By Vicky · Published Jun. 21st, 2023 · Updated Jun. 27th, 2023
This lovely overnight hike from Scharnitz to Eng, staying in Karwendel Haus, is an easy walk through unspoiled Alpine scenery full of flowers.
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The Karwendel Hike starts from Scharnitz Train Station, a small town in Tirol, Austria, just south of the German border. On the train, it’s about 2hr45 from Munich or 50 minutes from Innsbruck.
The Karwendel Hike ends at Eng, a small Tirolean Alpine village. From here there’s a mountain bus back to Lenggries train station in Germany (bus departs roughly every 2 hours Fri-Sun). On public transport it’s about 2hr15 back to Munich, but much longer back to Scharnitz (5 hours) or Innsbruck (about 6 hours).
If you have the Deutschland ticket, you still need to pay for the section from Mittenwald (Germany) to Scharnitz (Austria) on the train (about €5 per person). Additionally, you have to pay for the section of bus ride within Austria (about €6.50 per person).
Tips for Karwendel Hike
- We used the Kompass Karwendelgebirge Map* for this hike.
- Karwendel Haus is open from mid-June to Sept/Oct. Saturdays in Summer can sell out, so you must book in advance on their website. However, there are often last-minute cancellations a few days beforehand.
- You need a sheet sleeping bag* for the hut.
- The schedule for the bus from Eng is here.
- For hiking in the Alps I bought these hiking poles*, super useful on the ascents and descents.
- Offline maps app Maps.me works well for this hike.
- Check out other great hikes on our Germany Hiking Page.
Day 1 Scharnitz to Karwendel Haus: 17 km, 900 m up, 100 m down
Hike from Scharnitz to Karwendel Valley
From Scharnitz Bahnhof, head left further into Austria along the small road by the train tracks. Turn left and cross over the rails to walk between two houses. The track bends right behind the house and turns into a smaller path.
There’s a bit of uphill, and soon you reach a road again and a hiking sign. Follow the hiking signs left (it looks a bit like a dead-end but it isn’t). The road bends around the corner and you’ll come to another hiking signpost. Make sure to turn right here following signs to Birzelkapelle rather than head straight on up a mountain.
The small path through the woods heads slightly upwards with some contouring along forested slopes. Keep on following the signs to Birzelkapelle, marked by red and white hiking signs. Shortly before you reach the chapel you’ll come to a bench with a nice viewpoint of Scharnitz town down in the valley below.
Hiking up Karwendel Valley
After the chapel, the track continues straight on through the woodland. Soon you’ll come to the main track up Karwendel Valley and from now on the route is very easy since you just follow this track. The trail up Karwendel Valley is popular with hikers but also with cyclists (nowadays often zooming along on electric bikes), so keep half an eye out for them.
It’s a lovely, easy walk that’s fairly flat for most of the way towards Karwendel Haus. The track comes very close to the river flowing through the valley at places. We found a lovely riverside spot at a corner just before an open barrier across the track and a little hut. Later we also tried paddling in the stream but it was extremely cold.
The Final Stretch to Karwendel Haus
After passing through a large meadow with a couple of very cute wooden mountain huts and many cows, the climb toward Karwendel Haus begins. The hut itself is almost at the top of the saddle, towards the right, and you should have seen it already.
This last section is the steepest part of the hike so far. In a couple of places, you have the option to either follow along the main track or take smaller hiking paths. The hiking paths are slightly nicer and also shorter, but also very steep in places!
It doesn’t really matter which option you take, eventually you’ll come out into a grassy meadow at the top of the pass. The route to Karwendel Haus leads off to the right, passing the farm buildings. There’s then one final section of uphill hiking before you reach Karwendel Haus and can relax.
How difficult is the Karwendel Hike?
The route from Schartnitz to Eng via Karwendel Haus is a fairly simple hike, with little difficulty either in technicality or navigation. For most of the route you’re walking along a wide gravel track and there are no extremely steep sections. Of the two-day hike, neither day is particularly far and so it’s not too strenuous.
The path is narrowest after Falkenhütte on the second day when the route traverses a rocky, scree slope. However, as long as you have a bit of surefootedness it’s very easy. After this, there’s quite a long steep downhill on a slightly rocky path toward Eng in the valley. To save your knees, take hiking poles*!
Staying Overnight in Karwendel Haus
Karwendel Haus is a large mountain hut high up at 1765 metres in the Karwendel Mountain Range. It’s open from early June to mid-October and offers a restaurant and overnight stays. It’s in a lovely location, with great views over Karwendel Valley.
You can stay here overnight in either beds or lagers. Beds are in rooms that are either two or multi-bedded and contain bunk beds. Lagers are large rooms containing rows of mattresses on the floor, sometimes with 40 people or more in the same room. The beds and lagers have pillows and rugs, but you must bring a sheet sleeping bag*.
The rooms with proper beds are often booked out several months in advance, and the spots in the lagers also get fully booked on Saturdays. However, for the lagers in particular there are often last-minute cancellations that show up 5-7 days beforehand.
Beds are €23/42, lager spots are €14/30 for members/non-members of the DAV. Karwendel Haus accepts cards and you pay on arrival (though reserve online with your card in advance). If you’re in a lager, remember to bring a headtorch* so you can find your way about when it’s dark. If you’re a light sleeper, you might want earplugs. No matter which room you’re in, you must bring a sheet sleeping bag*! Karwendel Haus has showers but you have to pay extra for the hot water (based on time used).
