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 komoot

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, we 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 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 quiet is more your thing, consider traveling 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, we 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, we wish you a good journey!

On The Map

Tours & Highlights

    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.

    To be exact, this tour describes two railway tracks: the coal railway on its section from Schee to Silschede, and the 2017 Elbschetal route from Albringhausen to Wetter / Wengern. Both routes are part of the circular route "From Ruhr to Ruhr" and apart from a small section that has not yet been completed, an important link in the route network from Wuppertal to Witten and Dortmund.Both paths have one thing in common: they are beautifully situated and pamper you with heavenly peace and an amazingly beautiful landscape. The new Elbschebahntrasse steals the coal track a bit the show. Your environment is particularly attractive and impressively demonstrates the green side of the Ruhrgebiet. The wide, paved lane is really fun. A highlight is the lavishly restored viaduct in Wetter / Wengern, which allows a great view of the historic city center.We have summarized these two routes, because they represent an optimal connection between Ruhrtalradweg and the Wuppertal Nordbahntrasse and are also ideal with 18 kilometers of total length as a bike ride. At about halfway a really nice break-highlight is waiting for you.

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    8.14 mi
    9.6 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 very appealing journey into the past of the Ruhrgebiet. For it was on this route that the iron ore, so important today, was once transported that no longer plays a role here today. Nevertheless, this pathway cycle path is in the true sense of the word a route of industrial culture.If you start from Bochum, you can directly admire the first monument of bygone days, which shines today in new splendor. Steel was cast on the grounds of the West Park in the past and this is still obvious today. The old industrial buildings have been restored and partly dedicated to new uses. The Centennial Hall, for example, is now a popular venue for concerts, shows or exhibitions. A ride over the grounds of the West Park we can highly recommend.Afterwards, the next highlight awaits you. Over the Erzbahnschwinge, a fascinating and extremely photogenic bridge construction, you reach the actual Erzbahntrasse. It takes you on a historical route into the heart of the former coal mining, the remains of which you can still see. If you pass the Carolinenglück II / III colliery, you can not miss the huge winding tower.The culinary highlight of this tour is thoroughly down to earth. But you just have to stop at Holger's train station. There are snacks and drinks here and in summer there is something going on here. In addition, you have access to the cycle path Kray-Wanner-Bahn, also a track bike path, which fulfills an important connection function to other Ruhrpott bike paths.As spectacular as your tour begins, so it ends: The Grimberger Crescent, a semicircular bridge construction over the Rhine-Herne Canal, closes the circle in the truest sense of the word. Its construction will challenge your physics knowledge. If you have solved the puzzle and still have power, you can continue cycling in the nearby landscape park Hoheward or pay a visit to the Zoom Experience World, the Gelsenkirchen Zoo

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  • Easy
    8.02 mi
    8.6 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 on a distance of about twelve kilometers, but was shut down in the 1980s. A large part of the railway embankment was removed, so that the route does not look like a typical railway track bike path on a large scale.Nevertheless, this is a really nice path bike path, which is part of the Ruhr Valley Cycle Route and has much to offer. In Mülheim you first cross the Styrumer bridge and have a great view of the Ruhr. The Broich Castle and the Saarn Monastery are the next highlights, before you leave the city and cycle through the beautiful Ruhraue. Only shortly before Kettwig it gets a bit more busy and here you have already reached your milestone on the Kettwiger Ruhrbrücke.In Kettwig you should definitely plan a break. The old town is beautiful and invites you for a coffee or a real meal. Strengthened you can make your way back or continue your tour on the panorama cycle path niederbergbahn.

