Rheintal: Wine, Rhine and Romans

  • Distance

    165 Mi.

    (266 KM)
  • Days

    3-4

  • % Unpaved

    50%

  • % Singletrack

    1%

  • Difficulty (1-10)

    5

  • % Rideable (time)

    99%

  • Total Ascent

    17,482'

    (5,329 M)
  • High Point

    2,335'

    (712 M)

Contributed By

Lothar Linse

Lothar Linse

Guest Contributor

Hailing from Cologne, Germany, Lothar’s first bikepacking journey was a four month trip through New Zealand 20 years ago. His first day he rode 30 kilometers and promptly sold the extra books, guitar, 501s and blue chucks recently purchased in San Francisco. The Passion for nature, climbing, mountaineering, photography and cycling has been there ever since! Follow Lothar on instagram @lothar.linse.

The Wine, Rhine and Romans bikepacking route passes through the wine region Ahrtal, the Eifel, the upper middle Rhine valley, and the Siebengebirge. This 3-4 day track traverses a remote and beautiful natural setting, despite the densely populated areas surrounding it. Additionally, the upper middle Rhine valley is a world cultural heritage site and features many historic sights and stops along the way.
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Coming from Cologne, this route was designed to make a nearby three-day weekend escape to an inspiring slice of nature. The region does not have huge mountains but it does feature plenty of forests and many, many hills. So it is a steady up and down that you will definitely see on your GPS and feel in your legs at the end of each day. The route crosses the Rhine River twice on the second and third day. The last of which requires a ferry, so beware of the time table (link see below).

Using unpaved, wide forest roads, bike paths and country roads, the route crosses three main geological and geographic places of note. The Ahrtal is named after the Ahr, a river which feeds the Rhine. This region is well known for its vineyards and wineries, especially white wine. The Eifel is part of a low mountain range that spans the countries of Belgium, Luxemburg and Germany. Its highest point is the Hohe Acht (747 meters in altitude) and large parts belong to National Parks. The Siebengebirge is of volcanic origin and is in the east of the River Rhine near the city Bonn. It has a National Park as well.

  • Rheintal Bikepacking Route, Rhine Valley
  • Rheintal Bikepacking Route, Rhine Valley

The route was designed to take in many cultural highlights. As such, the tour starts from the historic train station of Kottenforst and along the way passes ruins, ancient castles, and monasteries. In addition, parts of the track is on the Jakobs Trail and follows the former line of the Roman Limes. See the Trail Notes for a detailed itinerary.

Difficulty: This route is rated 4 of 10. it is generally not difficult; logistics is fairly straightforward as civilization is always nearby. You just need a bit of physical fitness as there is plenty of climbing.

  • Highlights

    camera

  • Must Know

    alert

  • Camping

    home

  • Food/H2O

    drop

  • Trail Notes

    signpost

  • Crossing the wine region Ahrtal and passing the old government bunker (now a museum)
  • Spectacular view from the Kaiser Wilhelm Tower on Hohe Acht
  • Monastery Maria Laach and lake Laach
  • Crossing the Rhine at the “Deutsches Eck” in Koblenz
  • Ruins of the castle “Wolkenburg” in the Siebengebirge and its 360° panoramic view
  • The best time for to ride this route is between May and October.
  • The route consists mostly of unpaved, wide forest roads. There are only a few singletrack trails and the route can be managed with a gravel bike for the most part. From my point of view a MTB is not necessary. I recommend 35mm or bigger tires with cyclocross profile.
  • On your way back you cross the Rhine with a ferry in Königswinter, beware of the time table.
  • Starting and endpoint is the train station Kottenforst, built 1880, which is still in use. So public transport is easily possible.
  • We began this trial run on a rainy Friday in the end of June. Along the way we met almost zero other people, which was probably because of the weather. On a sunny week end, the region around Hohe Acht and the Siebengebirge is very popular for hikers and bikers. So please behave respectfully.
  • Wild camping is not permitted in Germany, but you find several camping places and many shelters on the way.
  • Camping St Jost
  • Camping Rhein Mosel in Koblenz
  • Camping Bad Hönningen Wellness Rheinpark
  • In Mayen, Koblenz and Rheinbrohl/Bad Hönningen you find accommodation in all categories.
  • You’ll pass plenty villages and petrol stations. Food and water are easy to find.
  • The last day is the most remote. After you leave Rheinbrohl you will not find a supermarket until you reach the town of Königswinter (next to Bonn), but enough family housings to ask for water if you need it.
  • In the Siebengebirge, just below the peak of Löwenburg with a 360° panoramic view you can refuel your tank in the restaurant and beergarden “Löwenburger Hof” and enjoy the ride the way down to the River Rhine.

In the Ahrtal there is a former german government bunker, which was planned for emergency during the cold era. It is a museum now. In the nearby hills lies the picturesque monastery Kalvarienberg, built in 1630.

