Have you always wanted to cycle across the Black Forest on your bike taking it easy without slogging up strenuous climbs? Following the Three Valleys Cycle Path (Drei-Täler-Radweg), you can do just that!
Your journey begins in the town of Villingen near the Swabian Jura mountains. From here, you ride through Germany’s highest and largest continuous low mountain range to the town of Kehl on the French border. Over seven stages, you cover 194 kilometres (120 miles) and 1,490 metres of altitude gain (4,888 feet), averaging just over 200 metres (650 feet) per day. As the name of the route suggests, you cycle through three valleys, making use of the deep corridors dug into the mountains by rivers over millions of years.
From the spring of the River Neckar to the waters of the Glatt and from the spring of the River Kinzig to the Rhine – cycling doesn’t get more comfortable than this. At the halfway point, you face the only real challenge on your journey, a 770-metre (2,526-feet) high hill where the rivers of the Black Forest split the west and east. In the heart of the forest, you ride through the trees, where blueberries grow on the mossy ground. Occasionally, the forest thins out revealing sun-drenched meadows where it almost always seems to be summer.
The Three Valleys Cycle Path is a great route for ambitious cycle tourers and families to enjoy and discover the unique nature in the southwest of Baden-Württemberg. I’ve divided the entire route into seven easy stages which can be ridden in one day, even if you are not in your best shape. If you like to ride longer distances, you can cycle the route in two days and try out freshly brewed beer in the town of Alpirsbach, which is an ideal overnight spot for a two-day Tour.
With the exception of a few forest roads, the route mostly follows well-developed cycle paths. However, the ground can be a bit rough through the woods. You’ll easily manage these stretches on a normal touring bike – and that’s part of the fun after all. The route is well-connected to public transport and overnight accommodation is easy to find.
Almost every stage stop has plenty of accommodation and where there is an exception, I let you know. You can travel to and from the start and end of the Tour by train. The train often even runs through the valleys so you can easily shorten individual stages if you like. When you finish your journey in Kehl, you can catch a train to the starting point in Villingen.
From Offenburg, the train route takes you through part of the Kinzig Valley so you can look back on your journey as the foothills of the Black Forest pass by.
You can also ride the route in the easterly direction from Kehl to Villingen. Check the weather forecast before deciding, as strong winds can blow up the valley, especially in the Kinzig valley. Of course, a tailwind is much more fun than a headwind!
You start your three valleys cycle tour through the Black Forest in Villingen in the south of Baden-Württemberg. The tour starts right at the train station, which you can easily reach with the regional trains from Stuttgart and from Rottweil with the Hohenzollerische Landesbahn.From the train station, the path leads you in a large arc to the bridge over the tracks and on the other side to a small park at the Villinger district office. You leave the bike path briefly to make a detour to the Wanne observation tower. It is one of the oldest steel lattice towers in the world - it is hard to believe that it was built in 1888 and that it still looks very stable today. It is worth taking a short trip to the top viewing platform, as you can get a pretty good overview of where your tour today is going. But you should bring a little head for heights with you.Just a short distance, then you will drive out of Villingen - next stop is Schwenningen. On a slightly bumpy country road you drive past the European watershed, which is marked by a typical cycle sign on the roadside. In contrast to the usual signposts, this one informs you about the route in significantly larger dimensions: Where is the Black Sea, where is the North Sea? Find out here. Of course you are going to the North Sea - which, by the way, you would actually reach if you followed the Rhine at the destination of the Three Valleys Cycle Path for a "piece" north.The area quickly becomes a bit more rural and after a short forest you reach the Schwenninger Moos nature reserve - this is where the water collects, which about a kilometer later becomes the Neckar spring. Incidentally, only part of this body of water flows into the Neckar, the other part sets off in the Danube towards the Black Sea.At the source of the Neckar there is time for a little break, the café in the park, which was laid out for the State Garden Show 2010, invites you to do so. So now you are officially in the first valley. Here the Neckar is not much more than a narrow trickle. But it won't take very long and it will grow significantly in size.The route now leads you out of Schwenningen, on the left you can still see the nostalgic planes of the Museum of Aviation, then the asphalt under you turns into a gravel forest path. Again and again you see the imposing volcanic hills of the Swabian Alb rising up on the horizon to your right. Then Rottweil is already in sight. First, the futuristic test tower from ThyssenKrupp draws attention to your approaching milestone. Due to its remarkable height of 246 meters, it is visible from afar, so it will take a little while until you roll into Rottweil - by the way, the oldest city in Baden-Württemberg. In the old town you can end the day comfortably, there are also various overnight accommodations.
