Country Hiking Guides

The Best Hikes in Germany for Every Season

POSTED ON May 22, 2024 BY Ralph S.


Introduction

With its rich history and breathtaking natural landscapes, Germany offers some of the best hikes for the seasoned trekker and the casual explorer.

Our selection has something for everyone’s bucket list, from the mystical Black Forest to the rugged beauty of the Bavarian Alps. Prepare to set off on an unforgettable adventure as we explore the best hikes in Germany for every season.

This comprehensive guide, promises to lead you through the heart of Germany’s stunning national parks, dense forests, and past historical landmarks that have shaped the nation.

Whether planning an easy hike or seeking a challenge, this extensive guide outlines some must-see hiking Germany destinations, ensuring that your outdoor adventures are filled with unforgettable experiences and breathtaking scenery.

The Impressive Network of Trails at Sächsische Schweiz National Park

Sächsische Schweiz National Park

  • Location: Saxony, Germany (map)
  • Size: 23,104 acres (93.5 sq. km.)
  • Number of Hiking Trails: undefined
  • Total Length of Hiking Trails: About 745 miles (1,200 km) of waymarked trails

The Sächsische Schweiz, or Saxon Switzerland National Park, is a treasure trove for hikers, with its unique topography of sandstone pinnacles and mesas creating a landscape that’s as dramatic as it is beautiful.

The Malerweg, or Painters’ Way, is a cultural and aesthetic feast that winds through this area, meandering through sandstone formations while artist’s perspectives of the Elbe River create a canvas that changes with every step.

Scaling the iconic Bastei Bridge, perched 636 feet (194 meters) above the Elbe, offers one of the most renowned panoramic views in the region. Amongst curious rock formations and dense woodland, the trail leads to the idyllic fortress of Königstein, a testament to ancient human habitation in this surreal landscape.

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Harz Witches’ Trail in Harz National Park

NHN der höchste Berg im Mittelgebirge Harz, in Sachsen-Anhalt und in ganz Norddeutschland. Er befindet sich in der Gemarkung Schierke der Stadt Wernigerode im Landkreis Harz

  • Location: Harz National Park, Germany
  • Distance: Approximately 60 miles (97 km)
  • Hiking Duration: 5 to 7 days
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trail Type: Point-to-point

The Harz Witches’ Trail, or Harzer-Hexen-Stieg, invites hikers on a mystical journey through the Harz Mountains, blending natural beauty with rich folklore. From Osterode to Thale, the trail passes through the heart of Harz National Park, ascending to Brocken, the park’s highest peak, renowned for its witchcraft legends.

Accessibility via public transportation makes various trail sections welcoming for adventurers of all levels. The path showcases the Upper Harz Water Regale, a UNESCO World Heritage site, illustrating the area’s historical mining legacy through the picturesque Upper Harz Ponds and the innovative Dyke Ditch.

Continuing, the trail unveils diverse landscapes and cultural monuments. It splits at Torfhaus, offering routes that either challenge hikers to Brocken’s summit or guide them around to explore the remarkable engineering of the Upper Harz Water Regale further.

Notable stops include the Goethe Way parallel to the Brocken Railway, the serene Oderteich, and the majestic Rehberg Ditch, before converging again towards enchanting destinations like Rübeland along the Rübeland Railway and the vast Rappbode Reservoir. The trail’s culmination in Thale offers a grand finale to an unforgettable trek.

Hiking Wilderness Trails in Eifel National Park

Eifel National Park

  • Location: Eifel National Park, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany (map)
  • Size: 27,182 acres (110 sq. km.)
  • Number of Hiking Trails: undefined
  • Total Length of Hiking Trails: undefined

Eifel National Park represents a prime conservation area characterized by its stunning natural landscapes. It’s a sanctuary where the serenity of Rur Lake reservoir (map) enhances the breathtaking scenery, inviting visitors to explore the southern reaches of this pristine wilderness.

Within this expansive park, several wilderness trails weave through lush forests, open meadows, and sparkling waters, designed to suit all skill levels. From leisurely strolls to more challenging hikes, the trails unveil the hidden beauties of the region, including spectacular views from elevated vantage points and intimate encounters with the park’s wildlife.

Berchtesgaden National Park Area Nature Trails

National park Berchtesgaden from Kehlsteinhaus, Germany

  • Location: Berchtesgaden National Park, Bavaria, Germany (map)
  • Size: 51,892 acres (210 sq. km.)
  • Number of Hiking Trails: Not specified
  • Total Length of Hiking Trails: Not specified

Positioned in the stunning locales of Ramsau near Berchtesgaden and Schönau at the Königsee (King’s Lake) in the Bavarian region of Berchtesgadener Land, Berchtesgaden National Park is a sanctuary of natural beauty, characterized by its dense forests, crystal-clear lakes, and the dramatic silhouettes of looming cliffs.

