Forest, meadows, wonderland – hiking the Rothaarsteig Trails
© Rothaarsteigverein e.V. | Klaus-Peter Kappest
Gentle low mountain ranges, dense forests, and magnificent heathland with a wonderful long-distance hiking trail right through the middle – the Rothaarsteig. The 154-kilometre (95 mile) trail is not the only way to discover the Rothaar Mountains’ spectacular nature. Between the town of Brilon, the starting point on the northern edge of the Sauerland, and the orange town of Dillenburg in the south, you also find circular hiking trails, the so-called Rothaarsteig Trails, which make for ideal day hikes.
In this Collection, we present the 13 of the most rewarding Tours on the Rothaarsteig Trails, which make wonderful day trips. Hike to the summit of the Kahler Asten or experience untouched nature in unique biotopes in the extensive heath and meadow areas on the Kahle Pön or the Wacholderweg (Juniper Way). Hike along historic or art-influenced paths and experience old and new handicrafts on the Sorper Panoramapfad and get (almost) up close and personal with good-natured and majestic bison. You have lots to choose from, but a relaxing day in nature is guaranteed on every trail.
The Tours range in length from just under seven to 23 kilometres (4.3 to 14.2 miles) and are mostly manageable with a good level of fitness. We also recommend sturdy shoes, hiking poles, a snack and, of course, plenty of fluids. On most Tours, you find places to stop for refreshments, but it is best to find out about opening times and reservations in advance so that you can plan ahead. Many of the Tours on the Rothaarsteig are well connected to the bus and rail network. You can find more information about travelling by public transport for specific tours here: rothaarsteig.de/en/tour-planning/with-bus-train.
The paths are either part of the Rothaarsteig or run along a Rothaarsteig access path. So that you don't lose track of the waymarking, here is the most important information in brief: The main path is marked with a white, horizontal R on a red background, the access and exit paths are marked with a black, horizontal R on a yellow background and the Rothaarsteig Trails are marked with a white, horizontal R on a black background.
Many species of game live in the vast forests along the Rothaarsteig. You may encounter red deer, wild boar, mouflon, and even bison. Don’t frighten the animals – keep your distance nad behave respectfully. Dogs must be kept on a lead. If you come across a bison with calves and they consider your four-legged friend to be a threat, then unclip your dog from the lead – he/she will be faster alone and will find you again.
Allow us to say a few words about safety on the Rothaarsteig: the Rothaarsteig is equipped with rescue signs throughout, on which you will find a number that you must provide if you call emergency services. This way, the rescue team knows exactly where to find you. To minimise the risk of forest fires, keep to the smoking ban from 1 March to 31 October. This keeps the densely forested slopes and valleys untouched.
And now, enough rambling. You can look forward to unforgettable excursions along the Rothaarsteig and enjoy the nature, culture, history and hospitality of the region to the full!
If you would like to be inspired further or even dare to do the long-distance hike, you can find out more about the Rothaarsteig here: komoot.de/collection/1069264/ueber-den-hoechsten-kamm-des-sauerlands-der-rothaarsteig.
The name says it all on this tour: From Kahle Pön you have an impressive 360-degree panorama over the Willinger Upland. The Kahle Pön nature reserve, located 774 meters high, opens up a varied heather landscape on its hiking trails that will enchant you.You start at the hiking car park "Auf’m Knoll" near Usseln. If you want to stop off at the Graf Stolberg Hut after your tour, it is best to reserve a table in advance. A little later through the forest you will reach the summit cross on narrow paths and over the ski slope "Am Pön". The view of Usseln and the Upland mountains is particularly beautiful when the heather is in bloom in August and September. But the area also has its charm in spring and late autumn.Later you cross the border between Hesse and North Rhine-Westphalia and continue uphill towards Spitzbubenbusch. From there it is only a few steps to the mountain "Ka-lied" (745 meters). His name stands for Ka for “kahl” and “lied” for “steep slope”. Here, too, you can enjoy impressive views of the landscape between Willinger Upland and Medebacher Bucht, which is also called "Tuscany of the Sauerland". On a narrow natural path it goes back to the hut - and your well-deserved meal.
