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Albsteig Hiking Trail: Castles, Caves and Waterfalls

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One of the most famous long-distance hiking trails in Germany, the Albsteig covers 350 km of natural passages that stretch along the Swabian Alb. Anyone who decides to embark on this adventurous trail will be taken inside mystical caves, across verdant Swabian plateaus and past some of the most enchanting castles in Germany.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Discover fascinating villages and towns of the Swabian region that date back to medieval times
  • Unwind in lush thermal springs of the Bad Urach spa town
  • Admire the cliff-perched Lichtenstein Castle as it overlooks the Echaz valley
  • Explore the fascinating interior and the stalactites inside the Fog Cave
  • Walk across a tall suspension bridge near the town of Gosheim

LOWLIGHTS

  • The trail features plenty of uphill trekking, which might be difficult for novice hikers.
  • Not ideal for visitors who prefer shorter hikes as the enter trail takes 15 days to complete. In that case we would recommend the oldest hiking trail in Germany, Rennsteig, which can be completed in 8 days.
  • Although the Albsteig can be hiked year-round, October to March may be unfavorable for hiking due to rain and snow.

ALBSTEIG TRAIL HIKE FACTS

Hike difficulty: Moderate; the trail is long and requires a basic fitness level due to several steep ascents
Hike duration: 15 days to complete the whole 350 km
Best season: Early May to late September
Remoteness: Albsteig runs through a number of villages and towns, so you will never stray too far from civilization
Maximum altitude: Lemberg at 1015 m
Accommodation: Plenty of varied accommodation options (hotels, mountain refuges and rustic guesthouses) in towns and villages that the trail passes through
Start / end locations: Donauwörth / Tuttlingen
Permits: None required

ALBSTEIG: DAY-TO-DAY ITINERARY

Day 1: Donauwörth – Mönchsdeggingen, 28.5 km

The trek starts in the romantic town of Donauwörth, nestled on the confluence of the Danube and Wörnitz. It continues to the Harburg, one of the best-preserved castles in southern Germany. After a while, you will reach Bockberg viewpoint, from which you can catch a panorama of the surrounding region. This section ends in Mönchsdeggingen.

Tip: This small town is known for its Jewish heritage, so use this opportunity to visit the Jewish cemetery, the old synagogue and the mikveh.

Day 2: Mönchsdeggingen – Bopfingen, 28.8 km

The trail sets off from Mönchsdeggingen and passes by the intriguing Kammerloch cave. It continues past the Quellgrotte spring, then it reaches the Kartäusertal, ruins of a medieval castle dating back to 1200. The trail continues towards the Christgarten Charterhouse, a former Carthusian monastery. The trail goes through the village of Schweinsdorf, then ends in the town of Bopfingen.

Tip: Bopfingen has many fine examples of 16th-century architecture. Don’t forget your camera!

Day 3: Bopfingen – Aalen-Unterkochen, 33.6 km

The trail departs from Bopfingen and runs along the Eger River, reaching the Kapfenburg, a charming castle that also doubles up as a venue for classical music concerts. Halfway down this section, you will reach the village of Hülsen. The trail ascends towards the Wöllerstein, a 723m summit where you can stop to take a break. This section of the trail ends in Unterkochen.

Day 4: Aalen-Unterkochen – Heubach, 22.5 km

This portion of the trail goes past the 26-meter-high Aalbäumle watchtower. The trek climbs up the Volkmarsberg mountain, which stands at 743m. The path goes on to explore Heubacher Caves, then ends in the small town of Heubach.

Day 5: Heubach – Gingen, 30.8 km

This part of the trail sets off from Heubach and ascends to Scheuelberg, a 717m point on the Swabian Alb where you can catch spectacular views. After a while, it arrives to Schloss Weissenstein, an opulent palatial residence. Before it ends in Gingen, this section walks past the Messelstein, a tall cliff which offers great views of the Black Forest.

Day 6: Gingen – Bläsiberg, 27.3 km

The trail departs from the picturesque town of Gingen and ascends to the Fuchseck, a popular viewpoint on the Swabian Alb. After awhile, you will reach the Jahrhundertstein (“century stone”) and the endpoint of this section of the trail.

Day 7: Bläsiberg – Owen, 20.2 km

The trail ascends to the majestic 13th century Reussenstein castle ruins. Soon afterwards, you will reach the alluring Heimenstein cave. A few miles more, and the trail reaches the Rauber castle ruins. It passes by the gorgeous Teck castle and ends in Owen.

