Hiking to Europe’s highest upland heath
Strength and stamina are required to hike the Uplandsteig (Upland Trail) in Sauerland, but the effort is rewarded with impressive views and tasty berries in season.
The Uplandsteig (Upland Trail) hiking trail in Sauerland is a challenging hiking trail around the municipality of Willingen. Hikers pass through mixed forests, beech woods, open country, meadows in bloom, marshland and heathland on the 64-kilometre route. The initial section in particular requires strength and fitness: in the first 15 kilometres, hikers must conquer 450 of the total 1,487 vertical metres to be climbed.
The ruins of the legendary Schwalenburg serve as a resting point during the strenuous climb. All that remains today are the three imposing ring walls, which cover a total of 1,659 metres. A small viewing tower in the middle wall provides a good overview of the site. According to legend, the fort was once home to Segestes, a Germanic nobleman who was on good terms with the Romans. His daughter Thusnelda married none other than the Cheruscan leader Arminius (or Hermann), who inflicted one of the worst defeats on the Romans in the battle of Teutoburg Forest in 9 AD.
Summer is the most rewarding time for visitors
One literal high point is the Neuer Hagen nature reserve, which includes Europe’s highest mountain heath. Summer is the most rewarding time to visit, as the blueberries are ripe in July and August, and the area is covered with a pink blanket of heather in August and September.
As well as marking the highest point of the trail, the cross at the summit of the upland heath also offers a fantastic view across Sauerland – the land of 1,000 mountains. Hikers reach the highest point on the trail at 843 metres above sea level on North Rhine-Westphalia’s highest mountain, the Langenberg. In the past the view was blocked by tall spruce forests. However, since Kyrill, a storm that left a devastating path across Sauerland in 2007, the view to the north is now clear. Once hikers reach the summit, it is downhill into the valley. Those with energy to spare can try the summer toboggan run or conquer the 12-metre indoor climbing wall.