Rob Hermans

Bikepacking Weekenders: Netherlands unpaved

Bike Touring Collection by Simon Rosmolen

When the weekend comes around, it’s time to hop on your bike and go adventuring. In the Netherlands, you can find countless opportunities to immerse yourself in nature for a long weekend. From hilly gravel trails in South Limburg, impressive straight tracks through the meadows of North Holland, forest paths through the dolmens tombs built by the Drenthe thousands of years ago, to sandy tracks through the Achterhoek region – this Collection has all the ingredients for a great bikepacking weekend.

Each route in this Collection has its own character. "Bikepacking weekend - Kop van Noord-Holland" takes you along unpaved paths through the vast empty landscapes of Noord-Holland. On this varied route, you also explore the west coast and cross to the island of Texel. The Tour "Bikepacking weekend - Drenthe" guides you through the Drenthe’s prehistoric past and through the colourful heathlands of the Balloërveld. If you enjoy climbing, you will feel at home in the Limburg hills. On the route "Bikepacking weekend - South Limburg", you will climb the unpaved version of the legendary Keutenberg and Cauberg climbs, which are part of the Amstel Gold Race. Finally, on "Bikepacking weekend - Achterhoek" you'll pedal hard on sandy roads. Your slower pace here will help you to enjoy the wonderful nature of the Achterhoek.

Each weekend is around 124 miles (200 km) and can be divided into different lengths to suit you. If you are in good shape, you can ride the routes in two days. Or, you may prefer to spread the distance over several days to enjoy longer in the beautiful regions.

Tips to help you plan your bikepacking adventure in the Netherlands:

- The rides in this Collection lead over unpaved roads such as gravel and rocky paths and dirt tracks. You will need a mountain, gravel or touring bike with tyres that are at least 32 mm thick. The roads can become muddy after rain and you can expect to encounter sand after a long dry spell. Keep an eye on the conditions before you start to adapt your bike accordingly.

- Wild camping is forbidden and your own risk. The Staatsbosbeheer campsites are also closed at the moment. You will find advice for camping in the stage descriptions. It’s always worth knocking on a farmer’s door to ask permission to camp. There are also plenty of B&Bs available in each region which offer even more comfort.

- You will find plenty of food and drink en route, but always make sure you have your own stash of snacks.

- All routes start at a train station or Park and Ride (P+R). If you come by car, park at the indicated P+R or at the beginning of the routes.

On The Map

Tours & Highlights

    Difficult
    14:19
    136 mi
    9.5 mph
    1,850 ft
    1,850 ft
    Expert gravel ride. Very good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may require you to push your bike.

    Wherever you cycle in Drenthe, you are always surrounded by nature and history. Dolmens, burial mounds and primeval landscapes throw you back in time. This bikepacking route over the Hondsrug of Drenthe winds 219 km along unpaved paths along the secrets of Drenthe's (pre) history. Jump on your bike and travel through time.The route starts from Assen train station, you can organize the distances yourself. If you come by car, park at the nearby P + R or somewhere near the beginning of the route. In the beginning you pass small villages in the Kop van Drenthe, the northern area of the province. You drive on paved and unpaved strips and dyke roads. At the Noordsche Veld you will encounter the first signs of prehistory. In this heather area you will find prehistoric fields and burial mounds. At the end of a beautiful cobblestone strip through the forest you can go to Natuurplaats Noordsche Veld for coffee and information about the history of this place.Just past Paterswolde you cycle into Groningen and leave Drenthe for a while. The area is wooded and full of marshes, fens and sand drifts. For pancakes or other concentrates, stop at Paviljoen Appelbergen (Hoge Hereweg 33, Glimmen). You are now close to Drentsche Aa National Park, a vast brook valley landscape with moors, sand drifts, hay meadows and many ash villages. A good example of these extensive heath areas can be found on the Balloërveld. The flock of sheep that grazes here is the largest in the province, with four hundred sheep.At the end of the longest cobblestone strip in the Netherlands (6 km - get your chest wet) you make another leap in history. The largest dolmen in the Netherlands is located in Borger. This stone burial chamber is 22.6 meters long and the largest stone is 20,000 kilos. It is still not clear how man was able to make these structures 5400 years ago. Past Emmen you can have lunch in De Holtenploeg, a cozy village café in Erm. If you prefer to postpone lunch, you will find good alternatives in Eetcafé de Mepperdennen in Meppen or in Bakkerij Kuijer in Aalden.In Drenthe you will find various green villages, of which Orvelte is a good example. A brinkdorp (or esdorp) is an old characteristic farming village of which the brink forms the core. This is a field surrounded by trees where cattle used to graze or where markets were held. The farms, clinkers and cobblestones give this monumental village a historical character.After Orvelte you pass Kamp Westerbork, a dark page in history. During the war, the camp served as a transit camp to extermination camps in Poland. Now it is a place of remembrance and you can visit it daily.You can spend the night during this trip in various places. For your night's rest, you must deviate a maximum of 5 kilometers from the route. Depending on the distances you cycle per day, you can go to the following nature camping areas: Borger (in Borger, halfway along that long cobblestone strip), De Dennen (Schoonloo) or De Kijl (Schoonoord). Do you prefer to sleep in a bed? Natuurhuisje.nl has collected various B & Bs in the region.Tip: if you want to extend this route, look for the Drents-Friese Wold and the Dwingelderveld in the west of Drenthe.

