Sebastian Gliem

3-day bikepacking adventure – forests, lakes and gravel in the northern Eifel

Sven

3-day bikepacking adventure – forests, lakes and gravel in the northern Eifel

Bike Touring Collection by Sebastian Gliem

Are you eager to go exploring with your friends on your bikes for a few days, but you don’t know where to go yet? Do you like to immerse yourself in vast, silent forests, hearing only the gurgling of streams and gravel crunching under your tyres? If your answer is yes, then pack your saddlebags, take your gravel or mountain bike and set off to the Eifel for your next bikepacking adventure. Stretching between Western Germany and Eastern Belgium, the Eifel low-mountain range offers some of the most untouched nature that is begging to be explored by bike.

On my trips, I enjoy pushing my bike’s limits, testing new routes and trails and chasing spectacular views. I've packed all this into a three-day bikepacking adventure in the northern Eifel and Ardennes – so pack your bags and follow me!

The three stages in this Collection take you on a loop from the city of Aachen through forests and around lakes and reservoirs. There are several beautiful water spots in the Eifel, many of which you’ll visit during your trip.

I chose the central train station in Aachen as the start and finish of the adventure, so you can arrive by train and avoid searching for a parking space before setting off. There are lots of sights to see in this imperial city before or after your Tour. Aachen is the only major city on the entire trip; you’ll mostly be far from civilisation.

On the first day, you ride from Aachen to the town of Kornelimünster, past the Wehebach dam to the town of Heimbach by the Rur dam. On the way, you cross Hürtgenwald forest, a landscape that is steeped in history. On the second day, the Urft Estuary and Urft dam lie en route as you ride to Ligneuville in the Belgian Ardennes. The last day to Aachen clocks up kilometres through the High Fens Nature Reserve, an impressive plateau in the eastern Ardennes. In Aachen, you finish your trip back at the central station. If you haven’t already visited Aachen’s sights, I recommend doing so. Don’t forget to stock up on delicious Printen biscuits for the journey home too.

Having some physical fitness will help on this trip. It also doesn’t hurt to have some bike handling skills as it can get rough at times. As I said, you definitely find trails on this Tour, but they are manageable with proper technique. The trails are mainly flowing, rarely rooty and mostly S0 on the single trail scale. If you can't imagine riding trails or technical sections on a gravel bike, but you have a mountain bike, you can ride that instead. You’ll have some climbs to tackle, so the lighter you pack, the better. In Heimbach and Ligneuville there is accommodation in hotels or guesthouses, but if you prefer camping, you can find campsites on the Rur near Heimbach and at Lake Bütgenbach before Ligneuville.

On The Map

Tours & Highlights

    Difficult
    05:57
    50.2 mi
    8.4 mph
    3,850 ft
    3,725 ft
    Expert gravel ride. Very good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may require you to push your bike.

    The first stage of your trip through the Eifel and Ardennes already has it all. A total of almost 80 kilometers and 1,100 meters of altitude are waiting to be conquered by you. And of course lots of fun too!You start directly at Aachen Central Station, which you can easily reach by train. For the first three kilometers you will of course drive through the city, but as soon as you have Aachen-Beverau behind you, nature greets you. To warm up, it is not straight into difficult terrain, but rather on asphalt and the wonderful Vennbahn cycle path towards Kornelimünster. In Kornelimünster it is actually still too early for a first break, but you should spend a little time in town. The area around the Gothic church of St. Cornelius is particularly worth seeing. The old town on the Inde is also very charming. Incidentally, the Eifelsteig begins in Kornelimünster and leads over 313 kilometers to Trier.The next big goal is the Wehebachtalsperre. You continue to follow part of the Vennbahn cycle path, but soon it gets rougher. On the way you will encounter the first more technical trails, but with a little practice on the bike they shouldn't be a problem. The lake is not a bathing lake, by the way, but a great place for a rest with a wonderful view of the dam.After the rendezvous with the dam you climb the next ascent in the forest, but from Großhau you can let it roll nicely for a few kilometers on a gravel path until you cross the southern foothills of the dam at the foot of the descent. Eifel forests and small streams are now your companion along the trails and gravel routes until you reach Hürtgen - all uphill! Again you can look forward to a beautiful, long descent, peppered with gravel and trail passages.And then it stands in front of you, the last climb of the day to Schmidt. You're in luck here, large parts of the path are paved or at least solid, but there are also a few rougher spots - you really want to earn the following descent to Rursee! The descent on back roads and trails is tough, but it's great fun. Once at the bottom, you have almost reached the Heimbach destination, but before that you will circle part of the Rursee, the last body of water for the first day. The Rurstausee is the second largest reservoir in Germany after the Bleilochstausee in Thuringia and is used in a variety of ways: for power generation, as a drinking water dispenser, for water level regulation and for tourism, including water sports. So your gaze will not meet an "empty" lake, but also one or the other boat.And then you've already made it, once more through Hasenfeld and you will reach today's destination, the touristically very popular place Heimbach.

