Near the town of Oberstdorf in the Allgäu Alps the Iller River one of the tributaries of the Danube springs. Unlike your regular river, however, the river doesn't spring in a source but is formed by the confluence of its three tributaries, Breitach, Stillach and Trettach. Thus, the Iller River is unique - there is no other river worldwide which is formed by three tributaries in the same place.
One of the tributaries, Breitach has cut a deep canyon into the rock only a few kilometres before it reaches its two brethren. The canyon, Breitachklamm is 2,8km long and 150m deep, a slot canyon, in which only very few spots ever see the light. Geologically the groundwork for the canyon was laid in the last ice age when glaciers ground away all soft material in what is now Breitachtal (Kleines Walsertal). After retreating the glacier creeks had to cut through the hard dolomite rock (main dolomite) to form this very impressive canyon.
As usual within any inhabited mountain area a gorge like this was deemed the home of the devil. "Höllenschlucht", Hell Canyon, it was called and only few people dared to get near. Before the turn of the century 1900 the first locals tried to make the gorge accessible to the public but it took until 1901, when a new priest, Johannes Schiebel, started on his own plansto create a trail through the gorge. In 1904 the work was started and on July 4th 1905 it was completed. Ever since Breitachklamm has been one of the main attractions of the Oberstdorf area.
The canyon is closed during the time of snow melting since huge amounts of awter press through. Occasionally, but rather regularly, these floods are so strong that they take away much of the trail. In recent years, floods destroyed the bridges and protection in the years 1996, 1999, 2000 and - most devastating - in 2005. In that year days of torrential rains produced a flood, which in the narrowest part of the gorge, rose to more than 6m (18feet) above the hiking trail, which itself is leads across the creek 4m above its regular level. In that year any construction, created by humans in the canyon was washed away.
A year later everything was back and again you can hike the cave-like canyon on protected trails and bridges. Breitachklamm is a popular bad weather destination as you'll get wet in any case and there's little light in the canyon even on sunny days. Most popular and most beautiful are winter visits when the creek freezes over and the Klamm tuns into a crystal cave of ice.
Breitachklamm is located close to Oberstdorf in the Allgäu Alps. The closest airports are at Stuttgart and Munich, both cities being connected by motorway A8.
- Take motorway A8 to the intersection Kreuz Ulm-Elchingen.
- Turn onto motorway A7 south, direction Kempten and Füssen.
- At the intersection Dreieck Allgäu switch to A980.
- A few km later turn onto B19, direction Oberstdorf.
- Right before Oberstdorf take the road towards Kleinwalsertal Valley and follow the signs to Breitachklamm.
- There is a huge parking lot at the Klamm entrance
Red TapeTo visit Breitachklamm you will have to pay a fee of 3€ (1,5€ children). Opening hours are 9:00 a.m. through 5 p.m. (4 p.m. in winter).
AccommodationYou can choose between campgrounds, farm holidays, vacation homes and hotel rooms on most of the sites of the Allgäu villages. A good starting point for your search is:
Maps & Books
- Allgäuer Alpen / Kleinwalsertal
Kompass Map WK 3
- Alpenvereinskarten : Allgäu-West
- Allgäuer Alpen und Ammergauer Alpen Alpin
- Allgäu 1 - Oberallgäu und Kleinwalsertal