Perched atop a small outcropping called the Schachenalp, King Ludwig II's Swiss style cabin provides a glorious view of Germany's highest mountain, the Zugspitze from the front balcony. In the rear, an imposing granite massif stands behind, dwarfing the small hut.
Ludwig loved nature and inherited a slew of small cabins from his father. Still, he felt the need to add to the collection even as he built his other famously grand castles. Schachen was selected for its stunning view and proximity to a water source. It was not an easy place to reach and, even today, requires a steep 3+ hour long walk.
Setting out from Elmau, close to Garmisch-Partenkirchen on the road towards Mittenwald, you walk along a small fast flowing, crystal clear creek until you veer into the forest to tackle a series of steep switch backs. Once at the top, you are rewarded with stunning views of Garmisch and its surrounding peaks for the hike's duration.
After reaching the Schachenhaus, you can join the other hikers for a well-earned meal and a beer. The menu is simple, but very tasty. One of the proprietor's sons is a butcher, and the other a baker - so everything you get is top notch. Incidentally, from these buildings, the King's multi-course meals were prepared and, in the rear building, his horses were cared for.
Tours of the house are given every hour, at the top of the hour. The first floor is surprisingly simple for the "Fairy tale king." A plain bed, a chaise lounge for reading, and the simplest desk are all that adorn his chamber. Somehow the adjoining guest room is even a tad nicer than the one he used. However...
In the rear of the structure is a tight winding wooden spiral staircase leading to the second floor. This room is where Ludwig lives up to his reputation. Decorated in an ornate Turkish style, it's easy to imagine the King living out his fairy tale fantasies. It's really beyond words to describe the beauty and magnificence of this room.
After hiking this route, you realize the feat of building and then supplying this house. The narrow trail was expanded at this time and remains almost exactly as it was during his reign. He, of course, got to use a carriage to visit, but for the last leg, he had to ride on horseback to reach the house. When he grew older, he had a narrow, lightweight carriage designed which was pulled by a single horse. Ludwig first used the house in October of 1870 and came often until 1885. He died in June of 1886. Incidentally, the opulent Turkish Room was an afterthought - it was added later in 1871-1872.
If you make the hike, there are a few things to think about. The route is not technical, but it is steep - almost the entire way. At the Elmau departure point, you are at 3,290 feet. The Schachenhaus lies at an altitude of 6,122 feet which means you must ascend over 2,800 feet. The shortest hiking distance is almost 12 miles, round-trip. Also bear in mind that the alpine weather changes quickly - even a warm sunny day can quickly turn into a wet and cold experience - so bring along rain and cold weather gear even if it doesn't look necessary. You'll want to bring water for the hike, but you can get warm food and replenish your fluids at the Schachenhaus.
This is a great alpine hike for reasonably fit person. You'll be richly rewarded with scenic alpine vistas and a healthy dose of royal history at the top. If you close your eyes just briefly, you can easily imagine the King enjoying his scenic overlook!