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Hiking in Germany’s Kyffhäuser hills – 15 days on the Barbarossa Trail

Thüringer Tourismus GmbH

Hiking in Germany’s Kyffhäuser hills – 15 days on the Barbarossa Trail

Hiking Collection by Angelina Kuhlmann

13-29

days

3-6 h

/ day

198 mi

19,800 ft

19,625 ft

The myth of Emperor Frederick I’s death gave rise to one of the most famous legends in Germany – the Barbarossa saga. He was known as the emperor who brought unity and peace. According to legend, the emperor sleeps in a cave in the Kyffhäuser hills, ready to awaken one day to save the empire. One of the oldest long-distance hiking trails in Germany is dedicated to the legendary life of Barbarossa.

Medieval fortresses, incredible geological landscapes, picturesque old towns, art and tranquil nature: the 315-kilometre (195 mi) Barbarossa Trail is brimming with history. The route connects ancient places in Hesse and Thuringia that Barbarossa would have visited during his reign. You end at the Kyffhäusern Imperial Castle in the Kyffhäuser hills, where Barbarossa is said to be waiting in the mountains, according to legend. The Tour runs along easy paths with no difficult climbs.

I’ve divided the trail into 15 stages, between 15 to 28 kilometres (9.3 to 17.3 mi) long, that take you to wonderful historical and scenic highlights. You can find a place to stay in the evening at the stage destinations. To reach the starting point, Korbach, you can catch a train. At the end of your adventure, the Kyffhäuser Rufbus takes you to the train station in Berga.
You can find more information here: region-suedharz-kyffhaeuser.de/en.

The Barbarossa Trail is alive with history – the palace of Tilleda, the oldest town hall in Fritzlar, the Boyneburg where Barbarossa himself held a court meeting, and many other places lie en route. You hike through the dense forests between the southern Harz mountains and the Thuringian Forest and get to know the Harz’s little brother, the Kyffhäuser hills. Maybe the Barbarossa sage will inspire you as much as it did me. Friedrich Rückert gives a small foretaste of this fairytale in a poem: ‘The ancient Barbarossa, Friedrich, the Kaiser great, within the castle-cavern, sits in an enchanted state. He did not die; but ever waits in the chamber deep, where hidden under the castle, he sleeps.’

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Barbarossaweg

189 mi

18,850 ft

18,675 ft

Last updated: December 29, 2021

Plan your own version of this adventure in the multi-day planner based on the stages suggested in this Collection.

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Tours & Highlights

  • Difficult
    07:18
    16.4 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,425 ft
    1,650 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    Excited you get off the train on the morning of the first day in Korbach. There are 15 days ahead of you full of special places and time to leave the stress of everyday life behind you. After just a few steps you will immerse yourself in this special region, because even the small Korbach is simply enchanting

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    by Angelina Kuhlmann

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  • Difficult
    05:52
    12.8 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,625 ft
    1,225 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    From Dalwigksthal, the gateway to Örkschen Switzerland, you enter a lush green natural area on the Barbarossaweg on the second day. The hiking trail first leads you up to Lichtenfels Castle and then always follows the course of the Orke, which makes its way through dense forests and meadows. On the way

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  • Difficult
    06:09
    13.8 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,125 ft
    1,625 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    On the third stage of the Barbarossaweg you continue your way through the only national park in the state of Hesse. The path takes you over a hilly route from Frankenau to Bad Wildungen. While you pass many castles and ruins on the first two stages, today you immerse yourself in the natural world of

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  • Difficult
    05:22
    11.9 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,150 ft
    1,325 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    In Bad Wildungen itself you should take some time to explore at the beginning of the fourth stage. In addition to Friedrichstein Castle, whose visit is already planned in the route, you can also admire the grounds of the 2006 garden show, the old fire brigade and the town church. Then it goes from Bad

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  • Difficult
    06:18
    14.2 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,175 ft
    1,325 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    A day between Eder, Ems and two idyllic castles: This is how the fifth stage of the Barbarossaweges runs between Fritzlar and Melsungen. After a short stretch along the Eder, the long-distance hiking trail leads you away from the water and into the meadows and fields behind the Eder meadows. There you