As you have already noticed, the test tower is just as present in downtown Rottweiler as it is in the surrounding area. So you will still be able to catch a glimpse of it during your onward journey, especially if you turn around from time to time. One of the last great views of the tower is available to you shortly before the descent into the Neckar Valley: it can be clearly seen above the treetops, then you dive into the valley.The beautiful descent down to the Neckar has only one “catch”: you have to stop at least once and enjoy the view. The Neckar used to flow around a small mountain at this point, the so-called Umlaufberg. After straightening its course, an idyllic valley remained at the end of which a small castle ruin sits enthroned on a hilltop. The best thing: Directly below there is a pretty beer garden, which with its attached horse stables creates a cozy agricultural flair - the perfect place to take a first break.A little further down in the valley, at the Neckarburg waterworks, a source of drinking water has been specially designed for cyclists and hikers - an absolutely great thing. The Neckar has also grown significantly in size. It has nothing in common with the trickle from the day before, and it distances itself clearly from a stream. It has grown into a stately river that continues to grow in size until it finally flows into the Rhine in Mannheim.But you won't accompany him that far, because your destination for today's stage is in Sulz am Neckar. It's not far from there and you will already say goodbye to the first valley. So until then, enjoy a bit of the authenticity of the young Neckar, which flows through almost untouched nature, while dark conifers with rugged rock faces compete for the last not yet forested areas on the high slopes on its sides.Before you reach your destination in Sulz am Neckar, it gets a little hilly towards the end and the path leads you along the slope through dense forest. Then one last small descent into town awaits you. Here you can end the day comfortably on the Neckar promenade, there is also a suitable overnight stay.
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From Sulz am Neckar, the cycle path leads you under a great bridge with a high, modern round arch. The first locks that the Neckar has to pass through on its way into the Rhine are also located here in Sulz am Neckar. From Fischingen the Neckar increases in size again before you leave it, here it unites with the Mühlbach.Just a short distance further, then the time has come: You leave the first valley and turn directly into the second. From here you follow the Glatt up the valley to Leinstetten, your current destination. After the first rolling phase along the Neckar today, it is now much more hilly - the mountains of the Black Forest are getting closer.It's worth taking a break in Glatt. The Wasserschlösschen and the castle park with attached mini golf course and snack bar invite you to linger. In addition to other cakes, you can also order a piece of delicious Black Forest cake in the Schlosscafé.The cycle path now runs idyllically along the Glatt. You dive deeper and deeper into the mountains of the Black Forest, of which, however, apart from a few smaller hills, not much can be felt - the actual ascent to cross from the second valley to the third does not follow until the next day.In Hopfau you can take a little break again, then the last five kilometers of the stage are on. Even if it doesn't look like it on the elevation profile of the route, the last small climb just before Leinstetten is not to be despised. Then you have accomplished it. You can stop at the fountain in front of the village church to wash the sweat off your face with wonderfully cold water. Since Leinstetten is a very small place, there are only a few places to stay (it is best to reserve in advance). The Gasthof Pension Schloßbrücke is therefore highly recommended. In the adjoining beer garden, you can also comfortably refresh yourself before you move into your room.
Today it goes deep into the Black Forest, but the stage with the highest incline on the Drei-Täler-Radweg only beats to book an altitude of 440 meters - a perfectly feasible undertaking. Since the tour today takes you out of the valleys, you can be sure of phenomenal views and drives through wonderfully dense forests. So you can look forward to an impressive day at the end of which a very special cyclist highlight awaits you.From Leinstetten it is still very steep up the mountain in town - even the residents have small freight elevators in the front yard. As soon as you leave the village, the elevation profile flattens noticeably. Along the slope you drive for a while through the valley that the Heimbach cut into the sandstone here. Pure Black Forest idyll already spreads here. The path continues through dense forest and past farmsteads in sunny clearings to Loßburg - a good stop for a long rest.Now it is time for the third valley in the group: that of the Kinzig. So that you can experience the river from the beginning - mind you, you drive to its end - you make a little detour into the magic forest to the Kinzig spring. In the cool little wood, which exudes its very own charm with its mystical structures and sculptures, it is worthwhile to linger a moment again to enjoy the magic of the place. The Kinzig has its origin here at 680 meters above sea level. On its 112 kilometer run you will follow it "every step of the way" for the next few days until it flows 540 meters deeper into the Rhine.However, you still drive a little detour before you join their run - this way you also avoid the route along the main road. It is now uphill for a while, then you have reached the highest point of the tour. In the Tannen Stüble you can take a break in the midst of beautiful Black Forest homesteads before you set off on the plateau through dense forests in the direction of the descent.The drive back into the valley to Alpirsbach, where you also meet the Kinzig again, runs mostly on forest roads - you will hardly drive fast because of this - but this section of the route sends you really deep into the forest. Enjoy the tranquility that the forest exudes, and every now and then a view through the towering tree trunks towards the valley and the glass forest - this is where firewood used to be used for the famous Black Forest glassblowing art.In Alpirsbach, after one last, this time fast, descent, various refreshment stops and overnight stays await you. The icing on the cake of this stage is of course the Alpirsbacher monastery brewery, because what could be nicer than refreshing yourself with a delicious isotonic drink after such an eventful day.
