The best climbing period is June through September, in some years October. The easiest route is to follow hiking trails from the village of Ramsau near the small town of Berchtesgaden up to the Watzmann Hut at 1,928 metres. One typically spends the night there and then climbs to the summit the next morning. The climb from the hut to the Hocheck peak (2651 m) is quite straightforward, though a "head for heights" is required on the peak. From the Hocheck, hikers can return to the hut or continue and traverse to the Mittelspitze and from there to the Südspitze. The traverse is more challenging, at the easier end of UIAA Class II, and very exposed - though permanent cables along the ridge makes the traverse safer. From the Südspitze, most hikers will not return to the Watzmann Hut but continue to descend into the Wimbachgrieß valley and from there back to Ramsau. One should estimate 12 to 17 hours for the complete circuit, stable weather conditions are essential as drastic weather change on the ridge between the peaks can be fatal.
A much more serious and challenging climb is the famous East Face (Watzmann-Ostwand), which rises from the Bartholomä peninsula at lake Königssee to the main peaks in a vertical ascent of around 1800m (the longest wall in the Eastern Alps). While the easiest routes through the east wall is "only" a UIAA Class III, the wall has claimed almost 100 lives so far. Reasons are the length of the climb, difficulties finding the correct route and especially the fact that, due to the orientation of the wall, deteriorating weather conditions approaching from west (predominant direction for weather change in the area) can often not be seen early enough. A simple emergency shelter has been erected in the wall. Even experienced climbers are advised to hire a local guide for the wall as finding the route can be challenging.
The Watzmann mountain also plays a central role in the musical parody "Der Watzmann ruft" ("Watzmann is calling"), composed by Austrian musician Wolfgang Ambros in 1974.