Hiking to Seebensee & Drachensee in Austria

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Located in the majestic Zugspitze Region, Seebensee and Drachensee are two of the most beautiful alpine lakes in Tirol, Austria. And with crystal clear waters and the sublime Zugspitze as a background, it is no wonder why. The hikes to the region start from the rustic town of Ehrwald, nudging the German border and dwarfed by colossal peaks.

Of course, not every alpine lake requires a rigorous hike to be reached and that’s the case with Seebensee. The mountain lake nestles at a height of 1.657m between the Vorderer Tajakopf mountain to the east, the Vorderer Drachenkopf to the south, and the Ehrwalder Sonnenspitze to the west. The 8km hike to Seebensee is ideal for families and those looking for a gentle walk in a stunning mountain landscape. 

From the Seebensee, a challenging 250 vertical meters climb, takes you to a mountain hut and another idyllic alpine lake. Once at the Coburger Hütte, at an elevation of 1.910 meters, you will be rewarded with uninterrupted views of the Drachensee that sits in a rugged bowl on its foot. Hike down to Drachensee or hike higher for majestic views!

So, here is our complete guide about how to get to Ehrwald, the starting point of the hike, and all the available hikes to Seebensee and Drachensee!

The Legend Of The Dragon Lake 

According to a Tyrolean myth, there was once a village close to Füssen that although poor, it was rich in mineral resources. One day, its inhabitants prayed to St. Magnus of Füssen to reveal them and as he answered their prayers, they became rich. However, wealth made them cold-hearted and stingy. So much that they kicked out a poor old man asking for shelter a stormy winter’s night. 

This man, however, was none other than St. Magnus himself.

Seeing that they had exploited his kindness, he decided to sink the village along with the goldmines into the ground. Where the once-wealthy village stood, appeared now a lake, the Drachensee, named so after the dragon that guards the only entrance to the sunken village (Drache means dragon, while See means lake). That emerges from the ground only once a year: at midnight on Christmas Eve.

When to Visit

For longer days and more pleasant weather, hike up to the lakes from June to September. If you are visiting on a day trip, catch the early bus/train and check the return hours for both the bus/train and the cable car.

A really special day to be there is during the Summer Solstice. This is when locals lit bonfires on the mountains ringing the valley to celebrate the longest day of the year. Lighting mountain fires during the Solstice is a common tradition throughout the Alps, known as Bergfeuer (Mountain Fires). The huge fires burning on the mountainsides around Ehrwald, especially, are so unique that UNESCO has included them on its Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists.

Getting to Ehrwald

In a nutshell, first, you have to get to the village of Ehrwald and the Ehrwalder Almbahn Talstation (cable car station), from where the different hikes to Seebensee start (via the Ehrwalder Alm, via the Immensteig, via the Höher Gang, or via the Seebener Wasserfall Klettersteig). Once at the Seebensee, follow the route towards the Coburger Hütte and the Drachensee is just a few meters below. You can stay the night at the hut and hike further above or return to Ehrwald following the same route. 

First things first, here is how to get to the Ehrwalder Almbahn Talstation, the starting point of the hike:

By Train: Traveling by train, get off at Ehrwald’s train station (Zugspitzbahn Bahnhof), about 1.5km north of the village center. Once at the train station, you can reach the Ehrwalder Almbahn Talstation, either by taking the bus or by walking for about 50min (3.5km). 

By Bus: The bus drops you off conveniently at the central Kirchplatz, from where departs the bus to the Ehrwalder Almbahn Talstation. Alternatively, you can get there by walking past the tourist office and going uphill for about 30min (2km). 

By Car: Drive to Ehrwald and park your car directly at the parking at the Ehrwalder Almbahn Talstation. If you use the cable car (see next) the parking is free of charge. Alternatively, you can park between the Tourist Information Office and the Sonnenhanglift ski lift and then walk to the Talstation.


For a return ticket, expect to pay about 36€ from Innsbruck and 44€ from Munich. But we have some Tips! 
If you are traveling from Tirol, you can book a Day Ticket for 2 people that costs 34€ or a Weekly Ticket that costs 46€ per person, both of which allow you to travel throughout Tyrol. If you are traveling from Bayern check the Bayern Day Ticket. It is suitable for 2-5 people traveling together (from 24€ to 14€ per person, depending on the number of passengers). 

The Hike to Seebensee

Once at the Ehrwalder Almbahn Talstation, there are four different ways to reach the lake: on a family-friendly forest track via the Ehrwalder Alm (R.1), via one of the two protected mountain trails Immensteig (R.2) and Hoher Gang (R.3), or via the Seebener Wasserfall Klettersteig (R.4), a very difficult via Ferrata. 

So here are the ways you can get to Seebensee, from the easiest to the hardest one: 

the Ehrwalder Alm Hike (easy)

Getting to the Ehrwalder Alm: From the Ehrwalder Almbahn Talstation, take the cable car up to the Ehrwalder Alm. Expect to pay 12€ for a single ride and 18€ for a return ticket, but first, check the opening hours. Alternatively, you can take the tarmac road to the left of the Talstation and complete the steep and not particularly picturesque ascent to the Ehrwalder Alm, which takes about 1h 30min (R.1). 

