Between Bingen in the south and Bonn in the north, the Rhine has carved a deep valley out of the Rhenish slate mountains as its flowed for millennia through the land: the Middle Rhine Valley. Both sides of the river are lined with small villages and numerous medieval castles — an epic landscape that you can best experience over 13 stages on the Rheinburgenweg (The Rhine Castle Trail). This trail cuts straight through the middle of the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Upper Middle Rhine, and it will allow you to not only witness the beauty of the region but to experience the exciting history of the Rhine Valley and those who call it home — first hand.
This region, full of ornate castle ruins and a host of local legends, was the source of inspiration for numerous writers, poets and painters at the turn of the 19th century. At this time, the Rhine Valley became such a hotspot for so many artists that it became known as the Rhine romantic era.
The officially signposted Rhine Castle Trail starts at the Rolandsbogen in Remagen and takes you 130 miles (210 kilometers) to Bingen. As you go, you will climb up and down over 18,000 feet (5,500 meters) in altitude. Each stage is between 9 and 13 miles long (15- 20 kilometers) and, thanks to the well-maintained trails, is easily doable for hikers of all experience and fitness levels.
The hike itself will take you through untouched forests and up to wonderful viewing points of the steep slopes of the Rhine Valley — and it'll allow you to truly immerse yourself in the ancient settlement history of the Middle Rhine, something which stretches back to Roman times. Even back then, goods were already being transported through the valley on the Rhine due to the surrounding landscape (made up of the Eifel, Hunsrück, Taunus and Siebengebirge) being impassable. To protect these goods, innumerable forts were built. After the Romans withdrew, the medieval lords and bishops built on the Romans' example and continued constructing, building watchtowers and knight's castles on the steep slopes of the Rhine Valley. And even though many castles have since crumbled (many were tragically destroyed through war) you can still find and visit numerous, well-preserved castles and forts in the valley today.
At all stage destinations, you will find a good selection of different accommodation options. Since the Rhine Castle Trail leads through a popular holiday region, it's advised that you book all overnight stays in advance. If all the rooms in one of the smaller towns are booked up, however, don't worry too much — at each stage destination you can easily reach the next neighboring town by bus and train.
A special feature also makes the Rhine Castle Trail particularly interesting for weekend hikers. Almost all starting and end points lie directly on the route of the Mittelrheinbahn RB26, which runs every hour from Cologne to Mainz and stops in the many towns and villages in the Middle Rhine Valley. This means you can complete any of the listed hikes as a day-hike without any problems, with the exception of the hikes ending in Bassenheim (stage 4), Winningen (stage 5) and Gerhardshof (stage 12), which are not served by the Mittelrheinbahn.
You can find timetables of the Mittelrheinbahn at mittelrheinbahn.de.
The starting point of your first leg is the Rolandseck station. Only a few steps down to the banks of the Rhine. Here you will be spoiled with a first view: Before you lies the island Nonnenwerth in the middle of the Rhine, on the right bank the Siebengebirge piles up and on the left bank you can see high up the Rolandsbogen. After a short but steep ascent, you will stand on Rolandsbogen and enjoy the magnificent panorama. Here officially begins your hike on the Rheinburgenweg.Uphill and downhill, the trail winds over the slopes on the left bank of the Rhine. You follow the path through dense forests to Oberwinter. If you feel like it, you can make a detour to the old town here and stop off in one of the inns. Then you follow the Rheinburgenweg down into the Unkelbachtal. There is also the homonymous timbered village Unkelbach.Now it goes back into the forest. You climb a hilltop, wander down into the quiet Calmuthtal and climb up again to the residence Waldschlösschen. Here is also a small forest lake, on whose banks some benches invite you to take a break. From the lake, the Rheinburgenweg leads you downhill to Remagen, your destination today.
