Caverns, heathland, ancient castles - the Albsteig (HW1)
© Schwäbische Alb | Foto: G. Lengler
Fairytale castles, breathtaking views from rock pulpits, enchanted stalactite caves and beech forests flooded with light — the Swabian Jura is a special place. You can discover this incredible region in all its glory on the 222-mile (358 km) long Albsteig.
With tradition dating back over 100 years, the Albsteig is the oldest long-distance hiking trail in the Swabian Jura. Countless ascents and descents take you up to the Jura plateau at 3,280 feet (1,000 m) above sea level and down into picturesque valleys. You mostly hike along the northern edge of the cliff and the length of the Swabian Jura.
The oldest main hiking trail (HWI) of the Swabian Hiking Association, the Albsteig leads you once across the length of the mountains from northeast to southwest. Starting in the tranquil Donauwörth, the trail shows you the beauty of the Jura in 16 stages.
You will come across castle ruins and magnificent panoramas, and — with a little luck – you will spot the Black Forest to the west and the Alps to the south. The route also takes you to Harburg Castle, one of the largest Staufer castles north of the Alps, to the magnificent Lichtenstein Castle and the gushing Urach Waterfall. Breathtaking viewpoints such as the Breitenstein, the Dreifürstenstein or the Lemberg, which marks the highest point of the Jura, are also fascinating. At the Albsteig’s end point, you can explore Tuttlingen’s romantic town centre and stroll along the Danube promenade.
The starting and end points of the trail in Donauwörth and Tuttlingen are well-connected by rail, making it easy to reach your adventure and return home when you’re done. There’s more information about other rail connections along the trail in the route descriptions. From April 2020, you can even use regional buses and trains free of charge to get to the stages. All you need is the AlbCard, which you will receive as for free if you spend a night in one of the AlbCard establishments. The AlbCard also gives you free entry to many attractions along or near the trail, such as the Fog Cave. You can find more information at albcard.de
As the path crosses many villages, you will also have the opportunity to stop at cosy inns. Regional dishes of the Jura are known far beyond its borders, such as Alb lentils with spaetzle or Swabian Maultaschen. If you want to cater for yourself, you will find numerous resting places along the Albsteig which are mostly equipped with a barbecue area. So pack some barbecue food if you fancy a grill. One thing is certain, hiking along the Jura is a special experience.
For more insight into hiking the Albsteig trail, check out this video:
Your first stage on the Albsteig leads you on paved paths along the Wörnitz river, to the first viewpoints and deep into the forest. Between green meadows and wide fields you can already see the Harburg in the distance.Your adventure starts at Donauwörth train station. After you have left the old town of the tranquil town behind, the path leads you to Felsheim and Wörnitzstein, where you cross the Wörnitz. If you like, you can take a short detour to the Calvary, on which the pretty chapel sits. The first climbs await you when you dive into the woods. After you have left it, you will be rewarded with a wonderful view of the imposing Harburg. Here, in the town of the same name, your first day ends on the Albsteig, where you will find a good selection of accommodation and restaurants.
Today, a rather short stage awaits you, which gives you enough time to explore the beautiful Harburg. Then it goes along forest paths and narrow paths into the idyllic nature reserve.Before you leave Harburg behind, we recommend that you explore one of the oldest and best-preserved castle complexes in southern Germany - the Harburg. You can do this, for example, as part of a guided tour.Back on the Albsteig, you follow a romantic meadow path that takes you up to the Bockberg with a fabulous view. From there, the path winds through the Waldschenke Eisbrunn through dense forest to Mönchsdeggingen, your destination.
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After the refreshingly short stage of the previous day, the first challenge now comes to you. On almost 27 kilometers, you cross leafy forests and a game reserve. But also wonderful views are not neglected and you get to the first castle ruin.You leave Mönchsdeggingen via a meadow path, which soon changes into a forest path and leads to the edge of the forest. Now you follow a stream to the former monastery church Christgarten. From here you climb up to the game reserve. With a little luck you can spot wild boar and deer. You pass the retired village of Schweindorf, where two restaurants wave for a stop. From here it continues in the forest until you can see the Schlossberg with the high medieval castle ruins Flochberg high above Bopfingen. The castle is a bit off the path and we have planned the side trip to the ruins (1.5 kilometers there and back).
On the fourth stage, two hydrological highlights await you - the Eger spring and the origin of the cooker. Kapfenburg Castle and the ruins of the Kocherburg, on the other hand, provide medieval flair. Today you have a lot of distance ahead of you.Your hiking day starts with a small climb out of Bopfingen, then you descend to Aufhausen, through which the Eger flows. Past the Eger origin it is now steady, but moderately uphill. You walk on the ridge through romantic forest to Hülen, a district of Lauchheim. It is worth visiting Kapfenburg Castle with nearby restaurants.Narrow paths take you up to the Wöllenstein, where you can immortalize yourself in the summit book. Shortly before your stage goal in Unterkochen you can explore the relics of the Kocherburg, which is enchanted in the forest area.