From the Alm to Seebensee: Once at the Ehrwalder Alm cable car station, head past the two restaurants located directly next to it (Tirolerhaus and Gasthof Ehrwalder Alm). Continue past the Gasthof Alpenglühn, and then follow the wide gravel road to the southwest. After about 30min the path splits and you can either follow the gravel road (R.1) or turn left and follow the forest path (R.1b), which is quieter and offers spectacular mountain views. In another 30min you will reach the Seebenalm Hut, from where it is just a short (about 15min) climb up to the beautiful Seebensee.

the Immensteig Hike (difficult)

From the Talstation, follow the signs towards the Ehrwalder Alm and after about 300m turn right onto the Immensteig (R.2). First, pass through the meadows and then follow a path with partly rope-secured sections. After you have passed a forest path you will get to Ganghofers Rast, where the path joins the gravel road from the Ehrwalder Alm to the Seebenalm (R.1, or R.1b for even more spectacular views). 

the Hoher Gang Hike (very difficult)

This is a more difficult hike, recommended only for experienced, sure-footed hikers with a good head for heights. Starting at the Talstation, head eastwards along the gravel road for a few meters. When you reach a cattle grid, turn right, and follow the road (R.3). The trail quickly gains elevation, then heads through alpine meadows and a forest before opening into steep paths that are partly secured with wire ropes. Bear in mind that there are many exposed sections that can get very slippery after rain. 

the Seebener Wasserfall Klettersteig (very difficult)

The Seebener Klettersteig is a demanding via Ferrata that is rated D+/E on the Austrian rating scale, with E being the most difficult one. From the Talstation follow the signposted path (R.4) and in about 45min you will reach the entrance of it, to the right of the Seebener Wasserfall. The end of the via Ferrata is close to the Seebenalm, from where you take the path towards the Seebensee. 

Alternative Starting Point (for bikes – 15km):

Starting from the Salzbach parking lot in Leutasch, follow the wide bikeway (A.1) along the Leutascher Ache river (in its upper range Gaistalbach). Bike through the romantic Gaistal valley and past the Igelsee lake, until you join the path from the Ehrwalder Alm (R.1).

The Hike to Drachensee

Once at the Seebensee, hiking further to the Coburger Hütte and Drachensee is highly recommended! 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! 

From the hut you can either hike down to the Drachensee or climb higher -and then higher- for majestic views.

Just behind the mountain hut, a path called “Grünsteinscharte” winds down to the shimmering lake. If you crave, however, for a dip in its crystal-clear waters, bear in mind that they are freezing cold, even during the hottest summer days.    

On the other hand, if you are up to yet another challenge, you can hike even further and be rewarded with stunning views. The Drachenkopf Peak, especially, offers the best views of both the Seebensee and the Drachensee. You can also spend the night at the hut and, depending on your fitness level, take on another nearby hike

Alternative Starting Point

Instead of starting your hike from Ehrwald, you can also start from Biberwier. From Biberwier’s City Centre (989m), follow the Trail No.814 that takes you, past the Rochus Chapel and between the Wamperten Schrofen and the Ehrwalder Sonnenspitze, to the Biberwierer Scharte (2.000m). From this point the Coburger Hütte is almost 100m vertical meters downhill.

The trail is not dangerous, but it’s recommended for experienced hikers, as it quickly becomes increasingly steep and rocky.  You can either return the same way or hike to Seebensee and then follow one of the aforementioned paths towards Ehrwalder Alm and the village of Ehrwald. {Alt.1)

Other Attractions In The Zugspitze Region

The Zugspitze Peak

For an avid mountaineer, highlight of any trip to Ehrwald is the ascent of the Zugspitze Peak, the inhospitable 2962-meter peak marking the Austro-German border. The 6h ascent and 6h descent, the latter via the route known as Gatterl, shouldn’t be tackled by the inexperienced. But even if you are not into hiking, the Tyrolean Zugspitze Cable Car will take you to the top of Germany in just 10min.

Eibsee Lake

Zugspitze is accessible from both Austria and Germany, with the Tyrolean Zugspitze and the Seilbahn Zugspitze cable cars operating, respectively. So, in case you are visiting from the German side, consider visiting the Eibsee lake. Eibsee is probably Germany’s most gorgeous lake, dotted with eight different islands, and lying right at the foot of Zugspitze. The Seilbahn Zugspitze Cable Car, right next to the lake, takes you to the Zugspitze in 10min as well.  

The Fernpass Lakes

Fernpass is a mountain pass, where you will find some iconic lakes, accessible via various paths: Blindsee, with its many underwater tree trunks, Mittersee, with its charming fisherman’s hut, and Weissensee with a beautiful mountain panorama. Also, around 2km short of the top of the Fern Pass is the 1216m high beauty spot Schloss Fernsteinsee, where the attractive Fernsteinsee is fringed by woods and mountains

Plansee, Heiterwangersee and Highline 179

Just 17km west of Ehrwald, you will find the beautiful lakes Heiterwangersee and Plansee, connected by a 300m canal. Here there is no shortage of activities: take a refreshing dip, hire a rowing boat, or hike around the lake.

And if you have a head for heights, don’t skip the nearby Highline 179.  The 406-meter long suspension footbridge connects the Ehrenberg Castle with the remains of the 17th-century Roman Fortress Claudia in the market town of Reutte. At a dizzying height of 114 meters, it is definitely not for the faint of heart!


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