Blessed with some truly magnificent natural beauty, there are over 200,000 kilometers of well-maintained hiking trails in Germany.
Literally a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, nature-buffs, and health freaks, it’s so easy to get off the beaten path and explore the rural landscapes on your own. Whether it’s Sächsische Schweiz, Allgäu Alps, or the picturesque Baltic Coast, there is something for everyone in Germany!
From glistening mountain lakes to the enchanted Black Forest shrouded in legend and mystery, from the otherworldly peaks reaching for the sky to the jaw-dropping views of the glaciers, here are some of the best hiking trails in Germany.
Grab your trekking shoes, a bottle of water and some grain bars, jump in your rental car, and head out to some of these truly inspiring hiking destinations.
The Best Hikes in Germany
This 320-km long hike along the bank of the Rhine River allows to test yourself and enjoy difficult gradients and spectacular views of countless castles in Germany, stately homes, cliffs, and vineyards.
The trail is well-marked with plentiful signs along the way that make it easy to follow the paths without using navigation devices. As Germany’s oldest hiking trail, which runs from Wiesbaden to Bonn, Rheinsteig is definitely worth taking.
If you plan on hiking along Rheinsteig Trail, consider starting at Wiesbaden-Biebrich train station, and then follow the path leading to the trail itself through the castle grounds. While going the full distance can be somewhat strenuous, most hikers opt for taking a particular section or two.
Depending on your route you will be able to see Kloster Eberbach, Schloss Johannisberg, Lahneck Castle, and Eibingen Abbey. The trail is open year-round and you’ll need decent walking shoes and supplies to last the length of your hike.
The Eifelsteig is the long-distance hiking trail that takes you through the unspoiled scenery of the Eifel. The trail connects the historic cities of Aachen in North Rhine-Westphalia and Trier in Rhineland Palatinate.
While hiking this route, outdoor enthusiasts will appreciate the changing landscape of rolling fields, rivers, moorland, and volcanic crater lakes. The total length of the route is about 313 kilometers (194 miles) and is divided into 15 daily sections, each between 14 and 28 kilometers.
For hikers looking for specific types of accommodation, there are hotels, bed and breakfast, campsites, youth hostels, and holiday flats along the route. You may also take advantage of additional services, ranging from advice about hiking, packed lunches, to baggage transfer to your next place of stay.
If you’re looking for some in-depth exploration, you may want to go on day hikes or multiple day hikes in combination with the Eifelsteig. The trail is quite challenging but the old pilgrimage sites and abbeys, along with hilltop-perched medieval castles of Manderscheid make this hike unforgettable.
Painter’s Way Trail
The Malerweg trail (Painter’s Way in German) is a part of the Elbe Sandstone Mountains, the mountain range located in Saxony (southeastern Germany) and North Bohemia (Czech Republic).
This impressive 112 km (69.5 miles) trail is also known as Saxon Switzerland and Bohemian Switzerland in both Germany and the Czech Republic respectively.
The trail got its name from many romantic artists and poets who loved to spend their time here, roaming around in the search for inspiration. The area became particularly popular as a prime hiking destination in the late 18th century thanks to the painters from Dresden Academy of Fine Arts, Anton Graff and Adrian Zingg.
The hike is broken into 8 daily walks of about 17 km (10.5 miles) each. This allows you can take a day hike or go on an aspiring week-long journey across table-top mountains and narrow gorges. Different stages offer various levels of difficulty, but generally, the Malerweg trail suits all levels of fitness.
The Bastei Bridge is definitely the most popular section is the second stage. Built-in 1824, the scenic bridge wonderfully crosses the rock and overlooks the Elbe River.
If you want to get to Saxon Switzerland from Germany, the nearest city is Dresden. Alternatively, you can travel from Berlin. The entire trip takes around 3 hours by car.