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    Difficult
    16:50
    166 mi
    9.8 mph
    1,225 ft
    1,225 ft
    Ferry
    Expert gravel ride. Very good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may require you to push your bike. The Tour includes a crossing by ferry.

    What do North Holland and Tuscany have in common? A Strade Bianche is organized annually in both regions. A cycling tour on the most beautiful unpaved white gravel and chalk roads. The legendary classic takes place in Italy, of course, but some cycling clubs in North Holland proudly organize their own variant. This tour is about the Strade Bianche of North Holland. And if you do cycle through the Noordkop then a boat trip, overnight stay and the most beautiful unpaved strips on the Wadden Island of Texel complete this bike packing tour of 267 km.The route starts from Schagen station and you can divide it into distances yourself. If you come by car, park at the nearby P + R or somewhere along the beginning of the route. From Schagen you quickly reach the dunes of North Holland. From here you follow white shell paths through Petten and Callantsoog through the dunes along the North Sea. After about 45 km you can turn to the beach pavilion Zee van Tijd for a cup of coffee and cake on the beach.Once you arrive in Den Helder, take the boat to the Wadden Island. A ferry leaves every half hour. A return ticket per person plus bicycle costs five euros and takes you across the Marsdiep to the other side in twenty minutes. Reservations are not necessary, but a face mask is. For current sailing times and online tickets, visit teso.nl.Texel is the largest Dutch Wadden island and has more sheep than people. Nature lovers also feel at home here. Half the island consists of a protected nature reserve (sheep graze on the other half). The route travels around the island on single tracks, shell paths and paved roads. The landscape alternates between forest and dune area. Along the way you pass the salt marsh area the Slufter and the bright red lighthouse Eierland in the northernmost tip.An overnight stay during this trip is of course the best thing on Texel. There is a wide range of campsites or B & Bs. If you plan to visit the Texel brewery, spend the night around Oudeschild or Den Burg. The beers from the tasting room taste good, the terrace is sunny - so spread well…As soon as you reach the mainland by boat, the eastern part of the Noordkop follows. You cycle through vast empty spaces and look endlessly over polders. Quiet and beautiful country roads follow along clinkers, shell paths and asphalt. Highlights are the Zuiderkwelweg between Kreileroord and Medemblik and the Blôte Bienepad near Aartswoud. There are many lunch options in Medemblik, such as at Radboud Castle at the harbor of this old town.If you still want to enjoy the trip after your finish in Schagen, you can go to one of the many campsites in the dunes on the west coast.

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  • Difficult
    14:29
    111 mi
    7.6 mph
    5,800 ft
    5,800 ft
    Expert gravel ride. Very good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may require you to push your bike.