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    14.0 mi
    9.8 mph
    775 ft
    1,025 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The Nordbahntrasse is one of the absolute highlights in terms of railway track bike paths. It creates a nearly car- and intersection-free as well as flat connection of the Wuppertal districts Vohwinkel, Elberfeld and Barmen over approximately 23 kilometers. But above all, their spectacular route over the rooftops of the city is absolutely worth seeing and along the route the attractions and sights line up.The Nordbahntrasse was a mammoth project, which was promoted in a unique way by the nonprofit association Wuppertal movement e.V. and was realized through funding but also many private donations and own initiative. More than 70 schools, companies and individuals are involved in the maintenance of the route as a route sponsor. In 2015, the Nordbahntrasse received the German Bicycle Award in the Infrastructure category.A special highlight of the route are the five tunnels and several viaducts, which allow you a spectacular view of the city of Wuppertal. At the station Loh a piece track track was obtained, here in the summer Draisinenfahrten are offered. Meanwhile, there is a rich gastronomic offer along the way. The non-profit Wichernhaus GmbH maintains the Café Nordbahntrasse and in the cultural network Utopiastadt in the old Mirker Bahnhof one can not only stay in the Café Hutmacher, but also visit cultural events and studios, use the open workshop or even a co-working space. The Mirke train station is also a stop on the regular Critical Mass Wuppertal, a kind of bicycle demonstration across the city. An interesting addition, if you feel like an alternative bike ride. Information can be found here: cmwpt.wordpress.comEven a bike rental and a do-it-yourself bicycle workshop are now part of the offer along the route. An absolute must-see in Wuppertal is undoubtedly the world-famous Wuppertal suspension railway, which you can see at the western end of the route in Vohwinkel and, if you like, you can also try it out directly. In addition, it is worthwhile to take a detour here and there from the route. Wuppertal highlights include the zoo, the sculpture park and the attractive city center. The Louisenviertel invites in the summer with its bars and beer gardens to let the bike ride relax in a relaxed way.All information about the route, its highlights and nearby attractions can be found here: nordbahntrasse.de

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    27.8 mi
    13.9 mph
    1,425 ft
    1,975 ft
    Intermediate road ride. Good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may be unpaved and difficult to ride.

    The panorama bike path niederbergbahn goes back to a quiet railway line from the twenties of the last century. It leads from Oberdüssel to Essen Kettwig, where it is connected to the Ruhrtal cycle path. From Oberdüssel there is a connection to the Korkenziehertrasse in Wuppertal and thus to further routes to the Bergische Land and even to the Sauerland.The actual Panorama Radweg is around 25 kilometers long, but with a branch in Wülfrath and the connection to Wuppertal you can drive about 40 kilometers on one of the most beautiful route cycle paths in the Ruhrgebiet. It offers something for everyone: awesome views of the landscape, interesting cities that invite you to stop and interesting industrial-historical sights, such as the view of an old quarry or an old railway station at the edge of the line. The absolute highlight is the wagon bridge in Heiligenhaus, which was built from an old railway wagon and is the only one of its kind.A culinary specialty of the Bergisches Land awaits you in the old towns along the route. You must treat yourself to the Bergisches Kaffeetafel if you blab this panoramic cycle path. And apart from that you do not need to be hungry, because from local to international cuisine, the offer along the way is rich.At about halfway you can make a detour to Wülfrath on the route of a former siding. The historic old town is worth as much as a view of an old signal box of the railway at the old Wülfrather station.Essen Kettwig is a nice destination and offers a good old town good entertainment and accommodation. Maybe you would like to continue your ride the next day on the Ruhrtal cycle path?Lots of information on the panorama bike path niederbergbahn and the nearby Neandertal you get here: neanderland.de/radfahren and panoramaradweg-niederbergbahn.de