On the Grönebacher village path you circle the picturesque place and enjoy great views of the landscape. The route has rightly been awarded the German hiking seal as a premium route. The tour starts at the hiking board at Lambertusplatz. A grassy path takes you to the "Schlade" leisure facility and a little later you reach the old Königsstraße. This led from Frankfurt to Soest and crossed Heidenstraße in Winterberg. Two old ravines have been preserved here over a length of about 200 meters.Now you can enjoy a first, wonderful view of the Westernau valley and a little later of the Hildfeld-Grönebach-Küstelberg valley landscape. Through the picturesque Hachmecketal you hike along the stream down into the Hilletal. Another highlight is the old embankment of the former Steinhelle-Medebach small railway. This was in operation from 1902 to 1953. Always within sight of the village with its church tower, it goes uphill through an old ravine and to the right along the slope of the Mosenberg along to the Antoniusstein.After a descent into the Springetal to the country road, you will reach the 680 meter high viewpoint on the Egge a little later. You have reached the highest point on the Grönebach village path. On the other side of the mountain, it goes downhill into the valley of the Westernau and to the left to the duck meadow. A beautiful path brings you back to Grönebach.
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On the Rothaarsteig trail Kahler Asten-Steig you hike from Westfeld to the Kahler Asten, the father of the Sauerland mountains, and enjoy a wonderful view from there before you walk back to Westfeld. You follow the black Rothaarsteig marking, a white, lying R on a black background.The tour starts in the Schmallenberg district of Westfeld and takes you from the Rothaar Arena, a year-round center for Nordic sports, through the nature reserves of the "Schwarzes Siepen". Passing the small village of Ohlenbach and two lonely hunting lodges, after around seven kilometers you will reach the "Father of the Sauerland Mountains", the 841 meter high Kahler Asten. Up here you can expect a wonderful view - especially from the Astenturm - in good weather. But not only that, the most famous mountain in the Sauerland is covered by mountain heather, which is a colorful natural spectacle, especially in late summer. In addition, the Lenne rises from a spring at the foot of the mountain.The hotel restaurant on the Kahler Asten invites you to take a break up here. Find a Rothaarsteig forest sofa and enjoy the view. Strengthened and rested, it goes back down to the two hunting lodges. From there, there is an ascent to the "Hohen Bones". You can also enjoy the wonderful view from here or take a detour to the Berghotel Hoher Bone. You get back to Westfeld from here always downhill.
This tour is characterized by artistic craftsmanship and idyllic nature. The Sorpe Valley at the foot of Hunau and Kahler Asten is a special idyll. Narrow and winding, it follows the course of the Sorpe River. Surrounded by coniferous and hardwood forests, you will discover traditional farms and well-tended half-timbered houses. From the formerly small farmsteads and charcoal burner houses that had settled on the Sorpebach, today's villages and hamlets of the Sorpe valley developed.A special point of the Sorper panorama path is the Knollen with its old, impressive quarries through which it leads. But you can discover a lot more: The art smithy and gallery Klute in the Waldemei and the Schmiedewelten Dünnebacke in the Rellmecke, for example. Here you can experience art from traditional handicrafts in an impressive natural setting. Nature and views accompany you along the entire panorama path through the romantic Sorpe Valley, until you arrive back at the starting point of Niedersorpe and can treat yourself to a nice stop.
On this tour you will immerse yourself in the world of the bison and follow in the footsteps of these shaggy and magnificent animals. The bison is also called the European bison and is a European type of cattle. The animals were widespread in the primeval forests of western, central and south-eastern Europe until the early Middle Ages. After they became extinct, they had to be laboriously resettled.With the project “Wisente im Rothaargebirge”, an eight-headed herd consisting of a bull, five cows and two young animals was released into the wild in 2013. In December 2019, the herd had grown to around 25 animals.The "Wisent Wildnis am Rothaarsteig" offers a special insight into the life of the animals. A second herd of bison is at home there. You can experience the animals on a paid circular route, but you can continue your way without a visit. If you are traveling with children, they will get their money's worth here: Jump over streams, crawl through a badger den and master rock formations - the natural adventure trail is really fun!The bison path again summarized: It leads from Wingeshausen over the Rothaarkamm to Schmallenberg-Jagdhaus, through the picturesque valley of yours and over paths in the Bockeshorntal back to Wingeshausen. With fantastic views and various resting places, the 13.5-kilometer tour is a real pleasure for hiking.
Dense forests, enchanted rocks and wonderful panoramic views: all of this awaits you on this tour. The circular hiking trail, which is certified as a “Quality Trail Wanderable Germany”, inspires with its wild and romantic nature. You follow old donkey paths on adventurous paths and can top off your trip with a stop at the Alpenhaus. But let's start at the beginning.You start at the guest's house and first walk through the Oberhundem spa gardens. A little later you will reach a picnic area and dive into the forest. The first highlight of your hike are the Oberhundemer cliffs, a spectacular rock formation in the middle of the forest. A short time later you will reach the legendary Rothaarsteig, which you follow for a while. Here you can pause and sit down on a pleasantly curved wooden bench.After you have left the Rothaarsteig, you circle the Kahleberg, which offers you fantastic views after hurricane Kyrill has deforested the entire slope. After a good two thirds of your route you will reach the Alpenhaus. The former alpine club house of the Essen section is beautifully located at 650 meters and attracts with tasty snacks and a cool drink.The final spurt is probably the most beautiful section because you are walking along the former donkey path. The landlord of the Alpenhaus used to have to transport everything upstairs on pack donuts. As soon as you have reached the edge of the forest after a steep descent, Oberhundem is on your left hand side in front of you - your goal is now within your grasp. Finally, let yourself be pampered with culinary delights at the Gasthof zu den Linden in Oberhundem.
