hiking rothaarsteig sauerland

Winter hiking in Sauerland

While I’m busy writing our anual end-of-the-year lists (which I won’t publish until next week) I realize there is actually quite a lot of trips that I have not yet written about this year. I did a couple of city trips to Naples, London and Lisbon, we went hiking on La Palma and made our first real biking vacation in our own country. Most of our blogs are about our faraway trips and/or trips that we make specifically for we12travel. In the perfect world, I would spend all my time blogging, but in reality I’m stuck in an office eight hours a day and blogging has to be done in the evening hours and weekends. This means I have to make choices what I’ll write about. Today I finally thought it was the right time for writing a little bit about out one of the trips we made in early spring, when we went hiking in Sauerland, Germany. Earlier I posted blogs about the 5 Magic Moments that we had here and a href=”https://www.we12travel.com/travel-without-social-media-part-3/” target=”_blank”>travel without social media. To write a whole blog about hiking in Sauerland with pictures covered in snow while the spring had already made an appearance in a large part of de northern hemisphere, did not sound like a great plan back then, but now that Christmas is on the way, it’s about time to tell you a bit more about the hiking paradise that is called Sauerland.
Sauerland is a very popular area to travel to for the Dutch. It’s just a three hour drive away from where we live and we try to go skiing there at least once a year, if there is enough snow. While on the slopes, the main language is Dutch (not to be confused with Deutsch, which is German) and while hiking, we keep on running into Dutch people. Even though it’s just a three hour drive from Arnhem, it’s a completely different world. Towns as Winterberg and Willingen are pretty touristic, but once you leave the beaten track, you will hardly run into other people.
A couple of years ago we started hiking the Rothaarsteig, a 154 kilometer long hiking trail that leads you right through the Rothaar mountains, usually on the ridge of about 600-800 meters. The first time we hiked this trail, we walked from Brilon to Winterberg and last April, we hiked from Winterberg to Hilchenbach. Our first idea was to go camping but unfortunately, the number of campsites along the Rothaarsteig is very limited. As we did not want to wild-camp all the time (which is also prohibited) we decided to plan our day-to-day hikes with overnights in hotels, carrying our luggage. As we stepped off the bus just outside of Winterberg, this turned out to be a good choice since earlier that week, a pretty neat pack of fresh snow had fallen. That was something we hadn’t really considered, given the fact it was already April.
After a short trek along the entrance walk, we arrived back at the Rothaarsteig, right where we ended a couple of years earlier. In the morning the weather was gloomy and grey, but after about half an hour only, the sun slowly started to peek through the clouds and less than one and a half hours later, we were in the sun and in the snow. Simply amazing! We had climbed up to 700 meters and were walking across the ridge of the mountain range. Sometimes we’d walk through the woods, sometimes we’d be crossing open fields, with the most amazing panoramas opening up in front of us. We took off our scarves and mittens and took our sunglasses from our bags. Only every now and then we would walk into other people and when we met a small group of high paced Germans, they told us that the snow took them by surprise as well, for this time of the year. On the ridge, we’d encounter snow as deep as way past our ankles, the snow that was only touched by a couple of footprints from fellow hikers who’d been there before us.
hiking the rothaarsteig

rothaarsteig in winter
We hiked from one small village to the next but since it was Easter weekend, there was not a whole lot to do. Luckily we had brought our thermos with hot water so we enjoyed a little picknick with hot tea and sandwiches in the open air, rather than having lunch in a restaurant. Surrounding us was nothing but peace, silence and the sounds of nature. Our hiking boots cracking in the fresh snow, some birds, but most of the time, it was entirely silent. At some parts of the track, we would not run into anyone for hours. That’s pretty unique for Europe, right?
hiking the rothaarsteig



