Wild horses Dülmen in the nature reserve Merfelder Bruch , © Leo Thomas

Plenty of an­im­als to go around

Nature park Hohe Mark

Listen well and keep your eyes open to be amazed by what you can hear and see here! There’s neighing and grunting, mooing and bleating, humming and buzzing all over the nature park Hohe Mark. This spot in the triangle between the Münsterland, the Lower Rhine, and the Ruhr area is forming a number of habitats by its alternation of meadows, pastures, and wooded hills, making it a home to a great variety of animals.

The stars among the four-legged residents are living in the Münsterland, where about 400 wild horses are grazing or cantering through the Merfelder Bruch near Dülmen, largely left to their own devices. Take a walk or join a guided tour to watch the robust mares, stallions, and foals in spring, summer and autumn. The wild horse auction is a special highlight every spring, for which wild one-year-old stallions are caught and separated from the herd with bare hands.

Konik ponies and Poitou donkeys

Meet some four-legged residents of other corners of the nature park here: the Konik ponies, foundation animals for our horses, are roaming the Steverauen area near Olfen, for example, as do Heck cattle and Poitou donkeys, keeping the plants in the meadows short. The Westrup heath is the grazing ground for a shepherd’s flock of sheep year-round. It affords a particularly pretty sight when the heather blooms in late summer. Red deer are very much at home in the forested areas of Üfter Mark and Dämmerwald. You’ll be able to hear the stags from afar in the rutting season in autumn when the leading animals are engaging in roaring fights for their herds. While they are hard to spot in the wild, the historical zoo at Schloss Raesfeld castle, where fallow and red deer have been reintroduced, will let you get a bit closer to them. Visit some other forest dwellers in the Naturwildpark Granat, and discover emus, nandus, and kangaroos there along with native species like the wild boar, wolf, and wild cat!

Out and about in the forest and on the Westrup heath

Would you like to drop by some animals or visit a former ruler’s seat? Choose between a hiking tour and a cycling holiday, as the Hohe Mark-Steig, honoured with the “Qualitätsweg Wanderbares Deutschland” seal, covers about 150 kilometres in the nature park with its forests, moors, meadows, and lakes. Circular trails supplement it with further opportunities for day hikes in nature. Bus and train connections are available at need since the “WuBB tours” suggest some routes with starting points and destinations that can also be reached by public transport. If you prefer to move under your own power from a cycling saddle, you will be able to discover many an exciting stop on the Hohe Mark cycling trail of 280 kilometres. The Westrup heath is waiting for you, for example, near the town of Haltern am See. While the sandy paths there are reserved for pedestrians, we do recommend dropping by even by bike and adding a walk through the heath landscape as a highlight of your cycling tour.


  • The Westruper Heide in the Ruhrgebiet, © Johannes Höhn
    Stork close-up in the Steveraue Olfen in Münsterland, © Johannes Höhn
    Donkey and Bird in the Steveraue Olfen, © Johannes Höhn
  • Wild horses Dülmen graze in the Mehrfelder Bruch nature reserve , © Leo Thomas
    Green field of the Steveraue Olfen in the Münsterland, © Johannes Höhn
    Steverauen Olfen in the Münsterland, © Tourismus NRW e.V.

Slag heap with stair­way to heav­en

Portrait of the Instagramer Pascal Tönnissen
Ideas for ex­cur­sions in the sur­round­ings? In­s­tagram tip by Pas­cal Tön­n­is­sen@zech­en­wald
Slag heap in Gelsenkirchen with the stairway to heaven
, © Pascal Tönnissen

"Whether it's a balmy summer evening or a stormy autumn day, our slagheaps in the Ruhr Area are always perfect photo spots. At the Halde Rheinelbe, I particularly like the almost mystical character of the so-called Himmelstreppe, a cement artwork at the top of the slagheap, and the great panoramic view of the surroundings of Gelsenkirchen."