Following cycle paths and quiet roads, the Hessian Long-distance Cycle Route R2 takes you on a journey along rivers as they flow across the state of Hesse in the west of Germany. The trail, named after four rivers – the Lahn, Fulda, Lüder, and Lauter, also leads through the Rothaar Mountains and the Vogelsberg range. You pass through numerous typical Hessian half-timbered villages and cover many kilometers through extensive forests and meadows.
Around 80% of the R2 is paved and perfect for touring bikes, but you can ride on a road bike with a wider tread or gravel bike too. You should have a certain basic fitness level to enjoy the low mountain sections on stages 2 and 3. However, the climbs are never very steep.
Most of the time, you ride on cycle paths close to rivers or occasionally also on roads (towards the end of the southern part of the route). You pass train stations en route so you can easily ride sections of the entire route or combine it with other bike paths.
I have divided the 202-kilometer (125-mile) Tour into three daily stages, each of which ends in cities with various overnight stays. This makes it easy to enjoy a long weekend along the route. You can travel to the starting point Bad Laasphe by train from Marburg, among other places.
Hesse has an extensive network of bike paths, including nine different official long-distance bike routes. These numbered paths are linked together at various points so you can combine them together as you like. They also sometimes overlap with other bike paths.
Your four-river tour begins at the Hessian border between Bad Laasphe and Wallau. Not far from here, in the North Rhine-Westphalian part of the Rothaargebirge, the Lahn rises from the Lahntopf. This is not a classic spring, but a spring pond. A detour is definitely worth it if you have enough time. The Sieg also rises in the immediate vicinity, so we are on the watershed between the Rhine and Weser.You first follow the still very young Lahn downstream and you will soon reach Biedenkopf. In this pretty North Hessian place you can, for example, eat a delicious ice cream or drink a coffee and admire the historic half-timbered houses.At Cölbe the Ohm flows into the Lahn. The route now turns towards the Ohm and follows it a little upstream. Not far from here you will come to the idyllic Hainmühle. There are also other historical mills to discover at the Ohm.The memorial for the Münchmühle subcamp is a sad but important memorial. Here around 1,000 prisoners were forced to work in an explosives factory by the National Socialists. An opportunity to pause for a moment.In contrast to the stage destination in Neustadt, there is a larger selection of hotels in Stadtallendorf. So if you are in the mood for a little luxury, it is worth considering ending the day here. Behind Stadtallendorf the only longer climb of the stage is waiting. However, it doesn't get very steep here.You will then reach the actual destination of the day in Neustadt at the largest half-timbered rotunda in the world, the Junker Hansen Tower. The late Gothic Dornberg Castle is also located here in Neustadt. There are no hotels in this place on the Wiera, but there are, for example, various guesthouses to choose from.
Today several typical Hessian half-timbered towns are waiting for your visit. The second stage is much more hilly than the first. Right at the beginning there is a somewhat steeper ascent between Neustadt and Willingshausen.Now you are at the drift. At Seibelsdorf this was dammed into a dam. The route runs exactly over the dam and along the shore, so you have enough opportunity to enjoy this local recreation area. There is also a lakeside restaurant with a beer garden that invites you to take a break.The next larger town is Alsfeld with its famous historic old town. Shortly after you have passed the train station, the lovely town center is only a few hundred meters to your left. There are many opportunities for a lunch break here in town. After you have followed the Schwalm for a few kilometers, it now goes over the ridges of the Vogelsberg to Lauterbach, where there is a connection to the volcano cycle path.The Wartenberg castle ruin from the Staufer era is a listed building on the Lauter. On your further way towards Fulda you also drive through Bad Salzschlirf and Großenlüder.Today's stage destination Fulda is the largest city on the route. Here you can marvel at the impressive cathedral, among other things. In Fulda you can easily spend a whole day and you would not have discovered everything worth seeing. If you have the time, you can take an extended evening stroll through the old town.
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The last stage of your journey through Hessen is coming up. You leave Fulda and follow the river of the same name southwards.There were already a lot of interesting historical buildings to see in Fulda, but it is also worth stopping on the first few kilometers out of the city. The very impressive baroque castle of the same name is located directly on the route near Johannesberg.If you like the building, a detour to the nearby pheasantry in Eichenzell is definitely recommended. The castle from the 18th century is considered to be the most beautiful baroque castle in Hesse and is also called Adolphseck after the former prince abbot Adolph von Dalberg from Fulda.At Schmalnau you finally leave the Fulda and it gets a little more hilly for the last time. You are now in the Hessian Rhön and keep coming back to pretty little towns like Uttrichshausen and Heubach. The highest point is reached shortly after Heubach. Then follows a fast descent via Ziegelhütte to Oberzell in the valley of the Schmalen Sinn.With Zeitlofs the real meaning is achieved. Now it is not far to the Bavarian border and thus the end of the tour at Hof Dittenbrunn. The nearest train stations are in Jossa and Obersinn. From there you can easily take the train to Bamberg or Würzburg.