Winter hiking on the Rothaarsteig, © ROTHAARSTEIGverein Klaus Peter Kappest

Winter Hikes

The most beau­ti­ful routes

Hoar­frost is cov­er­ing the mead­ows and trees, re­lax­ing si­lence fills the forest, and the clear air prop­erly cleanses the mind. Winter hikes can be a great ex­per­i­ence in warm boots and a fluffy jack­et! With a little luck you may even be sur­prised by the first tender snow­flakes or find your­self stomp­ing through deep powdery snow on snow­shoes. Let us in­tro­duce the most beau­ti­ful places and routes for your winter hik­ing ex­per­i­ence to you be­low.

The most beautiful winter hiking routes

The Half-Timbered Freudenberg Trail

Freudenberg in the Siegerland is known for its picturesque old town. The “Alter Flecken”, as its beautiful town centre is nicknamed, magically draws lovers of half-timbered houses and romantics alike. The old town was completely rebuilt based onto its 1540 model following a devastating town fire in the 17th century. It has been preserved unchanged since then. The “Half-Timbered Freudenberg Trail”, a twelve-kilometre round tour through the forests and meadows around Freudenberg, offers some particularly beautiful views of the city centre as the cold and clear winter air affords an unusually far view for hikers.

Nordkirchen Hiking Trails

Some winter days simply are too cold or too wet for long hikes. Short round tours are a great option then. The Münsterland region has a number of good trails around Schloss Nordkirchen, also known as the “Westphalian Versailles”. The 3.5-kilometre-long Circular Bat Trail, for example, not only leads directly past Schloss Nordkirchen but also winds its way along old avenues and past the watery homes of amphibians. Other options for short hikes include the Oak Leaf and Kaisermantel Circular Trails. Anyone who is feeling some wanderlust in clear air and bright sunshine should have a look at the 12-kilometre hike “from castle to castle” that takes them from Schloss Nordkirchen to Schloss Westerwinkel.

Through the Heisterbach Monastery Landscape

Narrow forest paths, steep climbs, and unique views of the river Rhine – a tour of the monastery landscape in the Rhine-Sieg district around Königswinter is a particularly special experience in the cold and clear winter air. The tour is eleven kilometres long and takes hikers past the Heisterbach monastery with its Cistercian history, former quarries, and the Petersberg with its grand hotel and foundations that used to be a church.

The Cultural and Historical Trail through the "Electoral Zoo Arnsberg”

A winter hike through the “Electoral Zoo Arnsberg” is truly mystical. The “Thiergarten”, as this zoo is called, had been planned in the Sauerland around 1670, but ended up being used mostly for hunting. Today, hikers can cross the old bridges to hike past an oak tree that is more than four centuries old to a former hunter’s lodge, some castle ruins, or to take a look at the “Seufzertal” (Valley of Sighs), where those sick with the plague were living in times long past. As many as 41 “traces of the past” are waiting to be discovered on the 13-kilometre-long hiking trail while the silence of the forest swallows up any noise from the nearby town of Arnsberg.

The Monks’ Trail in the Rhine-Sieg District

The Seligenthal region in the Rhine-Sieg-Kreis was appreciated for its peace and tranquillity as early as in the 13th century. Hikers can still find blissful peace there today. Sleepy little roads and narrow paths cover a length of eight kilometres through the valley, past the Wahnbach dam and the impressive walnut tree avenue leading to the Gut Umschoß estate. The first Franciscan monastery north of the Alps with its still-preserved monastery church is worth a visit as well.

The Bensberg Castle Trail

Reminiscent of old fairy tales, castles and palaces shine in a particularly magical light in the winter season and put us in the mood for a few contemplative days. A trip along the Bensberg Castle Trail takes hikers past several of the magical buildings of the Bergisches Land. The route of nine kilometres leads not only past the Bensberg and Lerbach castles, but also to some magnificent vantage points. On clear winter days, you can let your eyes roam across the Rhine valley, and many believe that they have even spotted the Cologne Cathedral in the distance.

The Struffelt Route

A hike through the high moor is particularly impressive in winter. Cool temperatures cause steam to rise up from it, enveloping the landscape in a mystical mist. The Struffelt nature reserve in the Hohes Venn (Eifel) nature park is an eleven-kilometre-long circular trail that crosses the moor on wooden footbridges. The vantage platform at the Dreilägerbach dam affords a unique view of the frosty Eifel landscape.

Sternenpark, Eifel National Park

Night may fall early in winter, but no one has said that we cannot enjoy it! The Eifel National Park offers hikers the opportunity to use the dark season for stargazing. Darkness out in the huge park’s natural environment is undisturbed by bright city lights, giving visitors the opportunity to look at the Milky Way with the unaided eye. A trip to Germany’s first stargazing park is particularly worthwhile on clear winter evenings.

Hiking in the Snow

Snow Trails in the Sauerland and Eifel Regions

Are you keen for a hike in a true winter wonderland? Put on your warm winter boots and get going! Some regions, such as the Sauerland or the Eifel, offer special winter trails for hikers, at times even leading through deep snow. Other paths are cleared particularly quickly to make them comfortable to walk again while white snow glistens on either side. Around Winterberg, the premium winter hiking trails are classified as “cleared”, “rolled”, or “natural”.
www.wintersport-arena.de | www.nationalpark-eifel.de/winterwandern

Images and videos

Be inspired: images of your NRW

Winter hiking on the Rothaarsteig, © ROTHAARSTEIGverein Klaus Peter Kappest
Winter hiking with a view of the fog in the valley around the Rothaarsteig, © Heidi Dickel
Winter hiking on the Wegweiserstein in the Siebengebirge, © Tourismus Siebengebirge GmbH
Winter hiking with a view from the Rothaarsteig, © Rothaarsteigverein
Winter hiking torchlight tour in the Duisburg-Nord landscape park, © Jochen Schlutius