Trip Number: 13610A
Price: $3,545 (12-15)
$3,845 (or fewer)
Staff: Thomas Meissner
- Hike 170 miles along the Franconia Trail through Northern Bavaria
- Sample tasty local cuisine and microbrews
- Visit Germany’s "beer capital" Kulmbach
- Explore medieval churches, museums, and the Imperial Castle in Nuremberg
- Lodging in comfortable bed and breakfast inns and small country hotels
- Breakfasts and dinners
- All on trip transportation and luggage transport
- Admission to museums in Kulmbach and Nuremberg
Photo: Thomas Meissner
Germany has a long-standing history of long-distance trails, the first one
being established in 1830.
Our trip starts at the cold-war border between West and East Germany and follows
the Frankenweg (Franconia Trail) for half of its length through the province
Franconia, which can be roughly placed between the river valleys of the Danube
and the Main in the southeastern part of the country. Though Franconia is politically
part of the state of Bavaria, the people, towns and scenery are quite different
from what most U.S. tourists would typically associate with “Bavarian.”
There are no high mountains, but the landscape is dominated by gentle ridges
that are dotted with limestone towers and cliffs. Green forests, meadows, and
pastures cover the lovely valleys and hillsides. Our hike connects quaint old
villages and small towns, each of them having its own history, which is reflected
in castles, fortresses, market squares, and small streets with the half-timbered
houses that are typical for the area.
One highlight on our trail will be the town of Kulmbach, with its impressive
castle, Plassenburg. Being Germany’s beer capital with the highest number
of breweries per resident, it also hosts the Bavarian Brewery Museum.
Our trip ends with a whole day of sightseeing in Nuremberg, Franconia’s
largest city. We tour the Imperial Castle, residence of the German kings and
emperors, and walk through the old town center with its medieval churches and
houses. The city also hosts several museums, such as the Toy Museum; the Germanische
National Museum, which shows ancient and medieval history, culture and arts
of Germany; and the birthhouse of the Renaissance painter Albrecht Dürer.
You will have the opportunity to visit one of the museums on that day.
Day 1: We meet early afternoon at the central railway station
in downtown Nuremberg (Nürnberg). Participants need to plan their travel
so that they arrive in Nuremberg at least one day before the trip starts and
are advised to stay at a hotel the night before we meet (this is not included
in the trip price). From Nuremberg we will take a two-hour train ride to the
town of Bad Steben near the starting point of our trek.
Day 2: Unterreichenstein - Naila (13 miles). A short taxi
ride brings us to the start of our hike in Unterreichenstein located right at
the former border between Western and Eastern Germany. The place that hosted
fences, mine fields and armed border patrols and was impenetrable in both directions
during the Cold War is now the hub of three major German long-distance trails.
We make our way through the narrow canyon of the Höllental into the town
Day 3: Naila - Döbraberg - Bischofsmühle (11 miles).
For the next three days our trek traverses the Frankenwald forest, Bavaria’s
northernmost mountain range. We ascend the Döbraberg, which, at 2,500 feet,
is the highest point on our hike. Its summit lookout tower offers a 360-degree
view of the area. After passing the remnants of an old castle we reach the Bischofsmühle,
a former timber mill, which has been transformed into a restaurant and country
Photo: Thomas Meissner
Day 4: Bischofsmühle - Mittelberg (16 miles). We follow
the narrow valley of the Wilde Rodach River, which has been utilized for timber
rafting from the Middle Ages till the 19th century, before ascending again to
the southern ridge of the Frankenwald.
Day 5: Mittelberg - Kronach (13 miles). Leaving the forested
Frankenwald ridges we reach the county capital of Kronach, the birthplace of
the Renaissance painter Lucas Cranach. Before descending into the historic town,
which lies at the confluence of three rivers, we have the opportunity to visit
the formidable Rosenberg fortress, which was built in the 16th century.
Day 6: Kronach - Kulmbach (16 miles). Today we try to get
a very early start as our day’s goal is Kulmbach, Germany’s beer
capital. It is the home of several big breweries, one of them hosting the Bavarian
Brewery Museum. High above the city stands the Plassenburg, another impressive
Renaissance fortress, which was owned by the Hohenzollern dynasty who governed
Prussia and later all of Germany.
