Beer & Hike: Bürgerbräu and Karkopf


When you look back on your travels, isn’t it always the places with the least expectations which get looked at the most fondly? I had just come off completion of my top two goals in the Berchtesgaden area. Hiking to Hitler’s Eagles Nest and the summit of the Jenner. I was in basking mode. Whatever came after that over the next two days would simply be icing. I found a brewery in nearby Bad Reichenhall which was intriguingly close to a mountain peak called Karkopf. A cable car going part of the way up indicated some touristic value (and a convenient means of return). Without any other agenda, it seemed to have enough reliable qualities to take the chance.

I sometimes feel that every hike has that euphoric moment where you tell yourself it is one of the best ever. But this is one I truly don’t feel like I would be exaggerating. At first, the brain can’t easily get around the fact that these mountains are not as impressive as the Swiss or Austrian Alps and you may dismiss them as less rewarding. But halfway up, I guarantee that your body will tell you that you aren’t getting off any easier than a typical hike in Alps. The ascent itself, around 1300 meters, is right there at the same level as many of the hikes I have done in Switzerland. The main difference is that you start at a lower elevation.

This hike has many amazing qualities. Three peaks, a constantly shifting viewpoint, challenging trails on the way up and a nice long easy-going section at the top, a cool looking hut, and the cable car to supplement the ride back. But the best part of this hike is one that would only be seasonal. The mountain was teeming with the one insect that is always a welcome companion on any hike.

An Old World Swallowtail

I parked near the brewery in a public lot, but those have a maximum of 4 hours, and I knew I would exceed that. I took the chance and got lucky. However, there is a huge lot at the trailhead which is free (as I type this). On the map, look for the spot in the beginning where I veer off up the trail. That is the lot. From a distance you can see a lower peak on the left called Sprechtenkopf which is the first phase of the hike and on the right the Predigstuhlbahn cable car station which is the last. Karkopf isn’t visible yet from down below.

Sprechtenkopf and Predigstuhl

Hike Details

Starting PointBad Reichenhall
Ending PointPredigstuhlbahn
Distance11.0 km
My Moving Time3h 4m

To Sprechtenkopf

Right away the trail scenes appeal to me. Lush woods with a clean trail.

Eventually as the trail zig zags up, you start to get views over Bad Reichenhall and beyond.

Some of the trails are quite steep and steps have been added in places.

The first view of the Predigstuhlbahn

The Sprechtenkopf is optional. Take the left after the stairs and it is a short climb to the gipfelkreuz.

Sprechtenkopf (1285m)
The Karkopf is not yet visible but I am now headed up that direction.

To the Schlegelmulde

The next segment is quite rugged. There are some more sections which are assisted by steps. One of them however was impassable due to a landslide. The only way around was to scramble up the loose stones and back down by the seat of your pants to bypass the fallen trees.

The way starts to look more rugged
This section was blocked by fallen trees from a landslide. Scrambing is necessary to get around it. Very very loose stones. Take caution.
One of the stairways assisting the ascent

On the way up, there is a good view of the third peak called Dreiesselberg which is the farthest extent of this hike.

Finally the Schlegelmulde hut is reached. I didn’t stop for a visit but instead my attention was captured by two more beautiful creatures.

A European Peacock
A Small Tortoiseshell

To the Karkopf

The approach to the Karkopf follows a ridge and gives commanding views of both sides.

A new viewpoint of a different side of the mountain ridge
A very nice and easy path
The first view of the Karkopf summit

Shortly after the Karkopf comes into view, another glorious European Peacock decided to pose for me.

Another European Peacock
Karkopf Summit

At the Karkopf summit, there is a great view of the third and final peak, Dreiesselberg.

The ascent to the Dreiesselberg summit
Dreiesselberg Summit
View looking over towards Sprechtenkopf
Karkopf (center peak)

After Dreiesselberg, it is just an easy, back-tracking jaunt all the way past the Schlegelmulde to the Predigstuhlbahn.

Overlooking the Sprechtenkopf (far right peak) on the way down

It’s Not Just a Beer, It’s a Journey

Bad Reichenhall is a colorful Bavarian village worth a stroll even with tired hiking legs. The Bürgerbräu brewery has been around since 1494, and named such since 1901. It has a nice shady biergarten just off the main square in the village. One of the regions specialties is a salad dressing made from pumpkin seeds. A common dish is a salad with fried battered chicken tenders with this dressing on top. Doesn’t sound like haute cuisine but it is delicious, and that is not coming from post-hiking hunger bias. Be warned though, the pumpkin seed dressing is almost like a green dye and gets over everything. Great care should be taken to avoid getting it on your clothes.

Bad Reichenhall has some nice Bavarian painted murals
Bad Reichenhall
Bürgerbräu biergarten
A typical salad with chicken tenders and pumpkin seed dressing

The hefeweizen was delectable, with a nice, banana taste and a rich orange, yeasty cloudy color. I made a special trip to the local distributor to take some home with me.

Final Words

Phew. I really had a hard time narrowing down the photos for this post. As it is, I think it sets a personal record for most photos. There were so many layers to this hike that made it beautiful and interesting. To capture its essence in a few shots would have been impossible. On a historical, sentimental level, I will always prefer the Eagle’s Nest hike, but when I am having a beer on my terrace and daydreaming about hiking, this hike will probably be there giving me the most butterflies. And I can mean that literally. They were everywhere. It was the living embodiment of my logo. There was a blue one that I saw like my logo, but it just wouldn’t sit still, like a foodie in a neighborhood of Thai streetfood.


6 thoughts on “Beer & Hike: Bürgerbräu and Karkopf

  1. Wow! Thanks for sharing your wonderful experiences. We also love the scenery and unexpected beer-stops or wine-stops along the way. We’ve been up over 2000 metres in what we thought was untouched nature, and, behold, there’s a little restaurant waiting with a cold beer. Very civilized!
    You must check out the SudTirol in northerly Italy – one of our favourites. There are thousands of hiking areas. We’re past the hiking now (in our eighties), but still enjoy the view, the ambience, the wine and good food, and of course, THE BEER!
    Thanks for reading my ‘travel tales’.

    Liked by 1 person

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