The German Emsland and the Dutch province of Drenthe are not exactly known for their hilly landscapes, but they offer wide views, beautiful nature and moors. This Pioneer Route takes you 280 kilometres (174 mi) between the towns of Meppen, Nordhorn, Schoonebeek and Ter Apel. Four days of flat hiking lie ahead of you. With a total of 500 metres (1,640 ft) of elevation gain, you can safely leave your mountain gear at home.
The Pioneer Route, together with its sister, the Smokkel Route, is part of the United Countries Tour. This is a 600-kilometre (373 mi) network of cycling routes in the Emsland/County of Bentheim/Groningen/Drenthe regions, linking the beautiful landscapes, historic buildings and rich history of each across the German and Dutch borders. While the Smokkel Route focuses on old smugglers' routes, the Pioneer Route explores the region’s most important raw material – peat. You learn about how it was extracted and used at the beginning of industrialisation.
The entire Pioneer Route is marked with a yellow sign inscribed ‘United Countries Tour’. If you’re interested in the Smokkel Route, you can find the Collection here: komoot.de/collection/1320969/die-schmugglerpfade-radeln-auf-der-smokkelroute.
I’ve divided the Tour into four daily stages of around 70 kilometres (43.4 mi) each. Even if you ride at a leisurely pace and visit lots of sights, you don’t have to worry about reaching your destination too late in the evening. I chose to begin in Meppen as Twist, the official starting point, is difficult to reach with public transport and I prefer not to rely on a car. You can stay overnight in Nordhorn, Schoonebeek and Ter Apel which have plenty of hotels or B&Bs. I’d definitely recommend booking in advance.
I hope you enjoy getting to know the quiet landscapes, nature reserves and moors, and switching off for a few days. And, I always recommend stopping for apple pie and coffee in a Dutch café. I, for one, have never been able to resist…
Ready to get going? Create and customize your own version of this adventure using the full Tour below as a template.
Last updated: September 27, 2023
Plan your own version of this adventure in the multi-day planner based on the stages suggested in this Collection.
The first stage of the pioneer route officially starts in Twist. However, I have moved the start of my tour to Meppen, as you can easily get there by train. But I'll guide you from Meppen to Twist, so that at the end of your four days you drove the official route.
So you start at the train station of…
On the second stage of the pioneer route, 72 kilometers between Nordhorn and Schoonebeek lie ahead of you. But that sounds worse than it is, because the region is absolutely flat and you can cruise through the border region without any effort.
Today you are mainly traveling in Germany, the first highlight…
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The third stage on the pioneer route, which today connects the towns of Schoonebeek and Ter Apel, is about to begin. You will stay in the beautiful Netherlands the whole day and have a varied stage ahead of you.
As in the past few days, an extensive moor landscape awaits you at the beginning of the day…
The last and fourth day of your journey between moors and peat areas lies ahead of you. That means, today you will reach your starting point at Meppen main station after almost 73 kilometers and exactly no ascent. But in between you can expect interesting stops that will tell you the history of the region…
Bike Touring Collection by Grafschaft Bentheim Tourismus
Bike Touring Collection by Radnetz Deutschland
Bike Touring Collection by Schwäbische Alb
Mountain Biking Collection by Salzkammergut