The route also passes the Kaiser Wilhelm Tower on “Hohe Acht”. With 747 meters of altitude, it’s the highest peak of the trip and offers a spectacular view. After the peak there’s a wonderful descent to the city of Mayen. On sunny week ends the tower can get a bit crowded due to other bikers and hikers.

On day two you’ll pass the famous monastery Maria Laach, built in 1100, lying next to the lake Lake Laach. After a single trail up the hill there’s another viewpoint in the direction of Koblenz, the next destination.

If you are interested in a bit of city nightlife you can easily make it a four day tour and spend an extra night in Koblenz’s historic centre. We spent the first night in Mayen and the second in Rheinbrohl. Doing so will make the second day the longest.

The last day is the one with the most unpaved roads, after you left Rheinbrohl. You ride through forests most of the time. After crossing the Rhine and the city of Bonn you come to your last uphill. After that you’ll enjoy five kilometers through the forest “Kottenforst” again until you arrive back at the train station.

Terms of Use: As with each bikepacking route guide published on BIKEPACKING.com, should you choose to cycle this route, do so at your own risk. Prior to setting out check current local weather, conditions, and land/road closures. While riding, obey all public and private land use restrictions and rules, carry proper safety and navigational equipment, and of course, follow the #leavenotrace guidelines. The information found herein is simply a planning resource to be used as a point of inspiration in conjunction with your own due-diligence. In spite of the fact that this route, associated GPS track (GPX and maps), and all route guidelines were prepared under diligent research by the specified contributor and/or contributors, the accuracy of such and judgement of the author is not guaranteed. BIKEPACKING.com LLC, its partners, associates, and contributors are in no way liable for personal injury, damage to personal property, or any other such situation that might happen to individual riders cycling or following this route.

  • Alexandra Hübner

    I’ve just come back from a 5 day hiking trip on the Eifelsteig. Beautiful region, lots of forest now turning colorful.

  • Nice… fall is the best!

  • Some very great photos of unique areas in here… maybe it’s time I get a plane again! Well done Lothar!

  • Tom sap

    Does anyone know if this route would be impacted by hunting season? Especially the coming weekend october 28/29th, or first weekend of november?
    Would love to ride this route.

  • lothar linse

    there should not be any problems with hunting. i hope you will enjoy the trip.

  • DaveK

    Whilst I would never condone breaking the law (ahem). When I ve biked around Germany there have been an abundance of little huts and shacks that make for great bivi spots if you abide by the arrive at dusk, leave at first light rule…Obviously I have no direct experience though 0:-)

  • Sven Achi

    While “wild camping is not permitted in Germany”, there is now law that prohibits sleeping in those shelters/huts, as long as you don’t pitch a tent. Same goes for sleeping in tarps. In Germany, camping is by definition sleeping in a completely closed portable room, such as a tent or RV, but not just a bivy/tent. So even if you would have made direct experience, you would have been fine :P

  • Tim

    Looks like a lot of fun. One small suggestion: In Koblenz Ehrenbreitstein (after the spot with the nice view of the fortress) do not ride on the B42 as it‘s a busy road. Instead use the bike path right next to the Rhine. It will take you right to Vallendar. There you have to get on the B42 but only for a couple hundred meters.

  • Benjamin Webb

    Hi all bikepackers, so I’m thinking about doing this trip in the beginning of April. Any thoughts? I know how wet it can get in these parts as my girlfriend is from Aachen but dose anyone have any comments on the rideability at this time? Thanks and Lothar thanks for the route. Stay awesome. B

  • Rizki

    It’ll be wet and very muddy. Also they’re harvesting timber this time around so be careful with the track condition. Have fun!

  • Jens de Hondt

    We might run into eachother, as i’m going tomorrow

  • Ayla1974

    We did the tour two weeks ago and it was really adventurous – due to fallen trees blocking the paths or paths changed into deep mud by heavy machines that have been used to remove trees. Nevertheless – apart from having to carry the bikes from time to time, the scenery ist great and the ride is totally worth it! Maybe doing it in the summertime would be a bit easier though.

  • Crankjorem

    I’ve been eager to try my first bikepacking (light) adventure with this track. I won’t bring a tent I’ll be doing B&B’s instead. Can anyone share some places to stay? I want to do the ride alone and in 3 days starting in the northwest part of the track.

  • Maarten De Rooster

    First day
    100 K : Maria Laach

    Second day
    100 K : Bad Hönningen

    Third day
    60 K

    Me and my father will do this in 4 days since it’s our first time bikepacking and we would like to see Koblenz.
    We start this Saturday, you may pass us.

  • Ulf Linke

    This was my first off-road bikepacking trip and a very good one! Thanks to Lothar for sharing the track. I started in Bonn, did it in three days and slept in Hotels in Mending (near Maria Laach) and Bad Hönningen. There’s only one tiny little flaw I would like to remark: at Rennenberg Forst the track goes over private property for roughly 4 miles (beginning at Schmitzhoefe, Mile 136.2 until you reach the next road). Although property owners in Germany do not shoot at threspassers I did feel a little uncomfortable at this part of the trip. Apart from this the route is a fine one with a good mix of forest-roads, off-road/single-track and road.