    Climbers and bon vivants feel at home in South Limburg. The rolling hilly landscape and the Limburg cuisine give you a holiday feeling. Cycling through this landscape means refraining from the climbs and rewarding yourself with Limburg pie or fries with sour meat. This 178 km route takes you along Limburg's most beautiful trails, the unpaved climbs of the Keutenberg and Cauberg and along the best bistros.You get on at Maastricht train station. If you come by car, park at the nearby P + R or somewhere near the start of the route. Once out of Maastricht you quickly reach the rolling Limburg roads along small villages in the hilly country. The climbs and descents are short, steep and therefore technical. In winter and fall, the trails are muddy and slippery and wide studded tires are definitely needed. Around Mechelen you cross the Geul for the first time. This fast-flowing river winds through the landscape and you will encounter it even more often when you descend from the higher plateaus.At Vijlen, the only mountain village in the Netherlands, you dive into the forest and climb to the highest point (268m) of this tour. Here you can stop at Boscafe 't Hijgend Hert. The flan is so big here that it doesn't fit on your saucer. An alternative in Vijlen is bicycle & walking café A Gen Kirk (you can also stay overnight here). The beer list of these cafes is very extensive, but you control: in the direction of Valkenburg you descend unpaved along the Keutenberg (with 21% the steepest slope in the Netherlands).The second loop of this tour starts in the northern part of South Limburg near Valkenburg. This section is less steep and high, but also provides beautiful paths and vistas. Along the way you pass beautiful castles. A stop is definitely worth it. Along the Maas you cycle a few kilometers flat and you can recharge for the final of this tour: the unpaved climb of the Cauberg. This climb is steep, heavy and ends at the finish of the great Amstel Gold Race in Valkenburg. To celebrate your victory, you can visit Fixed Gear Coffee in Maastricht.You can stay overnight in many places along the route. Beautiful quiet campsites are the Kloostermuur (Noorbeek) Farm Camp, Krekelberg Farm (Schinnen) or Kroonen Farm Camp (Schin op Geul). Check the internet for the best B & B's or hotels in the region. The offer is wide.

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    Difficult
    15:06
    128 mi
    8.5 mph
    1,900 ft
    1,900 ft
    Expert gravel ride. Very good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may require you to push your bike.

    It seems as if time has stood still in the Achterhoek. In the far east of Gelderland, the moors, forests and characteristic farms and castles are reminiscent of a bygone era. The cart tracks and endless tree-lined avenues wind through the landscape. A new surprise awaits after every turn. Nowhere you will find so many sandy roads, so thick tires (from 32 mm) are a must for this 206 km trip.The route starts from Doetinchem train station. If you come by car, park at the nearby P + R or somewhere near the beginning of the route. As soon as you cycle out of Doetinchem, you are soon on the characteristic long sandy roads. If you like getting dirty, come in the fall and winter. Because you sometimes cross the German border, you really notice that you are cycling in the far east of the Netherlands. You can make your first coffee stop at tea garden Rensink in Aalten, after about forty kilometers.Perhaps the most characteristic feature of the Achterhoek is the National Landscape Winterswijk. This scenic landscape consists of an alternation of open spaces surrounded by rows of trees, hedgerows and shrubs, created hundreds of years ago by farmers to surround their land. Via cart tracks and church paths you wind through the rolling landscape and after every turn you encounter a new challenge. Change of food makes food: for lunch you turn at Winterswijk. Plenty of options in the cozy center.The highest hill in the area is the Lochemse Berg (49m) which lies between Lochem and Barchem. You climb the edge of the hill via a technical mountain bike trail. The best views are outside the forest, because the observation tower on top of the mountain has been closed for years. The surrounding trees are too high…Back at Doetinchem you make a final pendulum along the Kruisbergse Bossen. Along this forest and heather area you cycle on the beautiful unpaved Hessenweg (named after the old medieval hessen carts). In Doetinchem you can dust off at cycling café Paris is still Ver. Your bicycle can also be brought in here.Paid camping is done at nature camping sites Hessenoord (Halle), 't Scharvelt (Haarlo) or Distelheide (Doetinchem). Calling at the farmer is often free. And for B & Bs, the internet is your best friend.

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    4
  • Distance
    540 mi
  • Duration
    60:44 h
  • Elevation
    10,775 ft

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