Green routes: 10 exciting hiking and cycling routes you must try in Germany

Embracing the great outdoors is a lifestyle in Germany. Whether planning a multi-day adventure of a day trip into nature, here are ten exciting cycling and hiking paths waiting to be discovered

Team Wanderlust
01 June 2022
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Discover Germany

1. Baden Wine Cycle Route

Baden Wine Cycle Route (©DWI /German Wine Institute)

Wine and cycling, that’s a recipe for a good journey. On Germany’s longest wine trail, there is an opportunity to taste the ‘sunniest wine’ in Germany around every corner of this wine-themed cycle route.

The Baden Wine Cycle Route opened in 2020 and is a 460km route that begins on the German-Swiss border and roughly traces the length of the Black Forest through its wine region. This is an exciting itinerary that takes cyclists among vineyards, through picturesque villages and offers a chance to stay in wine hotels of the region.

Divided into eight stages, the route is partly hilly, mostly paved, and is suitable for most cycling abilities as well as e-bikes. Explore more than 300 wineries through the region on two wheels, through rows of vineyards against the hazy backdrop of the Black Forest. Stop once in a while for wine tasting, to sample local delicacies and make a couple of detours to discover the cultural and historical sights of medieval old towns. This is a cycling route for both gourmets and outdoor enthusiasts.

2. Elbe Cycle Route

The Elbe Cycle Route (©GNTB / Les Coflocs)

Considered one of the most beautiful, and voted the most popular cycling route in Germany for ten consecutive years, the 860km Elbe Cycle Route is one of the best options to explore the diversity of nature and culture in Germany.

The route follows a mostly flat course of the river on paved cycling paths through the Elbe Valley, swerving in and out of historic cities and towns, national parks with wildlife, protected UNESCO biospheres, castles and vineyards. It eventually ends at the mudflats at the river’s mouth in the North Sea. From history to nature to cuisine and culture, there is something for cyclists of every palette.

Plenty of bike friendly hotels along the way welcome cyclists and their bikes for refuel and recharge. To make it even easier, there is an option to book luggage transfers between night stops. No wonder everyone is in love with the Elbe Cycle Route.

3. Baltic Coast Cycle Trail 

Enjoy beautiful Rügen island on the Baltic Coast Cycle Trail (© GNTB / Lars Schneider)

A trail that begins in Lübeck, a prosperous city once the seat of the Hanseatic League, the Baltic Coast Cycle Trail showcases the best of the German coastline.

Cycle along the coast of grand seaside resorts, piers that stretches out towards the sea, lighthouses and UNESCO World Heritage towns still proud of the Hanseatic heritage. The route also allows cyclists to visit the many islands of Germany, including the famous white chalk cliffs of Rügen before ending their journey at the border of Poland. 

This is a trail to cycle slowly, and take a day or two to explore the area’s attractions. As well as the cycling, it is possible to enjoy a bit of water sports or indulge in a massage at one of the resorts.

4. Oder-Neisse Cycle Route

The Unteres Odertal National Park (© GNTB / Francesco Carovillano)

A flat and well paved route that is suitable for families with children, the Oder-Neisse Cycle Route is one of the lesser known outside Germany, but a highly rated one by the German Cyclists’ Federation.

Running along the German-Polish border, the trail traces its path along the two rivers – the Oder and the Neisse. Minimal traffic means an enjoyable ride, and there are plenty of sights to distract you from the pedalling. Visit Görlitz, Germany’s most easterly town and one of the most beautifully preserved. Or visit the well preserved monastery complex in Neuzelle. Nature lovers should enjoy the spring blossoms along the Oder and stop for a spot of birdwatching at Europe’s largest flood plains in the Unteres Odertal National Park.

The adventurous cyclists will find opportunities to detour into Poland for a cross-cultural experience before ending the journey at the Baltic Sea, where a celebratory swim to loosen the legs is in order.

5. Rhine Cycle Trail

See castles such as the Stahleck Castle on a bike ride along the Rhine (© Rheintouristik Tal der Loreley, St. Goar / Mahlow Media, Winningen)

One of the most iconic rivers in Europe and the most important in cultural and economic value, the Rhine River winds a pretty path past castles and vineyards. The Rhine Cycle Trail is a leisurely cycle route that traverses the German landscape from Konstanz in the Swiss border to Emmerich am Rhein where the river enters the Netherlands.

