Germany is a land blessed with an abundance of varied landscapes perfect for hiking and the country now boasts over 53,000 trails for hikers of all abilities. Many of the most famous and rewarding trails for hiking in Germany stretch over several hundred kilometers and are tackled in stages, usually including overnights in traditional guesthouses along the way. However, not everyone has the time to complete such time-consuming excursions, and rewarding shorter walks can be undertaken by simply selecting one or more sections of the following longer routes according to one’s preferences.
The Painters’ Way or Malerweg in German is named after romantic-period artists who incorporated these impressive landscapes into their work. It is known as one of Germany’s most picturesque routes and is characterized by strange, imposing rock formations. Starting and finishing in Pirna, the 112 km loop lies in an area called Saxon Switzerland (in Saxony, Germany) and passes through the Saxon Switzerland National Park (pictured above) (free entry). The whole trail can be walked in eight convenient one-day stages, with accommodation in mountain inns along the way.
Difficulty level: The trail is considered medium to challenging and some sections include the use of iron ladders.
The Eifelsteig is a 313 km-long well-known 15-stage hiking trail that travels from Aachen-Kornelimünster to Trier. It is characterized by a diverse range of stunning landscapes and fascinating sights along the way, including lakes, mountain summits and forests as well as abbeys and Roman remains. The trail offers ample opportunity to sample locally brewed beers during the walk and accommodation is available at the end of each stage.
Difficulty level: Overall difficulty level is medium, but some stages are considered easy while others are hard.
The Rheinsteig, a 310 km, 23-stage trail, is one of Germany’s most famous hiking trails. The route follows the east bank of the Rhine River from Wiesbaden to Bonn. The upper middle Rhine Valley was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2002 and the whole route is known for its outstanding natural beauty. The Rhine Valley is Germany’s wine-making region, and for many, the chance to taste the local wine is another compelling reason to hike this trail.
Difficulty level: The paths are often narrow and there are many steep climbs and descents, but the trail as a whole is considered to be only moderately difficult.
The Mittelweg is one of the classic trails in the Black Forest, claimed by some to be the birthplace of the modern concept of hiking. The 230 km trail consists of nine sections, beginning at Pforzheim and ending at Waldshut. The route was established in 1903 and is now a favourite among enthusiasts of hiking in Germany. Much of the route passes through forest, alternating with farmland.
Difficulty level: The overall difficulty level is medium — although some of the stages can be up to 30 km. The trail is well-marked and accommodation is plentiful along the way.
The Rennsteig is a centuries-old route in central Germany that passes through the Thuringian Forest. The 169 km ridge-walk consists of six stages, starting at Hörschel and finishing at Blankenstein. This well-marked trail attracts many hikers each year, and in winter, some sections are maintained for winter hiking and cross-country skiing. One particular attraction is the nearby Wartburg Castle, one of the best castles in Germany. Accommodation is available at guesthouses along the way.
Difficulty level: The difficulty level is medium.
Albsteig is a tough 365 km trail in 15 stages, located in the Swabian Jura range from Tuttlingen to Donauwörth. The route is characterized by dramatic scenery and stunning panoramas as well as a number of castles, the most famous of which being Hohenzollern Castle. Completing this walk in 15 days is a very challenging feat but the route can be broken down into up to 25 shorter stages, making it easier to tackle.
Difficulty level: The route is tough, but can be broken down to make it somewhat easier.
The Heidschnuckenweg is a 223 km trail running from Hamburg-Fischbek to Celle in Germany’s northern Lower Saxony region. The route is best known for the purple lilac blooms which can usually be seen between early- to mid-August and early to mid-September, making this the best time of year to attempt the trail. The route is broken down into 13 stages, with accommodation in traditional villages along the way.
Difficulty level: The route is relatively flat and the difficulty level is easy, making it a suitable choice for those with limited hiking experience or for those worried about their fitness levels. It is also suitable for families with children.
At 660 km, this is Germany’s longest recognized hiking trail. It starts in Marktredwitz and ends in Passan, passing through the Bavarian Forest, Europe’s largest area of protected forest. Setting off from Marktredwitz, the trail splits in two at Oberviechtach. From there, the northern route is the more challenging and passes over a succession of 1000 m peaks. The southern trail is a gentler walk through shaded forest. The whole route consists of 38 stages. Apart from the attractive landscape, local cuisine and local Bavarian beer are other particular highlights.
Difficulty level: The northern route is considered difficult while the southern path is easy to medium.
Another delightful hike through the southern Black Forest. This rewarding trail crosses gorges and canyons, passes through meadows and primeval forest and takes in pretty waterfalls and sparkling lakes. Some of the highlights include Wutach Gorge, Lake Schluchsee and the Wehra Valley. The 119 km trail can be broken into 6 stages, starting at Stühlingen and ending at Wehr.
Difficulty level: The trail is considered to be of moderate difficulty.
The Germans themselves have long known about the natural treasures of their homeland but now, more travellers from elsewhere are discovering the pleasures of hiking in Germany. With the range of trails available, the friendly and welcoming towns and villages along the way, vibrant regional cultures, delicious local food and, of course, a bewildering range of excellent beers, it is no wonder the country is fast becoming a favourite destination for the most discerning of hiking enthusiasts.
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