Salzgraben Cave

Useful Information

Location: A8 exit Bad Reichenhall, 35 km to the Königssee through Bad Reichenhall and Berchtesgaden. By ship (Königsseeschifffahrt) across the Königssee to St. Bartholomä. Trail uphill to the cave 90 min.
Open: MAY to SEP after appointment, weather depending.
Fee: frei.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave SpeleologyRiver cave cave system
Light: Caving equipment necessary
Dimension: L=9,012 m, VR=399 m, A=960 m asl, T=4 °C.
Guided tours: n.a.
Bibliography: Herbert Leitheim (): Führer in die Höhlen der Nördlichen Kalkalpen, Bergverlag Rudolf Rother, München.
Address: Nationalparkverwaltung Berchtesgaden, Doktorberg 6, 83471 Berchtesgaden, Tel: +49-8652-9686-0, Fax: +49-8652-9686-40. E-mail: contact
Key: Nationalparkhaus, Franziskanerplatz 7, 83471 Berchtesgaden, Tel: +49-8652-64343. E-mail: contact
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


10-MAY-1959 discovered by the cavers Erhard Sommer and Kajo Wohlgeschaffen.
1961 2 km of passages explored and surveyed.
1964 4 km of passages explored and surveyed.
JUL-1997 16 persons wird der Rückweg vom Wasser abgeschnitten, sie könne die Höhle jedoch nach Rückgang des Wassers unverletzt verlassen.


The Salzgrabenhöhle has been the longest and deepest cave of Germany for some time. At the moment [2008] it is still the second longest cave but various new discoveries of the last decade outreached it so it is only on rank 11 concerning depth. Although the cave is not developed for public visits, it is still one of the most famous caves of Germany. At first obviously because of its superlatives, but the continuing popularity among cavers, climbers, and spelunkers has probably something to do with the size an complexity of the cave. Some people call the cave the only underground Via Ferrata of Germany. This is a result of some installations made by the cavers during the exploration of the cave. This has nothing to do with tourism, it is a necessity in difficult caves to allow optimal exploration and surveilling. It reduces the dangers and the necessary time to reach the exploration area at the far end of the cave.

During the 1980s the number of cave visitors increased dramatically. Rather early the access was restricted to educated cavers, but the cave was not closed at first. Later the cave was closed with a gate and may now only be visited with a key which must be obtained from the Nationalparkverwaltung Berchtesgaden. The reasons of this restriction are necessary for various reasons, especially the protection of the cave environment and the habitat of its inhabitants. The cave is completely closed during winter (October to April) for the protection of hibernating bats. Another reason for the closure is the protection of the visitors. During the 1990s some cave accidents happened, which were partly caused by insuffient equippment and training.

This cave is not a show cave!
It may be visited only with the necessary training, equippment, and preparation!

As we mentioned the cave is now closed, and may be visited only with a permit of the Nationalparkverwaltung Berchtesgaden (National Park Administration Berchtesgaden). The applicant has to fill in a form which includes the written confirmation of a caving club or the DAV, certifying the ability of the leader of the group. All members of the party have to be listed with name and address beforehand and have to sign a non liability waiver. This is nothing special in the U.S.A., but this is the only cave in Germany which requires this. The visit is weather dependened, so scheduled trips may be canceled without reimbursement. This is a very restrictive policy but is obviously for the good of the visitors. This cave is difficult and dangerous and sufficient knowledge in mountaineering, climbing, and cave exploring are vital.

The complex cave system of the Salzgrabenhöhle has three main levels or layers. The uppermost level is dry, the middle layer is sometimes flooded, especially during snow melt and heavy rains, and the lower level is waterfilled. In general only the middle and upper layer are visited.

The so-called "Via Ferrata" is located at the Riesenkamin. This is a 200 m high shaft, reached from the entrance at its lowest end. There is a cable car used to transport equipment up the shaft. The lower 80 m of the shaft are equipped with with fixed cables and ladders up to the branch off of a passage, which is the main passage of thei remote part cave system. Some distance into this passage lies the bivouac, where the cavers stayed for some time during the exploration and surveying expeditions. The lower part of the Via Ferrata ascends while crossing the far wall of the shaft from left to right and back. Then two ladders follow, the upper is 12 m long and has two bends.

A tour into Salzgrabenhöhle takes at least a whole day. The cave, located at the Simetsberg, part of the Steinernes Meer (Rocky Sea), is reached after a boat trip across world famous Königssee to St. Batholomä. The crossing takes some 30 minutes. Then the ascent of some 1.5 hours on a signed trail of the DAV follows. At the end of the steep part the cavers follow some deer passes to the left towards the Simetsberg, until they reach the upper end of the gorge called Salzgraben. This gorge is namesake for the cave. The cave is entered through the 20 m wide and 8 m high portal, and through the iron gate. It takes about one hour to reach the Riesenkamin, the ascent on the Via Ferrata another half hour. The given time may vary extremely depending on the size of the groups.