Viewpoints on the conveyor belt, mysterious caves and another castle ruin make the fifth stage a special experience.After you have left undercooking, mighty oaks, beeches and firs line your path on the Albsteig. On the first hill you can scramble up to the Aalbäumle observation tower and let the panoramic view work its magic on you. A hut with a beer garden tempts you to take a short break. As if through a green tunnel, you walk on to the lookout point on the Sedel rock, where the "Große Scheuer", a cave system, calls for a tour of discovery.Shortly before Heubach you are in the middle of the ruins of Rosenstein Castle, a former hilltop castle at an altitude of around 700 meters. From here it goes straight down to the stage goal.
A challenging route with many kilometers, but also peppered with great viewpoints from the Scheuelberg and the Albtrauf as well as an impressive castle awaits you today.You start the sixth stage at the market square in Heubach and soon follow a hiking trail that takes you up to the Scheuelberg and the “Hoher Fels” viewpoint. From here it goes up a pretty nature path to Falkenberg and along the edge of the forest to Weißenstein with its ivy-covered castle. You climb again a few meters up to the Messelstein, a rock cliff from which you can see into the Black Forest with good visibility.If you are fed up, you hike on to your milestone Kuchalb. Since the Kuchalber Hof is the only accommodation option, you should ask for a room in advance.
The eighth stage of the Albsteig continues in a varied manner. You mainly hike along the Albtrauf and discover great ruins in addition to great viewpoints. Surefootedness is required on the sometimes steep paths.After you have crossed a small piece of forest, you stroll along the edge of the forest for several kilometers until you meet the ruins of Reußenstein. It continues on natural paths through fields and meadows. You can enjoy coffee and cake at the brick hut with its pretty wood carvings before mastering the demanding eaves path up to the saddle arch.The official stage goal is Teck Castle, where you can stay overnight in the hiking home. Alternatively, you can go down to Owen. Apartments are available here.
Beautiful trails through forest and across meadows with just one climb are waiting for you today. The ninth stage on the Albsteig also offers you the opportunity to visit the massive Hohenneuffen Castle with a breathtaking view.Depending on how far you have walked yesterday, you can start your day very royal at Teck Castle or at its foot in tranquil Owen. A single, but decent climb takes you to the highest point of your daily stage. At 744 meters, you have a fantastic view of the Lenninger Valley from Friedrichfels. At the Neuffener Parkplatzfelsen natural monument, you can not only watch climbers, but also turn to the mighty Hohenneuffen Castle. The detour will take around 1.8 kilometers.The Buckleter Kapf viewpoint with its remarkable rock formations "Höllenlöcher" forms a wonderful conclusion before you descend to Bad Urach, your stage destination.
Today the tour takes you to three former principalities and deep into nature, so that you leave civilization behind for long distances.
From Willmandingen you return to the Albsteig. The ascent to Riedernberg awaits you at the beginning, before descending to Talheim. Talheim is the last tranquil place before you disappear into the forest for a long time. At the bakery or in the inn, you can taste yourself again beforehand. Then it goes up to the Dreifürstenstein. The principalities of Württemberg, Hohenzollern and Fürstenberg once met here. In the distance you can see the magnificent Hohenzollern Castle rising from the green of the forest.Again and again the forest opens up and gives you wonderful views over the Swabian Alb, then you descend very steeply to Jungingen at the end of your day's stage.
The Hohenzollern Castle is your constant companion on the 13th stage. Although you cannot get there directly via the Albsteig, there are always perfect views of the majestic castle complex.In a zigzag with numerous switchbacks, you can get from Jungingen to the Himberg, which is also called the Hoher Berg. The Killertal, Hohenzollern Castle and Raichberg are just a few highlights that you can see from up here. We continue through dense forests to the hanging stone, which is more than just a grand viewpoint. It is a mighty limestone rock of the Upper Jurassic, which splits off further and further from the Albtrauf.Several mountains give you an ever new perspective on the beautiful landscape and the Hohenzollern Castle. Then it goes down to Burgfelden at the end of the day, where you can stay in the Landglück holiday apartment.
As if you had guessed it - even today the Albsteig challenges you again with several meters of altitude. Along the eaves, you can even climb your first “Albsteig Thousand”.For a change, your hiking day starts this time with a descent that takes you to the Albstadt suburb of Laufen. But it's already uphill again, first to the viewpoint at the Schalksburg, then to the idyllic nature reserve Hülenbuchwiesen with the Tieringer Hörnle. On one of the wooden benches you can soak up the sun high above the former quarry before diving back into the forest. Finally, you climb over the Lochenstein and Split Rock to the Plettenberg with its 1,002 meters.From here you only stroll down to Ratshausen. There are only a few accommodations here, so it is worth making a reservation in advance.
On the penultimate stage, you continue your way through the “Region of 10 thousand” and climb two more of them with Lemberg and Kehlen.Out of Ratshausen you follow a leisurely ascending path to the edge of the forest. From here it gets a lot steeper. At the Schörzinger Hütte you can take a breather on wooden benches in the sun or in the refuge. Then you climb further up - to the highest point of the entire Albsteig and the Swabian Alb. You can reward yourself with a fantastic view from the tower of the 1,015 meter high Lviv. On the way to Gosheim you lose a few meters of altitude again, but you make up for it with the crisp ascent to the Kehlen viewpoint. Enjoy the view of Feldberg, Kandel, Schliffkopf and Lemberg from which you have just come.