After my first attempt to walk the Lechweg ended in failure in September 2017 due to a tendinitis problem, I returned in July 2018, this time accompanied by my wife Odile. We began the trail at the Formarinsee on the morning of July 14th and arrived in Füssen late in the afternoon of July 20th, this time without injury!
We had generally good weather for the seven days of this beautiful trail, apart from a couple of rain showers. Despite the heatwave that was striking most of Europe that summer, conditions on the Lechweg were perfect and we never suffered from the heat at all.
Rather than do a day-by-day account, I’ll write a general description of the trail and a sum-up of the highlights (especially as I’m finally getting around to writing this almost two years after the hike!).
The Lechweg runs from the Formarinsee above Lech am Arlberg in Austria to the Lechfall near Füssen in Germany. The path covers around 120 km, starting at an altitude of 1930 m and ending at 800 m above sea level at the Lechfall. Even though it descends 1100 m over the course of a week, there are a fair number of stiff climbs, notably on the final day.
Lech am Arlberg can be reached easily by train and bus via Langen am Arlberg, the nearest railway station. Füssen, at the end of the trail, has regular connections to Munich and Augsburg with Deutsche Bahn. However, we travelled to Lech by car and took a bus back from Füssen on completing the trail. Our first hotel in Lech allowed us to leave the car in their underground garage for the whole week free of charge, but it’s worth checking with the tourist office as many of the parking garages in the town may allow free parking in summer.
Before moving on to the many highlights of this great trail, I’ll mention the one lowlight to get it out of the way: our sixth day from Stanzach to Wängle was boring – a long slog alongside the Lech on flattish paths with minimal ascents and a final, lengthy stretch over stony terrain on the recently rebuilt river embankment. No fun at all. The final climb up to the hotel that afternoon came as a pleasant change, but it was soon over. Quite frankly, anyone who is not a trail “completist” would be better off taking the bus for this section as, apart from one pretty village and views of the surrounding mountain peaks, there’s very little joy in it.
Now, with that out of the way, on to the highlights and there were plenty of those. The trail begins at the Formarinsee above Lech, reached by bus from the stop by the covered bridge in the town. This first day is spectacular, with an optional hike around the lake (the source of the Lech) before following the young river back down into the town.
The Lech is invisible at first, flowing underground, but on emerging gains in strength and grows steadily broader as the hiker closely follows it along walkways and riverside paths all the way down to Lech.
Another highlight was the wonderful third day following a balcony-like path far above the valley after Lechleiten, with great views of the mountains before a long descent to Steeg where there is a fantastic cheese shop for a midday break.
The river is a lot wilder and more powerful by now, resembling a river in the Rockies at times.
Day three begins with the optional crossing of a spectacular and bouncy suspension bridge high above the village of Holzgau (not great for Odile’s vertigo), followed by a beautiful day’s hiking through woods and alpine meadows before descending to the valley again.
Our final day saw its fair share of highlights with a very steep hike up to a chapel in the morning on setting off (there are fixed cables on the final section), before the pine-ringed Frauensee, some beautiful woods and rock formations, before arriving at the Alpsee near Fussen with Ludwig II’s castles of Neuschwanstein and Hohenswangau towering over it (and a ton of tourists too). The final section into Füssen, high above the Schwansee, is just as spectacular. But the real highlight of that day was the bathing area by the Alpsee where we laid waste to the bar’s stock of Apfelschorle (sparkling apple juice)!
We also really enjoyed the two or three Kneipp foot baths along the trail. Basically, these are baths with a bed of stones of varying size and with spring water flowing through them. You walk through them barefoot on the stones. They’re great for giving a boost to a hiker’s tired feet, although the one on the first day was a little too chilly (the Lech hadn’t had time to warm up!).
Other hikers met on the trail were consistently friendly, especially the couple we shared a table with at dinner in Holzgau and who had been up to the Formarinsee to collect a rock for their garden! Many people were surprised to see hikers from France and we heard nothing but German spoken all week (until we hit Neuschwanstein, of course).
And the accommodation and food along the way were uniformly excellent, notably the wonderful Hotel Aurora in Lech with its charming owners and truly amazing food, the beautiful old Holzgauer Haus in Lechleiten which provided the best breakfast I have ever had anywhere (but which seems to have gone through a major up-market overhaul since we stayed there if the website is anything to go by), the great Alpenrose in Elbigenalp with its kitsch lobby, terrific spa for weary hikers, very comfortable rooms and the truly incredible amount of food they tried to stuff down us, and the Alt Hubertus back in Lech were we stayed on returning to pick up the car and where the young owners couldn’t do enough for the four of us staying there that night. They were all consistently great value for money, not always budget accommodation but so much part of the experience that we wouldn’t have missed them for anything.
And so the Lechweg was finally completed almost a year after my first attempt. It’s a wonderful trail, well within the reach of the average hiker, with stages of a reasonable distance and plenty of accommodation solutions all the way along it (there are even baggage transportation services for those who want to hike with a simple day pack). Highly recommended.