After such a strenuous day hiking around the Königssee, we decided to give our tired legs a rest and take it easy. Apparently, I define easy as one hike instead of two, one half of the day instead of the whole (!). The destination for our last day? The Almbachklamm (Almbach Gorge) on the outskirts of Berchtesgaden proper.
In researching hikes in the area, I discovered that the meadow used in the opening scene of The Sound of Music was located nearby in the village of Ettenberg which is just above the gorge as the crow flies.
Okay, you can throw rotten tomatoes at me if you want, but I admit I love the film, The Sound of Music. When Doc Sci and I visited Munich in 2005 BK (before kids), I insisted that we do the hokey movie tour in Salzburg. It was, well, one of my favorite things. Really!
To reach Ettenberg, one can either go by car up from the main road or on foot via a trail that begins at a marble mill (Kugelmühle) and meanders through the Almbachklamm.
I don’t think I have to tell you what route we chose. An incredibly scenic hike that ends at the Julie Andrews meadow? Sign. me. up.
For the bargain price of 3 euros per adult, we were granted entry into a water wonderland. Crystal clear falls, one right after the other, cascading into pools of jade and turquoise. With every twist, turn, and climb, we exhaled.. wow…
Often, in helping families craft itineraries, I find myself repeating, “keep your expectations rock bottom low.” Well, whatever expectations I had for this hike, they were completely blasted to bits. I couldn’t shut up about how surprised I was by this place.
Now, before you start packing your bags for Berchtesgaden, I need to tell you that this hike is tricky with tots and wild-at-heart children. If your kids don’t sit, fetch, and roll over very well, you may very well turn into a nervous wreck on the path.
Some areas are enclosed with railings (see the title photo), but many are not. The footpath is barely wide enough for two, and the dropoffs end in the river which just so happens to be racing intently toward a series of waterfalls.
the Julie Andrews Meadow
To get to Ettenberg, one can either leave the Almbachklamm at bridge #17 or bridge #25. We should’ve gone with 17, but I’m an overachiever and the thought of missing something amazing, say around 23, compelled me to march the troops on. We discovered a huge waterfall shortly after 17, but it would’ve been a better choice for our haggard limbs to simply turn around instead of continuing on. If you want to tack on an extra hour to your hike, 25 is your number.
Climbing up from the floor of the gorge, we found ourselves in a wide open meadow surrounded by fall foliage. Nestled in fog, we felt on top of the world. But as picturesque as it might have been, it was, ahem, most definitely not the Julie Andrews meadow. Just between me and you, it makes for lovely photos and is quite convincing for those not in the know.
The real meadow is next to the white and marigold Ettenberger Chapel, and it’s guarded by an electric fence and killer cow pies. So take your fake photos before you reach the village. Besides, there’s no one out there to hear you belt out, “The hills are alive!” Not that I would know anything about that…A mere ten paces from the church stands the Mesnerwirt Gasthaus where visitors can buy hot meals and cold, fresh buttermilk. I wanted to taste the tart milk but not enough to wrangle boys around a restaurant. The server offered to fill our water bottle, and voila! Dairy to go.
Fortified by food and sour drink, we began our trek back to the car. The way down the mountain from Ettenberg to the Kugelmühle (marble mill) is all steep steps and switchbacks. Our legs quivered in protest as we descended, but soon enough we found ourselves back at the entrance to the Almbachklamm.
Before piling in to the car, Doc Sci insisted we make a quick stop to see the marble mill in motion. Remember those waterfalls at the beginning of the hike? Well, they lead to a small, old mill. The boys’ eyes followed the water, gurgling over the stones and leaving behind perfectly smooth spheres.
I zoned out when Doc Sci starting flinging physics terms around and meandered over to the souvenir hut. Expert tip: Either bring loads of cash or don’t let your kids peruse the goods unless you enjoy a healthy dose of sticker shock.
Experiencing the Almbachklamm is both simple and beautiful. But beyond that, it’s one of the most unique paths we’ve explored. You won’t find it on any foreign guidebook’s top ten list, but that makes it even more special since you’ll likely have the place to yourself. In case you need me to spell it out, do not miss this hike!Other top notch outdoor attractions in Berchtesgaden to explore with kids: the Eagle’s Nest and the Königssee.