Have you ever heard about the premium hikes in Germany? The German Hiking Institute (Wanderinstitut) is an association dedicated to providing science-based and high-quality standards for hiking trails in Germany created by actual hiking experts.
When we first arrived in Germany, we noticed how the cities and villages were so walking and hiking-friendly. Even from the Autobahn, you can appreciate walking trails in the fields, forests, and urban areas. It’s no wonder hiking in Germany is a national pastime and in the last three years, we adopted hiking as one of our favorite pastimes too.
Undoubtedly, hiking brings multiple benefits to the body, mind, and emotions, but hiking in Germany with kids also brings opportunities to bond and have fun-filled family quality time. However, if you’re only visiting, you may wonder exactly how you can find the best hikes in Germany.
Let me show you how to find the best premium hikes in Germany to help you plan your next trip!
Premium Hikes in Germany
The German Hiking Institute has a few classifications for premium hikes, including premium hiking trails, premium walking trails, and premium city hiking trails. For any of these to receive the seal of a premium hiking trail, it must meet about 34 different criteria, including road safety, path difficulty, and user-friendly walking guidance systems (trail markers) to mention a few.
If you’re ready to go on some premium hikes in Germany, you can visit the overview map to search by the region you plan to visit.
Premium Hiking Trails
The premium hiking trails in Germany are usually either circular (loop) or linear trails extremely well marked. Recently, our family decided to do the Schächerbach Tour in Homberg with a distance of 9 km (5.5 miles). This premium hiking trail took us by farmland with village views in the distance, forest landscape, and river crossings via wood bridges and boulders. There were also ponds and beautiful views of meadow valleys.
Our daughter kept hiking ahead of us exploring and telling us to keep up. The trail markers were also visible and well-positioned. Some markers include arrows and how many meters you need to hike before taking an upcoming turn. Super convenient, especially when once upon a time we got a bit lost on a trail in the Black Forest because we couldn’t find one of the trail markers.
Premium Walking Trails
The premium walking trails are shorter loop trails with a length of approximately 3 to 7 km (1 to 4 miles). These also have high-quality standards that must meet the criteria. The difference is that they are easy to reach from towns and tend to include hard pavement. It makes it ideal for families with strollers or little ones with scooters or bikes.
These walking trails are also less steep so it makes it easier for those hiking with toddlers. Plus, there are over 90 premium walking trails in Germany in places such as Baden-Wurttemberg, Hessen, Niedersachsen, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Rheinland-Pfalz, and Saarland. You’re certainly bound to find a premium walking trail if you’re visiting any of these regions.
Premium City Hiking Trails
If you’re visiting a German city for a short period of time, then the premium city hiking trails are your best bet to see most of the city. These city hiking trails are in, you guess it, the cities, and include routes that are contiguous with a perfect balance of tourist and urban areas. There’s also a little bit of nature thrown in there too.
Visitors can use the premium city hiking trails to help them plan their stay as these go by monuments, historical buildings, parks, and such. The premium city hiking trails are in Hessen, Nordrhein-Westfalen, and Rheinland-Pfalz.
Types of Premium Hikes in Germany
There are four different types of premium hikes in Germany named Streckenwanderwege, Rundwanderwege, Alpine Premiumwege, and Winterwanderwege.
Streckenwanderwege roughly translates to “route hiking trails” but it is really a linear hiking trail, so it starts and ends at different points on the trail. Make sure you look for the word Streckenwanderwege for the Premiumweg because you might need to plan your transportation accordingly.
The Rundwanderwege translates to “circular trail”, but I like to say it is a round trail since it translates better. The Rundweg is our preferred hiking trail type because it starts and ends in the same location, so planning logistics is better.
The Alpine Premiumwege is either a Streckenweg or Rundweg, the difference is the location since it is an alpine trail. As such, it is up in the mountains, but usually, the premium alpine trail, has few climbing sections, and it is easy to walk on. Still, it’s important that hikers are knowledgeable of alpine dangers to be on the safe side and check with the local office just in case.
Lastly, there is the Winterwanderwege which is a winter hiking trail that is only marked for the winter season.
How to Find Premium Hikes in Germany
The best way to find these premium hikes in Germany is by visiting the German Hiking Institute website (Wanderinstitut). The site has a search & map you can use to search for the type of premium hike you wish to do and the region/location.
Once you select one of the trails, the site will tell you a bit about the hiking trail, including the distance, city/country/region, type of road surface, and the premium hike certification due date.
There’s some additional information on the site, including pictures of the trail marker, some have short videos of the trail, and picture galleries so you know what to expect.
Premium Hiking Trails in Europe
Traveling to Europe but not Germany? No worries! There are over 640 premium hiking trails in Europe, including Belgium, France, Luxemburg, Netherlands, Austria, and Switzerland. However, you’ll notice that these premium hikes are mostly located on the border with Germany. The number of premium hiking trails is not as high in those countries as it is in Germany, but they are there and if you happen to be nearby, why not go hiking?
German Words to Make Your Search Easier
You will notice that most of the hiking trail boards and signs with information will be in German only. You can use a translation app (I use Google Translate), but at times, the signal will be spotty. Here are some German words you can use for reference:
- Wandern = Hike
- Strecke = Route
- Land/Bundesland = Country/State
- Region = Region
- Ort = Location
- Wegbelag = Path covering (type of terrain)
- Premiumwandernweg = premium hiking trail
- Wanderweg = hiking trail
- Spazierweg = walking trail
- Fahrradweg = biking trail
What to Bring during a Hike in Germany
If you have been hiking before, then you’re familiar with the type of items you need to bring during a hiking trip. In Germany, it is also a good idea to bring the following:
Cash: specifically, euro coins. It is common to find goodies while hiking in Germany with kids. Along the trails, you may find an apple orchard with drinks available to try or simply cases of non-alcoholic drinks. No one is really with these goodies, there’s simply a sort of piggy bank listing the price to pay in exchange to try/buy these goods.
Insect Repellent: There are certain products you can use in the US that you won’t be able to use in Germany. You can go to a DM or Rosemman store to get Autan Protection Plus for Multi Insects. It works for mosquitos, ticks, biting flies, wasps, and such.
Itchy ointment: If you’re hiking in shorts, you might come in contact with some plants in Germany that will cause itchiness. It’s best to wear long pants during your hikes for extra protection, but in any case, if you come in contact with these plants, an itchy ointment may help a little.