Among the park’s most significant attractions are its challenging yet rewarding hiking trails, which offer both novice and experienced trekkers a chance to explore the astounding natural scenery.

Two notable paths, the Watzmann Mittelspitze and Watzmann Südspitze trails, offer physically demanding routes that guide adventurers through impressive mountain landscapes.

The Jurasteig (Jura Hiking Trail)

Deutschland - Baden-Württemberg - Kaiserstuhl

  • Location: Bavarian Jura, Germany
  • Distance: 147 miles (237 km)
  • Hiking Duration: 13–16 days
  • Difficulty: Moderate to hard
  • Trail Type: Loop

Set against the low, forested mountains of the Bavarian Jura, the Jurasteig (Jura Hiking Trail) offers a distinctive circular loop (map). This comprehensive trail ventures through hills and tranquil valleys, including Donau, Altmühl, Weisser and Schwarzer Laber, Lauterach, Vils, and Naab rivers.

The route navigates a diverse landscape, with the trail path enveloped in a fusion of meadows, dense pine forests, fragrant juniper scrubs, and mature beech woods, showcasing the area’s karst topography.

True to the spirit of exploration, the Jurasteig hosts 13 routes and 18 loop trails that branch off, diverging into regions for day-long escapades. These sub-routes lead adventurers to the historic and architectural majesty interspersed within the Bavarian Jura, including age-old castles and serene monasteries (Bavarian Jura).

Wutachschlucht Trail (Wutach Gorge Trail)

Wandelen in de Wutachschlucht

  • Location: Wutachschlucht, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
  • Distance: 8 miles (13 km)
  • Hiking Duration: 3-4 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trail Type: Point-to-point

The Wutachschlucht Trail in the High Black Forest offers an unparalleled hiking experience, inviting adventurers to explore a unique ecosystem. The trail stretches from Schattenmühle, a historical mill now a rustic hotel, to Wutachmühle, a cozy log cabin known for its warm meals and refreshments. This section presents a less challenging, yet equally rewarding alternative to the complete gorge expedition, making it ideal for a leisurely day hike.

The sheer rock walls, reaching up to 558 feet (170 meters) high, form a natural microclimate that sustains an extraordinary variety of flora and fauna, including rare ferns, orchids, insects, and rare lizard species.

A walk along the Wutachschlucht Trail immerses visitors in the lush beauty of the gorge and a close encounter with the dynamic Wutach River (Baden-Württemberg), which has sculpted this spectacular landscape through the ages. Situated near the southern district of Löffingen, close to the Swiss border, Schattenmühle serves as an accessible starting point for this picturesque hike.

Hike through the Partnachklamm Gorge and back via Mount Graseck

Partnachklamm Gorge, Bavaria, Germany

  • Location: Partnachklamm Gorge, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany
  • Distance: 3.8 miles (6.3 km)
  • Hiking Duration: Approximately 2 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trail Type: Loop

The hike through the Partnachklamm Gorge begins at the Olympia Skistadion parking lot, offering a unique opportunity to explore the natural beauty of Bavaria during the summer. This loop trail is designed to enchant visitors with its easy pathway, making it accessible to explorers of all ages and skill levels.

As hikers traverse the trail, they are treated to the spectacle of the Partnach River carving through the deep gorge. The return path via Mount Graseck allows adventurers to discover new vistas, each offering a different perspective of the area’s breathtaking surroundings.

Moorland Sheep Trail

Schweiz / Wallis - Strahlhorn, Adlerhorn und Findelgletscher

  • Location: Hamburg, Germany to Celle, Germany
  • Distance: 139 miles (223 km)
  • Hiking Duration: 10-15 days
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trail Type: Point-to-point

The Moorland Sheep Trail invites adventurers to immerse themselves in the scenic diversity of Northern Germany, from serene heath landscapes to tranquil forests.

Throughout this remarkable journey, hikers will experience the unique flora and fauna of the Lüneburg Heath, including the iconic Heidschnucken moorland sheep grazing in the area.

The trail offers activities and sights, from exploring historic villages and witnessing traditional agriculture to enjoying the panoramic views that make this route one of the most beautiful hikes in Germany.

Rheinsteig Trail

Rheinsteig Trail

  • Location: From Bonn to Wiesbaden, Germany
  • Distance: 199 miles (320 km)
  • Hiking Duration: Variable, several days
  • Difficulty: Moderate to challenging
  • Trail Type: Point-to-point

The Rheinsteig Trail, extending along the Rhine River from Bonn to Wiesbaden, has been recently honored as Germany’s most captivating and oldest long-distance hike. Traversing the route, hikers are treated to a blend of natural beauty and historical grandeur, with the path skirting the edges of the Rhine Valley and offering panoramic views of Germany’s landscape.