If you’re coming from the Czech side it will take about 2 hours from Prague, the Czech capital. The national park is extremely well-connected to other Western European countries and cities by buses, trains, or planes. If you’re traveling from Dresden’s Hauptbahnhof (main central station), arrive at Pirna/Liebethal or Stadt Wehlen to start on the second stage.
Crossing the Ahr Valley, also known as Germany’s “Red Wine Dorado,” the Ahrsteig Trail takes you to a number of peaceful meadows, narrow rocky paths, isolated high plateaus, and lively wine villages. take your time to soak up the panoramic views of the Ahr Valley, with sights that stretch as far as Cologne.
The 84-km trail follows the Ahr river, and you can hike the entire length of this trail by spotting the Ahrsteig trail logo on the tree trunks along the route and rest on the trail’s comfortable seats along the way.
Hikers should know that there are two ways to walk the Ahrsteig trail. First, you can take the red route, which begins at the source of the Ahr in Blankenheim, and finishes just before Altenahr.
The second way is to take the blue A route that follows the river to the wine-producing area of Walporzheim and onwards to the spa town of Bad Neuenahr and on to Sinzig. Both routes are interconnected, so you can choose the one that best suits your needs.
Before undertaking a multi-stage hike it pays to be in reasonable shape. Particularly, you need to be at a reasonable level of fitness to cover the first 11 kilometers from Blankenheim in the Eifel mountains to Freilinger Lake, a popular nature reserve and recreation area.
Hochuferweg from Sassnitz to Lohme
The third most beautiful hiking trail in Germany in 2012 according to Wandermagazin (a German hiking magazine), the raised coastal path from Sassnitz to Lohme combines the raw charm of the chalk cliffs with unparalleled views of the Baltic Sea.
Situated on Germany’s largest island by area, Jasmund National Park is an amazing place for anyone willing to enjoy the combination of forests, meadows, marshes, and Rügen’s chalk coast.
The 13.5-kilometer long trail takes you from the car park in Wedding/Sassnitz along the steep coast of the Baltic Sea. The path to the Königsstuhl (King’s Throne) passes the Wissower Klinken that once inspired the romantic artist Caspar David Friedrich to draw his famous “Chalk Cliffs on Rügen”.
From the lookout point, Ernst-Moritz-Arndt-Sicht, the raised coastal path takes hikers through the Ancient Beech Forests that are among the last untouched forests in Europe. These forests are on the UNESCO list as well.
Once the Königsstuhl has been reached, the picturesque chalk cliffs can be appreciated from the Victoria viewpoint. Then head on to the Königsstuhl National Park Centre (German: Nationalpark-Zentrum Königsstuhl) and learn everything about the development of Rügen’s chalk coastline and more than 1400 species that inhabit it.
Should the hike take longer than expected, you can hop on a bus from the National Park Centre back to Sassnitz or continue hiking along the path to Lohme. A bus also leaves to Sassnitz from there.
The 290-km long trail takes you high above the Lahn River all the way from Netphen to Lahnstein. Lahnwanderweg trail covers a series of viewpoints with spectacular views of the Lahn valley and Westerwald forest.
While some prefer the enchanted landscape at the source and in the upper Lahn valley, others the larger expanse of the floodplain landscapes in the middle Lahn valley and the wild and romantic lower Lahn valley, where the river meanders deeply between towering rocks. At your own walking pace, there are many opportunities to let your mind wander.
The entire path is divided into 19 stages allowing hikers enough time to enjoy and discover the villages, towns, castles, and palaces. It is usually possible to create a magnificent walking experience.
A total of about 6,000 vertical meters and small side valleys contribute to the historical timber-framed buildings, to historical ruins, delightful scenery. If you want, you can even scramble through a few easy and well secured via ferrata passages.
To start this trail you may want to come to Koblenz and then a local train to Bad Ems or Diez.
Circular Path Around the Eibsee
Eibsee is a beautiful mountain lake in Bavaria not far from Dinkelsbühl Germany around 100 km southwest of Munich.
