Wartburg Castle
Wartburg Castle ©Thüringer Tourismus GmbH

The Rennsteig Trail - the ridgeway through the Thuringian Forest

The almost 700-year-old Rennsteig is Germany's oldest hiking trail. Every year, the ridgeway through the Thuringian Forest wows 100,000 or so hikers from all over the world.

Tradition is a big deal on the Rennsteig Trail. This route even has a song dedicated to it, called the "Rennsteiglied" in German. Even the white "R" used to signpost the trail has its own name: Mareile, after the beautiful daughter of a ranger in the Thuringian Forest.

The Rennsteig even has its own special greeting. When two hikers meet, they don't say "Hello" or "Good morning", they wish each other "Gut Runst!" in German.. You won't find the mysterious word "Runst" in the dictionary. In fact, the only place you'll find it is on this traditional hiking trail.

The Rennsteig trail runs along a ridgeway through the uplands of the Thuringian Forest. The route is 169 kilometres in length; it starts in Hörschel and ends in Blankenstein and is split into six stages. Believe it or not, there are 1,300 boundary stones along the Rennsteig Trail. The Thuringian Forest has always been a borderland, even during the Cold War era. We also discover a border on our "Runst": today it forms the boundary between Thuringia and Bavaria, but it used to mark the end of East Germany and the start of West Germany.

We feel totally secluded in the infinite forests at some points along the Rennsteig Trail, yet we also run into several large hiking groups. Hikers wanting to experience some culture should take a detour to Wartburg Castle, the most famous castle in Germany and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Simply follow the large "R" around the Rennsteig trail and wish others a "Gut Runst"!

TIP: the Thüringer Hütte inn

Manuel Andrack, editor, presenter, author and hiking blogger:
"I recommend taking a break in the Thüringer Hütte inn near Oberhof. It lies on the Rennsteig trail and is known for its original Thuringian sausage, which goes perfectly with a refreshing locally brewed beer. This is the life!"

At a glance: Rennsteig

Starts: Hörschel

Ends: Blankenstein

Length: 169 km

Number of stages: 6

Altitude variation: lowest point 269 m, highest point 970 m

Terrain: 51% unmade, 7% asphalt, 42% other, e.g. farm tracks

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