Day 7: Kulmbach - Weismain (16 miles). After crossing the
valley of the Main, Franconia’s major river, we slowly ascend the Franconia
Jura, a low-elevation but expansive mountain range that stretches as far south
as the Danube River. Little creeks and rivers have carved into the limestone
plateau and the landscape is dotted with little cliffs and rock towers.
Day 8: Weismain - Vierzehnheiligen - Staffelstein (13 miles).
Today’s highlight is the Vierzehnheiligen, a beautiful baroque pilgrim
church from the 18th century. It overlooks the Main Valley and is surrounded
by green pastures and meadow.
Day 9: Staffelstein - Schesslitz (14 miles). Our trek traverses
the Staffelberg mountain, which was site of the Celtic town of Oppidum around
500 BC. Today it is home of several endangered animals and plants, and the area
has been put under protection.
Day 10: Schesslitz - Veilbronn (17 miles). On this long day
hike we pass the Giechburg, a well-preserved castle from the Renaissance time,
and follow the valley of the Leinleiter Creek. Our lunch stop, Heroldsmühle,
is again an old mill that has been converted into a country restaurant.
Day 11: Veilbronn - Streitberg - Muggendorf (10 miles). A
relatively short and easy day following the valleys of the Leinleiter and Wiesent
rivers. On our way we pass the ruins of the Streitburg castle and the Binghöhle,
a limestone cave with impressive dripstone formations.
Day 12: Muggendorf - Gössweinstein - Pottenstein (13
miles). We are now in the valley of the Wiesent river, the heart of the Franconia
Jura mountains. The area is also called the Franconia Swiss, because of its
beautiful scenery. On our way we first pass the town of Gössweinstein,
which hosts a castle sitting high above the river valley and another famous
baroque pilgrim church. Later on we walk through the quaint little town of Tüchersfeld,
which is renowned for its display of historic half-timbered houses that are
nestled under large towers of limestone rock.
Day 13: Pottenstein - Obertrubach (11 miles). Our trek leaves
the valley of the Wiesent River and reaches the Teufelshöhle (devil's cave),
one of Germany’s largest limestone caves, which is worth a visit. We pass
the ruins of the castle of Leienfels, occupied by robber barons during the Middle
Ages, before descending into the lovely Trubachtal Valley, which is the site
of several old mills.
Photo: Thomas Meissner
Day 14: Obertrubach - Eggloffstein - Gräfenberg (11 miles).
Our trail leads high above the Trubachtal Valley into Eggloffstein. The old
castle sitting above town has been owned by the same family since the 12th century.
Proceeding through the romantic Todsfeldtal Valley we will lunch at Hohenschwärz
microbrew pub before we reach the end of our trek in Gräfenberg. A short
train ride followed by a 15-minute walk brings us to our hotel in the historic
city center of Nuremberg.
Day 15: We spend the whole day sightseeing in Nuremberg. After
touring the Imperial Castle and walking through the historic downtown area with
its two gothic cathedrals St. Sebald and St. Lorenz, you have the choice to
visit one of the several museums, for example the Toy Museum (showing world
history of toys), the Germanische National Museum (showing ancient and medieval
history, culture and arts of Germany and central Europe), or the Albrecht Dürer
House (showing paintings by the famous Renaissance master who was born there).
Day 16: Our trip ends today. After breakfast we pack our bags
and say good-bye. You might want to stay one more day in Nuremberg or in the
general area or depart to the airport on your own.
Please note that unforeseen circumstances such as bad weather or unavailability
of accommodations might necessitate some adjustments to the planned agenda.
Nuremberg’s airport can be reached from most major U.S. cities with
one stopover at Frankfurt, Munich or Amsterdam. It can also be easily reached
by a 1- to 2-hour train ride from Frankfurt or Munich. Transportation to the
starting point (Nuremberg central train station at day 1) and from the ending
point (our hotel in downtown Nuremberg on day 16) is the responsibility of each
participant. Sightseeing opportunities in Nuremberg and the surrounding area
are abundant. The leader is happy to give advice and recommend hotels for the
night before the group meets.
