Things to do in the Tiroler Zugspitz Arena in summer
Rising up into the sky, not just tall but hulking, the Zugspitze doesn’t only give its name to this region, it defines its landscape.
At 2962 metres, the Zugspitze is impressive – but not even nearly the tallest mountain in Austria (it doesn’t even make the top 150 list). But the peak is shared between Austria and Germany and, interestingly, the Zugspitze is the tallest mountain in Germany.
It just goes to show how incredible the mountain ranges of the Austrian region of Tirol can be, where the altitude is imposing but the sheer number of peaks is even more dramatic.
The part of Austria that stretches out from the Zugspitze mountain is called the Tiroler Zugspitz Arena. As you might expect, it’s popular in winter and there are lots of activities in the snow. There are seven ski areas, for instance.
But for me, the summer is the best time to visit Tirol.
The sun stays up late and the long days are perfect for exploring the lush green mountains, riding the cablecars up to hiking trails and discovering the lakes hidden amongst the peaks.
And, of course, there’s the food, the beer, and the hospitality. It all just seems so much more pleasant to be able to relax outside with the nature as your backdrop and you enjoy a long lunch or a relaxing drink.
There are lots of things to do in the Tiroler Zugspitz Arena in summer and it’s easy to spend at least a few days exploring the region. (Or even longer if you’re looking for somewhere to relax for a nice break in Austria).
To help you with your planning, I’ve put together a list of the highlights of the Tiroler Zugspitz Arena – the things you really shouldn’t miss.
I’ve marked them on the map below, so you can see where they are in relation to each other.
To get around, I would recommend using a car. Although there are some convenient public transport options between the top attractions in the Tiroler Zugspitz Arena, which I’ll mention later on.
The best summer things to do in the Tiroler Zugspitz Arena
You can’t visit the Tiroler Zugspitz Arena and not see the Zugspitze mountain itself. While it’s enormous and you’ll be able to get good views of it from lots of different vantage points, the best experience is to go to the top.
You can reach the summit with the Tiroler Zugspitzbahn, an enormous cablecar that is an adventure in itself. It climbs 1725 metres in 10 minutes and offers beautiful views across the region.
It’s more than just a mode of transportation. Around here, the Tiroler Zugspitzbahn is an icon. The first wire ropeway on the route opened in 1926 and was truly innovative. The current version opened in 1991.
At the top, there’s a small museum called Fascination Zugspitze that tells you a bit more about the history of the cable car and the mountain. At the valley station down the bottom, there’s another museum called Bahnorama with some fun interactive exhibits with other interesting information.
Both of the museums are included with the Tiroler Zugspitzbahn, which is €46.50 return for adults (with various concession and family ticket options. More details here.
One mountain is never enough in the Tiroler Zugspitz Arena, so I would also recommend heading up on the Ehrwalder Almbahn, a wonderful gondola ride. It’s €17.50 return or €12 for a single (concession and family pass details here).
It takes you up to an elevation of 1500 metres (about half the height of the Zugspitze) and from here there are lots of options to explore. There are some good trails to walk back down and others that go off in different directions. I’ll recommend my favourite one in a moment.
But first I want to mention the Ehrwalder Alm, the traditional inn that the cablecar is named after. It has an excellent menu of regional Tirolean food and local beers.
In summer, you can sit out on the deck and enjoy the views with your food and drink. I would definitely recommend stopping here for a meal (especially after a long hike – it really hits the spot).
There’s also a more modern food and drink complex next door called the Tirolerhaus. It’s also a good option for food and drink so check it out as well.
Hike to Seebensee Lake
As I said, there are lots of hiking trails from the Ehrwalder Alm, but I think the best route is to Seebensee Lake. It’s about 5.5 kilometres long and should take you about 90 minutes to walk in each direction.
Along the way, the path will take you past meadows while cow bells ring in the fresh air, through forests with dappled light, over rocks, and along paths with stunning views down to the valleys and up to the mountains.
Although there’s plenty to see along the way, the destination really is the highlight, though. The Seebensee Lake is stunning, with a rich blue colour blending into green in the sunlight.
At one end, you can see the two summits of the Drachenkopf mountain, creating a stunning backdrop for the lake. If you walk to that end and turn around, you’ll get a fantastic view of the steep cliffs of the Zugspitze.
Combined hiking ticket
There’s another option to consider that ties all of this together and makes for a fantastic day trip.