The second stage on the Rheinburgenweg begins in Remagen. Through a quiet residential area with single-family homes, it goes out of town and immediately after you climb on forest roads to Victoriaberg. Once at the top you can see the ruins of the forest castle between the trees. The Waldburg was built in 1896 as a hotel, but had to be closed in the 1970s due to low numbers of guests. Since then, the romantic building has fallen into decay.You follow the Rheinburgenweg over a wooded hill and then descend into the Ahr valley. You pass Bad Bodendorf and wander along the Ahr on to Sinzig. In both places you will find cafés and inns that are perfect for a relaxing break. Even before you reach the mouth of the Ahr in the Rhine, you leave the Ahr valley and climb to Trotzenberg. The path climbs steadily and beautiful views of the Ahr valley await you on your way up.Above Bad Breisig, today's stage destination, you can once again take a break at a particularly nice rest area. Take a seat on a wooden Hollywood swing and enjoy the scenic view of the Rhine Valley. After your rest, it goes down in serpentine steeply to Bad Breisig.
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Starting from Bad Breisig, you follow the hiking trail directly along the green slopes of the Rhine Valley. After you have crossed the narrow Vinxtbachtal, it goes up to the Reutersley. High above the Rhine you have a fabulous view here. Then the path leads you down to Brohl-Lützing. Along the edge of the city, the trail continues in the direction of donkey trail.Here it goes on a narrow and rocky path up to the Hohen Buche, a former volcano on the edge of the Rhine Valley. At the top of the wooded summit you can see the clear traces of a Roman quarry. For many hundreds of years basalt was crushed at this point and used as building material.From the High Beech the path winds down through a valley and then climbs through a dense forest to the high cross. The high cross marks the highest point of today's stage. Here you leave the forest and wander across wide fields gently downhill to Andernach.
Between Andernach and Koblenz, the Rhine flows through a wide, densely populated valley. Therefore you leave the Rhine bank on the fourth stage of the Rheinburgenweg in Andernach and wander in a big loop over wide hilly landscapes in the volcanic Eifel.On the edge of Andernach, the hiking trail leads you to wide, gently undulating fields and pastures. As you walk along, you will enjoy a magnificent view of the surrounding landscape. You reach Miesenheim, where you will find a good selection of restaurants and snacks. After a break you cross the Nette and then hike on dirt roads in the direction of Bassenheim.Shortly before Bassenheim you cross the highway and finally reach your today's destination.Bassenheim is one of the two destinations on the Rheinburgenweg, which are not on a train line. From here, the bus line 353 also brings you comfortably within a 30-minute drive to the main train station in Koblenz.Timetable information is available at vrminfo.de
Freshly rested, you start your fifth stage in Bassenheim. On dirt roads it goes around the small town once. Today, you'll hike over a hilly plateau with alternating forest and field sections. Along the Belltalbach you descend in the direction of the Moselle, from which the plateau at the southern edge is bounded. Before you reach the Moselle, it goes up steeply on narrow serpentine paths again.The Moselle has cut a dramatic valley into the landscape at this point and the Rheinburgenweg runs directly above the river on the steep northern slope. On the trail you have a fantastic view of the Moselle, the endless vineyards and especially on the impressive Moselle Valley Bridge. The trail will take you past a motorway service area with lookout point and then directly under the bridge.Then it goes evenly downhill to Winningen on the Moselle, your current milestone. The path initially runs above the Moselle and then meanders through a narrow side valley down to the cozy wine village.From Winningen on the Mosel the regional train line RB81 will take you comfortably to Koblenz.The timetable can be found at bahn.de/moseltalbahn/view/fahrplan/uebersicht.shtml
In Winningen on the Mosel begins the sixth stage of the day on the Rheinburgenweg. First, you walk through the midst of extensive vineyards above the Moselle. About dirt roads, through small forest and along other vineyards, the trail leads you to Güls. Here you cross the Moselle on the old bridge. Once on the other side, you walk along the river to the south.The path runs through a dense forest, but at various places there are rest areas with great views of the deep Moselle valley. In a wide loop you now cross a wooded ridge. On the other side of the ridge you reach the picturesque Rhine Valley again.From the plateau at the Rittersturz you can enjoy a fantastic view of the Rhine Valley, down to Koblenz, the German Eck and the fortress Ehrenbreitenstein towering behind it. Along the Rheinuferpromenade you continue to the center of Koblenz.
