a serene and captivating atmosphere. Drachensee, also known as the “Dragon Lake,” is equally mesmerizing, with its deep blue-green waters and towering cliffs that rise up to 2,500 meters above sea level.
The adventure begins at the charming town of Ehrwald, nestled on the German border. The 8km hike to Seebensee is an easy and enjoyable trek, perfect for families and those looking for a leisurely walk. But if you’re up for a challenge, a 250 vertical meters climb from Seebensee takes you to Drachensee – a rewarding trek that will leave you breathless in more ways than one.
So, pack your bags, lace up your hiking boots, and prepare to embark on a thrilling hike to these stunning alpine lakes. We’ve got you covered with everything you need to know about hiking to Seebensee and Drachensee.
The Legend Of The Dragon Lake
But first, get ready to hear a story steeped in Tyrolean folklore, one that weaves together dragons, saints, and even a Christmas miracle!
Legend has it that in a village close to Füssen, the inhabitants once prayed to St. Magnus of Füssen to reveal the mineral riches of their land. Their prayers were answered, and the village became wealthy beyond their wildest dreams. But their newfound wealth led to greed and cold-heartedness. So much so that they heartlessly turned away a poor man who came seeking shelter on a stormy night.
Little did they know that the man was none other than St. Magnus himself.
Enraged by their unkindness, St. Magnus decided to sink the village and its goldmines into the ground, leaving in its place a breathtaking alpine lake named Drachensee, after the dragon who guards the only entrance to the sunken village. But there’s a twist in the tale: the village emerges from the ground once a year, at midnight on Christmas Eve, like a magical Christmas gift from the depths of the earth.
So now, when you hike up to the enchanting Drachensee, it will be easy to imagine a mythical dragon emerging from the lake at any moment!
Drachensee & Seebensee Hiking Map & Overview
— HIKE OVERVIEW —
| Difficulty: easy for Seebensee, moderate for Drachensee
| Trailhead: Seebenalm, Ehrwald
| Distance: 15,4km for the Tajakopf circuit route
| Time Needed: 6h for the Tajakopf circuit route
| Total Ascent: 990m
| Where to Eat: Seebenalm Hütte, Coburger Hütte, Holzerstubn, Dorfladen, Pizza Mamma Mia
| Where to Stay: Haus Tirol Ehrwald, Coburger Hütte, Das Halali, LaPosch – Dein Bergaway
| When to Visit: June to September, Bergfeuer
How to Hike to Seebensee & Drachensee
1st Stage – Getting to Ehrwald
First things first, you have to get to the Ehrwalder Almbahn Talstation at the village of Ehrwald. Once there, you have the option of either taking the cable car to the trailhead of your hike or embarking on a walk up to it.
Ehrwald itself is very close to the Austrian-German borders, some 75km from the Tyrolean capital of Innsbruck and 110km from the Bavarian capital of Munich. And thanks to convenient public transport connections, hiking to Seebensee and Drachensee is one heck of a day trip from either city.
But first, you may find it helpful to become familiar with certain vocabulary words: Bahnhof = train station, Almbahn = cable car, Talstation = valley station, Bergstation = mountain station, See = lake
Drive to Ehrwald and park your car directly at the parking of the Ehrwalder Almbahn Talstation. The ticket for the whole day costs 5,00 euros and can be purchased from a machine in the parking lot.
Traveling by train, set Ehrwald’s train station (Zugspitzbahn Bahnhof) as your destination. No matter if you are traveling from Austria or Germany, the most direct journey usually involves a train change in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
The train station in Ehrwald is about 1.5km north of the village center and 3.5km away from the Ehrwalder Almbahn Talstation. The latter can then be reached by taking the local bus.
Budget Tip: For those traveling throughout Tyrol, the Day Ticket (34,00€ for two people) and the Weekly Ticket (46,00€ per person) allow unlimited travel throughout the whole Tyrol region. You can find them here.
From some nearby Austrian cities, such as Innsbruck, there are also regular buses taking you to Ehrwald. The bus drops you off conveniently at the central square (Kirchplatz), from where various local buses to the Ehrwalder Almbahn Talstation depart. Alternatively, you can get there by walking past the tourist office and going uphill for about 30min (2km).
