Don't plan on taking the cablecar to the Zugspitze's summit ridge and walking down--the upper slopes of the mountain are too steep for hiking.
The Bayerische Zugspitzbahn suggests two easy (and extremely short) hiking excursions atop the mountain:
A few hundred meters down on the glacier, next to the Sonn Alpin restaurant and the cogwheel train's station, you can walk across to the viewing platform at the Windlöche ("howling wind hole") in about 30 minutes.
The Bayerische Zugspitzbahn has other suggestions for hikers who are willing to spend six to eight hours walking downhill from the glacier area: one to the Olympic Stadium in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, and another to the Austrian village of Ehrwald (where you can catch a train back to Germany). For details, pick up a brochure at any Bayerische Zugspitze ticket office or e-mail:
Mountaineering is another option, although several of the other mountains around Garmisch-Partenkirchen are of greater interest to climbers. (The best climbing months are July through September, but the weather can be unpredictable--as you can tell from the photos of snow-covered scenery in this article, which were taken on September 28.) Lakesmountainseurope.com offers directions for an 9½-hour hike to the Sonn Alpin and the glacier via the Partnachklamm, the Reintal, and two huts or refuges.
For more information, go to Zugspitze.de, select your preferred language, and choose the "Summer" section.
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