On this tour you will experience a particularly beautiful path on the Rothaarsteig along the idyllic valleys of Lahn, Ilse and Weidelbach and over the panoramic heights of Mackelshelle and Hoher Ley. The hike begins at the Zum Eichholz hiking portal in Feudingen. First you climb up to the slope of the Mackelshelle. Here you have a first view of the historic place Feudingen.Through high spruce forest it goes leisurely uphill to Hohen Ley, where an impressive panoramic view of the wide Lahn valley awaits you. After an open plateau with views of the Wittgenstein Mountains, the path leads down into the wild and romantic Ilsetal. The path, which later becomes a little more adventurous, takes you along a steep bank next to the rushing stream bed of the Ilse to the confluence of the Weidelbach. You follow this right up to the Weidelbacher Weiher. In summer the lake inspires with a water lily carpet and invites you to take a long rest.Via the refuge and the Bettelmannsbuche rest area - where pilgrims and carters used to camp - continue over to the Lahn valley. But before that it gets historic because you are walking along a ravine that was part of a medieval trade route (iron ore and charcoal) between Feudingen and the Siegerland. Later you hike on the slope of the young Lahn towards Volkholz. In the Dernbach the forest opens up and not only gives wide views of the natural Lahn valley, but here you also pass the large bison enclosure. A short walk through Feudingen brings you back to the hiking portal and your starting point a little later.
On this tour you combine the idyllic Dilltal with a detour to the panoramic Rothaarkamm. On the way to the Rothaarkamm you cross the historic Hauberg Offdilln, which gives you exciting insights into this ancient form of forest management. This form of coppice forest management originated in the 13th or 14th century, when the demand for charcoal for the emerging iron production increased in this country.The trees were not completely cut down because they were supposed to fall again. This can be interpreted as the first ecological rethinking at this time. If you would like to learn more about the Hauberg economy, you can take part in a ranger tour of the forest and wood company of North Rhine-Westphalia via the Haubergspfad.Shortly after the history lesson on Hauberg Offdilln you will reach the picturesque source of the Bocksborn. Here you can sit down for a leisurely rest. You continue on the Rothaarsteig, where you can enjoy magnificent views of the Lahn-Dill-Bergland and the Siegerland. It gets really spectacular when you arrive at the "Nase im Wind" viewing platform on the Tiefenrother Höhe. Take a little time and take a deep breath!The Luca oak near the Steinbach forester's lodge majestically watches over the hikers. It measures an impressive 27.5 meters, has a diameter of 3.85 meters and is around 230 years old. Impressive! A beautiful path now leads back to the starting point.
The greats of German poetry will accompany you on the tour through the romantic Hickengrund: Goethe, Schiller and Novalis. At seven different listening stations you can listen to the wonderful poems and writings read aloud in idyllic nature and let yourself be enchanted by the combination of poetry and nature. Look forward to a special experience in the three-state corner between North Rhine-Westphalia, Hesse and Rhineland-Palatinate.You start at the “Großer Stein” hiking car park in Holzhausen. First you hike uphill on a Rothaarsteig access path. Soon you will come to one of the listening stations and a few steps later you will find the Rothaarsteig. You then have a magnificent view of Lützeln, which is embedded in the valley below. After the descent to the edge of the village, the path climbs back towards the sports field.As a relic from the time of an active quarry, you will later pass the old crusher system. After further promising kilometers you will reach the triangle where you can easily jump back and forth between three federal states. First someone should imitate you. We continue on wide forest paths, which later lead downwards to meadow paths and also have some steep sections ready. Shortly before Niederdresselnorf there is a wooden bridge over the stream. After the village you climb uphill through open meadows to the edge of the forest. On an almost flat path you come back to the start at the hiking car park.
