With panoramic views of the region’s mountains and forests providing a dramatic backdrop to its well-maintained network of trails, plus a wealth of cultural and historical sights to visit along the way, Nordhessen is a popular destination for amateur and experienced hikers alike. As the region that inspired the folklore collected by the Brothers Grimm, the hiking here affords fairytale-lovers the opportunity to spot sights such as Rapunzel’s tower or Sleeping Beauty’s castle. From routes crossing the Rothaar Mountains to multiple paths through the UNESCO World Heritage Kellerwald-Edersee National Park, here are seven of the best hiking trails in Nordhessen.
The premium 154-kilometre Rothaar Trail leads hikers through the Rothaar Mountains. Starting in Hessen in the town of Dillenburg, the trail winds its way north to Germany’s most heavily forested city, Brilon, in the neighbouring state of North Rhine-Westphalia. The trail begins in the courtyard of the former Dillenburg Castle, from where it offers two options: a trail along the main ridge of the forested mountains or an alternative route along the 57km-long Westerwald path. The two trails meet again near the viewpoint at Kalteiche, at which point you can turn back to Dillenburg, creating a 77km circular route, or keep on going to Brilon. If you’re continuing north, keep your eyes peeled for European bison along the way!
The Werra Valley Castle Trail begins in the town of Hann. Münden in Hessen’s neighbouring state of Lower Saxony and continues for 133km until it reaches Hessen’s 14th century Tannenburg Castle. The mountainous landscape between these two points features light-flooded beech forests, lush meadows and lots of half-timbered villages where you can stop for refreshments or an overnight stay. The trail provides not just scenic views but numerous historic highlights including a total of ten castles, palaces and fortresses.
The beech forests in Nordhessen’s Kellerwald-Edersee National Park, which due to their increasing rarity are now of great national and international significance, were included in UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites in 2007. The region has remained untouched by settlements and roads for centuries, and is home to some unique flora and fauna. The northern boundary of Hessen’s only National Park is the Edersee, one of Germany’s largest reservoirs. You can experience all of this hiking the 68km Urwald Edersee Trail, whose often narrow paths lead you from one impressive viewpoint to the next. Whether you stop for a picnic in a secluded spot or find yourself high above the Edersee at Waldeck Castle, you’re permanently surrounded by the region’s extraordinary natural landscapes.
The Burgwald Trail begins not in Nordhessen but the Lahn Valley, in the charming university town of Marburg. Sandwiched between the Lahn and Eder rivers, the Burgwald Trail spans the length of the Burgwald, Hessen’s largest contiguous forested area. For your efforts on this 51km-long trail you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of the Rothaar mountains and the landscapes that inspired artist Otto Ubbelohde, the illustrator of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Cultural highlights along the way include the ruins of Mellnau Castle and Christenberg Hill, a popular destination on the site of a former Celtic fortress that today consists of a 12th century church, a small museum and a restaurant for daytrippers. The route ends in the historic Nordhessen town of Frankenberg (Eder).
The 84km Grimm Trail is a circular route that begins and ends in the district of Söhrewald-Wellerode, not far from the city of Kassel. Passing through the enchanting Kaufungen Forest, which inspired many of the legends and fairytales collected by the Grimm Brothers, the peaks on this trail are high (reaching 750m) yet gentle, making the Grimm Trail a great option for less experienced hikers. With such striking landscapes, from the woods and lakes to open fields and meadows, a hike along the Grimm Trail is very much a fairytale adventure.
The 63km-long Eder Heights Trail from Hatzfeld (Eder) to Vöhl-Schmittlotheim takes hikers through a variety of peaceful landscapes from meadows and mountains to the ancient beech forests of the UNESCO World Heritage Kellerwald-Edersee National Park, largely alongside the meandering River Eder. The route also takes in numerous charming half-timbered villages and historic sights before ending in the National Park, where it meets the Urwald Edersee Trail.
This 85km trail through the idyllic Habichtswald Nature Reserve begins in the small town of Zierenberg and ends at the Edersee reservoir. From secluded forests and juniper heaths to peculiar rock formations and picturesque half-timbered towns, hikers will enjoy scenic views of varied landscapes along a route that includes summits of some 580m. There are numerous cultural and historical highlights along the way, including Kassel’s UNESCO World Heritage Wilhelmshöhe Mountain Park.