Let’s not beat about the bush – this mountain bike route is not for beginners. The Trans Netherlands Mountain Biking Route runs 360 miles (580 km) from the North cape in Groningen to the corner where the Netherlands meets Belgium and Germany in South Limburg. In other words, the route runs from the northernmost point of the Dutch mainland to the Vaalserberg, the highest point in the Netherlands. With 9,840 feet (3,000 m) of elevation gain, you will also encounter plenty of climbs. The Trans Netherlands Mountain Biking Route – developed by local MTB pioneers – is the Dutch equivalent, OK maybe the little brother, of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route in the USA, the mother of long-distance off-road routes.
The route takes you through a great diversity of natural beauty, from vast heathlands to dense coniferous forests as you ride through several national parks. To begin, you enjoy views of the Wadden region before riding south towards the Salland Hills and the Maasduinen National Park. Each area has its own unique characteristics and natural charm.
As well as beautiful nature, you will also pass cultural and historical sites. The Drenthe dolmens, historic towns and villages, ancient monuments and archeological sites all lie en route.
Along the way, you ride along gravel roads and technical single tracks, covering a large number of the Netherland’s official mountain bike trails (remember, for some of them you need to pre-purchase a so-called vignette!). Around 65% of the route is along unpaved terrain. This makes the Trans Netherlands Mountain Biking Route a real challenge with long days in the saddle.
The route is best ridden with a mountain bike, but a gravel bike is also a possible option. The segments along the official mountain bike routes will be more difficult to ride on a gravel bike.
The route is divided into seven stages, bringing the average daily distance to around 50 miles (80 km). At the end of each stage you can stay at a hotel or B&B, or at a campsite. This makes your Trans Netherlands route a true bikepacking adventure.
With bikepacking everything revolves around the adventure in the open air. This brings with it a number of responsibilities to keep the impact on the environment and nature as small as possible. Large parts of the route take you along narrow country roads and towpaths. Therefore, do not start with large groups. Be prepared for other (road) users and recreational users. Keep your rubbish with you, of course, until you find a bin.
The first day immediately promises to be a tough one. In approximately 95 kilometers you cycle from the Wadden Sea into the Groningen interior. Enjoy the vastness and emptiness.
The easiest way to reach De Noordkaap is by train from Roodeschool. The first kilometers of this monster tour run parallel to the Wadden Sea. After this the road bends in the direction of the Groningen polder land. The view here mainly consists of meadows and vast fields. The route starts on asphalt. This way your muscles can warm up a bit for the rest of the day.From Appingedam, the asphalt slowly gives way to gravel, sand and mud. The route curves between the Schildmeer and Dannemeer. At the height of the Zuidlaardermeer you pass the first provincial border of the tour.When you arrive in the province of Drenthe, it doesn't take long before you see the first dolmens. The route passes the only archaeological reserve in the Netherlands. There is a great density of archaeological monuments in the form of burial mounds, field roads and, of course, dolmens. This is also the province where the first official mountain bike trail of the entire tour is on the program.The Zuidlaren course has a total length of 9 kilometers, of which approximately 70 percent consists of single track. The Zuidlaren course overflows into the Anloo course, which is a lot longer at 39 kilometers.Further south you penetrate deeper into the Drentsche Aa National Landscape. Here you will find the best preserved ash village landscape of Western Europe. An area characterized by historic villages and ash trees. The rest of the day you cycle along moors, vast forests and sand lakes.
The second stage promises to be another tough day. The 88-kilometer stage is a varied mix of single tracks and unpaved trails. The scenic void slowly gives way to dense afforestation.There is hardly any time for a warm-up today. The day starts immediately with a challenging single trail between Gieten and Borger. The trails run over the hills and slopes of the Hondsrug that originated in the Ice Age. About 150,000 years ago, a large ice shelf from the North Sea slid across Drenthe, leaving behind a pattern of higher ridges.Just outside Gieten you pass a place that looks a lot like a tropical holiday destination. The swimming lake 't Gasselterveld has unbelievably blue water and a beautiful view of forests. The 50-meter deep pool was created as a result of sand extraction. The part on the east side has been made "ready for swimming" by Staatsbosbeheer. Time for a refreshing swim!At Borger, the route nods westward and then descends again. Along the way you pass another beautiful lake with clear water: the Ellertshaar forest lake. Near Emmen are the trails of the next mountain bike trail of this stage. The single tracks of Sleen run along the edge of the forest. Some tough climbs await here. The height differences are caused by blown-up drifting sand from the period when the surrounding area still consisted entirely of heather landscape.At junction Holsloot you dive under the Rijksweg A37. Direction Coevorden you drive a bit right along the Dutch-German border. Coevorden is a medium-sized city with a rich history. The fortified city was regularly conquered, destroyed and rebuilt in the past. Here are plenty of options to stock up on food and drink for the last part of this stage.Just 10 kilometers outside of Hardenberg, the finish line for today, you reach province number three on the route. Overijssel is home to the Sallandse Heuvelrug National Park and the Lemelerberg National Park. The Hardenberg area has plenty of accommodations in the form of bed & breakfasts, campsites and hotels. There is also no shortage of terraces and restaurants.