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  • Difficult
    06:30
    14.2 mi
    2.2 mph
    2,025 ft
    1,150 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    If you did not come across the Kemenate after the fifth stage while strolling through the old town of Melsungen, you should take a quick look at the oldest house in the city of Melsungen on the sixth day of the Barbarossaweg. It stands in the Burgmannenhof and was probably used not only as a granary

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    by Angelina Kuhlmann

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  • Difficult
    06:40
    14.2 mi
    2.1 mph
    1,675 ft
    2,425 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    On the seventh stage of the Barbarossaweg there are two logical features and a few meters of altitude waiting for you today. In total, you complete a good 23 kilometers on the section from Reichenbach, which bring you closer to the Hessian-Thuringian border piece by piece.

    

    The Barbarossaweg leads you

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  • Intermediate
    04:32
    9.40 mi
    2.1 mph
    1,875 ft
    925 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    Today you will come across one of the places where Frederick I probably held court more than once. The medieval Boyneburg is just under three and a half kilometers behind Wichmannshausen. Before emperor Barbarossa died in a crusade in 1190, he held a court day there in 1166 and a diet in 1188. The castle

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  • Difficult
    05:27
    12.4 mi
    2.3 mph
    675 ft
    1,425 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    Steep mountain slopes, rocks and beautiful beech forests: the ninth stage of the Barbarossaweg takes you over 20 kilometers to the Dreiherrenstein-Eschenberg-Kreutzerberg nature reserve. Although you hike from Weißenborn to Treffurt in a hilly area, the gradient is limited. So a relaxed hike is waiting

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  • Difficult
    05:55
    13.2 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,200 ft
    1,350 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    Welcome to Thuringia! After nine days on the Barbarossaweg you have left the Hessian part of the hiking trail behind you. Ahead of you today is a 21-kilometer tour through the Hainich National Park. You leave Treffurt in the direction of Burg Normannenstein and follow the Barbarossaweg first to Heyerode

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  • Intermediate
    04:15
    9.85 mi
    2.3 mph
    875 ft
    100 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Since one of the shorter stages of the Barbarossaweg is waiting for you today with almost 16 kilometers, you can use the time in the morning for a walk through Mühlhausen. Then you head north out of the city, accompanied by the Unstrut, whose course creates an absolute natural idyll on the edge of the

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  • Difficult
    06:08
    14.3 mi
    2.3 mph
    775 ft
    850 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    With the twelfth stage of the Barbarossaweg you reach the Kyffhäuserkreis in Thuringia. After the meadows and fields near the Unstrut, it will be more wooded on your way today. The long-distance hiking trail takes you from Sollstedt to the Dün. The Dün, or Dünwald, is a mountain range that is up to 553

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  • Difficult
    06:46
    15.2 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,125 ft
    1,900 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    On the 13th stage of the Barbarossaweg you can expect a wonderful mixture of the nature of the Hainleite, panoramic views of the Thuringian countryside, a picturesque castle ruin and a visit to the mountain town of Sondershausen. It starts with a lot of energy after the night at Lohra Castle.

    

    To the east

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  • Difficult
    07:37
    17.5 mi
    2.3 mph
    1,150 ft
    1,325 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    The 14th stage of the Barbarossaweg connects the Hainleite with the Kyffhäuser Mountains. On today's hike you will cross the area between the two natural spaces and not only get to know other unique witnesses of the Middle Ages, but also visit the notorious Barbarossa Cave. Since there are some highlights

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  • Intermediate
    04:11
    8.49 mi
    2.0 mph
    1,925 ft
    1,000 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    Almost 300 kilometers, numerous castles and medieval towns have already been made. And yet the highlight of the Barbarossaweg trail at the end of the 15th stage is still ahead of you today. The almost thirteen kilometer long tour takes you to the Reichsburg Kyffhausen and the Kyffhäuser monument - right

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    15
  • Distance
    198 mi
  • Duration
    89:00 h
  • Elevation
    19,800 ft19,625 ft

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Hiking in Germany’s Kyffhäuser hills – 15 days on the Barbarossa Trail

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