The Hessian Long-distance Cycle Route R3 takes you across the west German state of Hesse from the town of Rüdesheim on the River Rhine to the municipality of Tann in the Rhön Mountains. Along the way, you visit exciting cities such as Frankfurt, Hanau, Wächtersbach, Schlüchtern and Fulda, as well as wonderful nature. The Rhine Valley, the Spessart, the Vogelsberg and finally the Rhön are waiting to be discovered en route.
In this Collection, I have divided the 231-kilometer (143-mile) route into three daily stages, each of which ends in a town with several overnight accommodation options. You can also take more time which is made easier by the refreshment stops and ample accommodation along the route. You can always spontaneously reschedule if the stages are too long for you. Except for very short sections, the cycle path is paved and therefore ideal for a classic touring bike or road bike.
As you ride, you follow in the footsteps of the so-called ‘Spätlesereiter’, the protagonist of an old legend from the Rheingau region. With its sun-drenched slopes, the area is world-famous for wine growing. Legend has it that in 1775, the monks of Johannisberg Monastery needed permission from the prince abbot in Fulda to begin harvesting grapes. They entrusted a mounted messenger to carry a sample of the precious cargo to Fulda. However, the rider arrived several weeks late. In the meantime, the grapes had spoiled. The desperate monks pressed the grapes anyway, expecting them to be inedible. To their surprise, the grapes made an excellent wine, which is appreciated worldwide today as a late vintage. Thus, the messenger's delay turned into a stroke of luck. The Hessian Long-distance Cycle Route R3 traces the route that the ‘Spätlesereiter’ might have taken at the time.
Many roads lead to Rüdesheim to the starting point of the route. You can travel by train from Koblenz, Frankfurt or Mannheim. There’s also a direct ferry to Rüdesheim from Bingen am Rhine. You could also arrive by bike along the Rhine Cycle Path that leads through the beautiful Middle Rhine Valley. There are train stations dotted along the entire route so you can hop on or off at any point. This also makes it easy to do part of the route as a day trip or shorten your ride if things take a little longer than planned. You’ll find reasons to stop and take a break time and time again.
The first stage is shaped by the two mighty rivers Rhine and Main. Accordingly, it is perfectly flat and, with very few exceptions, perfectly paved.Rüdesheim am Rhein is located in the Rheingau, the southern slope of the Taunus, across from Bingen. The picturesque place is extremely popular and worth seeing. If you have the time, I recommend taking the cable car up to the Niederwald monument before you start. The view of the bend in the Rhine and the Nahe estuary opposite is unique.At the beginning of your tour you follow the Rhine cycle path at the foot of the vineyards. The Rhine to Mainz-Kastel is always on your right side. The Romans already cultivated wine in this area and it is not for nothing that Riesling enjoys its international reputation. The sun-drenched slate slopes offer a perfect location for the vines. At the right time of the year you will always come across wine tasting stands.With a wonderful view of Mainz you reach the mouth of the Main and say goodbye to the Rhine and its large cargo ships. But the Main Cycle Route, which you are now following in the direction of Frankfurt, is no less exciting. Through a lot of green you drive comfortably always close to the bank towards the banking metropolis.Sindlingen is already part of Frankfurt, even if you are not yet aware of the hustle and bustle of the big city. You can reach the southern bank of the Main via the Hoechst AG works bridge. You brush against the nature reserve of the Schwanheimer Düne and you will soon see the impressive Frankfurt skyline, which is unique in Germany. The Main Cycle Path runs through the center of the city, completely car-free. One of the last skyscrapers is the impressive European Central Bank and before you know it, you are in Offenbach's urban area.The stage finally ends at the Offenbach-Bürgel campsite. Of course, there are also countless hotels and guest houses in all price ranges in Frankfurt and Offenbach, if you don't like camping that much.
The second stage is almost entirely paved and rather flat, with a slight increase following the Kinzig into the Vogelsberg. But this happens so slowly that you can hardly feel it in your legs. Typical Hessian half-timbered towns and so some traces of old cultural history lie on your way.You leave Offenbach and will soon reach the ferry in Rumpenheim. After the crossing, you first continue to follow the Main Cycle Path. It goes past the magnificent Philippsruhe Castle to Hanau, in the so-called Brothers Grimm City. The storytellers were born here and have accordingly left many traces in the cityscape.In Hanau, the Kinzig also flows into the Main, which you will follow from now on. At Erlensee you cross a historically significant border, the Upper German-Raetian Limes. The traces of a Roman fort are reminiscent of the ancient border wall that separated the Roman Empire from the Germanic tribes in the north around 2,000 years ago.Gelnhausen, on the other hand, is known as Barbarossastadt because it was founded in the 12th century by Emperor Friedrich I. The old town captivates with wonderful half-timbered buildings. Wächtersbach and Bad Soden-Salmünster are also typical Hessian cities with a good infrastructure for cyclists and of course a lot of half-timbered houses. You can already see why the late-reading rider probably took so long. There are just so many beautiful places along the way that invite you to stay longer.Shortly before Steinau an der Straße you will reach the Kinzigtalsperre. The dammed lake is a popular destination and photo opportunity. Incidentally, Steinau an der Straße also describes itself as the Brothers Grimm City because they spent part of their youth here.Now there are only a few kilometers left to today's stage destination. There are various places to stop for refreshments and overnight stays in Schlüchtern. The place on the Kinzig lies at the intersection of Spessart, Vogelsberg and Rhön. Relax well, because on the third and last stage you leave the valley behind you - it goes up high.
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The third and last stage of the long-distance cycle route R3 is on. Right at the beginning, you leave Schlüchtern, the Kinzig and thus the plains behind you. It goes uphill for several kilometers. If you can see the freeway, you are almost there.You cross the motorway and soon reach the Fliede, which finally flows into the Fulda at Ziegel. The river takes you flat into the city of the same name, which is completely crossed. The cathedral city of Fulda is always worth a longer stay, there is so much to discover. Here there is also a connection to the Hessian long-distance cycle routes R1 and R2.Behind Fulda it goes over the Milseburgradweg into the Rhön. There is now a long ascent, but thanks to the course of the bike path over a former railway line, the ascent is fairly limited except for a short section.It goes car-free up into the Hochrhön, up to 562 meters above sea level. At the apex, the proverbial climax in the form of the Milseburg tunnel awaits you. Driving through the tunnel is a real experience. In winter, however, it is reserved for bats and closed to cyclists.If you can't get through here out of season, you'll have to do a short push to get to the other side. It was the same with me in December when I drove this way for the first time. However, the views of the beautiful landscape of the Rhön make up for the detour.Behind the tunnel, it then goes slightly downhill to the stage destination, first a bit over the Milseburgradweg and then on quiet side streets. Shortly after Tann, the signposting of the cycle path ends on the border with Thuringia.You can continue cycling on the Ulstertal Cycle Path, for example. The closest train station is in Hünfeld. From there you can take the train to Frankfurt, Kassel, Fulda or Erfurt.