Meet one of Germany’s most iconic trails: The Rennsteig in the glorious Thuringian Forest is the country’s oldest hiking trail with a history going back about 1,000 years. For centuries, it marked the frontiers of several German duchies and principalities and historical border stones still attest to that. Walking the whole distance of about 105 miles from Eisenach in the west to the Thuringian Slate Mountains in the east takes a few days (luggage transfer can be organised). Or pick and choose individual shorter legs to enjoy the great combination of dense forest and gorgeous panoramic views.
Saxony’s and Thuringia’s great outdoors offer ideal hiking terrain, mainly in Saxon Switzerland, the Vogtland, Ore Mountains, Upper Lusatia, the Thuringian Forest and Thuringian Slate Mountains. On the way, you will not only enjoy breathtaking views and stunning natural sights, but also see many of the sights that Saxony and Thuringia are known for, be it imposing palaces and castles or beautiful historic towns. We have selected some of our favourite routes for you to pick and choose. Let’s go for a ramble!
Here’s a great tip for a leisurely hike should you find yourself in Dresden: The 7-mile Königsweg (“king’s way”) loop makes its way round the enchanting Moritzburg Castle and provides a great opportunity to marvel at this delightful baroque palace. The former hunting lodge and pleasure palace of Augustus the Strong is situated on an island in the middle of a lake and includes “Little Pheasant Castle”, an enchanting summer residence in chinoiserie style, which you’ll get to at the end of the trail.
Hainich National Park Treetop Trail
Ok, this is not strictly speaking a hiking trail – but it’s a treetop trail! And as thrilling an experience in the great outdoors as they come: UNESCO-listed Hainich National Park in Thuringia is home to one of Germany’s wild old beech forests and exploring this ancient woodland from above is a great way of taking a deep dive into nature. The trail rises to a height of 24 metres, where you’ll find yourself among the treetops and there’s even a viewing platform 44 metres above ground that you can conquer. Back on the ground, there are, of course, also “real” hiking trails taking you on different routes through the woods.
Ore Mountains-Vogtland Ridgeway
Looking for an off-the-grid experience? This might the right one for you then. The Ore Mountains-Vogtland Ridgeway is a 178-mile panoramic trail where checking your mobile phone every five minutes is not order of the day. Instead, leave the everyday grind behind and fully immerse in beautiful nature with mountain meadows, shady forests and refreshing streams. One of the trail’s highlights – literally – is the view from the Fichtelberg mountain (1,215m). The plateau is also home to the “Friedensglocke” (peace bell), a monument to Germany’s reunification which each Sunday is being rung for peace, unity, justice and love.
Delightful, is the word that comes to mind when talking about the “SaaleHorizontale” trail in Thuringia. Setting off from Jena on the Saale River, it takes hikers into beautiful nature just outside town. On 45 miles, you can discover Jenzighaus, a secluded restaurant with gorgeous views (try the Thuringian dumplings!), or the enchanting Dornburg Palaces ensemble with their beautiful parks and gardens. Last but not least, you will also discover the region’s small wine regions, walking past vineyards and maybe even stopping off for a tasting…
Vogtland Panorama Trail
Here’s another glorious great long-distance trail in Saxony. You can book the Vogtland Panorama trail to “hike without luggage”, either all its 140 odd miles or pick an individual leg for a shorter tour. It starts and ends at the mighty “Göltzschtalbrücke”, the world’s largest brick-built bridge, and takes in the so-called Musicon Valley, centred in the town of Marktneukirchen, where you can discover a unique tradition of musical instrument making that goes back more than 350 years. Beautiful nature and fascinating traditions all in one – what’s not to like!
The supremely picturesque “Malerweg” (Painters’ Way) is one of Germany’s most beautiful hiking routes, taking in the gorges and summits of Saxony Switzerland’s sandstone mountains. The trail’s name goes back to its historic roots as Romanic painters were among the first to discover the Elbe Sandstone Mountains’ inspirational beauty, with 18th century painter Caspar David Friedrich capturing the unique scenery in one of his most famous works. Follow in the footsteps of artists and find your very own perfect spot!
Hohenwarte Reservoir Trail
The Hohenwarte Reservoir Trail (approx. 47 miles) circles around one of Europe’s largest water reservoirs, affectionately called their “sea” by the locals. The gigantic reservoir system is surrounded by an almost fjord-like landscape with forest and plains, panoramic vistas, steep rock formations and dreamy villages. This trail is perfect for hikers who like a challenge, with climbs and descents through dense forest and along steep riverside slopes. In other words, your stamina might be tested at times but it’s more than worth it.