Berchtesgaden National Park

Berchtesgaden National Park


Location: Bavaria Map

Area 210 sq km (81 sq mi)


Description of Berchtesgaden National Park

Berchtesgaden National Park is one of the most beautiful places in Germany and probably in the whole of Europe. Berchtesgaden National Park is situated in the Free State of Bavaria and covers an area of 210 sq km or 81 sq mi in Berchtesgaden Alps. You can joint organized groups that travel between months of May and October or visit the place by yourself. Local salt mines provided local residents with wealth and prosperity, however it was not until World War II than Berchtesgaden became famous. Hitler and his associates like Borman, Himmler, Gering chose this place for their vacation homes in the mountains. The most known building is the Kehlsteinhaus also known as Adlerhost ("Eagle's Nest") that was given by Martin Borman to Hitler in 1939 on his birthday. The house was taken by the American 101st Airborne Division (The Screaming Eagle) in the end of World War II. Today Eagle's Nest houses a restaurant with plenty of history and breathtaking views. Another popular destination in Berchtesgaden National Park is a narrow mountain lake of Konigsee. It is surrounded by beautiful mountains on all sides. Although you can swim here it is fairly cold even in the summer months of the year.


The Berchtesgaden National Park extends over a large part of the municipal areas of Ramsau near Berchtesgaden and Schönau am Königssee as well as over a small part of the southeastern municipality of Berchtesgaden. It is bordered in the east, south and south-west by the Austrian state of Salzburg. According to the structure of the main natural spatial units of Germany, the area of ​​the national park belongs to the Berchtesgaden Alps in the Northern Limestone Alps.

To the park, which is located at an altitude of 603.3 (Königssee) to 2713 m above sea level. NHN (Watzmann) is located in the north of the approximately 259 km² national park foreland (Alpenpark Berchtesgaden), which includes the municipalities of Ramsau and Schönau, Berchtesgaden, Bischofswiesen and Marktschellenberg. The biosphere reserve or the “Berchtesgadener Land biosphere region” forms an even larger area.

The border of the national park runs from Jenner a good 1 km eastwards and then turns around the ski area northwards to Mannlgrat and over this to Hohen Göll. From here it consistently follows the German-Austrian border to the Neue Traunsteiner Hut on the Reiter Alm. From here it encompasses the entire east of the high plateau and then falls just north of the Schottmalhorn to the Hintersee. In Ramsau, the border runs just south of Hintersee and Ramsauer Ache, eastward along the northern slopes of Hochkalter and Watzmann, back to Jenner, leaving out the northernmost end of the Königsee.

The highest elevation within the national park is the Watzmann, the central mountain range of the Berchtesgaden Alps. Special mention should be made of the Wimbachgries, a valley that, according to a geological theory, was created by the collapse of a vault over Watzmann and Hochkalter. It is filled with a rubble deposit up to 300 meters thick that extends over a length of ten kilometers. The Funtensee, a mountain lake where the lowest temperatures in Germany are regularly measured in winter, is also located in the Berchtesgaden National Park.

The efforts of the "Association for the Protection and Care of Alpine Plants" to designate a protected area led in 1910 to the "Plant Protection District of Berchtesgaden Alps". It was around 83 km² in size and comprised the southern part of the Königssees, the Obersee and the surrounding mountain ranges. During the First World War, plans emerged to carve a Bavarian lion into the Falkensteiner Wall on Königssee as a "war memorial". This led to violent protests and the like. a. of the Bund Naturschutz, which achieved that in 1921 the "Koenigssee Nature Reserve" was established. It included the Königssee, the Hohen Göll, the Bavarian part of the Hagengebirge, the Bavarian part of the Steinernes Meer, the Watzmann, the Hochkalter and the southern part of the Bavarian part of the Reiteralm and covered an area of ​​approx. 200 km².

