When hiking becomes an adventure: Three exciting family tours in the Allgäu region
Hiking makes you happy – and healthy!
For children, movement incorporates the joys of life. What could be better for these young and growing individuals than to be out and about in the open air, enjoying nature? Running around, playing, jumping all encourage the development of muscles and bones and help to strengthen the muscular and skeletal system, enabling even more favorable growth processes. Particularly healthy and, if ground conditions are appropriate, also enjoyable and exciting is going barefoot; this not only improves the child’s sensomotor abilities but also prevents malformations of feet and posture disorders.
It is especially exciting for children if they can combine a hiking tour with discovery and adventure activities along the way: This could be a small detour to a petting zoo, a geocaching treasure hunt in weather-beaten fortress ruins, a refreshing foot cooler in a natural lake or racing down the hillside on a summer bobsleigh run. In Allgäu active families can find numerous tours of different distances, challenges and levels of difficulty. Moreover, this large area with a great variety of different scenery enjoys a good public transport system, such that you can leave the car behind for a change and travel in relaxed manner by bus and train.
Wide choice of interesting tours for family adventures
The varied landscapes of the Allgäu are the outcome of the last Ice Age when glaciers formed valleys and gentle hills, leaving behind clear mountain lakes and high plains when they retreated. The range of tours is just as diverse and interesting, from very easy trails that can also be done with a baby’s pram or mastered by little legs, through to more ambitious hikes where you need to be surefooted and have a head for heights.
When selecting a tour the adults should bear in mind that children often cover a significantly longer distance than the trail itself because they are constantly running backwards and forwards. For this reason we recommend to “beginners” to choose an easier and shorter tour that allows plenty of freedom for taking breaks.
A child aged one to three can be carried on your back in a top quality child carrying frame for two to three hours, if you take them out from time to time and let them move around by themselves. Kindergarten children can take active part in hiking tours of maximum two hours over easy, safe terrain. This is the age when children are curious and want to play and so they should have the chance to enjoy nature with all their senses. Take plenty of time and let your child have the freedom to play and discover new things. Elementary school children between six and nine years of age can walk for up to four hours and around 700 meters above sea level. At the age from ten to thirteen children can really enjoy hiking tours to the full, walking up to six hours; for children at this age, short distances with securing ropes or a shorter, easy via ferrata are now also possible.
Hands-on experience of life on the farm: Excursion to the Allgäuer Mountain Farm Museum
Departure Point: Parking lot below the Allgäuer Bergbauernmuseum in Diepolz (Immenstadt)
Duration: Half-day outing
Equipment: Trekking sandals are okay, possibly a change of clothing
Proficiency: Easy, suitable for children over 3
“Kuhnigundenweg”: This Adventure Trail is only about five kilometers long, a circular route that leads from the Bergbauernmuseum in Diepolz past the village church and many interesting places en route. The yellow-green cow mascot marks the trail and shows ramblers wonderful views in unique stages, for example the “Bohlenweg” across the moor. Further highlights include meandering trails, sometimes barefoot, the “Ofenrohr” and “Naturfunk”. The Allgäuer Bergbauernmuseum is really a very special travel highlight for children: Visits are enjoyable in all weathers, good or bad. Here kids can see for themselves how, for example, dairy farming has developed from former times to today and experience how it must have been around a hundred years ago as a mountain farmer – and of course they can try it out for themselves and lie in the beds of the time! In addition, they can come close to docile animals like chickens, cows, donkeys and sheep and play in the hay.
There is a life-size model where the young outdoor fans can try their hand at milking a cow. The Allgäuer Bergbauernmuseum offers a journey through time as a hands-on experience, with absolutely no limits on imagination, the joy of discovery and hunger for activity. If jumping barefoot from the hay bale into the wonderfully aromatic dried grass is still not enough activity for the little ones, they still have two adventure playgrounds to use up all their energy.
Exciting adventure trail and bobsleigh ride at Söllereck
Valley location: Oberstdorf
Departure point: Parking lot of the Söllereck cable car
Walking time: approx 2.5 hours
Altitude difference: 155 m ascent, 500 m descent
Equipment: Trekking sandals or climbing boots. Closed shoes must be worn in the climbing crag!
Proficiency: Medium, for children over about 6 years of age
Versatile rambling fun for all families with kids over the age of six: Tour Söllereck from the cable car station to the mountain cabin Hochleite. Söllereck is an exciting destination for families and offers a number of highlights such as playgrounds, adventure trail, cable car ride and especially the new climbing forest at the mountain station. Thanks to its all-round safety system it is particularly suitable for kids – unfortunately still a rarity amongst climbing and forest rope facilities. The Nature Experience Trail am Söllereck introduces kids and adult ramblers in an unusual and creative way to the beauties and wonders of nature: After a short ascent starting at the cable car station, you reach the beginning of the Hühnermoos. Here there is a viewing column where you can see slides of the animals that live in the moor region and can listen in to forest sounds through a huge funnel. The soft ground entices you to run barefoot – but with the proviso of extreme caution as here there are poisonous vipers living in the moorland.
