Sand dunes in Central Germany? Yes, they really do exist. Close to Nuremberg in Germany’s region of Franconia, there is a unique sandy landscape that was formed during the last Ice Age. The Franconian Dune Trail takes you through little-known nature spots from quiet forests to impressive gorges through this spectacular region.
The five stages of this 52-mile (84-km) circular trail reveal Franconia’s dunes, which are now almost completely forested. The rivers here were once covered by sand, thus changing their course for centuries. You can easily catch the train to the start and endpoint of this interesting hike in Altdorf. However, as the hike is circular, you can join at any other stage destination too.
The first stage takes you into the heart of the dune landscape, covered by fragrant forests, and onto the municipality of Weißenbrunn. On the second day, you hike over the panoramic Moritzberg Mountain to Röthenbach. On the third stage, you will hike along the picturesque Pegnitz Valley with its sandy terraces. Beginning in the village of Brunn, the fourth day takes you to the Rothebach Gorge nestled in the Lorenzer Forest and onto the town of Feucht. Your final day of adventure is a hike along glistening lakes and canals and past the unusual sandstone formations and caves of the Schwarzach Gorge.
The start and finish points of every stage in this Collection have public transport connections meaning you can easily hike individual sections or just a part of the trail. We recommend wearing sturdy shoes and carrying sufficient water, especially on the fifth, more demanding stage. You can find information about public transport, here: vgn.de/en.
The following stage descriptions will give you a taste of what to expect on your adventure. If you are still hungry for more, you can find more information on hikes around Nuremberg, here: komoot.de/user/nuernbergerland/collections). See you in the Nuremberg Land!
The starting point of the Franconian Dune Trail is in Altdorf, just outside Nuremberg. You walk north through the historic alleys and pass the train station - so you can easily arrive and depart by train. Through sparse pine forest it goes into the village Röthenbach near Altdorf.
Then you march east of a sandstone gorge, which you can only admire but not walk through, past a small waterfall. The path to the Franconian dunes runs through wide heaths, which offer a particularly impressive sight at the end of August. A sandy, partly forested hilly landscape opens up in front of you. The dunes were created during the last ice age and form a unique landscape - it is especially nice to walk barefoot through the soft, fine sand.
Afterwards it goes steeply uphill through the forest to the viewpoint Nürnbergblick. Via the Frankenalb plateau, which is covered with numerous sinkholes, you will reach Weißenbrunn, your destination. In summer you can cool off in the natural pool after your hike. If you just want to take a day hike, bus 331 will take you back to Altdorf.
On the second day of the Franconian Dune Trail you start in Weißenbrunn and hike slightly uphill through a beech forest typical of the Frankenalb. Past colorful fields and meadows, you will continue and soon you will enjoy a wonderful view of Entenberg and its beautiful church of St. Peter and Paul. On the way you will see interesting sandstone formations again and again.
On the Frankenalb Panoramaweg - formerly known as "Ulrich-von-Königstein-Weg" - you reach the Nonnenberg, on the west side of which there are grave-diggers. The hilly landscape is characterized by quiet forests and sinkholes and depressions of different sizes. On Reuther Berg you will find a cozy resting place with a panoramic view of the sand pits that can be seen between the rows of trees. Then you reach the summit of Moritzberg: from the impressive lookout tower you can enjoy a wide view and the St. Mauritius chapel is also worth a detour. You can quench your hunger and thirst in the rustic Moritzberg inn.
Strengthened you climb down to Haimendorf and after a flat passage on natural paths you reach your stage destination Röthenbach an der Pegnitz. If you don't want to hike the entire Franconian Dune Trail, you can take the S-Bahn home and relax.
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The third stage of the dune path begins in Röthenbach and initially leads you along sand fields along the Himmelbach. You hike to Wetzendorf and reach the banks of the Pegnitz, which seeks its way through the landscape in countless loops. On beautiful nature trails it goes over sand terraces and through natural forests along the water. In some places you can keep your feet in the cool water and take a break.
In Behringersdorf you will pass the remarkable Maria Magdalena Chapel, which stands in front of the New Behringersdorf Palace. The rest of the way leads via Pegnitzwiesen to Malmsbach and its historic moated castle. On the last section of the third stage, you hike through the tranquil Lorenzer Reichswald, formerly called "the Reich's sandbox".You finally reach Brunn, your destination today, via the Hirschenkopf and Brunner Berg. In the center of town there is a bus stop of line 54, which will take you to Nuremberg-Langwasser if necessary.
After a night in Brunn, a former beekeepers' settlement, you dive back into the magnificent Lorenzer Reichswald on the outskirts. The following section, the so-called "Seven Bridge Trail", is one of the most beautiful trails in the Reichswald. You hike along the rippling Röthenbach and in sunny weather you can enjoy an enchanting play of light between the mighty trees. Ancient oaks and beeches line the path and the roots in the sandy underground provide shelter for numerous animal species.
After about seven kilometers you will reach the village of Ungelstetten, where you can take a well-deserved coffee break in the quaint Café Zur alten Scheune. The delicious cake variations are particularly popular. Rested, you hike up to the top of the Cold Fountain. Here the dune landscape of the Lorenzer Reichswald is particularly impressive and lets you forget all the hustle and bustle.
We continue through the village of Moosbach, which is also a Zeidler village. Zeidlerei (= beekeeping) was previously widespread in this region and provided an important ingredient for the Nuremberg gingerbread. The goal of the fourth stage is in the town of Feucht, which not only offers you plenty of places to stop and sleep, but also three well-preserved castles. Even in Feucht you have a connection to the rail network and can shorten the dune path if necessary. Then you would miss the varied fifth stage.
The final stage on the Franconian Dune Trail shows the topic again, but this time from a completely different side: As the dunes have covered the course of the river over the centuries, the water had to find new ways. This has created impressive gorges like the Schwarzachklamm, which you will explore on today's stage.
From Feucht you hike to the shimmering Jägersee, which is a popular swimming spot in summer. The route takes you to Kugelhammer Castle and the Ludwig-Danube-Main Canal there, which you follow a bit. Before you dive into the breathtaking nature of the Schwarzachklamm, you can fortify yourself in advance in the beer garden on the Brück Canal.On the following passage you will be accompanied by bizarre rock formations, mystical caves and the gurgling Schwarzach. The two largest caves in the gorge, the Karlshöhle and the Gustav-Adolf-Höhle, are impressive. On partly stony, partly sandy paths, you continue through the unique nature. At Schwarzenbruck you will pass the imposing Faber-Castell castle and through thick alder stands you will continue to Ochenbruck. As on the Pegnitz, sand terraces have also formed on the Schwarzach and so you can discover rare plants on the banks.The dune path then runs through a wildly romantic sandstone gorge to the Sophienquelle, the largest baroque spring version north of the Alps. Following the course of the Schwarzach, you will reach Prackenfels and shortly afterwards the destination and starting point of the Franconian Dune Trail, Altdorf. At one of the many restaurants or cafés you can stop off at the end of your long-distance hike before you take the train home.