2nd Stage – Getting to the Ehrwalder Alm
The most popular trail to the lakes starts and ends at the Ehrwalder Alm, right at the mountain station (Bergstation) of the Ehrwalder Almbahn. To get there, you can either ride the cable car or hike up there.
| Hiking to the Ehrwalder Alm: To reach the trailhead, follow the tarmac road on the left side of the Talstation. This road runs just below the cable cars and is approximately 400 meters long, taking about 1 hour and 30 minutes to walk.
While we opted for the convenience of taking the cable car up the valley, we found ourselves walking back down after missing the last ride. That is when we realized that we had skipped the most elevated and less picturesque part of the trail. Therefore, we only recommend hiking up the Ehrwalder Alm if you’re on a tight budget, physically fit, and have plenty of time to spare.
| Riding the Cable Car: If you prefer to take the cable car up, round-trip tickets can be purchased at the Ehrwald Almbahn Valley Station or online. The journey lasts less than 10min, the views are spectacular, and you’ll save yourself some extra time to capture stunning photographs.
Operating Times in Summer 2023: Daily from May 18 to November 5, 08:00 – 17:30 during July, August, and September & 08:30 – 16:30 during the rest of the months.
Ticket Prices: 21.50 for a round trip, 14,00 for one-way tickets – You can find reduced prices for teens, children, and families, as well as combo tickets here.
— Alternative Routes to Seebensee —
For the majority of hikers, the Ehrwalder Alm serves as the primary trailhead due to its ease of access, particularly if you choose to take the cable car. However, if you’re an experienced hiker or climber, you may be more intrigued by one of the alternative trails that originate from the Ehrwalder Almbahn Talstation.
| The Immensteig Hike (difficult): From the Talstation, follow the signs towards the Ehrwalder Alm, and after about 300m, turn right onto the Immensteig. First, pass through the meadows and then follow a path with partly rope-secured sections. After passing a forest path, you will get to Ganghofers Rast, where the path joins the gravel road from the Ehrwalder Alm to the Seebenalm.
| The Hoher Gang Hike (very difficult): Starting at the Talstation, head eastwards along the gravel road for a short distance, then turn right at the cattle grid and follow the trail. After passing through alpine meadows and a forest, the trail becomes steeper and partially secured with wire ropes. Note that there are exposed sections that can be slippery after rainfall.
| The Seebener Wassefall Klettersteig (very difficult): This is a challenging via Ferrata graded D+/E on the Austrian scale. Follow the signposted path from Talstation for about 45min to reach its entrance, located to the right of Seebener Wasserfall. The end of the via Ferrata leads to Seebenalm, and from there, you can continue your hike towards Seebensee.
3rd Stage – Hike to Seebensee
Finding the right trail from the Ehrwalder Alm mountain station is a piece of cake – just follow the direction signs or simply go where everyone else is heading!
Initially, you’ll pass by two restaurants – Tirolerhaus and Gasthof Ehrwalder Alm – situated right next to the mountain station. After that, keep walking past Gasthof Alpenglühn and then follow the broad gravel road towards the southwest.
After about 30min, the path splits, and you can either follow the gravel road or turn left and follow the forest path, which is quieter and offers spectacular mountain views. The Seebenalm Hut is another 30-minute walk away, and from there, it is only a brief (around 15 minutes) ascent to the stunning Seebensee.
Spend some time relaxing at the benches and taking those postcard-perfect pictures with Zugspitze Mountain in the background before heading up to Drachensee.
4th Stage – Hike to Drachensee
Once at the Seebensee, hiking further to the Coburger Hütte and Drachensee is something you simply can not miss! Just follow the wide gravel path along the left side of Seebensee, and at its far end, you will see signposts indicating “Coburger Hütte”. It’s a strenuous 30min hike up to the hut on a narrow and steep path, which, however, offers majestic views of the Seebensee below.
First, you will arrive at the Coburger Hütte, located on the shores of Drachensee. It offers uninterrupted views of the Drachensee, rooms where hikers can spend the night (June to October), and even delicious food – make sure you try the Kaiserschmarrn!
Just behind the mountain hut, a path called “Grünsteinscharte” winds down to the shimmering lake. If you crave, however, a dip in its crystal-clear waters, bear in mind that they are freezing cold, even during the hottest summer days.