Accommodations and Food
Our shared accommodations each night will be in B&B inns, guesthouses,
and small country hotels. The rooms are simple but comfortable, all double-occupancy
and equipped with shower and bathroom. Participants who prefer a single room
and are willing to pay the difference should contact the leader well in advance
and check for availability. Each day our luggage will be transported by our
hosts to the accommodation where we will stay the next night.
Typical breakfast selections in the hotels and B&B inns include coffee,
tea, fruit juice, homemade rolls and bread, butter, fruit preserves or jams,
muesli, yoghurt, cheese, and soft-boiled eggs.
For dinners we can expect a sample of the hearty Franconian cuisine. Popular
main course dishes are roasted or braised pork and beef (sauerbraten), occasionally
also veal, poultry and game, potato dumplings, potato salad, hearty sauces and
soups, and last but not least, sauerkraut. Bavaria is, of course, renowned for
world-class beers; the Franconia province especially for its prolific number
All breakfasts, dinner meals, and tips on the trip are included in the price.
Our first meal will be dinner on the evening of day 1 and our last meal will
be breakfast on the morning of day 16.
Participants pay for all their own lunches, snacks, and drinks. Lunches can
be purchased most days in local supermarkets, delis, or small restaurants that
we pass along the way. Some of our hotels and inns also offer lunch packages
for take out.
Photo: Thomas Meissner
As obvious from the agenda, this is a hiking-oriented outing. We will be hiking
for 13 consecutive days covering 10-17 miles every day. On a typical day, we
will have breakfast between 7:30 and 8:00 a.m., be on the trail by 8:30 a.m.
and hike till mid-late afternoon. This makes it a moderate-strenuous trip appealing
to the experienced hiker, who is interested in sampling the rich cultural and
natural history of Germany.
The terrain itself is not particularly difficult or strenuous. All hiking is
on marked and maintained trails. Daily elevation gains and losses are only between
1,000 and 2,000 feet with mostly gentle to moderate grades. Steeper ascents
or descents are pretty rare and if they occur they will be brief. It is possible
to encounter muddy sections of trail, especially after prolonged rain fall.
On most days it is possible to skip or shorten the hike and reach the next
town by public transportation or taxi. Please note that transportation for participants
who wish to take a day off is not included in the trip price.
To enjoy this outing, all participants need to be fit, in good physical condition
and health, and accustomed to hikes that last a full day. You should be able
to comfortably walk at a pace of 2+ miles per hour and sustain this pace over
the course of 5-6 hours without getting fatigued. Please check your abilities
accordingly before considering this trip and contact the leader with any questions
Equipment and Clothing
Germany has a typical northern climate. Weather in late May-early June is
quite unpredictable; comparable to places such as the Pacific Northwest, New
England, or southern Canada. Temperatures during the day can range from the
upper 50s to the low 80s. Due to the length of our trip we can expect to experience
both warm and cool days and sunshine as well as rain, which can be prolonged
and heavy. Good raingear and layered clothing are mandatory.
For the hikes you will only need to carry a day pack that fits your lunches,
snacks, water, and raingear. You will not need to carry a tent, sleeping bag,
mattress, or cooking gear on this trip.
All participants need to wear sturdy, leather-type hiking boots with good ankle
support, which have been well broken-in before the trip. The leader also strongly
recommends the use of collapsible hiking poles, especially if you have experienced
problems with your knees.
A detailed clothing and equipment list will be provided to all signed-up and
approved participants before the tip.
- The official guidebook for the Franconia Trail is:
Dietrich Hoellhuber, Der Frankenweg, Hans Carl Verlag, ISBN 3-418-00108-4
(currently only available in German).
- Frankenweg: Vom Rennsteig zur Schwaebischen Alp, PUBLICPRESS - Die Karten
mit der Sonne, 1:50,000, shows the whole Franconia Trail.
