Gentle mountain slopes, blossoming meadows and shaded forests come together in the “Land of Open Distances” – the Rhön. Situated in the heart of Germany, the UNESCO Rhön Biosphere Reserve offers unique landscapes stretching across Thuringia, Hesse, and Bavaria. The 111 mile (180 km) long Rhön Cycleway takes you through wide valleys and mountain pastures, along gushing rivers, and to historic villages with idyllic half-timbered buildings.
In this Collection, the Rhön Cycleway takes you from the spa town of Bad Salzungen in Thuringia to the wine town of Hammelburg in Franconia in five stages. Ranging in length from 16.7 to 31.6 miles (27 to 51 km), the stages give you plenty of time to explore the beautiful region at your own pace. You can easily combine the stages together if you prefer longer days on your saddle.
In total, you will climb 4,822 feet (1,470 m). However, as the elevation gain is spread over three stages it is very manageable as long as you have a basic level of fitness. The final section brings you down into the valley and through the Hammelburg wine country which is mostly flat.
You will mostly follow tarmaced paths, with the very occasional unpaved path or cobblestoned street, and quiet roads away from busy traffic. This means any bike, including your road bike, is suitable to enjoy the mountain scenery to the fullest.
Your adventure begins in the Thuringian spa town Bad Salzungen. From here, you cross the wildly romantic Werra Valley and Ulster Valley. You will ride along riverside paths lined by wooded hills to the town of Geisa in Hesse. Here, you can learn more about the history of divided Germany at the Point Alpha border museum. A gentle ascent takes you through lush green meadows and paths through fields to the Wüstensachsen health resort.
Next, you climb up to 2,723 feet (830 m) where the stunning panorama of the Hochrhön awaits before an exhilarating descent down into the municipality of Bischofsheim. You can also enjoy some rapid descents on stage 4, when you visit the Bad Kissingen health resort. The final leg takes you through the vineyards of the Saale Valley before finishing in Hammelburg with a glass of the finest Franconian wine.
To reach the start of your adventure in Bad Salzungen, you can take the STB 41 regional train from the Thuringian towns of Eisenach, Meiningen or Eisfeld. If you travel by car, you can return to the start point easily by train Hammelburg via Meiningen. You can also reach Frankfurt am Main, Nuremberg or Erfurt by train from Hammelburg via Schweinfurt. There’s a Flixbus from Schweinfurt to numerous cities around Germany and abroad.
The towns along the route offer you fantastic hotels, guesthouses, inns or holiday apartments. I’ve included information in each route description. Camping is also an excellent option. You’ll find an idyllic campsite at each of the stage destinations. Thanks to the low light pollution in the area, you’ll be able to enjoy stunning starry skies at night.
Your journey through the Rhön Mountains begins in Thuringia in the spa town of Bad Salzungen. You cycle over a good 40 kilometers to Geisa in Ulstertal and cross the romantic Werra Valley, where blooming meadows, shady forests and idyllic places with half-timbered architecture await you. You can easily reach the train station in Bad Salzungen by train STB 41 via the Thuringian cities of Eisenach, Meiningen or Eisfeld. The Rhön Cycle Path is already signposted at the train station in Bad Salzungen and you can swing straight into the saddle.
Following the course of the Werra you cycle through the picturesque Werra Valley. After about seven kilometers after you have crossed the pretty town of Tiefenort, your first small climb to the Krayenberg begins. A kilometer later you will be rewarded with a wonderful view of the Werra Valley and the rapid descent. Then you continue at the foot of the Salzunger Berg without striking climbs through the green meadow landscape.
At Dorndorf you cross the river and cycle along its banks, past densely forested hills. You will soon reach the municipality of Phillippstal, and with it the state border of Thuringia and Hesse. There you can visit the stylish palace complex with palace park and orangery. Now there are almost 20 kilometers with a gentle, constant slope to your destination Geisa. You say goodbye to the Werra Valley and cycle on to Ulster, which is at least as beautiful, and which flows into the Werra here.