At the beginning of the seventh stage you climb on already known paths from Koblenz to the knight's fall. High above the Rhine, the Rheinburgenweg takes you on good hiking trails along the slope - fantastic views are guaranteed here.The trail winds along the Rhine Valley until you finally reach the castle Stolzenfels. For hikers on the Rheinburgenweg, a visit to the castle is a must. The massive castle complex was built on the ruinous remains of the original castle and is today considered the most important building of Rhine Romanticism. The magnificent castle was built at the beginning of the 19th century on behalf of the Prussian Crown Prince. It was designed according to the idealized image of a medieval hilltop castle. The castle complex can be visited from February to November.After the detour to the castle, you will now ascend to the highest point of today's stage. Here you can find traces of a building from older times. In a clearing in the forest, the foundations of a Roman temple were uncovered. Extensive information boards explain the current state of research.From the temple of Merkur, the Rheinburgenweg meanders slowly down to your destination Rhens.
The starting point of your eighth stage is Rhens am Rhein. From here, the Rheinburgenweg gently climbs up to Gedeonseck. As you ascend, you wander on quiet paths through pristine forests.Just before you reach the Gedeonseck, you will meet the viewpoint Vierseenblick. From the surrounding mountain slopes, the Rhine is apparently divided into four lakes from this perspective. A few meters later you finally stand at the Gedeonseck. Here, the famous Bopparder Rheinschleife extends directly below you - certainly one of the most beautiful views of the Rhine Valley. After a break at the restaurant, we continue to Boppard.Now you have to decide: do you descend on foot to Boppard or do you take a comfortable chairlift to the valley? The mountain station of the chairlift is right on the trail, so you can decide spontaneously. In Boppard worth a visit to the cozy old town, before you continue your walk to Bad Salzig. On your way, you'll climb a flat ridge and finally reach your current destination.
The ninth leg of the Rheinburgenweg begins in Bad Salzig. After leaving the town, the trail leads you on forest trails up to the lookout point 'Praying Nun'. A medieval legend surrounds the lookout point - on the spot you will learn all about this story on a blackboard. But even without legends and legends you can enjoy the great view of the Rhine Valley.In constant up and down the Rheinburgenweg leads you further up to the small village Holzfeld. On your way there you will pass several beautiful viewpoints, which invite you to take a leisurely break with benches, loungers and huts. From Holzfeld, the trail descends again evenly towards the valley.Opposite the famous castle Maus awaits you the most exciting part of today's hike. Here a narrow rock path leads along the steep slope of the Rhine Valley. Since the way is well developed, you need not worry about it. After you have mastered this section, we will go through the Gründelbachtal. You climb out of the valley and a very special highlight of the Rheinburgenweg awaits you. Opposite the two castles Katz and Maus stands here the huge castle Rheinfels. Even as a ruin, the huge building is still absolutely impressive and definitely worth a visit.After your tour through the castle, it is only a short distance to the stage goal St. Goar.
At the beginning of the tenth stage of the Rheinburgenweg, you will ascend from St. Goar to the most famous rock of the Rhine Valley. Just opposite to today's hiking route is the nearly vertical Loreley Rock. With the most beautiful view of the Loreley you can enjoy from the viewing terrace at the restaurant Maria Ruh, but already on the way there you will always get great views.After some photos of the famous view you continue your hike on the Rheinburgenweg. Without significant differences in height, the trail meanders above the slope along the Rhine Valley. After about half of today's route begins the Oelsbergsteig. The secured rock path is a real dream section. Iron gantries, ladders and wire ropes provide added security as you descend slowly along the narrow path towards Oberwesel. Thanks to the good protection, the path is also suitable for sporty children.From the end of the Oelsbergsteig, you then hike a little above the banks of the Rhine until you reach the stage destination Oberwesel.
