Balancing on the mountain ridge

The Rennsteig Cycle Path

The Rennsteig is not just a hiking trail but also a delightful cycle path. It balances on the ridge of the Thuringian Forest and offers mountain bikers a secluded area with natural trails and rapid descents.

On the road with a pro

The gravel crunching under the wide tires, the forest path winding its way up the mountain. Coniferous trees and mossy slopes on the right, deep, wild forest on the left.  We are on the Rennsteig cycle path, together with a man who knows every nook and cranny, every beautiful view and, if necessary, every shortcut: Ronald Unger. A wiry guy with a moustache and impressive calves that suggest daily endurance cycling.

©Udo Bernhart (CMR), Thüringer Tourismus GmbH

The outdoor trainer and bike guide raves about the Thuringian Forest: "the nature here offers peace and quiet on the one hand, and everything mountain bikers are looking for on the other - tours, downhill and freeride. From the relaxed lap for families with small children to the 190-kilometer tour, we have it all." Unger offers guided tours through the Thuringian Forest that last one or even several days. He raced bikes as a child, later switching to mountain biking. For several years now, he has been pursuing his passion full-time - and seems quite content when he talks about his job. "Mountain biking is the sporting love of my life," he says.  

Sporting challenges

Robert Veitengruber und Birgit Demel nahe Oberhof Â©Sabine Braun, Thüringer Tourismus GmbH

Our tour goes from Oberhof across Großer Beerberg mountain, Schmiedefeld, Neustadt and Masserberg to Neuhaus am Rennweg. At the end of the day, we will have covered around 60 kilometres and almost 800 metres in altitude. We start in Oberhof, as a German winter sports centre one of the most visited places in Thuringia. The climatic health resort was the venue of the Nordic combined and two-man bobsleigh world championships for the first time in 1931. The first ski jump dates back to 1906, and in 1973 the World Luge Championships were held for the first time on the luge track completed in 1971.

A constant up and down

The Rennsteig is our common thread and the tour to Neuhaus is a constant change of ups and downs. Right at the beginning we reach the highest point, the Großer Beerberg. A few hundred metres later, the tower at Plänckner's Lookout gives us a wide view south to the foothills of the Rhön. From now on it will be downhill, "but exclusively mathematically", as Ronald says. We are jolted along root-covered paths. Slippery gravel elsewhere demands our full attention. The hand is always on the brake with measured pressure. It's not easy to keep your eyes focused on the path, because you'd rather look around you. 

The route leads through the UNESCO biosphere reserve Vessertal-Thuringian Forest. This unique landscape of high moorland, mountain meadows and forests provides a protected habitat for more than 1,000 plant species and 2,500 animal species. We make frequent detours, first at the second highest peak in the Thuringian Forest, the 978-metres Schneekopf. If you climb 126 steps to the top of the tower, you have a breathtaking panoramic view. Another detour shortly before reaching our destination is Lauscha, known for its glassblowing art and the invention of the Christmas tree ball.

Restricted area in the fairytale forest

In the past, the Rennsteig served as a shortcut for couriers. The route along the mountain ridges and away from towns was the shortest connection and prevented couriers from dawdling on the way or even divulging secret information in an inn. It has always been a border path, today in the southern area between Thuringia and Bavaria. In divided Germany, it was not possible to hike it continuously. It crossed the border six times. Now you cycle through a peaceful idyll and follow the traces of inner-German history.

Grenzstein am Rennsteig-Radweg, Â©Martin Kircher, Thüringer Tourismus GmbH

"The Rennsteig and the many trails around it offer something that mountain bikers long for, and that is becoming increasingly rare: as much free riding as possible," says Ronald Ungerer. "Here you can still find this feeling of adventure and wild nature - even if the next inn or supermarket are never too far away." Despite being in good shape, at some point a pulling in the calves becomes noticeable, and we are glad when Ronald calls out after another wild descent: "We made it. Who wants a Thuringian bratwurst?" Well-deserved is what we think.

Rennsteig Cycle Path

Stamina is required on the Rennstein cycle path: over a length of 195 kilometres, the cycle path follows the ridge of the Thuringian mountain region and crosses the highest elevations of the Thuringian Forest, the Slate Mountains and the Franconian Forest. In addition to grandiose views of the landscape, plenty of culture awaits you along the route: old glass and watchmaking towns, the former ducal seat of Eisenach and Germany's most historic castle, Wartburg Castle.

Titel: Â©Udo Bernhart (CMR), Thüringer Tourismus GmbH

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