The name of the Ulstertal comes from the Celtic and means "jumping water". The mystical atmosphere of the varied bank run will not remain hidden from you. The Rhön Cycle Path is now identical to the Ulstertal Cycle Path and is mostly car-free on the route to Geisa, which is again on the Thuringian side. The city of Geisa welcomes you with its baroque palace ensemble and the Point Alpha border museum, which commemorates the history of the division of Germany and the Cold War. You can spend the night in Geisa in numerous holiday homes, guest houses and inns, which you can see at stadt-geisa.org. About five kilometers from Geisa is the Kirchberg youth camp site, which is in a wonderfully idyllic location and only costs EUR 1.50.
Today, the Rhön Cycle Path leads you over a 31-kilometer gradient with a gentle incline in the climatic health resort of Wüstensachsen at 570 meters above sea level. In Geisa you cycle on the banks of the Ulster and, flanked by the mountain peaks of the Rhön, you drive past the idyllic villages of Schleid, Motzlar and Tann. A detour to the parish church of Maria Schnee in Schleid or the old town of Tanner is certainly worthwhile.You drive on meadows and field paths without any traffic and breathe in the wonderfully healing low mountain air of the Ulstertal. In Unterrückersbach you can get a little refreshment from the sausage machine, which is affectionately called "Straußi". Then you cycle along the foot of the Milseburg Kuppenrhön and past the towns of Hilders, Batten, Thaiden and Seiferts. Here you can refresh your legs, which have already done a lot in the past few hours, in the treading pool directly on the Ulster and get your circulation going. Here you can also fill fresh, cold drinking water and prepare yourself for the remaining 50 vertical meters.Two kilometers further you come to Melperts, where the goats and sheep of the Spiegelshof graze. You can also come here for an idyllic farm holiday by prior arrangement, help with the work on the farm and enjoy the delicious food from our own production on site.
From Melperts there are only about two kilometers to Desert Saxony in the community of Ehrenberg. There are idyllic guest houses and holiday apartments, which you can view and request on the Ehrenberg tourism website at ehrenberg-rhoen.de/tourismus/gastgeber/gastgeberverzeichnis-online. The youth tent is located directly at the small desert adult's outdoor pool with paddle pond and boat rental. Here you can pitch your tent for a small coin and you have the sanitary facilities, an open fireplace and a shelter at your disposal. You can register for the campsite at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Your third stage is coming - and with it the final climb of the Rhön heights to 830 meters. On the total of 30 kilometers to the stage destination Bischofsheim you have enough time for breaks to enjoy the beautiful panorama. After just two kilometers you will reach the first enchanting rest area in the forest, directly on the wildly romantic bank of the Ulster, which you can reach via a small wooden bridge. If the ascent is constant on a paved road, after three more kilometers you will reach the Schornhecke rest area, which is on the highest point of the Rhön Cycle Path and directly behind the Hessian-Bavarian border.Now you turn onto the Hochrhön panoramic road and cycle with a wonderful view through the nature reserve Lange Rhön. You can decide whether you want to continue on the Panoramastraße, or turn directly onto the Rhönradweg and race down the next six kilometers into the valley. Halfway down the slope is the Thuringian Hut, where you can enjoy the wonderful view with a little refreshment in the beer garden.After you have rolled back down to 400 meters, you cycle on low-traffic dirt roads through the Franconian Rhön. Passing Oberelsbach and Sonderau, where you can marvel at a 300-year-old linden tree, you come to a quiet street with a great panorama that takes you to Bischofsheim in a small dangling. The Bavarian city is a member of an international network to improve the quality of life by decelerating - you can experience this atmosphere here yourself.Whether holiday homes, farms, pensions or campsites, you will certainly find accommodation to suit your needs here. On the website bischofsheim.info/uebernachten.html you can browse through the entire offer of accommodation in Bischofsheim.