You can buy a “Hiking Ticket Gatterl” that allows you to go up to the peak of the Zugspitze on the Tiroler Zugspitzbahn, visit the museums, take a ride down the mountain to the German side of the mountain on the Zugspitzplatt, then hike back to Austria, ride down on the Ehrwalder Almbahn, and get the bus back to the bottom of the Tiroler Zugspitzbahn (in case you left your car there).
The hike is quite long and the official estimate is 5 hours, although it’s possible it will be quicker if you walk quite fast. Still, I think it’s a great way to see the region and you also save a lot of money, compared to doing both cablecars as return journeys.
The hiking ticket is just €37 for an adult. You can find out more details here.
You don’t have to go up to the mountains to find some gorgeous lakes in the Tiroler Zugspitz Arena. One of the best is at the ground level and easy to access.
It’s called Heiterwangersee Lake and, together with Plansee Lake that’s connected with a 300-metre canal, they make the second-largest lake in Tirol.
There are lots of ways to enjoy the lake. The first that I would recommend is to walk around it. There’s an easy path that follows the shoreline and offers different beautiful perspectives.
You can take a boat trip on one of the large sightseeing vessels, the MS Margarethe or the MS Wilhelm; you can swim in the waters; or you can just relax at one of the picnic areas around the shore.
Stand up paddle boarding
One particular thing you can do that I want to tell you about is stand up paddle boarding, which you can now do at Heiterwangersee Lake in summer.
The SUP station is right next to the Fischer am See and is impossible to miss. If you know what you’re doing, you can just rent a board and head off onto the lake.
If you need a bit of help, there are some guided sessions for beginners, or some cool activities like sunset tours or yoga sessions. It was my first time doing stand up paddle boarding, but I found it to be surprisingly easy (I didn’t fall in once!).
It’s nice to get out on the water and see the mountains from a different perspective – and it’s incredible how peaceful it is out there too.
Of all the things to do in the Tiroler Zugspitz Arena, none is more unique than a gondola breakfast on the Almkopfbahn Bichlbach.
Imagine a gondola, with the usual row of seats on each side, but with a table placed in the middle. And on this table (covered in a cloth and set with cutlery) is a breakfast buffet. Meats, cheeses, rolls, eggs and fruit. Juice and coffee – and even some prosecco.
As you eat your breakfast, the gondola travels up and down the Almkopfbahn Bichlach cable car. You can watch the views for as long as you want, with no limit on the time. If you run out of any type of food or drink, just ask the attendant at the top and it’ll be waiting for you as you pass the bottom.
The breakfast isn’t available every day and there is a limit on the numbers. I would recommend you book in advance but, at only €35 each, it’s an affordable and memorable experience. More info here.
When you’ve finished your gondola breakfast, you can get off at the top and explore a bit before you come back down. But, even if you’re not interested in the breakfast option, the Almkopfbahn Bichlbach offers some other great activities.
From the top, you can do some awesome hikes. It’s also one of the best places for bike riding, because the slopes aren’t quite as steep as some of the other mountains in the region. You can also take the mountain scooter along kilometres of tracks.
And after all the exercise and mountain air, I would suggest stopping at the Heiterwanger Hochalm, a great traditional inn with good food and, I can attest, an excellent schnapps selection!
Tiroler Zugspitz Arena Z-Ticket
If you’re going to be spending a few days in the Tiroler Zugspitz Arena in summer and want to make the most of your stay, there are a couple of tourist cards that you should know about.
The first is the Zugspitz Arena Bayern-Tirol Card. You can get this for free from your accommodation when you check in, so make sure you ask for it.
It will give you free transportation on the special summer and hiking buses to help you get around. You can also use it to go on some free guided tours and cultural events – plus lots of discounts. See all the details here.
The other option is the Z-Ticket, which you can buy for anywhere between 3 – 13 days. It lets you use the main cableways for free and can save you a lot of money. It also gives you free use of buses, entry to pools, and a boat trip on Lake Heiterwang.
Although the card gives you just one free trip on the Tiroler Zugspitzbahn, regardless of the duration, you can use most of the other ones every day. So there’s no excuse not to explore the whole region properly.
You can see all the prices and inclusions of the Z-Ticket here.
Ultimately, you can customise your stay here however you want. I think it’s one of the best regions of Tirol for a summer holiday because it has the mountains, forests, and lakes to explore – but is a bit more relaxed than some of the other more famous ski resorts. It’s also got some really special and unique experiences like the gondola breakfast and Zugspitze peak.