Establishment of the national park
From 1973 Georg Meister, who is considered to be the "founding father of the Berchtesgaden National Park", started planning the national park on behalf of the Bavarian Minister of Agriculture, Hans Eisenmann. a. its regional setting. However, the investigation of the state of the forest there, as suggested by Meister, as well as the introduction of professional wildlife management and the reduction of the game population that he felt was urgently required, met with bitter resistance from hunting associations, local forest masters and the ministerial bureaucracy, which ultimately prevented his previously planned appointment as head of the national park.

In order to finally put a stop to efforts by the municipality of Ramsau, the Berchtesgadener Land tourist association and the market town of Berchtesgaden to build a cable car to the Watzmann, the “Berchtesgaden National Park” was finally enacted on August 1, 1978 by the Free State of Bavaria. It covers the area of ​​the former Koenigssee nature reserve plus an extension area of ​​almost 10 km², resulting in a total area of ​​around 210 km². Hubert Zierl became the first director of the national park. At the time, the measure was heavily criticized, especially by the surrounding communities. The local communities made the management of the national park by the district administrator of the Berchtesgadener Land district the most important prerequisite for approval. Over time, however, the national park succeeded in gaining greater acceptance among the local population.

The national park forms the core (139 km²) and maintenance zone (69 km²) of the 467 km² large biosphere reserve Berchtesgaden.

Recent controversies

Tensions arose again in recent years when responsibility for the national park was withdrawn on the initiative of the SPD, against the decision of the district council, district administrator and district office. The municipal national park advisory board intended as a replacement is criticized by the district administrator and the municipalities in the national park area as having insufficient capacity to act due to its purely advisory work. The expansion of the core zone of the national park into the area of ​​centuries-old cultural landscapes with alpine farming and old mountain inns such as the historic Wimbach Castle is also under discussion. There is also increasing criticism of the significantly poorer funding compared to the Bavarian Forest National Park. On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the national park, the Bavarian state government promised to build a house of mountains. While the mayors of the five national park and national park apron communities suggested a renovation of the deficit spa house, the local Junge Union, among others, preferred a house of the mountains directly at a national park entrance such as the Hintersee. The state government finally decided in favor of the Berchtesgadener Hof in Berchtesgaden, which had been vacant since the Americans left.

In 2006 another conflict arose over the national park, the so-called centimeter dispute, about the expansion of an agricultural path. To separate forest and pasture, an open pasture was created for an alpine farmer on the initiative of the national park. The expansion of an agricultural path leading to this new open pasture led to controversy about nature conservation and agricultural needs. The farmer, supported by local nature conservation associations such as the DAV Berchtesgaden and the regional heads of politics, took the position that he absolutely needed a path widening to 2.50 m to 3 m for his agricultural vehicles, while some other nature conservation associations argued that a New or substantial expansion of a road in the national park area is not permitted or is not more than justifiable up to a path width of 2 m. The dispute about the relatively short road, which is currently also in the petitions committee of the Bavarian state parliament, is so vehement because the nature conservation associations fear that this could become a precedent for softening nature conservation concerns in favor of economic concerns. However, the Bavarian State Chancellery countered this with the assurance that each such case would also be dealt with separately in the future. The local population and politics, on the other hand, bothers the great influence from outside.

Objectives of the Berchtesgaden National Park
Based on the guidelines of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources and Section 24 of the BNatSchG, the Berchtesgaden National Park has defined the following goals: protection of all nature, scientific observation and research into natural and near-natural communities, education and recreation of its visitors.

The most important goal is the protection of the whole of nature, to which the other goals have to be subordinate. This is no longer just about protecting individual plants and animals in the sense of classic species protection. Rather, all plants and animal species are strictly protected. Since nature is largely left to its own devices, processes such as erosion are also protected and can take place undisturbed. In order to be able to integrate cultural landscapes, the national park is divided into a completely protected core zone and a maintenance zone, which may take up a maximum of 25% of the area. By setting up the maintenance zone, “cultural biotopes” or individual species can now be protected.

