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The most beautiful rail trails – cycle paths in the Ruhr area

Stephan Peters

The most beautiful rail trails – cycle paths in the Ruhr area

Bike Touring Collection by Martin Donat

9

Tours

10:07 h

105 mi

4,700 ft

Old railway lines are perfect for cycling. Inclines are always moderate, while the routes themselves tend to be quiet quests through the hinterland, far away from traffic and city noise. Tunnels add an extra element of adventure, while bridges provide great views. And nowhere else in Germany is the rail trail cycle path network as well developed as in the Ruhr area.

In fact, the Ruhr area is one step ahead in terms of track cycling: more than 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) of cycle paths on former railway lines lead right across North Rhine-Westphalia, which is the most in Germany. Here, where coal and steel once rattled over the rails, a more eco-friendly pastime has emerged—and you and your bike should take full advantage of this reconstructed infrastructure. To help you make the most of these awesome developments, I have compiled the most remarkable and beautiful of these cycle paths. How you enjoy them is up to you, whether that be in stages or as part of a longer Tour—just take a glance at the map to see how these trails form a concise network of routes, one that’s perfect for traveling from A to B or for completing longer round-trips.

Within this network, you’ll find cycle paths of varying difficulty and remoteness, with some remaining in the suburbs, while others cut through the heart of the rural Ruhr. The trails closer to the city tend to attract substantial weekend bike traffic, however, which makes them less attractive if you’re looking for a quiet ride. If you can put up with the people, though, these have their charm too, namely in the form of numerous sightseeing attractions and great restaurants, good examples of which can be found on the Nordbahntrasse in Wuppertal and the Erzbahntrasse from Bochum to Gelsenkirchen. If you like it quiet, consider travelling on one of the more secluded routes, such as the Kohlenbahn from Hattingen to Wuppertal. Just bear in mind that such isolated roads are often not asphalted, and you’ll struggle to find somewhere to eat out here in the backcountry. Therefore, for the best of both worlds, I recommend starting early. In the wee morning hours, even the busier routes remain relatively empty—and the early morning atmosphere is a particularly beautiful one to behold.

Whichever route you choose, however, remember two important things: A bicycle bell will help inform other cyclists/pedestrians of your presence in a stress-free and friendly way, and lights will help you see and get seen in the tunnels. In fact, the police have been known to keep an eye on this and don’t take kindly to cyclists who ignore this simple rule.

Whichever route you choose, I wish you a great ride!

On The Map

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Tours & Highlights

  • Easy
    01:08
    11.3 mi
    10.0 mph
    325 ft
    850 ft
    Easy bike ride. Great for any fitness level. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    From Wuppertal to Witten, virtually without a road? It is possible and the two routes described in this tour will help. It starts on the coal railway on its section from Schee to Silschede, then you drive over the Elbschetaltrasse, which opened in 2017, from Albringhausen to Wetter/Wengern. Both routes

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  • Easy
    00:49
    8.17 mi
    9.9 mph
    300 ft
    100 ft
    Easy bike ride. Great for any fitness level. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Between Bochum and Gelsenkirchen, the Erzbahntrasse takes you on a particularly appealing journey into the past of the Ruhr area. Because it was precisely on this route that the important iron ore was once transported, which is no longer of any importance here today. Nevertheless, this route cycle path

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  • Easy
    00:42
    6.98 mi
    10.0 mph
    250 ft
    175 ft
    Easy bike ride. Great for any fitness level. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    RS 1 - that's the name of the ambitious project, in the context of which an express cycle path is to be built through the Ruhr area, which is to lead from Duisburg via Essen, Dortmund to Hamm. Large parts are still dreams of the future. However, this one already exists: The Rheinische Bahn cycle path

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    by Martin Donat

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  • Intermediate
    01:24
    14.0 mi
    10.0 mph
    525 ft
    600 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The Rheinische Esel is one of the oldest railway cycle paths in the Ruhr area. The recultivation of the old railway line began as early as the 1980s and only really got going again in 2012. This results in very different states of the cycle path. Everything is included, from freshly asphalted to suitably

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  • Easy
    00:44
    7.41 mi
    10.0 mph
    325 ft
    200 ft
    Easy bike ride. Great for any fitness level. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Like so many routes in the Ruhr area, this one also has its origins in mining. Today it delights you and other cyclists with its great qualities as a bike path. It connects Bochum Dahlhausen and Bochum center with a mostly asphalted surface and a gentle incline.

    

    This route is suitable as a short bike

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  • Easy
    00:54
    8.30 mi
    9.3 mph
    275 ft
    250 ft
    Easy bike ride. Great for any fitness level. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The lower Ruhr Valley Railway once connected Essen Kettwig with Mülheim over a distance of around twelve kilometers, but was shut down in the 1980s. A large part of the railway embankments was removed in the process, so that the route does not look like a typical railway cycle path in large parts from

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    by Martin Donat

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  • Intermediate
    01:23
    14.0 mi
    10.1 mph
    675 ft
    925 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The Nordbahntrasse is one of the absolute highlights when it comes to railway routes and cycle paths and yes: Actually, this is no longer in the Ruhr area. But since it is not only a beautiful, but also an important link in many Ruhrpott tours, I have included it here anyway. I also used this route to

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  • Intermediate
    01:52
    26.3 mi
    14.1 mph
    1,275 ft
    1,800 ft
    Intermediate road ride. Good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may be unpaved and difficult to ride.

    The Niederbergbahn panorama cycle path goes back to a disused railway line from the 1920s. It leads from Oberdüssel to Essen Kettwig, where it is connected to the Ruhr Valley Cycle Path. From Oberdüssel there is a connection to the corkscrew line in Wuppertal and thus to other lines in the Bergisches

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  • Easy
    01:10
    9.03 mi
    7.7 mph
    775 ft
    325 ft
    Easy road ride. Great for any fitness level. Some portions of the Tour may be unpaved and difficult to ride.

    The coal railway leads directly to the Wuppertal Nordbahntrasse for around 15 kilometers to the center of Hattingen or on an alternative branch to Gevelsberg-Silschede. The name of this route suggests what its original purpose was. At the beginning of coal mining in the Ruhr area, it was an important

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    9
  • Distance
    105 mi
  • Duration
    10:07 h
  • Elevation
    4,700 ft

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The most beautiful rail trails – cycle paths in the Ruhr area

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