Herborn - Werkhausen (225km)
The WesterwaldSteig stretches 235 kilometers from the Hessian town of Herborn to Bad Hönningen on the Rhine.
O beautiful Westerwald
WesterwaldSteig trail markings
“O beautiful Westerwald
Over your heights, the wind blows so cold
But the smallest ray of sunshine
Penetrates deep into the heart”
Certainly, everyone is familiar with the Westerwaldlied, a German folk and marching song that originated in the 19th century and is about the Westerwald.
Herborn, located in the Dill Valley, marks the easternmost point and the beginning of the Westerwald Trail on the North-South Trail. The old town is one of the best-preserved medieval urban layouts in Germany. After the Herborn district of Uckersdorf, the route continues over a ridge with picturesque views of the Medenbach Valley to the north and the Ambach and Erdbach valleys to the south.
In Breitscheid, it is possible to delve into the geological foundations of Earth’s history and early human settlement. In Erdbach, remains of tertiary large animals that existed 25 million years ago have been found, as well as fossils from the Erdbach primordial sea, which were present 350 million years ago. NST hikers with sufficient time and interest should seriously consider visiting the Herbstlabyrinth show cave. After Breitscheid, the characteristic cultural landscape of the Westerwald unfolds with gently rolling wet meadows, plateaus, and small spruce forests. From the top of Bartenstein, you can enjoy an impressive panoramic view and be impressed by the mystical rocks. The trail continues from Heisterberger Weiher through the Bermershube nature reserve to Fuchskaute, the highest elevation in the Westerwald at 657 m.
Over the Fuchskaute to Westerburg
The Fuchskaute, with a height of 657 meters, is a popular destination in the Westerwald throughout the year. During the descent, you can admire the wind turbines for a while. After a section through a spruce forest, the NST passes by Homberg and continues its way to Rehe. The route runs along the Krombachtalsperre nature reserve. Just before reaching the town of Rennerod, there is an opportunity to refill water at a fountain. Rennerod is located in the south-sloping valley of the Holzbach. The path leads through the city center to the attractions Hexenbaum, Botterweck, and Kaisereiche. One of the highlights on the route is the Holzbachschlucht (Holzbach Gorge). The entrance to the gorge is at Dappricher Hof near Seck. The Holzbach, a tributary of the Elbbach, has carved deeply into the basalt here before flowing past Gemünden into Hesse. Designated a nature reserve as early as 1929, it presents an impressive natural spectacle. The gorge stretches for about a kilometer and is up to 30 meters deep in some places. The journey continues over narrow paths through the forest to the Katzenstein, a rock formation made of basalt slabs. The hiker is treated to a magnificent view that stretches from Westerburg to the Taunus.
From the eastern outskirts of Westerburg, the Westerwald-Steig leads on a meadow path, not far from the Schafbacher, across a pasture through the village of Hergenroth. After a hike through a diverse forest, you reach an overlook above Kölbingen with a view of the Montabaurer Höhen. Continuing over the heights of Rothenbacher Lay, the trail leads to the Westerwälder Seenplatte, a particularly charming and unique cultural landscape in the Westerwald. In total, seven reservoirs give their name to the Westerwälder Seenplatte.
Ascent 1266 Meter
Descent 1074 Meter
A festival for geologists...
he NST follows along the Dreifelder Weiher from Freilingen to Dreifelden, where the oldest stone church in the Westerwald stands. Continuing along the Wied, we reach the source of the Wied near Linden. In the further course, the route leads through a splendid beech forest over the Großer Weißenstein to the Gräbersberg. There, in addition to a place to rest at the traditional Alpenroder Hütte, there is an opportunity to enjoy a wide panoramic view from the observation tower.
Tip: For those who might “get stuck” at the Alpenroder Hütte, there is a great place for bivouacking on a small meadow a few hundred meters away. There is also a bench with a beautiful view.
