The Rennsteig Trail: It's all about the journey
The Rennsteig Trail, Germany's oldest and best-known long-distance hiking trail and backbone of the Thuringian Forest, is both a cult and a legend
The combination of coniferous and mixed forests, flowering mountain meadows and incomparable views makes this trail a unique and unforgettable experience. The Rennsteig Trail is as varied as life itself. Sometimes you walk on well-trodden paths on gentle slopes, only to suddenly be surprised by steep climbs and narrow bends. But it is always one thing - a panoramic route which rewards all efforts with magnificent natural surroundings, silent forests and multicoloured meadows.
If you are driven by a longing for unspoilt Nature, there is much to discover here - whether on foot, on a bike, on skis or any other way.
#1 Its natural beauty
Germany's oldest hiking trail runs right through the centre of the Thuringian Forest and the Thuringian Schiefergebirge mountains, which are true natural beauties in themselves with their dense coniferous forests. However, anyone planning a hike or a mountain bike tour along the just under 170 kilometres of the trail can also include one extra highlight or another, such as, for example, a picnic by the ice-cold but crystal-clear mountain lake by Ebertswiese, which is in Floh-Seligenthal near the Rennsteig Trail. Or a walk through the unique Drachenschlucht – a gorge which runs through the "Wartburg – Hohe Sonne" nature reserve near Eisenach. At its narrowest point, the gorge is no more than 68 centimetres wide - a good way of slimming down!
#2 Its chalets
What would a day in the fresh air be without an indulgent visit to one of the mountain huts and chalets along the Rennsteig Trail? And they are as varied as their visitors, but all hospitable and serve Thuringian specialities. They range from the still young Neue Gehlberger Hütte on Schneekopf mountain near the Rennsteig Trail through the rustic Suhler Hütte at Schmücke and the Rennsteigbaude near Neuhaus to the Thüringer Hütte guest house in Oberhof. If you are not a good walker but would still like to savour some of the romance of the Rennsteig Trail, you will be pleased to hear that the huts and chalets can easily be reached by car, with the exception of the Neue Gehlberger Hütte (ca. 1 km walk from car park).
#3 Its winter magic
In the winter, the Rennsteig Trail turns into a glitteringly white landscape, offering holidaymakers a wealth of winter sports facilities. For an active holiday in the snow, there are 15 German Ski Association cross-country centres and 27 small alpine ski areas. 1500 kilometres of cross-country ski runs and ski hiking trails ensure that no-one has to take the same route twice. And in the tradition-rich winter sports centre of Oberhof, you may even possibly be following in the tracks of Olympic medalllists and world champions - world cups are often staged here. Special highlights: The indoor skiing centre in Oberhof is open all the year round and there is ski jumping for everyone in Lauscha.
#4 Its attractions
Gentian, edelweiss or alpine rose? Rare plants, which plant enthusiasts may not be able to find in the Thuringian countryside, grow splendidly in the Rennsteig Gardens in Oberhof thanks to good nurturing. So make a short stop, admire and tick off what you have seen in the plant guide! Amazingly, the Rennsteig area not only offers beautiful natural countryside but also a wealth of "Rennsteig culture". Besides the Rennsteig Gardens, there is, for example, the Rennsteig Museum in Neustadt. Here you will primarily find lots of books and literature on the long-distance hiking trail. And after all this reading, the fresh air outside on the Trail will soon clear your head again!
#5 Its family-friendliness
It depends, of course, on the age of the younger members of your family - but on the Rennsteig Trail, active holidaymakers will find attractions for every age group. In the Saalburg-Ebersdorf High Adventure Centre, for example, older kids can experience the forest on seven exciting climbing routes. At Inselsberg Funpark in Brotterode-Trusetal, there are, together with a summer toboggan run, adrenalin kicks like the Wie-Flyer, where you race through the air in gondolas at up to 40 kilometres per hour, and a high-speed cable car, the Rennsteig Fox. And apart from such "official" family attractions, there are plenty of small and larger adventures awaiting you - have you discovered mysterious animal tracks, tree trunk beams to balance on, rocks to climb and little streams to cool your feet? Then it's high time you did!
Ready, steady, go!
Those with sporting ambitions will find something to suit them all the year round. So various contests on the Rennsteig Trail also provide the chance of enjoying Nature and lots of fresh air.
The first is the GutsMuths Rennsteig Run in May every year. Since 1973, some 15,000 runners have joined the cross-country run along the ridge route annually. On three different marathon routes, hikes or Nordic Walking tours, you can burn off all your energy on Europe's largest countryside run. In July, there is then the Schneekopf Run – from Schmiedefeld, over Grosse Finsterberg Hill to the 978-metre high Schneekopf Mountain, a total of 12.7 km. On the Rennsteig Autumn Run, you can choose a 10 or 20 km route.
You would rather cycle? Then the RENNSTEIG RIDE is what you are looking for. On mountain bikes, some 600 cyclists compete in a marathon, half-marathon or e-bike marathon.
Cycling on the Rennsteig Trail
Active holidaymakers can also enjoy a cycling tour on the Rennsteig Trail. The Rennsteig Cycle Trail offers broad cultural landscapes and historic venues along its 200-kilometre length. On rustic forest and meadow tracks, cyclists who enjoy a sporting challenge can visit attractions such as Wartburg Castle near Eisenach, Ruhla with its "mini-a-thür" model park, Grosse Inselsberg Hill near Brotterode or Ebertswiese mountain lake near Floh-Seligenthal.