5th Stage – Taking the Way Back OR Hiking to Tajatörl
From here, you can follow the familiar forest road back to the Ehrwalder Alm and the mountain station. Just be aware of the last cable car ride back to the valley station (16.30 or 17.30 in high season). Οtherwise, you will have to walk all the way down.
But if you are up to yet another challenge, be prepared for the majestic views that come with it.
The Hinteres Tajatörl saddle, in particular, being the highest point of the trail (2.259m), offers some of the best views of the lakes. Following the clearly-marked trail from the hut, it is a steep 340m climb to get there, but once you reach it, you will start the 760m descent to the Ehrwald Alm (more about this hike on this interactive map).
Feeling tired or don’t have enough time? Spend the night in the hut, wake up to the most majestic views and a yummy breakfast, and hit the trail fresh in the morning!
Where to Eat in Ehrwald
After a long and fulfilling hike to Seebensee and Drachensee, you’re bound to work up an appetite. Luckily, the surrounding region offers an abundance of mouth-watering eating choices. If you happen to have enough time to spare before the last cable car departs, you can indulge in a meal at one of the cozy mountain huts. Alternatively, there are numerous dining options available in the quaint village of Ehrwald.
Just a 10-minute walk from the Seebensee Lake, the Seebenalm Hütte provides breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and serves authentic Austrian cuisine and beverages. At Drachensee, Coburger Hütte serves regional specialties, such as Kaiserschmarrn (shredded pancakes) and Tiroler Gröstl (a hearty potato dish with bacon and onions), while its terrace offers amazing views of the lake.
Restaurants in Ehrwald
For an intimate dining experience, head to Abendrestaurant Holzerstubn, located in a traditional Tyrolean house and offering regional dishes such as cheese spätzle, schnitzel, and apple strudel. If you’re looking for something more casual, visit the Dorfladen Ehrwald, a small grocery store where you’ll find local cheeses and meats, as well as ready-to-eat sandwiches and light bites.
For a taste of Italy, check out Pizza und Pinsa to go Mamma Mia Ehrwald, serving wood-fired pizza and pinsa, a Roman-style pizza made with a blend of wheat, soy, and rice flour. And for those looking to unwind with a pint of beer, IRISH PUB The Caledonian is the perfect spot to do it while listening to live music or watching sports on the big screen.
Where to Sleep in Ehrwald
| Budget: Haus Tirol Ehrwald and Mellow Mountain Hostel are two great options for those looking for comfortable yet budget-friendly places to stay. Additionally, there are two campsites in Ehrwald that cater to caravans and mobile homes, and for those who prefer a more rustic experience, the Coburger Hütte offers overnight stays in a traditional mountain hut.
| Midrange: Chalet Apart Hansler offers stylish and spacious apartments equipped with modern amenities such as a fully equipped kitchen and a balcony with stunning mountain views. Meanwhile, Das Halali is a cozy hotel with a rustic atmosphere and comfortable rooms, serving delicious breakfast.
| Luxury: LaPosch – Dein Bergaway and PURE Resort Ehrwald are two great accommodation options in Ehrwald. LaPosch offers stylish rooms and apartments with mountain views, while PURE Resort Ehrwald features modern and spacious apartments with wellness facilities on site.
When To Visit Seebensee & Drachensee
To enjoy longer days and milder weather, it is better to hike up to the lakes between June and September. However, as the hike is quite popular, it is advisable to plan your visit during weekdays or start your hike early in the morning to avoid crowds. If you are planning a day trip, make sure to catch the early bus or train and check the schedule for the return trip, as well as the cable car.
And for a truly unforgettable experience, plan your visit during the Summer Solstice.
This is when the mountains surrounding the valley are ablaze with the fiery glow of bonfires, lit by the locals to celebrate the longest day of the year. While this tradition, known as Bergfeuer (Mountain Fires), is widespread throughout the Alps, the vast fires that blaze on the mountainsides around Ehrwald are so exceptional that they have been granted a coveted spot on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List!
Hiking to Seebensee and Drachensee is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that every nature lover should embark on. The stunning beauty of these hidden gems nestled in the heart of the Austrian Alps is unparalleled, and the feeling of accomplishment after reaching the top is incomparable.
So pack your backpack and get ready for an adventure of a lifetime as you explore the rugged terrain, crystal-clear waters, and towering peaks that make Seebensee and Drachensee truly unforgettable.