The journey continues with beautiful views of the legendary Welterstein and the Monsberg. A treasure trove of a special kind can be found between Nistertal, Enspel, and Stockum-Püschen: the Tertiary and Industrial Adventure Park Stöffel. Certainly not only of high interest to geologists. In the sediments of a maar lake, a period of 25 million years of Earth’s history can be traced. A unique industrial ensemble documents the 100-year history of basalt mining and presents the processing of the rock.
The journey continues towards Nistertal through a beech forest along a former railway line. Old railway ties, covered with beech leaves, and an impressive viaduct in the forest bear witness to bygone times when steam-powered trains traversed the Westerwald. Where once smoke rose, today, at most, mist might rise from the Nister stream. The railway bridge leading over the Nister in Erbach was, upon its completion in 1911, the largest concrete bridge in Germany. After the closure of the railway line in 1971 for passenger traffic, the Erbacher Bridge remained as a technical monument.
From a beech forest through Hardt and over Langenbach, the North-South Trail finally leads us to the spa town of Bad Marienberg. Just behind the town, there is a disused basalt quarry that provides a lot of information about basalt mining—another treat for geology enthusiasts. From the Hedwig Tower, it is possible to look westward to the Siebengebirge, southward to the Eifel, and eastward to the Feldberg in good visibility. After passing through the wildlife park in Bad Marienberg, we reach the Kleiner and Großer Wolfstein via gravel roads. Forest paths through the Wäschbachtal lead to Korb, and at the confluence of Hirzbach, there is an opportunity to take a break.
Through the Hachenburger Stadtwald (Hachenburg City Forest), the ‘Philosophenweg’ (Philosopher’s Path) leads to Hachenburg. A visit to the beautiful marketplace in Hachenburg is highly recommended, with historic half-timbered houses, the Löwenbrunnen (Lion Fountain), and established restaurants to be found there. We leave Hachenburg through the old town and the castle garden, walking along the Nister until we reach the Marienstatt Monastery. Founded in the 12th century, the Marienstatt Monastery now has a brewery with a beer garden and a hiking parking lot, attracting many visitors, especially on weekends. After Limbach, we proceed along the Kleine Nister towards Heunigs Höhlenweg (Heunig’s Cave Trail) to the vantage point Hohe Ley. Following this, another highlight awaits geology enthusiasts: the opportunity to visit a medieval badger shale mine.
Continue in the direction of Siegerland
Continuing along the Nister through Astert and Heuzert to Heimborn, we encounter one of the most beautiful spots in the Westerwald. The confluence of the Große and Kleine Nister represents a natural phenomenon and is also referred to as the German Corner of the Kroppacher Schweiz. From the Heimborn hiking parking lot, the trail leads to Ehrlich along the Nister beach. Now, a small highlight awaits us, the “Weltende” (World’s End) nature trail. This path meanders along the narrowest trails next to the Nister until we can enjoy a panoramic view from the Spitze Ley vantage point over the breathtakingly beautiful landscape. Crossing untouched coppice woodland areas, we traverse the Kroppacher Schweiz. At the end of this route, we reach the Marienthal Monastery via Racksen and the Staatsforst Altenkirchen. Today, Marienthal serves as the seat of the Education Center of the Archdiocese of Cologne in the Rhineland-Palatinate region.
On the way from Marienthal to Weyerbusch, the Westerwald-Steig takes us over the 389-meter-high Beulskopf with the Raiffeisenturm, offering an impressive panoramic view to the Siebengebirge, Bergisches Land, and Rothaargebirge. North of the town of Weyerbusch, we leave the Westerwald-Steig heading north to reach the Natursteig Sieg.
Conclusion: The Westerwald-Steig is rightly counted among the Top Trails of Germany. It captivates with a diverse landscape characterized by forests, hills, rivers, and picturesque villages. The trail is excellently signposted, and information boards along the path provide insights into the nature and history of the region. Whether opting for short sections or the entire trail, this long-distance hiking trail offers a rich variety of landscapes, geological discoveries, and cultural attractions.