With crystal clear water that turns turquoise on nice summer days, the lake is close to the border with Austria and hikers can reach it either from Grainau or Garmisch-Partenkirchen by car or bus.
The 7-km long loop trail around Eibsee invites you to enjoy the fresh air and picturesque nature and it normally takes about 2 hours to complete at moderate speed — it’s just is perfect for everyone!
With few gentle hills around, it’s possible to hike off-the-beaten-path and walk along the lake. In case you want to skip the regular trail, you’ll need decent trekking shoes and hiking experience. Alternatively, there is an opportunity to go swimming, rent a boat/SUP, and explore the lake’s small islands. The trail is open year-round.
To start your hiking adventure, you may go either counterclockwise or clockwise around the lake. If you start from the parking and don’t want to do the whole walk, consider going to the right and follow the path in the North direction.
On your way, you will pass the Hotel Eibsee and the actual path which leads around the lake will start. The bulk of the islands can be found on this side of the lake.
After the snow melts, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany’s tourist ski town, turns into a hiker’s paradise.
Located some 100 kilometers south of Munich in Reintal Valley, Garmisch-Partenkirchen is only a stone’s throw away from Zugspitze, Germany’s tallest mountain. All these things make Partnachklamm trail a truly unique place and will impress even the most seasoned hikers.
The Eckbauer, a 1238-meter-high peak at the southern edge of Partenkirchen, is a good starting point for a hike. It is the smallest of the Wetterstein mountain chain, as the area’s predominant section of the Bavarian Alps is known, and lined with easy and moderate trails.
Beyond Forsthaus Graseck hotel begins a dramatic gorge, the Partnachklamm, formed by a mountain stream with a number of paths running through tunnels in the rock drilled alongside. A journey through the tunnel makes you feel like a kid again. At the end of the Partnachklamm, for those who don’t feel like walking, there are horse and buggies back to the chairlift, or Eckbauerbahn.
Heading through low mountain ranges, a 239-km long WesterwaldSteig trail offers mind-boggling views as it extends across Rhineland-Palatinate, Hesse and North Rhine-Westphalia. The trail is designed for folks looking for picturesque rock landscapes, idyllic lakes, and pretty half-timbered villages.
To start your adventure, head to Hesse Herborn in the Dill Valley. From here, the path leads you to the Fuchskaute, the highest point in the Westerwald. If you’re really want to get some spa treatment consider visiting the town of Bad Marienberg on the way.
As you explore the area around you definitely should wander through the deep Holzbachschlucht Gorge and learn more about the time when the volcanic rock basalt was mined here. A number of monasteries are also located along your way to the Rhine. Pay them a visit if you’re interested in history.
Pretty much any section of WesterwaldSteig can easily be reached by train. Of course, you can opt for doing one or a few of the sections if you don’t want to hike the entire trail. In this case, find a village that has train connections and start your hike from there. In general, the region is well connected by bus and train.
At the end of each of 16 stages, there are usually some hotels. However, it’s always wise to plan and book where you want to sleep in advance as there is not always a large choice.
About the AuthorIvan Tannenberg is an independent traveler, history junkie, and a techno-geek. Having traveling the world out of a backpack for a year-and-a-half non-stop he is now based in Vietnam aiming to explore new incredible destinations and cities. Go and check his travel blog for more of his journeys around the world. Follow him on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.
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Allison Green is a former educator turned travel blogger. She holds a Masters in Teaching and a B.A. in English and Creative Writing. Her blog posts merge her educational background and her experience traveling to 60+ countries to encourage thoughtful travel experiences that both educate and entertain. She has been a speaker at the World Travel Writers Conference and her writing, photography, and podcasting work has appeared in National Geographic, CNN Arabic, CBC Canada, and Forbes, amongst others. Now based in the San Francisco Bay Area where she grew up, she has also lived in Prague, Sofia, and New York City.