On the fourth stage you drive to the spa town of Bad Kissingen and you can look forward to 51 kilometers with many runs that you cycled in the first stages. From Bischofsheim to Bad Neustadt an der Saale you drive 20 kilometers almost exclusively downhill. Halfway you can fill up your water bottles at the fountain in Schönau an der Brend.After you've whizzed down the mountain to Bad Neustadt in no time at all, you can take some time here to visit the pretty spa town, whose old city wall is still completely intact and whose market square attracts with its medieval flair and numerous gastronomic offers. From now on the Rhön cycle path runs largely flat and with a few small hills through the Lower Franconian country.Past the nature reserve Saalewiesen you cycle along the banks of the Franconian Saale on asphalt bike paths through the beautiful meadow landscape. If you are lucky, you will meet the otters that live here. At Nickersfelden you cross the Saale and embark on a short, crisp climb, followed by a gentle descent to Roth an der Saale. Here you will find a rest bench right on the river, from where you can enjoy a wonderful view of the idyllic village of Steinach. Passing Steinach you cross the Kellersbach and the Premich, which flow into the Saale here.Further along the banks of the Saale you cycle in a loop past the spa town of Bad Bocklet, where you can visit the magnificent fountain temple in the middle of the spa garden and the small sandy beach on the Saale. In a curve through the fields, the Rhön Cycle Path leads you past Aschach Castle, where the Graf-Luxemburg Museum is located. Three kilometers further you will pass the old pumping station of the Luitpoldsprudels, which you can reach via a small footbridge.Then you follow the course of the Saale straight ahead and reach your destination in Bad Kissingen. The rose garden and the spa garden are beautifully laid out and invite you to linger, relax and take a deep breath. In Bad Kissingen you can experience a wide range of wellness, nature and culture. You will also find great opportunities to stay overnight, from apartments in the city center to sumptuous Art Nouveau hotels to small, cute apartments. You can view the offers at badkissingen.de/gastgeber-und-angebote/hotels. You can also camp in the immediate vicinity at the Bad Kissingen Camping Park, right on the banks of the Saale and not far from the Saalestrand, where you can splash around in the river with your feet.
On your last leg of the Rhön Cycle Path you cycle 27.5 kilometers to Hammelburg and have enough time for long breaks and your subsequent onward journey. After a lap of honor through the Bad Kissinger Kurpark you cycle relaxed along the Saale and after about seven kilometers you come across a beautiful spot, the so-called triangle rock. Here you can let your feet dangle in the water and enjoy the wild and romantic shore.Following the course of the Saale you cycle into the area of the Hammelburger Weinland and cross the small towns of Euerdorf, Aura an der Saale and Trimberg. Here you will find a rest area with a beautiful view of the small town and the river. Now you cross the Saale, cycle in a dangling through Elfershausen and can already see the vines of the Saaletal. You cross the Saale again on one of the old Buntsandstein bridges from the 17th century, which is a listed building.The Saale accompanies you on your way to Westheim, which already belongs to Hammelburg. Shortly afterwards you will reach your destination, the oldest wine town in Franconia. There is still a lot you can do here before you start your return journey. So you can look down on the city from the Offentaler Berg at Hammelburger Terroir-f-Punkt and find out about the Franconian wine history. Or you can simply stroll through the beautiful market square and enjoy the early Renaissance market fountain and the delicacies that are offered here everywhere. On the banks of the Saale you can review your tour over a glass of Franconian wine.If you want to make your way back, you can take the EB 50 to Schweinfurt or Meiningen at Hammelburger Bahnhof. In Meiningen the STB 41 goes to Bad Salzungen if you have traveled by car and would like to return to your starting point. But you can also take the regional train from Schweinfurt to Frankfurt am Main, Würzburg, Nuremberg or Erfurt and take your bike with you. Another option is the Flixbus in Schweinfurt, which takes you in all directions of Germany and even to France or Poland without changing trains. I recommend that you book the route in good time so that the space for your bike is still available.