The DAV is the Deutscher Alpenverein (German Alps Club). You can get a yearly membership for €50-100 (depending on the section you join), with a discount for couples and families. This gives you reduced rates at mountain huts and a few other side benefits. It’s worth joining if you spend at least five nights in a mountain hut.
Food and Drink at Karwendel Haus
When staying at Karwendel Haus, you can either choose half pension or a la carte for dinner and breakfast. The half pension option is €45 and includes a lot of food – meaning three courses for dinner and a very large breakfast. It’s quite a bit cheaper to pick a la carte, unless you’re going to choose all the options. Dinner is normally served from 6-7:30 pm, with breakfast from 7-8:30 am.
On top of dinner and breakfast, the hut also offers drinks and snacks all day long. These include everything you’d expect from an Austrian mountain hut including beer, apfelschorle, hot chocolate, apple strudel and kaiserschmarrn.
Extension from Karwendel Haus up Hochalmkreuz
If you’re still full of energy and with a couple of hours to spare, you can hike up nearby Hochalmkreuz. This is a rocky peak just behind the hut, with great views from the top. It’s not a particularly difficult hike, but it is fairly steep and the path is quite small and rocky in places. The round trip to the peak is 3.7 km with 400 m climb and the route is signed from just in front of the other hut.
Day 2 Karwendel Haus to Eng: 15.5 km, 650 m up, 1180 m down
Waking up at 6:40 am, we ate breakfast at 7 and left the hut at 7:40 am.
Hiking Karwendel Haus to Falkenhütte
The first section of the second day hike leads from Karwendel Haus to Falkenhütte. The route leads right from Karwendel Haus, past the other hut and over the top of the saddle. There’s a lovely bench just the other side of the high point with great views of the next valley.
When you get to the next hiking sign, make sure to head straight onward along the path, right along the track. For this section of the route, the path is for hikers and the track is mainly designed for mountain bikers, though they both eventually end up in the same place.
The path leads downwards through a wooded valley to reach some beautiful grassy meadows at the bottom. Take care to note the hiking sign halfway through the field, and follow the signs toward Falkenhütte. If you’re not concentrating, it’s easy to continue along the track and downward in the wrong direction.
The walk continues across a dry, stony river, and begins to ascend on the other side. After crossing a smaller valley, you leave the trees and enter a mountain pasture full of cows. From here, the track heads quite steeply upwards, but you can already see Falkenhütte in the distance.
Final Ascent to Falkenhütte
Again at the next hiking sign, follow the walking route rather than the cycle route across the grass directly towards Falkenhütte. After a little way uphill, you’ll eventually reach the hut (open from mid-June). There’s a large terrace here with great views of the next part of the hike. It’s a lovely place to get a drink or cake (cash only, no card).
If you’ve got the energy and time, you can take a detour from Falkenhütte up to Mahnkopf Peak. This is an easy hike with no difficulty up a nearby grassy peak. The roundtrip is 3.8 km with 230 metres climb, and should not take more than 1.5 hours return.
Walking from Falkenhütte to Eng
After relaxing at the hut, the route continues initially right, around the corner where the bikes cycle up. At the saddle below, the hiking trail takes a left down the hill on a smaller path. After an initial descent, this path roughly contours along a rocky slope, covered in boulders ranging from small to very large. When we were here in mid-June, there was one small and easy snow patch to cross on this section.
Once you’ve crossed most of the scree, the route then ascends towards another saddle. This is the final bit of climb in the Karwendel Hike. From the saddle you can see down into a new valley, with the village of Eng lying just out of sight around the corner.
The path heads fairly steeply downhill through a mix of open land and forests. It’s a little rocky in places but with no real difficulty. Eventually, you’ll leave the trees behind and come out into the lower valley pastures. There are often many cows here, and the density of hikers increases as people just walk here from nearby Eng.
The Alpine Village of Eng
Eng is a cute little village at the end of a fairly wide valley. There are a couple of restaurants, a farm shop, a few accommodation options and a place making cheese. In both the restaurant and the farm shop you can buy the local cheese and yogurt, coming from all the cows grazing in the meadows nearby.
If you stop in Eng for refreshments, remember that the bus stop is almost 1 km further down along the valley, so allow time to get there. From Eng, the wide path leads across the river and then left all the way back to a large car park in front of Die Eng Alpengasthof und Naturhotel*. You can easily find the bus stop (schedule here – under Fahrplan) in the car park. This is the end of the Karwendel Two-Day Hut Hike.
Guidebooks for Hiking in the Alps
If you enjoyed this hike, try other overnight hikes in the Alps such as a three-day hike from Berchtesgaden, a two-day hike near Obersdorf or a three-day hike in Swiss National Park. Alternatively, discover other hikes in Germany.
FAQS: Karwendel Hike
The Karwendel Hike from Scharnitz to Eng is quite easy, with no technical difficulty and a well-marked route. For most of the way, you walk along a wide gravel trail. There are some sections on narrower paths but there are not difficult as long as you have a little bit of sure-footedness.
Karwendel Haus is open only in the summer, from early June to mid-October.
Falkenhütte is open from mid-June to early October.