After a restful night in the dreamy village of Alpirsbach, you make your way down the Kinzig. She will also accompany you to your goal the following days. First you keep to the railway line, which also runs along the valley here. You cross it a few times, drive under it and then turn into a short, steep stretch into the forest. As soon as the trees clear, the wonderful Black Forest panorama opens up again and you pass the historical border between the Kingdom of Württemberg and the Grand Duchy of Baden.This is followed by a great descent through the sun-flooded forest to Schenkenzell. Here you join the Kinzig again. Left and right of you are the steep, densely overgrown slopes of the Black Forest. Every now and then a rugged rock peeps out of the dark green in front of it. Only a few more kilometers and you will enter the historic rafting village of Schiltach. Here you can take a short break in the middle of beautiful half-timbered houses in the town center. Shortly before Schiltach, a short stop at the Schenkenburg castle ruins is also worthwhile. As an alternative to taking a break in the center of Schiltach, you will also find a pizzeria right below the castle to replenish your energy reserves.The cycle path continues along the Kinzig, always slightly downhill. The gradient is so small that you still have to pedal continuously. Sometimes it can happen that a harsh headwind blows up the valley. Then even the journey on a relatively flat surface becomes a demanding battle against the wind.Fortunately, the next nice opportunity to take a break is waiting for you in Wolfach. The center of the village is home to a real splendor of flowers and invites you to take a break with various small restaurants and cafés along the traffic-calmed street. Are you interested in glass blowing? Then you can make a short detour to the glassworks before leaving the town. You can find it directly on Glashüttenweg in the southern part of the village, not far from the point where the bike path again leads directly to the Kinzig. If things get too hectic for you in Wolfach, you will also find a cozy beer garden here, slightly outside, where you can stop.But it's not far from here to your destination Hausach either. You have already reached this six kilometers behind Wolfach. So you can postpone your break in the evening, with the good feeling of being able to put your feet up afterwards and watch the hustle and bustle on Kinzigdamm. If you still have energy, you can take a short trip up to Husen Castle. From there you can enjoy a great view over Hausach and the Kinzig valley. There is also no shortage of suitable overnight accommodations in Hausach.
The cycle path is now becoming increasingly flatter, the Kinzig wider and the recreational athletes more frequent. Inline skaters, walkers, cyclists - almost everyone benefits from the well-developed bike paths here. If the weather has blessed your bike tour with a vehement headwind in the Kinzigtal, after eight kilometers you can look forward to the village of Haslach. Here the cycle path turns to the northwest, which stops the wind somewhat.The foothills of the Black Forest are becoming increasingly flatter, until only small, green hilltops spread across the horizon in the midst of extensive meadows and fields. More and more often you drive through huge orchards. Apples, pears, cherries - agriculture appreciates the Ortenau's mild climate. Maybe you can catch an apple straight from the bike path, even if that is not so popular among the farmers. A little land of milk and honey feeling is also allowed.The wider the valley, the more often the cycle path turns off the Kinzig, makes a detour here and there through the orchards and crosses small, dreamy hamlets, often consisting of little more than a few farms and houses. After about 27 kilometers you have reached your destination today: Gengenbach. The entrance to the town center is guaranteed to amaze you, because the two mighty, well-preserved city gates bear witness to bygone times and the idyllic half-timbered houses promise a fitting end to the day. Sit down in one of the street cafés and enjoy this wonderful atmosphere before moving into your night quarters.
Take your time today and enjoy the very last foothills of the Black Forest until you go to the Rhine plain near Offenburg. The mineral fountain near Ohlsbach and Ortenberg Castle are two great stops where you can spend a little more time. A detour to the vineyards near the castle is also worthwhile, because from there you will discover completely new views, on the one hand of the majestic castle, on the other hand in the direction of the Kinzig valley and the Rhine plain.In Offenburg it is worth stopping at the iconic Kakadu café. But also various other cafes and restaurants invite you to linger in the cozy city center. If you are looking for a little more exotic cuisine, I can recommend a detour to Windschläg. In the small district in the north of Offenburg you will find the most authentic Thai cuisine in an inconspicuous residential area that can be found in these latitudes. Amporn's Thai Restaurant is a clear recommendation for all lovers of Asian cuisine. Caution: Spicy doesn't just mean a slight tingling sensation on the tongue.We continue along the Kinzig in the direction of the Rhine. You cross the A5 motorway and you will soon come to the vicinity of Kehl. Between Sundheim and Kork there are various small lakes that invite you to swim in summer. The Cork Baggersee is particularly popular and also has a small sandy beach. At the back of the lake there is a nudist area in case you have forgotten your bathing suit.After you have crossed the city center of Kehl, where there is always a lot of hustle and bustle due to the border traffic with France and the proximity to Strasbourg, your three valleys tour ends at the Passerelle des Deux Rives - the "footbridge of the two banks". The bridge was specially designed for cyclists and pedestrians and invites you to linger in the middle with a few seats - here, right on the border between France and Germany. A good opportunity to review your journey through the Black Forest and along the three valleys again.In Kehl, of course, you also have good connections to the regional rail network. From here trains go south to Freiburg and north to Karlsruhe. Also to Offenburg and from there back to your starting point in Villingen.