- Fritsch Wanderkarte: Naturpark Frankenwald, 1:50,000, shows the northern
section of our trek.
- Fritsch Wanderkarte: Naturpark Fraenkische Schweiz Blatt Nord, 1:50,000,
shows the central section of our trek.
- Fritsch Wanderkarte: Naturpark Fraenkische Schweiz Blatt Sued, 1:50,000,
shows the southern section of our trek.
Maps and guidebooks can be most easily purchased at various book stores
- www.frankenweg.de. (This is the official website for the Franconia Trail).
Photo: Thomas Meissner
The Sierra Club is an environmentally focused entity. We are concerned about
conservation and sustainability of resources, both locally and globally. Our
work is accomplished by volunteers, aided by a salaried staff, encouraging grassroots
involvement. Our outings seek to empower participants toward environmentally
understanding parallel concerns at home and abroad.
One focus of conservation talks on our trip will be the use of natural resources,
especially renewable energies, comparing Germany with the U.S. and other countries.
Germany was ridded of any wilderness area during the Middle Ages. The forests
were almost entirely logged and the native beech, oak and pine trees got replanted
with non-native spruce trees. This lead in many places to deprivation of the
soil from important minerals and made the forests prone to beetles and other
diseases. In the 1980s the forest service finally started realizing the unhealthy
consequences of this monoculture foresting and since then tries to gradually
reintroduce the native trees and plants.
Our trek starts at the former border between West and East Germany, which were
separated by the “Death Zone,” a narrow corridor of mine fields,
barbed wire and shooting machines for 30 years during the Cold War. As a consequence
of being not used by humans a variety of otherwise endangered animals and plants
were able to survive along the former Iron Curtain, which is now known as the
Green Belt (http://www.greenbelteurope.eu/).
This trip requires a $200 per-person deposit. An additional payment of $300 per person is due six months prior to trip departure. International trip prices are subject to change and are based on double-occupancy or group accommodations as described above. Single rooms may not be available or may cost more than the listed price. If you have any questions regarding double occupancy, please contact the trip leader.
See the How to Apply for an Outing
section for more details on registering for this trip and details
about our Reservation and Cancellation
The payment of a deposit does not confirm you as a member on the
trip. Participants must be approved by the trip leader. After signing
up for this trip, you will be sent a confirmation packet containing
approval materials (Participant Approval Questionnaire, Medical
Form, Liability Release Form). Each applicant (including those on
the waitlist) must fill out these forms and promptly mail them to
the trip leader. The leader will review the approval materials and
notify you of your acceptance in a timely manner.
The Sierra Club accurately and fairly budgets and prices our trips. However, unforeseen costs such as devaluation of the dollar compared to other currencies and fuel surcharges assessed by our international providers may necessitate adjustment in trip price. We will make every effort to mitigate and absorb these fees. If a price increase is necessary, however, you will have 14 days after announcement to cancel without penalty.
Thomas Meissner was born in Nuremberg, Germany and lived there for 30 years. He has been hiking many times along the Franconia Trail and the areas nearby.
Since coming to the US in 1992, Thomas has been hiking, trekking and backpacking in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the American and Canadian Rockies, the Southwest, the Appalachian Mountains, Hawaii and in New Zealand. This includes a through-hike of the John Muir Trail, and several large sections of the Appalachian Trail and Pacific Crest Trail. He has led more than 100 backpack trips for the Sierra Club in California and is certified as a Wilderness First Responder.
Thomas lives near Santa Rosa, California and works as scientist measuring weather and climate data on the Earth from satellite observations. He is fluent in both English and German and will of course share all his knowledge of local culture, history, cuisine, and beer selections with the group.
Fred Weber looks forward to sharing his love of the beautiful scenery of Germany's Franconia region as well as the culture and history of the area with you. His conversational knowledge of German is an asset on this trip.
Fred has also led Sierra Club trips to Switzerland, Austria, Italy's Dolomites, New Zealand, Costa Rica, and in the Midwestern United States. He enjoys hiking, backpacking, orienteering, canoeing, skiing, and swimming. European history is a special interest of his.
General Notes About Sierra Club Trips