Practical information about hiking in Sauerland

As I mentioned earlier, the Rothaarsteig is 154 kilometers long and it’s not too strenuous, although sometimes the climbs can be a challenge, especially if you are carrying a heavy pack. We use this area every now and then when preparing for multi-day treks we are making in other parts of the world. The area around Winterberg/Willingen was pretty busy at times and has better services for hikers than the part we hiked this time, which is more southbound. However, the good thing about this is that it happens you won’t see anyone for hours, which is a rarity in Europe these days. You are walking from A tot B but public transportation is pretty good so usually you will be able to find a way back to where you started at the end of your hike. Our schedule of our past hike was as follows:
Day 1: Drive from home to Hilchenbach
Drive to Hildenbach, overnight at the local, youth hostel.
Day 2: Bus from Lützel (no train available that day) to Hoheleye
From here hiking to Schmallenberg/Latrop (approx. 20km) and overnight in a cute little hotel called Der Kleine Dachs run by Dutch couple. There are no shops in the village or around but there is a bunch of nice restaurants.
Day 3. Hiking from Latrop to Zinse (approx. 22 km).
Overnight in the rustic yet beautifully located Landhaus Zum Rothaarsteig.
Note that this accommodaiton is in the middle of nowhere (love it!) and they have no restaurant, however they will serve you Brotzeit (bread meal) for dinner upon request.
Day 4. Hiking from Zinse to Hilchenbach – Lützel (approx. 13 km) and drive home
wandelen in het sauerland

wandelen in het sauerland

hiking in sauerland

hiking in sauerland

hiking in sauerland
The good thing about hiking in Sauerland is not just the peace and silence, but also the massive network of hiking trails. We hiked the Rothaarsteig, however we’d run into signs all the time indicating trails to many other directions, too. I couldn’t help but wonder where I’d end up if I’d decide to not follow the track but just wander off, to see where I’d end up. This time that wasn’t possible since we’d pre-booked our accommodations, however next week we’ll get another try at that as we are going to Sauerland for a couple of days during the holidays. We are staying in a tiny hotel near Winterberg (hello, fellow Dutchies!) as we are always trying to get away for Christmas (why? check this blog!). We only have four days off so Sauerland seemed a prefect option for us to head out to for a couple of days. It will be busy in the towns but I’m sure that, once we hit the trails, it will be nice and quiet. We are ready for it, as well as a big pack of snow, please!
Want to read more about our hiking trips in Germany? You will like these blogs as well:
Fall colors and hiking in the Moselle region
Hiking in the Harz: climbing Brocken
Hiking with the wine in Germany
Thank you for sharing!


  • sarah

    Hiking is one of my favorite activities. I lived for 30 years in Vancouver, BC where there is such an abundance of gorgeous nature trails of all levels that you can;t help but make it part of your life. I have always wanted to do more hiking in Europe though and this one looks beautiful.

    • anto

      Ahhh I love Vancouver, one of my fave cities in the world! I’m sure it’s great for hiking with the mountains just in your backyard!

  • Marta

    What a beautiful place, thank you for sharing! I love hiking but since we had children, hikes such as this one are off limits for us (the kids are still small) – won’t be forever though and in the meanwhile, I can compile a wish list of interesting trails 😉

  • Lauren

    Wow what an adventure? Is hiking something you have always loved. As a traveller myself it is something I am trying to learn to like because for some strange reason I don’t love it. I love the views and the feeling of completion but the actual walking itself I don’t love. Any tips to help with this?

    Thanks for sharing!

    • anto

      I’ve not really loved hiking until I did the Inca Trail in Peru. There I found that hiking brings you to the most special places that cannot be reached any other way, which make hiking such a great pleasure. Also, I enjoy listening to music if I get bored. And I like to think about anything that comes to mind, to phantasize about trips coming up and to sort out my mind. If you go to a beautiful place, just imagine you couldn’t have gotten there by car … that usually does the trick for me! Good luck with it!

  • Brenda Tolentino

    I’ve only hiked during the fall, spring and summer months. Winter hiking looks like so much fun. I haven’t heard of Sauerland, thank you for introducing me to such a beautiful area in Germany.

  • Claudia

    This seems like a great way to spend a few days out in the nature. I am not a big fan of city breaks and that is why I either travel for weeks or months, or not at all. But the idea of actually taking a flight for a hike sounds great!

  • Geert

    Thx for the inspiring trip info. I always talk about hiking the mountains in Austria or Italy, but it didn’t occur to me that you can go hiking just across the border in Germany, something to keep in mind!

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