Sunday Bike Tour: To & Around Lake Starnberg

A bike tour to and around Lake Starnberg had been on my bucket list all summer. But with a wedding to attend, having visitors and marathon training, summer came and went and my trip got never realized. I’d been meaning to go on the little adventure during my 2 month time off period and when the weather was forecasted to be warm and sunny for this past weekend, maybe the last time this year, I knew I had to take the chance. Lake Starnberg is located 25 km /16 mi south of Munich and comfortably reachable through one of the many, many bike paths surrounding the city.

I got up at a few minutes after 6, allowing for enough time to have a hearty breakfast, shower and check I had everything. With the days being shorter, I had planned on being out the door before 8 AM, possibly as soon as the sun rose. I had mapped out a 110 km route which would take me about 6.5 hours of riding time (not accounting for breaks), so I knew I needed to get an early start.

The bike is ready at 7:45 AM.

I headed off at 7:45 AM, just as I’d planned. The first few kilometers took me through the city on familiar paths. I biked over to the English Garden, which is located by the Isar River. The plan was to follow the Isar valley for a bunch of kilometers until it was time to cross over to the lake. I settled into a nice pace as the streets were empty on this Sunday morning and I was (still) familiar with where I needed to go. I only got lost in the English Garden once. This is a win.

At the Kleinhesseloher See, a lake in the English Garden, I was rewarded with this spectacular fall view:

Kleinhesseloher See, English Garden Munich. Early morning, the fog hasn’t lifted yet.

Fog across the meadows.

After I’d excited the English Garden, I followed the Isar for a long while. The first few kilometers were still very familiar to me, thanks to my Sunday long runs and some casual biking I’d done along these paths. It was nice to experience them in their quiet slumber.

My route took me to Grünwald, a small town south of Munich, right at the Isar banks. I passed a bunch of early morning runners on the beautiful trails, a handful of people walking their dogs and only few other cyclists. The course was mostly flat once I made it down to the river with steep hills left and right.

However, before I made it to the town, I was faced with this:

Durchgang gesperrt. Steinschlaggefahr. – Path closed. Danger of rocks falling.

Shit. Not what I wanted to see. The alternative was a super, super steep path up the hill and onto the highly trafficked street. I had an inner argument with myself and eventually decided to just pass. Apparently I wasn’t the only one ignoring this. ;o) I made it past the dangerous stretch unharmed, no rocks were encountered – only even more runners, some pedestrians and cyclists. I eventually reached Grünwald, crossed the bridge over the river and headed into the small town of Pullach.

In March, when I first bought my bike, I’d taken part in a 3-day mountain bike camp where we were taught proper mountain bike riding technique. I forgot most of it because I haven’t been practicing, but what I did remember was the last day of camp being held in Pullach to ride around the beautiful Isar trails. A paradise for mountain bikers. A lot of the paths were still familiar. I even passed the place where we had lunch and the starting point of our very last tour with the group. However, I still had to take a few stops to check I was still headed in the right direction as I’m not overly knowledgeable of the area. It slowed my pace significantly, but since I wasn’t riding for time, I did’t care. I also wanted to enjoy the beautiful scenery.

Sunshine in the woods. Pretty.

After passing Baierbrunn, came the most dreaded part of this trip: the climb back up from the Isar valley. 150 meters of altitude, a sheer endless way up, up, uphill. The quiet nature and warm fall colors took the edge off a little bit:

It became even steeper than this later on.

I eventually struggled my way to the top of the hill. A good workout for my heart it was. At this point, I’d been riding for about 2 hours and about 30 km. I felt great. I reached the little towns of Schäftlarn and Neufahrn and managed to get lost twice in the woods before I reached my next stop: Kempfenhausen. Especially the paths between Neufahrn and Kempfenhausen were, albeit very pretty, poorly marked so that I found myself taking a wrong repeatedly.

However, all of that was forgotten once I reached Kempfenhausen and was rewarded with my first glimpse of the lake in all its beauty. The fog had cleared up entirely, giving way to bright sunlight and crystal clear water.

Little downhill, then to reach the lake. Finally.

I landed on the east side of the lake and would be biking around it once, clockwise. There are a bunch of small towns and villages around the lake. The region around Lake Starnberg is incredibly wealthy; it has one of the highest density of millionaires. As you’d expect, you see a lot of very large, very impressive villas and mansions along the shores.

Some hospital on the shore of the lake.

At the lake shore in Kempfenhausen. The scenic panorama of the Alps in the background. I’m not familiar with spotting the various peaks, but apparently you can see the Zugspitze, Germany’s highest mountain, from here.