The main research areas in the Berchtesgaden National Park are on the one hand basic research and on the other hand application-related research. You want to understand existing environmental problems in order to be able to solve or avoid them. Usually this means ecosystem analysis. Another important part of the research is long-term environmental monitoring. In Central Europe, for example, natural processes that are hardly influenced by humans can almost only be observed in national parks.

Through environmental education, the park would like to convey the national park concept, i.e. the importance of protecting untouched nature. It is of particular importance that the park is also accepted by the local population. Furthermore, the environmental education is intended to encourage visitors to use natural resources in a sustainable manner. Furthermore, one of the goals of the national park is the relaxation of its visitors.


Since these goals sometimes contradict each other (for example by building paths for visitors in the core zone) and since nature in Central Europe is no longer pristine (the missing large carnivores are replaced by human hunters), a national park plan was drawn up. This serves as a guideline for the measures to be taken.

The larger mammals are represented in the national park by roe deer, red deer, chamois and Alpine ibex, although the latter was only reintroduced in the 1930s. The smaller species include alpine marmots, mountain hare and snow vole. Among the 100 species of birds that breed in the park, the golden eagle, the rough owl, the pygmy owl, the hazel grouse, the black grouse, the capercaillie, the ptarmigan, the common raven, the jackdaw, the common jay and the wallcreeper are characteristic. Griffon vultures and bearded vultures are also spotted occasionally. 16 species of amphibians and reptiles and 15 species of fish live in the area. These include some endangered species such as adder, smooth snake, grass snake, alpine salamander, fire salamander, alpine crested newt, yellow-bellied toad, Königssee char and lake trout. Typical insect species are the Alpine buck and the Apollo butterfly. Originally, bison, lynx, brown bears, wolves and otters were also part of the fauna of the area. For some of these species, immigration from neighboring areas seems possible in the foreseeable future, but targeted reintroductions are not planned.

The largest facility in the national park is the National Park Center "House of the Mountains", including the central information and visitor center. Other smaller, decentralized national park information points are located at the most important entrances and in the national park: in the municipality of Ramsau at the Wimbachbrücke, in the Klausbachhaus not far from the Hintersee at the entrance to the Klausbachtal (former Laroslehen) and in the Engert-Holzstube towards the Hirschbichl-Pass; in Schönau am Königssee, on the Kührointalm and in St. Bartholomä.

The Wimbachschloss in the Wimbachtal in Ramsau is leased as a mining facility.

The national park administration is located in Berchtesgaden on Doktorberg. In Ramsau, a former forestry office also serves as a research station and to accommodate researchers and interns.

The specialist information center collects and evaluates data on the geography and the environment of the national park. Database and geographic information systems are used for this. The data is used for research, management, environmental education and public relations.

The National Park Service employees, called rangers, are responsible for visitor information, guided tours, support for research work and area control.

A partnership with Yosemite National Park in California has existed since 2014. The administrations exchange scientists and employees and jointly develop best practices in species protection and tourism management.

Tourist use
The paths and climbs (together approx. 260 km) are mainly maintained by the national park administration. They enable a variety of different mountain tours. The national park administration offers hikes for adults and special hikes for children. Selected trails are open to cyclists. Environmentally friendly passenger boats with electric propulsion operate on the Königssee. A bathing ban in the waters of the national park has been lifted since 1987.

Numerous old hunting and alpine paths are deliberately no longer maintained or even dismantled by the national park administration, as the intention is to channel the flow of visitors. In this case, nature conservation comes into conflict with the preservation of ancient human cultural assets, such as the Almsteig.

Ramsau National Park Festival
After the national park had already held open-air performances in the Ramsau district of Hintersee at the Klausbachhaus national park information point in the summer of 2010, Ludwig Ganghofer's Martinsklause held open-air performances under the title National Park Festival. The performance of this piece from the history of the Berchtesgadener Land was the contribution of the municipality of Ramsau to the celebrations on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the Berchtesgadener Land in Bavaria.