The Murnauer Moos is one of central Europe’s most extensive consecutive marshland. Hundreds of birds, small animals, and wild and rare plants call this stunning landscape home. The nature reserve is just 40 minutes south of Munich accessible by train or car, making for a great outdoor escape to stretch your legs and enjoy some of Bavaria’s most precious species.
The moos is a boggy marshland sprawling over 4,200 hectares. Germany listed the ecoregion as a protected area in the 1920s, but it wasn’t until the 80s was it certified as a nature reserve. Its protection was all thanks to tireless efforts of Dr. Ingeborg Haeckel and Prof. Max Dingler. Dr. Haeckel had the nickname Bog Witch, an unfavorable term given to her by those who were strong advocates for draining the Murnauer for farming and real estate development. The work of these two conservationists paid off, and excess draining of the moos ceased. Over 160 protected species, including threatened and endangered, call this incredible biosphere home.
Glaciers carved out the valley below the Kochel mountains and German Alps. As the glaciers receded gravel filled in the valley, causing water to drain slowly and therefore form a lake. Decaying plants and animals created a thick layer of peat, and over thousands of years, the modern-day Murnauer Moos exist as you see them.
Keep an eye out of the threatened species including, fen orchids, Siberian iris, Davall’s and Hudson Bay sedge, as well as the white-backed woodpecker, northern shrike/great grey shrike, and the landrail/corncrake. We were able to see five of these species, but most of them were too quick or good at hiding in the trees or mash to be photographed. I suggest you load Google images of these species and save them to your phone, so you have a handy reference guide as you explore. These are just some of the protected species, but I encourage you to stroll and observe the dark jewel tone green dragonflies, the hawks soaring above, the rodents diving for cover. The bog is teeming with life; you just have to slow down and appreciate the workings of this thriving ecosystem.
Getting to the Moos
From the Munich Hauptbahnhof, take the DB Regio Bahn from Munich to Seeleiten-Berggeist, in Oberreid. You’ll need to change in Murnau, and if you buy a flexible ticket, you’ll be able to take some time to explore the colorful artist community of Murnau before or after your trip to the moos.
Once you arrive at the little whistle-stop in Oberreid, you’ll head away from the train tracks and head to the Murnauer Moos lookout cabin. The cabin is atop a hill overlooking the moos, and you’ll follow the signs for the Murnauer Moos circuit 12km track. Once you descend from the hill, you’ll find a bridge crossing into the moos at this point. The loop continues after the bridge to the right and follows 12 km of walking trail through the moos, a forest, a small town, and spits you back out at the lookout cabin where you can catch the train back to Munich.
If you decide to go left after the bridge, there is a whimsical stretch of moos with some of the best wildflowers and mountain views. So, if you have extra time, you can take a left and walk down to the parking lot where there is a small visitor center with information about the moos, the plants, animals, and the conservation efforts. You will have to double back the way you came back to the bridge to finish the walking track, but if you have some extra pep in your step, it is worth the additional kilometers.
From Munich, take the A 95 and turn off at Murnau am Staffelsee. Continue toward the moos until you reach the parking lot. Pay for parking, about 5 Euro cash, and check out the visitor center before following the narrow road headed toward the moos. After you pass a church and see the beer garden, you’ll cross a small bridge and enter the moos. It can be somewhat confusing as to which way to go, but while facing the moos, you will head right and follow signs for the 12 km walking circuit. Which, considering the walk from the parking lot, will end up being about 14.
Tips for Exploring the Murnauer Moos
What to pack
Make sure you are prepared for walking at least 14km with tennis shoes, plenty of water, and snacks, or lunch. There are dozens of picnic benches along the trail so you can take a water or lunch break with a scenic view.
Don’t forget to pack your camera a nice zoom of at least 100 is helpful to get some shots of the flowers. The marshland is protected, so you can not leave or step off the trail to get photos, which is why a zoom can be helpful. If you have binoculars, they come in handy. There were plenty of times we saw some of the rare birds and couldn’t get a great photo of them, but with the binoculars, we were at least able to stop and appreciate the different species.
Murnauer Moos 12 km Walking Trail
The trail is mostly well marked; however, there are two circuits and you want to make sure you know which one to follow. For those walking the 12km circuit, stick to the trail markers that say 12km Rundweg. You will travel through the marsh, through a lush forest, through a small town, and a walking trail up to the lookout. The entire trail isn’t in the moos, but you get a good feel for the whole of the ecoregion.
If you brought your bike down and want a longer circuit, follow the signs for a larger circuit there is a Y about 4-5 km in where they separate. The last part of the walking trail isn’t on Google Maps, so don’t rely on your phone and follow the rundweg signs.
For those with limited mobility, strollers, etc., you can simply do the first flat portion with a wide gravel trail and loop back to the train station or car park when you’ve bad enough.
Best time to Visit
Spring is a lovely time of year when the flowers are exploding with color in the marshlands, the birds are getting freaky, and the whole area is buzzing with life. However, the weather is a bit more unpredictable, and you should prepare for rain and cooler temperatures.
Summer is also a great time to visit with lots of great weather. Don’t worry; there are still plenty of unusual plants and animals to see well into the summer.
Autumn brings a backdrop of vibrant orange and yellow as the mountain forests slowly change color with the season. It won’t be a great time to see the vibrant flowers, but there are plenty of interesting plants, such as the carnivorous sundew that will be around.
The moos are open even in winter. Covered in a blanket of snow, the quiet calm that washes over the valley is magical. Make sure you pack warm winter clothing, waterproof hiking boots, or even snowshoes if you have them.
Appreciate Bavarian Nature
Visiting the Murnauer Moos marshland nature reserve just outside of Munich is a great way to see unique protected Bavarian species. Coming from Alaska, I often found Bavarian wildlife to be somewhat lacking. However, slowing down to appreciate the nature reserves with nesting birds, buzzing insects, rare wild orchids, and more is a real treat to behold. By supporting conservation locations like this, Europe is encouraged to set up more nature reserves and protect its precious biodiversity. Make sure to head to the Murnaurer Moos on your next trip to Munich or during one of the beautiful long weekends we enjoy here in Bavaria.