The Roman Canal Trail (Römerkanal) connects the Rhine metropolis of Cologne and the town of Nettersheim in the Eifel. The Romans built this 100-kilometre (60 mi) pipeline 2,000 years ago to transport spring water from the Eifel to the Rhine. This hiking trail follows the traces of the ancient canal. On the way, you’ll find 53 information boards that tell you about the history of the canal, the way of life in Roman times, the landscape and nature.
The 120-kilometre trail (74 mi) is divided into seven stages of between 13 and 22 kilometres (8 and 13 mi). The Tours are suitable for every hiker, ideal for families and beginners, as the paths are gentle, often leading through forests. You hike through the Rhenish lowlands and foothills into the Eifel low mountain range. The stages gradually get hillier, with 300 to 400 metres (980 to 1,300 ft) of elevation gain on the final two days.
The route is marked in both directions, so it’s easy to navigate in both directions. If you haven’t done much walking in the region, start in Nettersheim. You’ll see Cologne ahead on the last three stages and you can spend some time there after your hike. As a Cologne resident, the trail starts almost on my doorstep so I prefer to hike in the direction of the Eifel. I didn’t walk the route all in one go. I spread it across several weeks and returned home in the evening, thanks to the public transport connections.
The region between Cologne and the Eifel is rural, but still well populated. There are several places to stay along the route. On the second, fourth and sixth stages, it’s hard to find a place to stay exactly at the end point, but there are options a few kilometres away. You’ll find food and drink along the way, but take snacks with you anyway so that you can take advantage of the many beautiful rest areas.
For me, the best time to walk the Roman Canal Trail is spring. Between March and May, the daffodils and flowers bloom in the Eifel. However, it can still be chilly in spring. On average, it is five to ten degrees colder in the Eifel than on the Rhenish Bay. This makes the region very pleasant in summer though: when the cities are hot, the Eifel is a welcome refreshment.
The easiest way to reach this adventure is by public transport. You can reach the start point at Manderscheider Platz via Cologne Central Station or South Station and tram line 18 to Sülzgürtel. From the end point in Nettersheim, you can take the rail replacement service back to Kall. The line will open again by the end of 2023. From Kall, you can then catch the RE or RB back to Cologne. Check the Deutsche Bahn journey planner (in German) to organise your trip: reiseauskunft.bahn.de.
If you prefer to travel by car, park outside Cologne. Long-stay parking isn’t possible in the Sülz district unless you’re a resident. It might make more sense for you to start the Tour in the Eifel, park there and then hike into Cologne.
Feel free to write in the comments how you liked the hike on the Roman Canal Trail – I’d love to know what you think.
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Last updated: March 10, 2023
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On the first stage of the Römerkanal hiking trail, the path takes you almost 21 kilometers out of Cologne. You are on the road for a good five and a half hours, crossing several districts of Hürth and ending the stage in Brühl. The first half is quite urban. There are many cafes, supermarkets and kiosks…
The second stage continues today through the Ville and over 18 kilometers from Brühl to Brenig. You should plan five hours of walking time for this. It starts through the Ville forests and their lakes. Passing some old villages, the last third of the stage leads across flat meadows.
Not far from the starting…
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At 23 kilometers, the third stage is the longest stage of the Roman Canal hiking trail. However, the route is fairly flat today, there are hardly any differences in altitude, so you can easily complete the stage in six hours of walking. Today you leave the woody Ville and hike into the foothills with…
The fourth stage of the Römerkanal hiking trail is one of the shorter ones. It is more than 16 kilometers from Rheinbach in the Swistbucht to Kreuzweingarten in the Erfttal. The stage has only a few meters in altitude. It took me around four hours to walk the path, but there is a lot to discover along…
Today we go to the Eifel. On the shortest stage of the Roman Canal hiking trail, you hike 15 kilometers to Mechernich. There are around 200 vertical meters in front of you in the ascent and descent. In total, it took me around four hours to walk the fifth stage. The detour to the Katzensteinen is a small…
The sixth stage covers almost 18 kilometers from Mechernich through the low mountain range of the North Eifel to Dottel. The path becomes hilly and covers almost 400 meters in altitude in the ascent and around 200 meters in altitude in the descent. In total, it took me a good five hours to walk the stage…
The seventh and final stage today takes you from Dottel via the source and origin of the Roman canal "Grüner Pütz" to the destination of the hiking trail in Nettersheim. You still have 16 kilometers ahead of you, which I managed to walk in a good four and a half hours. There are three climbs, each with…
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