With no less than 40 castles perch majestically on hilltops, preservation of the Roman ruins and vast vineyards that crawl up from the valley floor, the beauty and romance of the Rhine has inspired creative greats from Goethe to Schumann to Beethoven. Today, 120 kilometres of the route is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Region making it one of the best cycling route for culture and history lovers. In 2021, a new dedicated Beuys & Bike Route along the original Rhine trail was established to celebrate the 100th birthday of German artist Joseph Beuys, where hikers can follow his life and art works in the region.

6. The Painter’s Way

The Elbe Sandstone Mountains (© GNTB / Jens Wegener)

The Painter’s Way is a well structured trail among the Elbe Sandstone Mountains of Saxon Switzerland, through one of the most stunning landscapes in Germany that has captured the imagination of Romantic artists such as Caspar David Friedrich, Robert Sterl and Veselin Vasilev. It takes the hiker into the world of monumental sandstone towers depicted in the paintings as well as waterfalls and traditional mountain inns to complete the picture.

The 116km trail dates back to the 18th Century when it was considered a wild and romantic artistic inspiration for painters, musicians and writers in the region. Today, the well sign-posted trail has information boards displaying the historical paintings of the landscape along the route.

A particularly demanding section requires hikers to climb up iron ladders in via ferrata style, but attempts are rewarded with breathtaking views from the viewing platform on the Schrammsteine rocks.

7. The Rennsteig Trail

The Thuringian Forest (Shutterstock)

Historically used by couriers to travel between cities and towns, this 700 year-old trail not only comes with a rich history, it even has a song dedicated to its beauty. The Rennsteig is Germany’s oldest hiking trail through the Thuringian Forest and is ideal for those looking for some forest bathing and peaceful walking.

The trees of the forest and the lack of man-made noise heightens the senses to the sounds of nature. On the Rennsteig, it is the small sounds that matter, made up of birdsong, the rustling of the tree branches, buzzing insects and the crunch of the forest floor against the hiking boots. Information boards along the way educate hikers on the flora and fauna of the forest. There are also regular rest stops with cosy shelters for hikers to pause and enjoy a snack or two.

The Rennsteig Trail is an easy, relatively flat trail through the dense spruce and beech trees, and can be hiked in sections.

8. The Altmühl Valley Panorama Trail

Hiking at Kelheim (© Landkreis Kehlheim / Andreas Hub)

Following the course of the Altmühl river from the lake of the same name at Gunzenhausen to the confluence with the Danube at Kelheim, the Altmühl Valley Panorama Trail is an environmentally diverse and culturally fascinating hike through typical Bavarian countryside.

The 200km route is split into 15 stages. Towns in between are connected by a regional train line so it’s possible for hikers to choose their ideal section according to their preference before taking the transport onwards. It may be wise to plan a few slow days, for there are plenty of historical attractions from ancient castles to Celtic and Roman remains along the way to explore. The region also has a number of caves to discover and you can hunt for fossils in a quarry. While most of the trail is at a leisurely design, there are several steep ascends to reach great viewing points, where the view is worth the climb.

9. The Hermann Heights Trail

Externsteine has been standing since the last Ice Age (Shutterstock)

Named after the heroic Cheruscan prince Arminius (Hermann in German) who defeated the Romans at the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest, the Hermann Heights Trail is a 226km leisurely trail along the ridges of the Teutoburg Forest and the Egge Hills, connecting the regions of Münsterland, Sauerland and Teutoburg Forest through charming towns, fantastic rock formations and forest paths.

One of the most extraordinary natural wonders on the trail is a cluster of thirteen sandstone pillars called Externsteine, which has existed since the last Ice Age and was worshipped by the Celts. While impressive up close, the rocks are best viewed from the nearby lakes of the Wiembeck valley where the rock formations are beautifully reflected on the clear surfaces of the water.

It is also expected that the trail takes hikers to the giant Hermann Monument near Detmold, one of the most popular monument sites in Germany, also a great place to stop to rest.

10. The Two Valleys Trail

Hiking at the Kandel mountain (© ZweiTälerLand Tourismus / Patrick Kunkel)

A challenging but rewarding hiking trail that combines the beauty of both Elz and Simonswald Valleys in the Black Forest. The Two Valleys Trail is a 108km circular trail starting near the city of Freiburg, which involves narrow zigzagging paths and steep climbs up the Hörnleberg and Kandel mountains where hikers are treated to an excellent panoramic view.

Due to the difficulty of the trail, this is the only hiking route in Germany that comes with an age limit: no one under the age of 16 is allowed. However, the eligible adults willing to put in the hard effort will find themselves in awe of the waterfalls, gorges, rock formations, meadows and dense forests, among some of the most friendly people of the region and a welcoming rest at the pilgrimage chapel on the Hörnleberg.

Feeling inspired? 

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