Shortly after the start in Oberwesel you will reach the first castle on the eleventh stage. The Schoenburg is perched on a hill above the city. The perfectly preserved castle can be visited partly within the framework of a museum. The rest of the castle today houses a hotel.From the Schönburg the Rheinburgenweg winds its way leisurely up the slope. Today, the trail leads you past one of the most unusual castles in the Rhine Valley. In the middle of the Rhine stands the castle Pfalzgrafenstein, also known as Palatinate at Kaub. The castle is shaped like a ship and especially at high tide it seems to float on the Rhine. From the trail you have several times a great view of the castle complex.A little way upstream, the Rhine makes a bend and the castle Pfalzgrafenstein disappears again from your field of vision. Over fields and vineyards, you now hike gently downhill to your final destination Bacharach.By the way, you stay in Bacharach both stylish and cheap in the youth hostel in Burg Stahleck. The castle dates back to the 12th century and an overnight stay is a great highlight on the Rheinburgenweg.
The twelfth leg of the Rheinburgenweg usually leads from Bacharach to Trechtingshausen. Since the hiking trails in the vicinity of Trechtingshausen but have been impassable for some time due to severe weather damage, there is an official detour to Gerhardshof. From there, the thirteenth leg starts.From Bacharach you walk past the castle Stahleck and the old city wall. The Rheinburgenweg rises gently through a forest and over vineyards, meanders around a small side valley and finally leads you back to the slope. On the other bank you can discover the small ruin of Nollig Castle above Lorch.After you have crossed the narrow Gailsbachtal, a tributary valley of the Rhine Valley, you hike a bit uphill. During the ascent you can take a look at the Fürstenberg Castle. This stands on a hill above the Gailsbachtals. With the rustic keep and the crenellated walls, the ruins give the perfect picture of a medieval knight's castle.Two more castles are still on the roadside today. The next is Burg Hohneck. The small castle is privately owned and can not be visited. The stately Sooneck Castle, on the other hand, is accessible to visitors. On a guided tour you can visit the castle and then enjoy the view of the Rhine in the Burgschänke.From the Castle Sooneck the Rheinburgenweg winds through the forest to the stage destination Gerharsdhof. The tiny village Gerhardshof is the only destination on the Rheinburgenweg, which can not be reached by public transport. However, you will find on site the cozy Pension Waldfrieden, where you can spend the night. Alternatively you can order a taxi to Trechtingshausen on 06721 - 356 49.Information about the Pension Waldfrieden can be found at gerhardshoefe.de.
Since the regular Rheinburgenweg between Trechtinghausen and Bingen is impassable in many places due to storm damage, the official diversion from Gerhardshof leads you on silent forest paths to the stage destination.Your thirteenth and last leg on the Rheinburgenweg begins in Gerhardshof. The trail winds gently uphill to the wooded summit of Schlägleberg. From here the stage for the rest of the day is mostly downhill. First you follow the course of the Morgenbach for a short distance and then turn right onto the Waldgeisterpfad.Here various artists have carved faces and grimaces into trees. Some you recognize immediately, with others you have to look several times. Follow the hiking trail through the forest until you reach the Kreuzbach stream. This ripples through an idyllic valley downhill in the direction of the Rhine. You walk along the stream until you reach the Forsthaus Heiligkreuz.After a leisurely break in the Forsthaus you leave the valley and follow the trail on the slopes of the Rhine Valley to your destination in Bingen. At the end of your last stage on the Rheinburgenweg you will be said goodbye to the smallest castle in the Rhine Valley. From the spacious park on the banks of the Rhine, you have a perfect view of the mouse tower, perched on a small island in the middle of the Rhine.