Mountains and medieval town centres with well-preserved half-timbered houses await you as you journey across North Hesse from the Sauerland on the border with North Rhine-Westphalia to Thuringia. On the way, you discover the mighty Edersee Lake, the Kellerwald Forest, the Knüll Mountains, and the Fulda Valley as well as more fascinating nature spots. This well-signposted cycle route is also known as the ‘Nordhessenroute Eder-Fulda-Werra’ after the rivers en route. It takes you through untouched nature, blooming fields and deep forests. As you regularly pass through picturesque villages, you don’t have to worry about food or drink.
239 kilometres (148 miles) lie between the starting point near Willingen and the destination town of Wanfried. I’ve divided the route into four daily stages for you that are between 50 and 70 kilometres (31 and 43 miles) long. All stages end in towns that have various accommodation options. This means you can enjoy a carefree journey through North Hesse over a long weekend.
The R5 is more hilly than most other long-distance cycle routes in Hesse and therefore demands a lot from you and your bike. You ride on roads and along tarmacked stretches, but there are some gravel forest paths too. A classic touring bike or a gravel bike are ideal for this Tour. You also climb a few metres in altitude, so a certain level of basic fitness will come in handy. Of course, you can flexibly ride only parts of the route or shorten the stage length. There are several train stations along the route.
Hesse has an extensive network of cycle paths, including nine different official long-distance cycle routes. These numbered routes link together at various points so you can combine them together freely. Some of them also overlap with other cycle paths. You can easily reach the starting point in Willingen by train from Brilon or Marburg. The destination, Wanfried, doesn’t have a train connection, but it’s only 10 kilometres (6 miles) to the station in Eschwege which also lies en route.
After seeing a bit of the Edersee at the end of the first stage, the full program is on today. You follow its entire south bank for almost 30 kilometers. You will always have spectacular views of the water. Although you are always close to the shore, it is anything but flat here. When the water level is low, relics otherwise flooded by the lake reappear. At the tiny Asel-Süd with only 14 inhabitants, there is a special highlight to see depending on the water level. The local bridge is actually flooded, but can be used again at low tide when the Eder flows in its old bed.After some ups and downs you will reach the Edersee and shortly afterwards another, smaller reservoir. You drive along the Affoldern reservoir between rails and the shore. You can certainly run into a handcar on the rails. Then you follow the Eder to Bad Wildungen.
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You leave the Kellerwald behind and move towards the Fulda. The sparsely populated and wooded Knüll Mountains want to be crossed. But first you follow the Schwalm to Borken. The place is framed by several idyllic lakes.Over the first smaller climbs of the day you will reach the Efze and shortly afterwards the largest place of today's stage, Homberg. There are many historical and well-preserved buildings to see in the medieval city. You don't have to plan a detour for this, because the bike path leads you right through the center of the village.Now you follow the Efze up into the Knüllgebirge. In Remsfeld you leave their banks and the serious part of the ascent is on. The apex is on the motorway bridge with which you cross the A7. Behind it it goes down to the Fulda. There is only one smaller climb to be mastered, the rest of the stage is flat.
On the last stage of the Hessian long-distance cycle route R5, things get down to business again. Two longer climbs are waiting on your way today. After passing through Schwarzenhasel, things get serious. The percentage of gradient skyrocketed and was noticeably in the double-digit range. The second half of the ascent is then less steep and you will be rewarded with a wonderful descent.The picturesque Sontra is located in the Geo-Naturpark Frau-Holle-Land and of course has a pretty old town with historic half-timbered houses to offer. You drive right through the town, so you can treat yourself to a break without detours. Between Reichensachsen and Eschwege you master one last long climb up to the glider airfield. However, it is not quite as steep and long as the last one. At the end of this descent, the village of Eschwege awaits.