Ramble along Germany’s premium hiking trails

Ramble along Germany’s premium hiking trails

by Karen Bradbury
Stripes Europe

Germans have the reputation of striving toward excellence in all they do, and one could argue that this desire to always be at the top of their game extends to how they choose to spend their leisure time. In a country of achievers, why just wander the woods when you can complete a hike bearing its own special level of distinction?

In what might be considered the Mercedes S-Class of the hiking world, Germany is crisscrossed by a number of trails that have been honored with the seal of Premium-Wanderwege, or premium hiking trails. These are overseen by the German Hiking Institute, an association tasked with the development of quality standards for all things hiking. Its aim is to promote hiking as a means of experiencing nature and a touristic activity, taking the conservation of nature into account as well. 

In order for a trail to make the grade, the German Hiking Institute sends out its experts, who take a scientific approach to evaluating a trail. A trail is awarded or deducted points based on dozens of criteria. A sweeping vista, ancient trees and a babbling brook help up the tally; asphalt and eyesores subtract from the total score. Some aspects of a trail are non-negotiable; for example, not more than 15% of a trail’s total distance can run over a paved surface or concrete. Hiker surveys are another instrument used to assess trails. To ensure standards are kept high, certification remains valid for a period of three years, and after this time, the trail is evaluated anew.

The institute awards not just one but three types of certification. Premium hiking trails are circular or linear trails characterized by clear markers and natural beauty. Premium walking trails are shorter, generally between two to four miles long, and also offer exceptional landscapes and proximity to nature.  Premium city hiking trails are trails through urban environments that offer interesting cityscapes and sites of interest to a tourist. Another label bestowed by the institute is that of premium hiking region, given to regions with exceptional infrastructure such as routes that can be reached by public transportation and trailside establishments serving food and drink.

The seal of quality appears on marketing materials, websites and the trail itself. The words “Deutsches Wandersiegel Premiumweg” surround a circular, blue-and-green stylized logo resembling a stream and mountain peaks against a blue-sky backdrop. The premium hiking trail seal has also been awarded to trails outside Germany, including those in Austria, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

Discovering just the right premium hiking trail is a breeze, thanks to the well-organized information on their website. An interactive map displays all the certified trails in Europe, which can be narrowed down according to criteria such as whether they are mountainous or suitable for winter hiking.  All trail descriptions include trail length, location and a description of the trail’s surface. There’s even an “Erlebnispunktzahl,” a point system rating the trail’s overall enjoyment factor. It’s also possible to narrow down one’s search by German state.

Wondering if there’s a premium hiking trail close to the place you call home? This is just a peek at some of these top-rated trails near our communities:

Baumholder

Bärenbachpfad, Parkplätze am Stadtweiher – Ringstraße, 55774 Baumholder

Kaiserslautern / Landstuhl

Teufelstour, 67737 Olsbrücken, Wanderbahnhof

Grafenwöhr

Vorgeschichtsweg,  Archäologiemuseum, Thalmässing

Stuttgart

Herzog-Jäger-Pfad, Braunäcker-Parkplatz, off the L1208 between Waldenbuch and Dettenhausen

Wiesbaden

Rauenthaler Spange, Wanderparkplatz Grillhütte Rauenthal

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