A river winds through a vast gorge and rocks formed millions of years ago, a castle towers impressively above. You may feel as though you have been transported to the Grand Canyon but you are actually in central Germany in the Danube Uplands rather than hot and barren Arizona. A little smaller and much greener than its American cousin, the Swabian Grand Canyon expands into the horizon, creating an impressive panorama before your eyes.
Over the past millennia, the Danube has eroded a breathtaking valley into the bright limestone cliffs. In some places, the cliffs rise up to 656 feet (200 m) into the sky. Between fragrant juniper heaths, well-preserved ruins, stately castles and quiet nature, this unique landscape is best explored on the Danube Upland Trail. The 37-mile long (60 km) long-distance hiking trail was certified, quite rightly, both as "Leading Quality Trail - Best of Europe" and as "Qualitätsweg Wanderbares Deutschland".
Along the four stages, you will experience new and spectacular scenery every day. Each vista requires a little effort as, typical for canyon trails, you hike over the hills of the Upper Danube Valley and down towards the gently-flowing river. In return, you can look forward to looking out from the rugged rocks to perfect views of castles and palaces surrounded by stunning nature.
The Danube Upland Trail starts on the Lemberg, which at 3,330 feet (1,015 m) is one of the 10 ”Thousands" in the region. From here, the trail takes you along the Albtrauf over hills and into picturesque half-timbered towns in the southwestern Swabian Alb, then through the heart of the Upper Danube Nature Park to the Beuron Monastery with its impressive abbey.
All stage destinations have a good choice of accommodation and restaurants. All start and destination points can also be reached by public transportation. This gives you the opportunity to split the Danube Upland Trail into sections and enjoy it in the way that suits you best.
Get a taste of what to expect on the Danube Upland Trail here:
At 1,015 meters, Lviv is the highest mountain in the Swabian Jura. On the first stage of the four-day Donauberglandweg you will climb this highlight right at the beginning and can get an overview of this beautiful region. The almost 20-kilometer stage starts in Gosheim, at the foot of the Lviv.So the warm-up goes straight up. From the top you have a magnificent panorama over the Swabian Alb and with good visibility to the Alps. The perfect start to your hiking day. After you have thoroughly enjoyed the distant view, you run downhill again to Wehingen.But don't worry, you will be rewarded with other great viewpoints. The path rises again and leads you on the throats, with its 1,000 meters of altitude also part of the so-called “Region of 10 thousand”. These include ten mountains in the Swabian Jura, which are over 1,000 meters high - if only barely.You stay on top of the mountain and hike further over the Hummelsberg to the Klippeneck - where Germany's highest glider airfield is - and finally to the Dreifaltigkeitsberg. From here you can enjoy a great panorama over the Baar and the Black Forest. Then you hike down to Spaichingen, your today's destination.You will only find refreshments at the end of the route, so you should pack provisions for the hike - conveniently there are shopping opportunities in Wehingen after a third of the route. In Spaichingen you will find several guest houses to spend the night.
Day two on the Donauberglandweg starts with a crisp climb, but you have already completed the demanding part of the stage. From Spaichingen you hike up into the forest area.After a good eight kilometers you have reached the Alte Berg, another great viewpoint along the route - on clear days you can even see the Säntis. Via sheep and juniper heaths you hike leisurely through the Schäfertal. You accompany the Lippach on its way to the Danube and continue to hike slightly downhill along the river bank. If you get hungry, you can take a break after 15 kilometers in the Lippachmühle.After about 21 kilometers, you have reached today's stage destination Mühlheim an der Donau. If you still have time and desire, pay a visit to the castle, which lies on a mountaintop 40 meters above the Danube valley - but only from the outside, because the castle is privately owned. Up here in the upper town you will also find a small selection of accommodation options.
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In stage three of the Donauberglandweg you start with new energy. The 13-kilometer tour again has lots of great viewpoints - you quickly understand why the Danube Valley is also called the "Swabian Grand Canyon". To enjoy the unique views, Mühlheim an der Donau starts out with a crisp climb.After about five kilometers, the path will take you past the Kolbinger Höhle. As part of a guided tour, you can visit part of the 330-meter-long stalactite cave on weekends from Easter to October. Be sure to plan some time for it, it's worth it. Shortly afterwards you reach the Gansnestturm and enjoy an impressive panorama. Then it goes down in steep serpentines to Fridingen.But you have not yet reached your milestone. It goes straight back up to the button maker rock. Look forward to a fantastic view towards Beuron and Bronnen Castle - a wonderful foretaste of the fourth stage. How about a coffee break at Berghaus Knopfmacher including a piece of Danube wave?On the way you will always come across vantage points that offer you fantastic views of the unique Danube Valley with its bright limestone cliffs. Then it goes downhill to the tranquil Fridingen with its historic half-timbered houses - now you have reached your milestone.
The fourth and last stage on the Donauberglandweg lets you fully enjoy the Upper Danube Valley again. It starts the 13 km long hike in Fridingen on the Danube. The wonderfully dramatic landscape with water and rocks shows you its most beautiful side - peppered with ruins and castles enthroned on the heights.From here, you can expect a number of great viewpoints: from the Kallenberg ruins and on the way to Bronnen Castle, there are always fantastic panoramas of the unique Danube Valley. Pure hiking pleasure - even if it goes up and down constantly.Slowly you say goodbye to the altitude and hike down into the valley to the river bank of the Danube. Not far, then you have reached your stage goal Beuron. Once in the destination, a visit to the monastery is definitely worth it. Take a look at the impressive ceiling fresco in the church, browse the monastery bookstore and review the 60 kilometers of hiking on the Donauberglandweg.From Beuron you can take the train towards Sigmaringen or Tuttlingen. Or you spend another night in Beuron and start your return journey the next day.