The trail’s proximity to the Thuringian Forest adds to the richness of the experience. What sets the Rheinsteig apart are the innumerable breathtaking vistas, majestic castles, and palatial remains dotting the path. Hikers can look forward to exploring the terraced vineyards, observing the architectural marvels, and, perhaps, taking a rest to enjoy the local wines characteristic of this region.

The Painters’ Way – Hiking In the Elbe Sandstone Mountains

Elbsandsteingebirge (finde den Bergsteiger) - Elbe Sandstone Mountains (find the climber)

  • Location: Elbe Sandstone Mountains, Germany
  • Distance: Variable
  • Hiking Duration: Variable
  • Difficulty: Moderate to Challenging
  • Trail Type: Loop

The Painters’ Way in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains (map) is a testament to nature’s splendor, intertwined with cultural history. Its picturesque landscapes, characterized by towering sandstone rock faces and expansive vistas, have long inspired artists, including the romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich.

The trail’s recognition extends into the realm of cinema, serving as a backdrop for films such as “The Chronicles of Narnia,” “Cloud Atlas,” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” The route’s unique challenges, including climbing iron ladders to the Schrammsteine viewing platform and navigating through tight spaces on the Affensteine rocks, add an adventurous edge to the hiking experience.

Notably, the trail is dotted with historical and cultural sites, including the impressive Königstein Fortress (tours available), the enchanting Lichtenhain Waterfall, and the picturesque towns of Pirna and Bad Schandau, offering insights into local history and architecture.

The excellent transport connections via S-Bahn to Dresden and ferries and paddle steamers make accessing the Painters’ Way Trail convenient for hikers eager to explore the Elbe Sandstone Mountains.

The German Green Belt Trail

Baltic Sea beach at Priwall

  • Location: From the Baltic Sea beach at Priwall to the border triangle area at Hof in the Vogtland region, Germany
  • Distance: 865 miles (1,393 km)
  • Hiking Duration: Variable, several weeks
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trail Type: Point-to-point

The German Green Belt Trail traces a historically significant route along the former east-west border, extending from the Baltic Sea beach at Priwall to the border triangle area at Hof in the Vogtland region.

This trail offers a walk through some of Germany’s most untouched natural reserves and serves as a living monument to Germany’s reunification. The Green Belt spans six federal states: Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, Brandenburg, Lower Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia, and Saxony, touching parts of three additional states.

Functioning as the backbone of Germany’s green infrastructure and biodiversity network, the trail surpasses most major land regions, incorporating large portions of the country’s natural heritage and history.

While traversing various terrains, hikers encounter a wealth of biodiversity, unspoiled ecosystems, and significant landmarks that narrate the tale of a once-divided nation now united.

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Black Forest Trails

Black Forest Germany

Hiking through the Black Forest is venturing into the heart of the fairytale landscape. This iconic region in southwest Germany is renowned for its dense, dark woods and the inspiration it provided for the Grimms’ literary classics.

The Westweg Trail, a long-distance path traversing the forest, offers hikers an immersive experience. You’ll wander past picturesque meadows with farmhouses, dense fir and pine forests, and serene lakes. The path is well-marked, making it ideal for hikers who want to lose themselves in nature without worrying about getting lost.

The challenging Belchensteig trail serves up a portion of the Westweg, leading to the summit of Belchen Mountain. This vantage point provides an unrivaled view of the sea of trees that inspired the romantic allure of the Black Forest.

Wasserfallsteig Trail is a premium trail for waterfall lovers and anyone interested in seeing impressive waterfalls. The moderate hike is approximately 12.4 kilometers long and takes approximately four hours. 

Long Walk in the Bavarian Alps

Long Walk in the Bavarian Alps

For hikers seeking a more alpine challenge, head to Germany’s Bavarian Alps, where the landscape is dominated by rugged peaks, deep valleys, and pristine lakes. The Alps are home to the Zugspitze, Germany’s highest mountain, and offer many hiking routes. One of the most sought-after trails is the King’s Trail (Königsweg), which winds past picturesque lakes and through dramatic gorges.

The Partnach Gorge is a must-see highlight, especially in the winter when its frozen waterfalls create a magical ice kingdom. The trail culminates at the foot of the Zugspitze, offering a breathtaking vista of the mountain’s massive glaciers.

Conclusion

Exploring the beauty of Germany’s hiking trails is an adventure that offers a connection to the land and its stories. Each path leads to a greater understanding of the country’s cultural heritage and commitment to preserving its natural environment.

For the lover of the outdoors, a hike in Germany is an opportunity to escape, recharge, and marvel at the world’s innate wonder. Lace up your hiking boots, pack your camera, and prepare to be captivated by the diverse landscapes German trails offer.

Check out our country hiking guides for more interesting destinations worth visiting.


RALPH S.

Ralph S. is the founder of Silverlight, an avid hiker and trail runner he enjoys spending time outdoors, riding his motorcycle and swimming at the beach when he's not busy replying to customers or developing new Silverlight gear.

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