Day 8: Owen – Bad Urach, 20.1 km

The trek departs from Owen and goes up to the Castle Hohenneuffen, largest castle ruins in southern Germany and a great viewing point of the Swabian Alb. The trail passes the Molachmaar, a volcanic cavity filled up with water. Finally, this portion ends in Bad Urach, a lush spa town where you can unwind in thermal springs after a long day of hiking.

Day 9: Bad Urach – Lichtenstein/Stahlecker Hof, 19.4 km

At the outskirts of Bad Urach, you will come across the Urach waterfalls, one of the most stunning feats of nature in the Swabian Alb. The trek then ascends to Hohe Warte, an 820-meter-tall mountain. This portion of the route ends in the popular resort called Stahlecker Hof.

Tip: Don’t miss out on trying the local delicacies at Stahlecker Hof.

Day 10: Stahlecker Hof – Genkingen, 20.4 km

From Stahlecker Hof, the trek continues to Greifenstein ruins. From there, it moves onto the majestic Lichtenstein Castle, perched on a rugged cliff. Near the castle, you will find the mesmerizing Fog Cave and its impressive stalactites. This portion of the trek ends in the town of Genkingen.

Day 11: Genkingen – Talheim, 16.7 km

The trek departs from Genkingen and passes over the highlands of Rossberg, then Bolberg.
It ends in Talheim.

Tip: We recommend trying one of the regional varieties of wine in Talheim.

Day 12: Talheim – Jungingen, 18.6 km

At this point in the trek, you will be able to witness the geological consequences of the massive Swabian Alb landslide that occurred in 1983. The trail then ascends to Dreifürstenstein mountain, which reveals amazing views of the surrounding area. This portion of the trek stops in the small town of Jungingen.

Day 13: Jungingen – Burgfelden, 23.5 km

From Jungingen, the trek ascends to Himberg, which offers views of the Killertal, the Raichberg and Hohenzollern Castle. A couple of miles ahead, you will come across Albvereinsbrünnele, where you can refill your bottles with fresh water from the spring. This part of the trail ends in Burgfelden, a town perched on the Böllat mountain.

Day 14: Burgfelden – Gosheim, 33.4 km

This portion of the trek ascends to Schalksburg tower, then the World War I memorial stone. The Plettenberg hill is a great place to take a break and soak up the atmosphere. The trek the continues across the exciting Oberhohenberg suspension bridge, before reaching Gosheim, which lies at the top of the Swabian Alb.

Day 15: Gosheim – Tuttlingen, 29.6 km

The first part of the final section of the Albsteig ascends to Hummelsberg, then proceeds to the Trinity Church which dates to the 15th century. Finally, the trek arrives to the town of Tuttlingen, where you can enjoy a cup of coffee by the beautiful Danube.

Albsteig is a beautiful hiking trail of Germany
Plenty of greenery is to be found on the Albsteig hiking trail
Hohenzollern is a beautiful landmark of the Albsteig hiking trail
The Hohenzollern castle is a beautiful rest stop that offers a mix of culture and nature
Donauworth is the starting point for Albsteig
The romantic town of Donauwörth is the starting point of Albsteig
Urach waterfalls is a beautiful rest stop on the Albsteig hiking trail
Don't forget to visit the splendid Urach waterfalls when you reach Bad Urach

ALTERNATE HIKING ROUTES

If you are in a pinch, then you can choose to hike individual portions of Albsteig. One of the most beautiful stretches of the trek equals day 8 and 9 of the itinerary. You can base yourself in Bad Urach and hike to Owen or Stahleckhof. 

Hohenneuffen Castle is reached on day 8 of the Albsteig hiking trail
Hohenneuffen Castle was built between 1100 and 1120
Hohenneuffen Castle is a popular landmark of Albsteig
View from Hohenneuffen Castle on a sunny day

HOW TO GET TO THE TRAILHEAD

Three closest airports to Donauwörth are the Stuttgart, Nuremberg and Munich airports, all of which are served with flights from a number of European destinations. Donauwörth is also connected via train to major German cities, including Berlin, Hamburg, Munich and Stuttgart. These cities are some of the best cities to visit in Germany too!

The trail starts in the center of the town and continues along the Wörnitz River. The Albsteig Trail is marked with a red triangle.

Lichtenstein castle sits atop a rugged cliff on the Albsteig hiking trail
Completed in 1842, the Lichtenstein castle is often described as the 'fairytale castle of Württemberg'

The Albsteig trail is your one-way ticket to experience the beauty of the Swabian Alb in all its splendor. The mesmerizing 15-day hike will introduce you to some of the most intriguing and diverse treasures of the German natural canvas. Between mysterious caves and pristine valleys, jaw-dropping castles and picturesque villages — hiking the Albsteig is bound of create a lifetime of memories for you.

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