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    Difficult
    07:37
    57.5 mi
    7.5 mph
    4,500 ft
    4,075 ft
    Expert gravel ride. Very good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may be unpaved and difficult to ride.

    The second stage of your three-day Eifel adventure has it all. Between Heimbach and Ligneuville you can expect almost 90 kilometers with 1,300 meters of altitude. That sounds almost like an alpine cross stage, but you are still in the Eifel and the eastern foothills of the Ardennes.Before you start the stage, you should first visit Hengebach Castle and enjoy the wonderful view over the Eifel and Rur. Then you grab your bike and head towards Rursee. Slightly uphill and through Hasenfeld again, you will reach it after a few kilometers and follow its bank (sometimes close, sometimes less). After about 25 kilometers you will reach Einruhr and finally leave the lake. Now it is worth refueling your bottles and energy reserves again, because the longest climb of the day is ahead of you. And this is just fun, because you are now in the middle of the Eifel, surrounded by forests and small streams and beautiful uphill single trails that almost make you forget that you are actually only going uphill for over ten kilometers. It is just too nice to immerse yourself in this "wilderness" far away from civilization and the sometimes colorful hustle and bustle on the edge of the Rursee.The next destination is again a reservoir, this time the Olef dam, which is fed by the small river Olef. When circumnavigating the lake, you can relax a little with beautiful views and relaxed cycling on the bike path before you can pedal harder again and reach the dense Eifel forests again. But what you won't notice: At some point you will cross the border with Belgium and reach the eastern foothills of the Ardennes. You have already covered most of the vertical meters, but the Belgian Ardennes still show you their teeth from time to time, namely their shark teeth. This is how you can describe the sequence of ascent and descent that is always challenging in the Ardennes.Slowly you will also notice how nature is changing, the forests are retreating and extensive meadows and fields follow. Until you come to your last body of water today, the idyllic Bütgenbacher See. If you like, you can go around the entire lake, because this dam is really nicely laid out and also offers a possibility for swimming. The trail around the lake is awesome and makes graveler's hearts beat faster.Now you still have 20 kilometers ahead of you, which you can use to roll out, among other things you will meet again on the Vennbahnradweg. The destination of the stage is Ligneuville, formerly known as Engelsdorf. The place belongs to Malmedy and if you like, you can shorten the last stage by driving to Malmedy, where you would come along tomorrow anyway. But after 90 kilometers and many wonderful impressions, it may be over!

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  • Difficult
    05:24
    43.2 mi
    8.0 mph
    2,775 ft
    3,300 ft
    Expert gravel ride. Very good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may require you to push your bike.

    The last day of your Eifel adventure takes you straight north to Aachen. On this day you have more vertical meters than you have before you and only 70 kilometers left, so for the last day some more relaxation for your legs!But first of all it means getting warm, so your path leads you uphill towards Malmedy and you will be happy to have finished the day in Ligneuville the day before. In Malmedy you can invest an hour and see a few sights of the town, but don't forget: Today you want to pay a visit to the high plateau of the High Fens. And high plateau means: You can enjoy a few meters of altitude again, this time not steep, but long and moderate. Watch how nature changes! Along the creek Wache with a few crossings over hill and dale you are fully in gravel mode again! By the way, you are in the immediate vicinity of the Signal de Botrange, the highest point in Belgium, and that means: you have arrived in the High Fens.The High Fens is a plateau with moors and you will feel the rough air that will probably blow in your face. You may also be surprised by fog and sometimes you will think you are going on a tour of Scotland.You can slowly let it roll again, because the path towards Eupen and the Eupen dam in the German-speaking part of Belgium is flat to sloping. Now the adventurous part of your tour is slowly over and you roll on back roads in the direction of Aachen. And what does a real bike tour include? A delicious ice cream, of course! You can get what is probably the best ice cream in Aachen at the Oecher Eis-Treff, and you can enjoy it in the park next door. And then you should treat yourself to another Aachen specialty: Printen! You can devour them on the train on the way home while you think back to the experiences of the last three days.

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    3
  • Distance
    151 mi
  • Duration
    18:58 h
  • Elevation
    11,100 ft
Sebastian Gliem

3-day bikepacking adventure – forests, lakes and gravel in the northern Eifel