Germany Top 5: Hikes
Hiking is a popular pastime in Germany and for good reason. Besides being good for your health, hiking (Wandern in German) is a great way to connect with nature and discover more about your area. Trails (Wanderweg in German) are plentiful in Germany. These routes can be found in rural, forested, mountainous or even suburban areas.While there are plenty of interesting trails to explore in Germany, here is a just a few of the country’s hiking highlights:
The most famous pilgrimage route in the world, El Camino de Santiago, has numerous trails that run through Germany. There are 30 routes in Germany leading to the Spanish city of Santiago de Compostela where the grave of the Apostle St. James is located. St. James’ Way is known as Jakobsweg in German. These paths are marked with a drawing of a scallop shell.
Jakobsweg runs on a network of different trails in Germany leading to the pilgrimage site in Spain. Some of the trails cross through cities like Freiburg, Nuremberg, Speyer and Rothenburg ob der Tauber. In some German cities, you will find gold-plated shells on the ground marking the route.
Located near the Austrian border is a region called Berchtesgadener Land. This mountainous area is home to a section of the Alps and a large national park. Within the park are 143 miles of hiking trails. A good beginner’s hike in the national park is the 2-kilometer trail from St. Bartholomew’s church to Watzmann-Ostwand along the picturesque Königsee (King’s Lake).
Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest (Kehlsteinhaus) is also located in Berchtesgadener Land. This famous mountaintop retreat has incredible panoramic views of the Alps. There are two trails you can hike up to the Eagle’s Nest, which take between 1.5 and 3 hours to complete.
In an area called Saxon Switzerland is a 112-kilometer trail known as the Malerweg (Painter’s Way). The Elbe Sandstone Mountains Malerweg trail is just south of Dresden and follows a path through rocky landscapes. This region and itslandscape inspired 18th century writers and painters, hence the name Painter’s Way.
The Malerweg route guides hikers through the most picturesque spots in the region, including by castles and the famous Bastei (a towering rock formation with a bridge over the Elbe River). The Malerweg trail was recently restored and now includes signposts featuring paintings inspired by the landscape.
Garmisch-Partenkirchen is home to the highest peak in Germany, the Zugspitze. From Garmisch, you can begin your trek into the Bavarian Alps to summit the peak. Along the various routes (categorized by difficulty) there are guesthouses open in summer where you can have refreshments or spend the night.
In total, these two southern Bavarian towns have 300 kilometers of marked footpaths to explore. A short hike from the village of Garmisch is the Partnach Gorge, a natural monument. Partnach Gorge is home to waterfalls, tunnels and rushing glacial blue waters.
The RheinSteig is a trail from Bonn to Wiesbaden along the Rhine River. The 320-kilometer trail runs along the east bank of the river and is elevated in most sections. The narrow route runs through forests, vineyards and by castles. The RheinSteig is a proud award winner; it was the first long-distance trail in Germany to win the Tour Natur (most beautiful hiking trail).
Villages along the RheinSteig are well connected by public transportation. If you aren’t in it for the long haul, you can do the sections you like, then use public transport (boat, train or bus) to return to your starting point.
These are a few of the many hiking trails Germany has to offer! Make the most of this summer and get hiking!
Quick tips for your next trek into the great outdoors:
-Study the trail maps before heading out. Multiple trails may intersect, so be sure to note the trail mark you want to follow before starting out.
-Be prepared with snacks and water. Refreshment stands are more likely to be open in the summer months, but definitely not a given on any trail.
-Care for your body with proper footwear and bug protection. Ticks can be plentiful in wooded areas, especially during the summer months.
-Bring some euros. Some trail sites (like the Partnach Gorge) have admission fees. And you might want to try some local treats at a restaurant or guesthouse!