Away from the well-known trails
The Rothaarsteig is regarded as being one of the most beautiful upland hiking trails in Europe. However, it’s also worth leaving the well-trodden paths behind and turning off onto one of the other tracks on either side.
They have names such as “Kahle Pön”, “Ilsetal” (“Ilse valley”) or “Trödelsteinpfad” (“dawdle stone path”). The eight Rothaarsteig tracks between the Sauerland and Siegerland-Wittgenstein regions offer a welcome alternative to the popular upland path - and not only for people who are well familiar with the route. Visitors hiking in the region for the first time are sure to find a track that suits their needs, too. The Premium trails, which are certified by the Deutsches Wanderinstitut, the German hiking institute, are designed as circular routes and are easy to manage.
Routes for beginners
The BlickinsLand - Kahle Pön (“Landscape view - bald Pön”) Rothaarsteig trail is ideally suited for a half-day tour, or for less well-trained hikers. The route, which lasts around four hours, takes visitors through varied heathland landscapes of the Upländer Berge hills, up to the 745 metre-high Kalied summit. Here, incidentally, ka = “kahl” (bald), and lied = a steep slope. But there’s no need to worry: along the seven kilometre-long route, there is an ascent just 180 metres long.
The Grönebacher Dorfpfad (“Grönebacher village path”; 10.9 kilometres) is also suitable for hiking novices, curving around the oldest church tower in the town of Winterverg, the St. Lambertus church at Grönebach, and offering a variety of scenery along the way. The route takes hikers through colourful meadows and dense forests - without losing sight of the picturesque village of Grönebach. Hikers with children will be sure to stop off at one of the two leisure facilities along the route.
The Dill-Bergtour (“Dill hill tour”), which runs along the federal state boundary between North Rhine-Westphalia and Hessen, offers wonderful views over the Lahn-Dill-Bergland nature park and the Siegerland area. Without having to cope with any particularly steep climbs, hikers, or in this case “border crossers”, pass through the idyllic Dill valley and the historic Hauberg Offdilln forest, where traces of Celtic life such as a bloomery can still be found today. The high point of the 15.8-kilometre tour is the view from the “Nose in the wind” viewing platform on the Tiefenrother Höhe (Rothaar ridge) summit.
Tours for fit hikers
Hikers who undertake the Kahler-Asten-Steig route should be physically fit. At 16 kilometres long and with an overall ascent of 500 metres, it is one of the most challenging circular routes along the Rothaarsteig. In 2017, it was certified by the Deutscher Wanderverband, the German hiking association, as a “Qualitätsweg Wanderbares Deutschland - Traumtour”, a quality “dream tour” hiking trail, and quite rightly so: hikers who make their way up to the Kahler Asten from the Rothaar Arena in Westfeld (a year-round centre for Nordic sports) will be rewarded with an unbeatable view right across to the Brocken summit in the Harz mountains.
The 11.6 kilometre-long Oberhundemer Bergtour hill route immediately starts with a steep uphill section. However, once hikers have overcome the ascent over the old donkey paths, the trail continues comfortably onwards along winding paths, past ragged rocks and through dense forests. However, even areas that were completely devastated by storm Kyrill in 2007, where nature is slowly by surely recovering, will still delight hikers. A stop at the Alpenhaus on the Kahleberg hill is highly recommended. The traditional-style hut has officially been recognised as belonging to Kirchhundem since 2011.
A very special experience for children (and adults) is the wisent path from Wingeshausen to the Schmallenberg hunting lodge, which is also certified as a “Traumtour”, or “dream tour”. Halfway along this 12.9 kilometre-long, average difficulty route, hikers can, with a bit of luck, see Europe’s only wild wisent herd for themselves. However, there is an entrance fee to the enclosure where these huge, shaggy animals live, which depends on age.
Fairytale rock faces, a romantic water lily pond and the historic site of the “Bettelsmannbuche” beech tree, where pilgrims used to camp, make the Ilstealpfad (or “Ilse valley path”) a very special nature experience. Passing along the Lahn, Ilse and Weidelbach rivers, this longest Rothaarsteig track, covering 16.5 kilometres, passes through open landscapes and dense fir and beechwoods to the Weidelbacher Weiher pond. Here, in the middle of the forest, it's worth taking a break to enjoy the peace and quiet, and to tank up on energy before tackling the next climb. After all, there are 540 meters of uphill walking through the Wittgensteiner Wald forest.
The Trödelsteinpfad path, which covers 10.2 kilometres from the Buchheller-Tal valley up to the “Trödelsteine”, or “dawdling stones” natural monument (and back), has a slightly less arduous climb. After a good four hours over rustic, untamed paths, where a good level of fitness is required, hikers will reach several basalt cliffs and below, a field with pillar and block rock formations consisting of feldspar asphalt - although of course, not without taking a break in between, such as in the juniper heathland in the “Saukaute” nature conservation area. This route is also a certified “dream tour”.