The trail continues past the Klangstation and Hackschnitzel path until finally arriving at a magnificent viewing point where you can enjoy a picnic in splendid panorama scenery. After taking off your hiking boots for the barefoot path and dipping your toes into the water for welcome refreshment, you then arrive at the mountain inn Hofleite from where you can walk further in the direction of the lake Freibergsee. Continue to follow this nature discovery trail until you reach the valley station. From here you can race downhill on the summer bobsleigh run over a distance of more than 850 meters with built-in bends, jumps and waves.
Mountain climber adventure at two proficiency levels
Departure point: Parking lot at the Valley Station of the Mittagbahn in Immenstadt
Walking time: 3 hours and one extra hour from midway station to the valley
Altitude difference: 420 meters
Proficiency: Difficult, suitable only for children of 8 years of age or older (the smaller trail via Steigbachtobel and Alpe Hochried is suitable for children over 6 years of age. Walking time 1.5 hours)
For older children who have already been on several hill trekking tours and who are now looking for something new and exciting to try out, we can recommend the tour to the mountain well suited for families, "Mittag" via "Bergköpfle to Steineberg". Right at the beginning of this hiking tour, sporty outdoor family enthusiasts are taken up the mountain on the double chairlift to the Mittag. Changing at the midway station offers a small excursion to a very special playground: Here former chairlift parts, a cable car cabin and diverse support pillars have been converted to an adventure playground of a very special kind. From the playground a narrow path leads to the large cross of the Bärenköpfle where children can enjoy climbing as they wish. This lovely tour continues to Steineberg, following a comfortable path simply ideal for going barefoot and enables a quick ascent via a really steep route section. If there are younger children in your group, you could end the tour at Bärenköpfle. Even the summit can be mastered by the little ones without any danger of a fall; then you could enjoy a picnic at a lovely spot on one of the meadow areas. The descent offers plenty of variety; a particular highlight for example, could be a detour to Steigbachtobel or over the Alpe Hochried before going down into the valley again.
However, if you continue on the tour then after only a short time you will reach a very special highlight: Hikers can ascend almost vertically to the summit via a 17 meter high metal ladder. Anyone who is not so enthusiastic at such a sporting challenge can instead take an easier circular route around the mountain and still reach the top. This circular route is recommended anyway when descending. Back at the departure point then via the Bergstation or Mittelstation, from where it takes about an hour to reach the Talstation of the chairlift. A walk through the Steigbachtobel with its impressive scenery is always well worth it. The rushing waters and rocky landscapes awaken the imagination and sense of adventure even when the kids are tired.
In any outdoor adventure, the first priority is always safety
Even trails and tours suitable for families may involve some more difficult sections: Particular care and attention is necessary in exposed places or where there is a risk of slipping or those parts of the trail that run alongside a ravine. In the mountains, falling rocks are a frequent occurrence and children should therefore learn about how these come about and what the dangers are; they should learn not to kick away or to throw stones.
When climbing upwards, the young hikers should go in front of the adults with them and thus always remain in view, can be warned of any dangers and help given accordingly in the case of emergency. When going downhill on the other hand, the adults should go in front: Steep places are often underestimated by young ramblers. Children of course should never run down the hill slopes, even if at first glance this appears to be less of an effort than descending more slowly and evenly.
As a matter of course you should always check the weather forecast before beginning any tour. In the case that an imminent change in the weather has been announced then you should turn back in good time and shorten your tour accordingly. If despite all due care you are caught by surprise by a storm, then stay away from particularly exposed places such as the summit cross, a yoke or ridge and from all metal objects such as wire ropes.
Another danger not to be underestimated is that of over-exertion and excess demands – for this reason the aims should not be too ambitious. It is also good to know an “emergency exit” for your tour, for example a short cut or an alternative rest possibility. Especially in summer there is a danger of overheating on long and steep ascents that could lead to heat stroke. For this reason too, when out in intensive heat from the sun, in addition of course to sun protection you should take longer breaks in the shade.
Tips and tricks for rambling with kids and the tour descriptions can be found in the ramblers’ guide “Erlebniswandern mit Kindern: Allgäu” by Eduard and Sigrid Soeffker (Bergverlag Rother, Munich 2012).