After Kempfenhausen, I rode into the small town of Berg. Berg is famous for its castle, the place where King Ludwig II was kept before his mysterious death in Lake Starnberg. The bike path actually takes you through the castle gardens and past a memorial site where Ludwig’s body was washed ashore. I didn’t stop to visit the chapel, but I will be returning at a later point.

A sign pointing the way to the King Ludwig memorial and votive chapel.

Next were the towns of Leoni, Ammerland and Ambach.

This belonged to a church, I think.

Near Ambach on the east shore of the lake you can find a large recreational area for bathing and all kinds of water sports. It was very busy on Sunday. Alps in the background.

It was around midday when I reached Ambach. There were plenty of people enjoying the sun. Sunbathing, walking, kayaking or even diving. I had already rode about 55km and was getting a little hungry. At Seeshaupt I decided to take a break.

I had brought lunch, but found the idea of coffee and a piece of cheesecake more appealing. Besides, I wanted to sit down at a real table, use a proper bathroom and just get some time off the bike.

My legs still felt fine, even after over 60 kms. I was making great progress, despite several stops to enjoy the view and taking pictures. The biggest problem was that I started having issues sitting on the bike. I was certainly glad for the time off.

Seeshaupt marked the southern point of my tour. As I continued along the west side, the path became noticeably more busy.

Somewhere along the west bank of the lake.

Passing the sculpture garden of the Museum der Phantasie (Museum of Fantasy) in Buchheim.

Loved this! Shortly after passing Buchheim, I came down this slim trail between the trees. Nice, steady downhill. So much fun to just let the bike roll and pick up some speed.

After 75 kms and roughly 4.5 hours of riding time, I made it to Tutzing, one of the larger towns by the lake. The town has good infrastructure to Munich, hence it was extremely busy. There were a lot of pedestrians enjoying the warm October sun, so I had to reduce my speed accordingly.

Another view across the lake.

And another view.

At KM 82/after 5 hours, I stopped at the lakeshore across from the Roseninsel (Rose Island), the only island in Lake Starnberg. There’s a little rose garden and small castle on the island, built by Maximilian II, Ludwig II’s father. For once I like a picture of myself. I look like an athlete!

And finally, I made it to the city of Starnberg, the final stop of my tour. 90 kms, 5.5 hours and getting lost once more between Tutzing and Starnberg. I decided to rest a bit more at the beautiful promenade, enjoy the sun and people-watch. It was nice and warm as I sat down on a bench with an iced coffee. Delicious.

In Starnberg. I can see why it’s so popular with filthy rich people.


Final shot of the lake.

After I’d taken plenty of time to relax in Starnberg, I had to head off and make it home. When I originally planned the tour, I wanted to end it in Starnberg and from there take a suburban train back to Munich. My fear was that after 90km of biking, my legs would be tired and I couldn’t make the additional 30k. However, last weekend a train strike left me no other choice than suck it up and ride back home. Thankfully, my legs still felt great (thanks marathon training) and I’d been within my time estimate, meaning I had still enough hours of sunlight ahead of me.

I took a different, shorter route, which was also way less scenic than my way to the lake. However, the tour was officially over at Starnberg, so now it was all about getting home.

A little chapel outside Petersbrunn.

I managed to get lost one more time which made me end up on a fairly trafficked road. However, my phone battery was about to die and I didn’t want to risk losing it entirely by constantly checking GPS/directions for an alternate route. I made it home eventually:

Landeshauptstadt München – state capital Munich. Home sweet home.

The last few KMs were uneventful. Once I reached my apartment, the Garmin read 118.9 km and 7 hours 14 minutes on the bike.

Picked up some extra dirt along the way.

Well deserved beer.

I’m so glad I took this trip and I’m happy that the weather held up so beautifully. It was a great experience and so much fun to explore my surroundings. My legs felt strong throughout and I was surprised how they would just not get tired. Sure, most of the riding was done on flat roads, but it was still 119 kms.

I brought my small Olympus point and shoot camera. I’m surprised by how good the pictures turned out, despite the camera being a whole lot less powerful than the dSLR I’ve gotten used to. A handful of times, I saw scenes so pretty, that I wished for my big camera, but obviously, it would have been a burden on this trip. I might have to return to some places without the bike and with the camera at a later time.

I have a few more ideas for bike rides around Munich, but might have to postpone them to next spring. Thankfully those places ain’t going anywhere.


One thought on “Sunday Bike Tour: To & Around Lake Starnberg

  1. Pingback: 2014 – a year in review | 3ckfoodie

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