The Trödelsteinpfad leads you from Buchhellertal to the "Trödelstein". On the way you will experience the peculiarities of the basalt-like natural landscape between the Rothaargebirge and Westerwald. The tour starts at the hiking car park in Austraße in Wahlbach. From there you go into the forest and hike on a forest path along the babbling Buchheller.Later it goes to the ascent to the junk stones. In between you will meet contemporary witnesses of ore mining in the Buchhellertal: Stollenmunde and cinder residue are relics from the mining era. The summit cross on the junk stones greets you from afar. The view of the beautiful Siegerland is a great reward for your efforts.Then it goes downhill and you move in parts on the border between Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia. On the way you will reach the juniper heather in the Saukaute nature reserve. It is around 2.2 hectares in size and is used to maintain and restore endangered juniper heaths, grass lawns and near-natural stream sections.With a little luck you will also discover women's hair moss and swamp violets or the brown oak butterfly and the ducat butterfly. On narrow paths through beautiful forests you finally hike back to the starting point. Shortly before the end of your tour, the view of the unique landscape between the Rothaargebirge and Westerwald opens up to you.
The Wacholderweg has a lot of variety ready for you: On the tree nature trail in the Reistenbachtal you can discover a variety of rare animal and plant species, on the CO2 nature trail you gain interesting insights into the current topic. You can cool and relax your tired hiking feet on the Waat-Tret system and practice your skills on the barefoot path. So not only the juniper, which gives it its name, awaits you.You start at the hiking portal on the parking lot at the village community center in Donsbach below the wildlife park. Your first stop is the tree nature trail, on which you can discover a wide variety of tree species. The Wacholderweg continues through the Alteberg and Sauernberg nature reserves. The barren, dry locations of the nature reserves near Donsbach are habitat for numerous rare and strictly protected plant species.The varied semi-open landscape also offers an optimal habitat for a diverse animal world, such as the endangered bird species gray shrike and woodlark. In addition, around 50 species of butterflies and 22 species of grasshoppers buzz through the meadows.We continue past the Haigerer log cabin and with a short ascent to the 454 meter high Kornberg. The Donsbacher Kornberg is the crowning glory of the Wacholderweg. With its Taunus view, it offers a magnificent view of the landscape to the south, and in clear weather even as far as the Großer Feldberg im Taunus. For the perfect photo, there is also a large landscape frame up here that you can put in the limelight.The other highlights line up like pearls on a chain: First you get to the barefoot path in the sand pit, then to the Co2 nature trail and finally to the Donsbach Wildlife Park, where you can experience the 13 large, native species. In a petting zoo you can also get up close and personal with smaller farm animals such as goats - which is of course a great highlight, especially for children. Then the path meets the parking lot at the village community center and you are back at the starting point.
Coral reefs, caves, tunnels, burial chambers, gorges and streams shrinking - on the Breitscheid cave tour you can discover the geological diversity of the Westerwald. The hike begins at the Wildweiberhäuschen hiking car park, a legendary, striking limestone cliff. From here the path runs into the Aubach valley, which is lined with basalt blocks from the last ice age.The small Schönbühl quarry halfway through is particularly exciting, where you can climb into the interior of a former volcanic chimney. From the Aubachtal you now hike up to the rest station "To the wild women" at the Langenaubacher log cabin. Here you can strengthen yourself briefly on weekends and public holidays, because there is still a lot to experience on your tour. Now it goes on over an open field to the entrance of the stalactite cave autumn labyrinth. You can also visit these for an entrance fee. A detour is highly recommended. A little later you descend into the idyllic alley gorge. It was blocked for security measures until December.On the outskirts of Breitscheid you can take a look at the aforementioned stream shrinkage of the Erdbach and examine the large and small stone chambers. The tour ends in the center of Breitscheid.
The Gernsdorfer Höhentour is a forest and meadow hike as it is written in the book. You are offered a varied landscape as well as great paths through forests and idyllic meadow landscapes. You will explore the nature reserve "Gernsdorfer Weidekämpe", which is a specialty due to the diversity of the cultivated landscape with different types of grassland. The term Weidekämpe describes a large cattle pasture on cleared Haubergsurfaces that was introduced in the 19th century.Due to different soil conditions and types of use, different types of biotopes and plant communities developed in the open country, many of which are of great importance for nature conservation. These include grass lawns, colorful flowery mountain oat meadows, wet pastures and Kleinseggen marshes. Hedges, individual trees, swamp areas and springs provide a habitat for many rare animal and plant species - and of course they are beautiful to look at.Particularly exciting and colorful: tens of thousands of orchids grow and thrive here. Rare meadow birds in the area are whinchat and meadow pipit, which can successfully nest here as ground-nesting birds. Incidentally, this hike can be turned into a very long or two stages, because the Gernsdorfer high altitude tour meets the Dill mountain tour, which also follows the Rothaarsteig trail.