  • Maarten De Rooster

    We had a great time here despite the 7 broken spokes that stopped our ride the last day. This route is perfect for a first bikepacking adventure.
    We also saw a raccoon and a Santa Claus in the middle of the forests.

    Message from the people at the trainstation:
    Tell the people at the train station you leave your car there the next couple of days, also leave your phone number on your dashboard for when something goes wrong

  • lxzn

    Hello Maarten,

    I would like to do this trip as my first bike-packing trip. I have modified the map’s starting place since I fortunately just live near kottenforst. My first way-point would be the one after Jägerhäuschen.

    I just have a few questions to you or anyone else who have already completed it:

    1. Accommodation: did you guys just use shelters and use a tent? Airbnb? Hotels? After how many km did you guys decide it was time to call it a day? I plan to do roughly 80km a day, give or take, and I am having trouble finding any type of accommodation in that mileage. I would prefer to camp to save some $$.
    2. How is the cell reception for emergencies in certain areas?
    3. I plan to do this with a gravel bike but I also have a fully MTB Specialized FSR XC that I could use. Tbh I would much prefer to use my gravel bike but I am open to suggestions.
    4. Did you do this alone? I would like to take a friend or two but it is looking like it that I will be doing it alone :(

    Any other recommendations would be helpful/useful.

    Many thanks in advance!

    -lxzn

  • Maarten De Rooster

    Hey lxzn,

    We used bnb’s because my father isn’t a fan of camping but there are a lot of spots where you can hide yourself in my opinion.

    From where you cross the Ahr to Hohe acht: There is quite a bit of climbing. We weren’t used to that so we where totally shot when we entered Mayen. But after a plate of snitchel we were ready to continue our route to Maria Laach.
    Since you would have tent, you could setup where you want. But if you don’t want to wild camp, there is a camping on the north side of Maria Laach.

    We wanted to stay in Koblenz the second night so we could see Germany – Mexico in the fortress but we did cycle only 2,5 hours that day so you could continue to Bad Hönningen or Rengsdorf if you want. (There is a camping in Bad Hönningen but it doesn’t look that “cozy”).

    I didn’t notice any disconnections from cell receptions. (I used my phone as gps)

    The route is definitely doable with your gravelbike. But be prepared for a couple of fallen trees over the trails and a little hike-a-bike here and there if you don’t have that low gearing.

    You could do the ride on yourself but it is always more fun to share your adventures with someone else isn’t it ;)

  • lxzn

    Hey Maarten,

    Many thanks for the swift response.

    I guess AirBnB would be much better after a long ride. This would definitely reduce the stuff I need to pack.

    I just hope that there are AirBnB options in small villages :)

    I plan to do this trip towards the end of summer when all the football has ended to avoid distractions and this should give me enough time to train my endurance.

    I will definitely update my post here as soon as I have completed the ride.

    -lxzn

  • Crankjorem

    Thank you Maarten. Why four days? Too much kms per day? Because of height/elevation? Seems fair. But I’m in good shape :D

  • Maarten De Rooster

    Yes, we’re from flanders so we aren’t used to the elevation ;) doing it in 3 days is definitely possible!

  • olivier

    I plan to do this in the upcoming weeks. Joining?

  • Pep

    Nice route, thanks for sharing. It is a beautiful area, lots to see, and there is some good information in the comments here as well.

    As Maarten said, the people at the train station won’t mind you parking your car for the weekend as long as you give them a heads up and swap phone numbers in case something happens. Cell reception with 4g on most of the route is excellent, but there are a few spots where I had trouble sending text messages.

    If you are going camping and feeling fit enough to get to the Laacher See on day 1, there is a camping called “Siesta” near Mendig which is just 10 minutes from the Maria Laach Abbey. Camping in the wild is not allowed in Germany but definitely doable on parts of the route that are not close to the city, it is a quiet area and met very few people (considering it’s a weekend in the middle of August).

    Current route conditions as per August 2018:
    On day 1 there were several places where I had to fully rely on GPS to find the right trail because the paths are a bit overgrown and easily missed. This is one which too me 5 minutes to find: https://imgur.com/a/oO4sqxl. Here is another one that got me confused, the trail seems to go straight ahead but you actually need to stick to the left and hop over some trees and high grass: https://imgur.com/a/wMUqlev. All in all doable but I was very happy having my Komoot maps for detailed view.
    The weather has also caused some issues when you pass the Laacher See starting around mile 63. Several trees fallen over, for me with full camping gear it was a tough section, so I’d recommend to take a slight detour there if you’re unsure: https://imgur.com/a/lKV6sIJ. The trail is actually closed there with a sign when coming from the other direction.