Rennsteige are old border and trade routes that were once used by traders with their horse-drawn carriages. In Germany there are a lot of these paths, but there is only one Rennsteig. We are talking about the most famous of its kind, the high trail through the Thuringian Forest, which leads across the ridge from the Saale to the Werra. An ideal backdrop for a three-day bike adventure along the former German-German border.
Especially among long-distance hikers, the Rennsteig is almost a holiness. All the more astonishing and all the more beautiful the fact that mountain bikers are also very welcome here. And that quite officially: A parallel marking of the alternative bike route always accompanies the original hiking trail through the wonderful nature of the Thuringian Forest. The route from Blankenstein on the Saale to the Eisenach district of Hörschel on the Werra is around 170 kilometres long. The perfect distance to make it a three-day weekend adventure.
Admittedly, at first glance the Thuringian Forest does not offer the adventure potential that one would expect from the Alps or Pyrenees. However, there is everything you need to have a great time on your bike: beautiful nature, a healthy dose of loneliness, beautiful trails and accommodation from a comfortable hotel to a secluded shelter in the middle of the forest. So if you like, even an adventurous bike-packing tour with camping instead of chilling in the hotel is possible - and that in the middle of Germany. You can control the intensity of this adventure yourself: In three stages the route with normal fitness is well feasible. You want to drive her in two days, that's a little more challenging. Endurance cracks can even tear off the 170 kilometres in one day - but that really means a complete, strenuous day in the saddle.
The Thuringian Forest and in particular the Rennsteig have one striking characteristic: here it rarely goes really long uphill. Which doesn't mean it won't be strenuous. On the contrary. "Hubben" is said here about the many short but nasty climbs, which are often underestimated and which hit you even more in this way. So remember: Even if the climb looks small and harmless, there are still a lot more to come. You do well to devote your strength. You can control how demanding the route is from a driving point of view. The marked cycle path is smoother and more level. The trail, on the other hand, is narrower, more spicy and more demanding. You may use it legally but of course the hikers have priority here. At peak times the cycle path is the more sensible option. Of course you can ride the Rennsteig in both directions. If you start in Blankenstein, the tour has about 300 meters less altitude than from Hörschel, where the route begins directly crisply with the long ascent to the Inselsberg, which is why this direction is the more strenuous.
Bike & Stuff
The whole route is technically rather easy and is generally described as flowing. Due to the constant rattle on gravel or roots, however, the hardtail can quickly become strenuous. A "thick" enduro bike is a little too much of a good thing. Our recommendation is a tight all-mountain-fully with a spring travel of around 120 millimetres. But this does not mean that there is no other way. It is important that you feel comfortable on your bike - then it works on the Rennsteig.
Both Eisenach/Hörschel and Blankenstein are well connected by motorway. There is a train connection between Eisenach and Blankenstein, so that you can return to your starting point in about three hours at the end of the tour.
In all stages you will find a good selection of hotels, guesthouses or holiday apartments that meet all requirements. Along the way you will always find the so-called "relaxing" and various shelters, so that you can also spend the nights very rustic or even in a tent. But "civilization" is never really far away. So you can leave your very large luggage at home and relax. Tent, sleeping bag, some emergency spare parts and some money are enough.
The thing about the lucky stone...
There was something else! It is a tradition and a guarantee for beautiful memories of this tour that you fish a stone from the Werra or the Saale before the start and carry it with you throughout the entire tour. At the destination you throw it back into the water. Remember, this is part of it.
No matter which way you drive the Rennsteig, your tour always starts right away: fishing lucky stones from the river. In this case it is the Saale in Blankenstein. And do not ask why. That's what you do here. Brings luck. So: First to scramble to the shore, fish a nice thick stone from the cool water, into the backpack and off you go!The good thing is that you are already warm now. Ready for the first crisp climb out of the small community Blankenstein near the border with Bavaria. You will often cross this border today. The special thing about it is that this used to be the strictly guarded inner-German border, which at the time could only be passed at the risk of death. This section of the Rennsteig simply crosses it six times. You will probably only be aware of this once and for all: Kleintettau has a striking memorial meal commemorating the victims of the former border strip.A small journey into the past. In any case, a journey out of everyday life. And in the green. Even if today comparatively much asphalt is on the program, you are far away from the shot. Rest, relaxation and nature in the Thuringian Slate Mountains. The fact that it is very rural here, you will notice at the latest, if you even talk to a couple of older residents: Here you talk "Itzgründisch", this is a mainfränkischer dialect with a very distinctive sound.The end of the first Rennsteig stage is in Neuhaus am Rennweg. If you want to stop off here, the Rennsteighaus, which is located about 300 meters from the Rennsteig, is the ideal choice. Here you can spend the night at very fair prices, safely lock your bike and, if necessary, make even minor repairs. Information about the Rennsteighaus you get here: neuhaus-am-rennweg.de/verzeichnis/objekt.php?mandat=146157. Culinary tip of the day: Thuringian bratwurst - which tastes nowhere as good as here!
Today the track has some superlatives: at the end of the day today most of the Rennsteig track has left you behind. You cross the highest point of the entire route, you can enjoy the best views far and wide and end up in the most visited resort of the Thuringian Forest. And with a bit of luck you can grab the most delicious grilled sausage in the area on the way. But one after anonther.If that sounds like too much action in your ears, we can reassure you. Also on this stage over the Rennsteig it is quiet as ever. And it stays with the typical ups and downs with short, crisp climbs. Only the climb at the very end up to the Great Beerberg falls a bit out of line - this is actually almost ten kilometers long only uphill. At the "Großen Dreiherrenstein" there is a short break: Here you have made exactly half of the Rennsteig tour, which must be celebrated briefly.The destination of the stage today is the touristically well-developed village called Oberhof, of which you must have heard before, if you are interested in winter sports. Here you can easily find the optimal accommodation, from rustic to noble, everything is available. And here there is a spa with sauna, an inviting option for a relaxed evening: h2oberhof.de
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The third leg of our Rennsteig tour from Blankenstein to Hörschel tends to be downhill. At least as far as the altitude you are working on today compared to the departure meters. 930 high, 1530 down - that's a fair deal and bring you lots of downhill fun!Speaking of departure: We would have arrived at today's daily highlight. Because today we go to the big island mountain. If you've been paying close attention to the subject of mountain bike history, you can smile tiredly at our little tutorial. On Inselsberg took place 25 years ago, the first mountain bike downhill race in Germany. At the top of the transmission towers was the start. From there it went over "breakneck" trails down to the center of Tabarz. Today, you casually roll off these trails with your touring and wonder if anything about what used to be awesome.The Great Inselsberg is the last significant increase of this tour. From now on it goes downhill. On the whole. Again and again, small, nasty climbs interrupt the approximately 30-kilometer descent past Eisenach to Hörsel. If all of this seems exhausting to you, it could also be because you still carry this stone with you that you fished out of the hall in Blankenstein. Good thing you think: In Hörsel, it requires the tradition that you flop the good piece into the Werra and help to give the geologists of the distant future an exciting riddle.The Rennsteig is done! Time to go home. In Hörschel there is not much that could lure you to linger. A little detour to the nearby Eisenach for more. There are lots of events and sights in Lutherstadt. From here you can return to the starting point Blankenstein in about three hours by train. Until the train leaves, the time is still sufficient for an original Thuringian specialty such as roast with dumplings, sour cream cake or a piece of delicious Wartburg cake.