Mountain Biking In Germany: 7 Great Spots To Hit The Trails
Germany, it must be said, is pretty fantastic when it comes to infrastructure for mountain bikers. In fact, it's one of my favourite things I love about Germany. In one of my previous articles, I gave a travelogue of my trip cycling the Mosel which I did on my trusty trekking bike, on a more or less flat route. This post looks at some ideal spots for mountain biking in Germany, which will for sure get the adrenaline running. Granted, some of the scenery is not as spectacular as neighbouring Austria and Switzerland, but Germany also has Alpine landscapes too in the extreme south of the country. It's a lot cheaper here too and the signage and facilities are well developed for MTB riders. So with no further ado, let's look at where to go for the action:
Black Forest (Schwarzwald)
The Grand Daddy of mountain biking in Germany, the Black Forest covers a huge 6,000 square kilometres and runs from the suburbs of Karlsruhe and Pforzheim in the north-west, right the way down to the Swiss border in the south. Within easy reach of the cities of Karlsruhe, Freiburg and Stuttgart, as well as Strasbourg and Basel over the border, there are trails all across the region to suit all tastes, as well as an extreme multi-day tour which traverses the range from north to south. The highest peak in the Black Forest is the Feldberg at 1,493 metres, with several others also above 1,000m. From my own personal experience biking for a couple of days around Hornberg, I can confirm that the signage and infrastructure on MTB routes in the region is fantastic. The Schwarzwald Tourismus website content which is useful to us mountain bikers is exclusively in German, however there is a great overview of towns with access to MTB trails. There are 5 pages of mountain bike tours with everything from a short 1-hour tour right the way up to a highly demanding day long tour with over 1,200 metres of climbing. For details on where to rent a bike and suitable accommodation, I would recommend downloading their App for both iOS and Android.
The Berchtesgaden area is a picture-postcard, stunningly beautiful Alpine corner of Germany in the extreme south-east of the country, surrounded by the Austrian border. Only really doable as a day trip from Munich, from the rest of the country it is a bit of a trek I'm afraid. What it lacks in accessibility, however, it more than makes up for in natural beauty and remoteness. This corner of the Bavarian Alps is very popular with hikers and the highest peak, the Watzmann, is over 2,700 metres. A mountain bike tour prospectus is available in German only, which details 25 suggested routes, ranging from to km. These tours can also be easily viewed online and downloaded to GPS from the website. Don't let the language put you off. The maps and general gist is easy enough to follow. Aside from this, the excellent website also has some more general information in English, as well as detailed suggestions for cyclist friendly accommodation (and why wouldn't you spend a long weekend in such a beautiful spot?!) and MTB rental.
The Thuringian Forest, as it goes by its English name, is a range of rolling, forested hills with the highest peak, the Großer Beerberg, at 983 metres. Once one of the most frequented holiday spots in the former East Germany, its geographical position in the heart of the country provides easily accessible mountain biking for daytrippers from Erfurt and the Leipzig / Halle area. Most of the trails are sandwiched in an area around the towns of Suhl and Ilmenau, although there are other spots too. The Thüringer Wald tourism site gives an overview of trails ranging from easy to a purpose-built course to practice technique. Suggested routes range from 19 to 60km.
Straddling the border of Hesse and Bavaria, and not far from the Thuringian Forest, the Rhön is similar in topography but somewhat less forested than its larger neighbour. Easily accessible as a day trip from Frankfurt, the highest peak at 950 metres is the paragliding (and occasional skiing) hotspot of Wasserkuppe. MTB trails traverse both the Hessian and Bavarian (Franconian) areas of the Rhön and the infrastructure is linked. The Rhön tourism website offers 13 suggested tours ranging from easy to difficult (62km in length). There is also a purpose-built flow trail near the town of Bischofsheim which offers a 2km course with 180m of descent. The Rhön is somewhat off the beaten track, although popular with daytrippers from the Rhein-Main metropolitan area, and is thus significantly less crowded than many of the other spots mentioned here.
As the only true mountain range in northern Germany (with the Brocken standing at the highest peak of 1,141 metres), the Harz occupy a monopoly on tourism for those folks up north who want easily accessible biking opportunities. Closest to the cities of Hanover, Wolfsburg, Brunswick (Braunschweig) and Magdeburg, the Harz are easily accessible by public transport from nearby urban centres. With 74 routes over 2,200 kilometres, the Volksbank Arena Harz may be a popular spot but there are plenty of opportunities to escape the crowds. The region also offers a fantastic 5 bike parks, as well as fantastic infrastructure for bike rentals and designated MTB-friendly accommodation. Tours can also be accessed from the useful Harz App to avoid carrying a map or getting lost.
Palatinate Forest (Pfälzerwald)
The Palatinate Forest is a relatively undiscovered corner of south-western Germany, just to the south of Kaiserslautern and west of the Rhein-Neckar metropolitan region which takes in Mannheim and Heidelberg, offering great mountain biking opportunities with a well-developed infrastructure. It is also easily accessible by car as a day-trip from Frankfurt, although the Taunus and Rhön are closer. The highest peaks in the region may only be around 650 metres but the variety of trails (over 950km in total) and dense forest, with some great single-track stretches, mean that the area certainly punches above its weight. The interactive tour planner for the whole State of Rheinland-Pfalz will save you having to carry a map with you!
Close to the borders of Belgium and Luxembourg, the Eifel is the Rhineland's weekend playground, with the highest peak at just under 750 metres. It's a popular weekend spot with visitors from Cologne, Bonn and the surrounding area. A range of former volcanic, gentle sloping hills, the Eifel is idyllically set amongst forests and some lakes. There is a well developed network of trails split into the Eifel and Vulkaneifel sub-regions, each offering some tour suggestions online, as well as a bike park for practising your technique. Cyclist-friendly accommodation is also listed.
I could easily have chosen several more, so here are a few others which are also great spots for mountain biking in Germany. They didn't make the detailed list but it doesn't mean they are any less worthy! I just found the websites more interactive and easier to use for those which have been included in the article, especially when it came to finding MTB tours, route planning and infrastructure information.
Plus pretty much anywhere in the Alps directly south and south-east of Munich
Enjoy the trails and happy mountain biking in Germany!