The Romantic Franconia holiday region is largely characterised by the Franconian Heights Nature Park, through which a natural border runs – the European Watershed. Also known as the Continental Divide, this unique geographical feature, which flows from Gibraltar to Moscow, is a focus of the European Watershed Trail long-distance hike. This 100-kilometre (62 mile) route leads in a large arc through Middle Franconia in Bavaria, Germany. En route, you cross bodies of water many times, some flowing towards the North Sea and others to the Black Sea. You discover diverse forests, typical of the Franken Heights, as you hike. The trail received the ‘Qualitätsweg Wanderbares Deutschland’ seal of quality three times and it’s easy to see why.
In this Collection, I have divided the long-distance hiking trail into five daily stages. You start in the city of Ansbach, the capital of Middle Franconia, and finish in the municipality of Schnelldorf. There is a train station in both locations, so you can easily travel to and from this adventure by train. The trail leads you through quiet forests, flowering meadows and dry grasslands, and reveals beautiful views. In addition, you find information boards along the way that tell you more about the phenomenal watershed. The trail is waymarked with blue and white signposts.
The trail has excellent infrastructure for hikes. You pass cosy inns where you can replenish your energy as well as countless springs where you can fill up your water bottle. Each stage finishes in a village with several accommodation options except for the second stage, where the lovely Waldgasthof Wildbad guesthouse is the only place to stay. I recommend booking your overnight stays in advance so that you can enjoy the beautiful landscape stress-free. If you like to hike in total comfort, you can book a luggage service too. You can find more information, here (in German language only): wasserscheideweg.de. If you don’t have five days to spare, you can also only hike individual stages. You can reach all start and end points with public transport.
Experience the landscape of the Franken Heights Nature Park on wonderful trails and let yourself be inspired by the beauty of the region, the hospitality of its inhabitants and the idyllic nature. You will quickly realise what makes hiking through Franconia so special.
The first stage on the European watershed route is almost 27 kilometers long. The 100 km long long-distance hiking trail starts in the residential city of Ansbach. On a wooded route you hike to the market town of Colmberg and can get in the perfect mood for your multi-day hiking adventure through Middle Franconia.Before you leave Ansbach behind you, it is worth taking a round through the beautiful old town. Then you leave the center and soon dive into the idyllic Dombach Valley and the adjoining Teufelsgraben. In the nearby Elpersdorf you will find rest stops and you can make a stop at the Wasserscheidebrunnen.Sometimes over fields, sometimes through forests, the path leads you through a varied landscape. After you have passed Hinterholz, you will soon reach the 520 meter high Horn. The forest opens up again and again and gives you a view down into the Zailach Valley.Then you can already see the roofs of the market town of Colmberg in front of you, your destination for today. Romantic half-timbered houses and cozy dining rooms await you in the village. Before you make yourself comfortable in your accommodation, however, it is worth taking a detour to the imposing castle. The view from the former fortress is wonderful and a perfect end to your day of hiking.If you have only planned a day hike and have already left the Wasserscheideweg, the 731 bus will bring you back to Ansbach.
The second stage of the Wasserscheideweg leads you from Colmberg to the idyllic Wildbad. Most of the 21-kilometer route runs in the forest, but along the way you will always find wonderful views. Look forward to a varied day of hiking through the Frankenhöhe Nature Park.You leave Colmberg and dive into the dense forest. The trees around the place include oaks that are up to 200 years old. You continue on the high plateau of the watershed through beautiful mixed forest and on good forest roads to Obersulzbach. In a leisurely up and down, you then continue through the forest. Get an idea of the variety of tree species that is typical for the nature park - from beech to oak, to alder and ash.Above Marktbergel you can make yourself comfortable on a bench and enjoy the magnificent view over the Aisch valley, the Steigerwald and, in good weather, as far as the foothills of the Rhön. Shortly afterwards, the path leads you to another cozy place to take a break: on the banks of the deer pond, you can enjoy the tranquility and just pause.Not far anymore, then you have reached today's milestone. Wildbad was once one of the old mineral baths in Germany. The margraves of Ansbach once used the place for their cures, today you can relax in the forest inn after a long day of hiking.
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The third stage of the watershed is quite relaxed with its 13 kilometers. But this way you have enough time on the way to explore the barefoot path or to refresh yourself in the forest swimming pool. The route from Wildbad to Neusitz is relatively flat and leads you through beautiful forest areas.And today's hiking day begins with a passage through the forest. You enjoy the wonderful landscape and breathe in the aromatic forest air. Shortly before Nordenberg there is a lot to discover: You walk past an Old West ranch, a barefoot path and the forest swimming pool. Reason enough to take a break here.In Obernordenberg, a district of Nordenberg, you are, by the way, exactly on the European watershed and you also have a great view as far as Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Shortly afterwards you will reach the Nordenberg castle ruins, of which you can still discover some imposing remains today. Then the path leads you a good bit along the edge of the forest.Then it goes back into the dense forest. You walk through the monastery and Karrach forest and on to the Karrachsee. The area around the water is under nature protection, but you can make a detour to the upper lake. You might even spot some of the local residents, because the beavers really feel at home here.You walk the last part through the forest to Neusitz. The path ends a little above the village. Either you extend your hike by half an hour and walk to the center or you use the bus. In Neusitz you will find everything you need after a day of hiking.
The fourth stage on the European watershed takes you from Neusitz to Schillingsfürst. This route also leads you mainly through the forest and lets you enjoy the Frankenhöhe Nature Park to the fullest. On the 20-kilometer tour you only come through one village, but you can take an extensive lunch break there at the Hessingschen Hofgut in Schönbronn at half time.The stage starts a little above Neusitz. You can either use the two kilometers from the center to warm up or take the bus to the starting point. Right at the beginning you hike along the steep edge of the Frankenhöhe. Beautiful beech stands grow on the hillside forest, but oak and mixed forests also accompany you on your way along the edge of the height. Always close by: the watershed. The ridge determines the direction in which the water from the various springs ultimately flows.After you have passed Schönbronn, you cross the golf course and continue to hike to the Kühberg nature reserve. The path makes a small bend here, but the view of the Dragonersgrund and the panoramic bench on top make this dangling worthwhile.You continue to walk through the forest, along a babbling brook and you will soon reach today's stage destination Schillingsfürst. The city welcomes you with its idyllic cardinal garden and the magnificent castle - and of course a good selection of accommodation and restaurants.
The final spurt on the European watershed: The fifth and last stage of the long-distance hiking trail takes you on romantic paths from Schillingsfürst to Schnelldorf. Particularly impressive on the almost 23-kilometer route is the more than 200-meter-long Gailnau rock fall with its steep edge.But it starts after a hearty breakfast in Schillingsfürst. You leave the pretty city and soon be walking through the forest again. Then you cross the motorway and follow the path further south.The following section between Obergailnau and Grüb is probably the most romantic part of the entire watershed. You wander through the dense forest and discover the mighty edge near Gailnau, which was created by a landslide in 1957. Over a length of more than 200 meters, the ridge, which is up to ten meters high and suddenly broke off the reed sandstone, rises up. The path meanders through this wild and romantic landscape.You continue hiking through the forest and can take another break on the banks of the Erlensee. Take some time here and let the tranquility of nature work on you, your destination Schnelldorf is not far anymore. It goes a bit downhill before you can look back on 100 mastered hiking kilometers. The European watershed road ends at Schnelldorf train station - and you can start your journey home with lots of new impressions and landscapes in your head.