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This shorter stage takes you deeper into sandy province deeper into the province of Overijssel. Almost three quarters of the 78-kilometer stage consists of unpaved surfaces. Mountain biking in optima forma.Although today's stage is shorter in distance than the previous two days, it will be another tough day. There are no less than seven (!) Mountain bike routes on the day program. Starting with the Hardenberg trail, which largely runs through coniferous and deciduous forests. The forests are interspersed with heaths and fens. If you pay close attention you could even spot a viper. Be careful when you see one, because this snake is poisonous.Via part of the trails of the Ommen trail you reach the Lemele trail. This route circles around the Archemerberg and Lemelerberg which are located in the nature reserve Vecht and Lower Regge area. The Archemerberg and Lemelerberg are the highest spots in the Overijssel moraine. From heights of 78 meters and 60 meters, you have a fantastic view over heather plants with sheep grazing between them.You finally reach the National Park De Sallandse Heuvelrug via the Hellendoorn & Nijverdal course and the Holten course. The Sallandse Heuvelrug is a unique nature reserve and is one of the largest contiguous heath areas in Europe. The northern part of the ridge is characterized by its hills. Here you will find some technical passages through breathtaking nature.The National Park and the route end at Holten. Here you can take a few calories in one of the catering establishments to prepare for the last part of today. When you see a large television tower looming in the distance, you know you've almost reached the final destination of the stage. But first there are still a few kilometers of single tracks waiting through the rolling hills of South Twente.Once in the vicinity of Goor, it is time for a well-deserved night's sleep.
Today there is another longer stage on the program. With a trip of more than 85 kilometers, of which more than 60% off-road ahead, you continue heading south.The first part after departure in Goor mainly consists of paved road surfaces. After 20 kilometers you reach the slopes of the mountain bike trail of Borculo. The route is located in the De Graafschap landscape. The landscape lives up to its name. Nowhere in the Netherlands can you find so many monumental farms, country estates and castles as here. In the summer of 2020, a connection will be established with the new route Ruurlo.Via Ruurlo and Zelhem you eventually cycle into the first major city of the route: Doetinchem. Doetinchem, also known as the capital of the Achterhoek, is an ancient city located on the Oude IJssel. Many good restaurants can be found in the historic city center with Roman influences.Just outside Doetinchem you drive on the trails of the Zeddam course. You can encounter deer, pheasants and wild boars right through the mixed and coniferous forests. When you cross the A12 highway through a small bridge, you suddenly imagine yourself in a different world. That's right, because you have just crossed the border with Germany.Today's finish location is in Emmerich, located on the Rhine in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. A beautiful old town with the longest suspension bridge in Germany. You will also find the coffee technology museum and a tropical swimming paradise here.
The fifth day of the route partly passes through Germany. In the search for as many off-road segments as possible, a small detour is necessary. From Emmerich to the province of Limburg you cycle on no less than 60 kilometers of unpaved roads.After a firm "Früstück und Kaffe" it's time to jump on your bike again. The day starts with crossing the Rhine. After the German city of Kleve you cycle through a number of German smaller nature reserves that have been designated as protected nature reserves. After about 23 kilometers, at sand extraction de Banen, you set foot on Dutch territory again. Here you can again a new and immediately the last province of the list stripes: Limburg.When you have passed the village of Heijen, you enter the National Park De Maasduinen. Unlike the National Parks you visited earlier on this trip, the Maasduinen are formed by water instead of ice. Thousands of years ago, sand and gravel was carried by rivers and deposited on the bottom. This has created a unique dune landscape with many animal species. Who knows, you might spot a rare sand lizard.The trails of the Bergen trail maneuver along and over rolling dunes. Along the way you can take a break in one of the many catering establishments for a typical Limburg snack: flan. Staekbaereflaaj (Venlo dialect) is a flan filled with gooseberries and a firm layer of protein foam. Enjoy your meal!
Today will be another challenging adventure. With a tour of approximately 90 kilometers you descend deeper through the Limburg landscape. A long trip with 73 kilometers of dirt roads and trails along beautiful heaths and fens.The route winds through the heath directly from the starting point. A beautiful place follows after seven kilometers: the Ravenvennen. If you start the day early you can take beautiful photos of the fog hanging low on the water in combination with the rising sun.The route continues to follow the Dutch-German border and after 20 kilometers you pass the city of Venlo. Sometimes the route runs on the national border and every now and then you even pass it. From High Stable you penetrate German territory deeper. Here are some cool trails and single tracks through the woods.After a number of long gravel strips through the nature reserves Diergardt’scher and Luesekamp und Boschbeek, it is time for a National Park on Dutch soil: the Meinweg. This park has a relatively large height difference. This is due to shifts in the Earth's crust that created a terraced landscape centuries ago.The route continues to follow the national border until you arrive at today's final destination. During the ride you will not come across many shops and restaurants. It is therefore advisable to bring a packed lunch. On the way, the route passes through beautiful forests. You can check in at your hotel in Nieuwstadt. There are a number of campsites in front of Schalbruch.
The last kilometers of the Trans Nederland Mountain Biking Route finally bring you to the peak of the adventure. Although the final stage has "only" 68 kilometers, the ride has the most altimeters; a whopping 810.The route runs in a southeasterly direction from the start. From the trails of the Parkstad - Brunssum course, you dive south again. The loop (number 3) that comes first is a combination of challenging climbs, long descents and fast flow trails. At Brunssum you cross the magical limit of 100 meters above sea level. From this point on, the climbs start to succeed each other at a rapid pace. The climbs are also getting longer.The route follows the official routing of the Parkstad route. Via a winding road straight through Landgraaf you will arrive at loop number 2. On the south side of Heerlen, the buildings are again making way for nature and space.The natural beauty of the Limburg landscape will pass you by while you finish the fast trails of the Mechelen trail. The number of single trails is almost endless on this part of the route. Via the course of Vijlen you get closer and closer to the Drielandenpunt. When you see several watchtowers protruding from the Vaalserberg, the final destination is within reach.There are plenty of accommodations in the area. Time to dive into a cafe and get enough calories. The nearest train stations to return home are located in Kerkrade (Netherlands) and Aachen (Germany). The real diehard of course goes by bike.