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    9.14 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 on approximately 15 kilometers to the center of Hattingen or on an alternative branch to Gevelsberg-Silschede. The name of this trail suggests what its original purpose was. At the beginning of the coal mining in the Ruhr area, it was an important transport route of the black raw material, which was decommissioned in the early 1980s. Today she enjoys cyclists and walkers with her new purpose.You'll love the Coal Train if you want to experience a little break on your bike, away from everyday stress and city noise. This route, with its compact but not paved surface, fits perfectly into the untouched, hilly landscape between Hattingen and Wuppertal. You will enjoy many beautiful views and experience a constant change between open landscape and forest.The only constructional highlight is the Schulenberg Tunnel in Hattingen, otherwise you can just enjoy the great scenery. Attractions along the route are the winding, historic Hattinger old town, the exciting Westphalian Industrial Museum in the old Hattinger Henrichshütte or the idyllic half-timbered houses of the old Schee. Catering stops are available in Hattingen or Sprockhövel.The coal railway is well connected to the railway network of the Ruhrgebiet. In Hattingen you can continue your journey over the Ruhrtal cycle path. At the other end you have at the station Schee connection to the Nordbahntrasse to Wuppertal or to the coal railway branch to Gevelsberg Silschede, from where you in turn reach the new route to Witten Wengern, which is part of the circular route "from Ruhr to Ruhr".

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    11.1 mi
    10.1 mph
    350 ft
    425 ft
    Easy bike ride. Great for any fitness level. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    RS 1 - this is the name of the ambitious project in the context of which a cycle route through the Ruhr area is to be created, which will run from Duisburg via Essen, Dortmund to Hamm. Large parts are still future music. However, this one already exists: The cycle path Rheinische Bahn, which currently connects the center of Essen with Mülheim an der Ruhr with a length of about eleven kilometers.The course of the cycle path Rheinische Bahn corresponds to the built around the year 1870 Ruhr area route, which is still known as the Rheinische Bahn and 2002 was also decommissioned for freight. Now it is being recultivated as a cycle path. Where once trains rattled through noisy, dirty industrial plants especially the company Krupp, today people seeking relaxation or commuters roar on their bicycles through urban recreational area that will surprise you even as Ruhrpott connoisseurs one or the other times. So beautiful green can be Ruhrpott.In Fronhausen you have access to the Gruga bike path, which leads to the famous Essen Park and the Grugahalle - also on old railway line. The Gruga Cycle Path leads directly into the Ruhrtal Cycle Path.The area around the bike path is full of architectural, cultural and industrial-historical highlights that will allow you to easily make your journey across the rather short route into a full-day program.

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    13.8 mi
    8.9 mph
    475 ft
    550 ft
    Easy bike ride. Great for any fitness level. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The Rhenish donkey is one of the oldest railway tracks in the Ruhr area. Already in the 1980s, the recultivation of the old railway line was started, which only really got going again since 2012. This results in very different states of the bike path. From asphalted to expediently graveled everything is there, but the way is consistently passable.The Rhenish donkey starts in Bochum Langendreer and ends near the Dortmund University in Dortmund Löttringhausen. The route is consistently flat and quiet. Real highlights along the route you will search in vain. But maybe that's just your highlight? At any rate, you can not come more quietly from Bochum to Dortmund.By the way: We allowed ourselves to design an alternative ending of the Rhenish donkey in this tour. The original route spits you out of the old Löttringhausen train station, where you'll probably wonder what you're supposed to do there. Therefore, we have extended the track a bit, show you the campus and an exceptional bridge over the A40, which shines in rainbow colors at night. On quiet roads and paths as you can reach the Dortmund Central Station, which is much better suited as a starting point for a bike ride.

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    8.00 mi
    9.2 mph
    325 ft
    200 ft
    Easy bike ride. Great for any fitness level. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Like so many tracks in the Ruhr area, this one also has its origins in mining. Today she enjoys you and other cyclists with their great features as a bike path. It connects Bochum Dahlhausen and Bochum center with mostly paved flooring and gentle slope.This route is suitable as a short bike ride, Bochum City is a beautiful destination. Or you use them as a connecting piece for a longer tour: In Dahlhausen joins the Ruhrtalradweg, while in Bochum center is just a stone's throw away from the Erzbahntrasse.

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
  • Distance
    111 mi
  • Duration
    11:03 h
  • Elevation
    5,025 ft

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