This week’s journey takes me back to one of my favorite hiking spots in central Europe: the spectacular Altschloßpfad on the German-Franco border in Rheinland-Pfalz. This 10 kilometer (6 mile) loop trail weaves through valley meadows, forests of beech, oak and spruce, and along the edge of the Altschloßfelsen, an extraordinary bunter sandstone massif with numerous caves, arches and towering cliffs to explore.
The name Altschloßfelsen (“old castle rocks”) originates from an 11th or 12th century fortress once situated atop these crags, but which has since fallen into ruin and is no longer visible. Today, the highlight of this premium walking tour is the rock formation itself, spanning 1.5 kilometers and reaching heights of 35 meters (115 feet). It begins in the nearby village of Eppenbrunn at Hotel-Restaurant Kupper (Himbaumstraße 22, 66957 Eppenbrunn), beside which stands a large gravel car park (accessed by taking the hotel-restaurant’s driveway to the right side of the main building). The trail head is located just beyond the car park at the forest’s edge. The hike is moderately strenuous, dog-friendly but not stroller-friendly, and not recommended for children under 6 years of age. Griffey and I enjoyed this trail solo during the first week of July 2016. With a bit of dawdling, lots of photography, and a brief stop for our packed lunch, we managed to return to the car park (having completed the full loop) within approximately four hours.
The trail (marked throughout by the symbol below) heads in a westerly direction from the car park, traveling in the first several kilometers through both forested areas and open, somewhat swampy meadows.
At approximately 4 kilometers from the trail head, the path reaches the German border with France, marked simply with these short stone pillars.
At this juncture, it’s possible to take a short detour (0.2 kilometers across the French border), to visit the so-called Rock of Diana. According to a nearby informational panel, this monument was erected during the Roman era, when a paved road of sandstone known as the Route de Sel (Salt Road) passed through this forest between Lorraine and Metz. It features three Roman deities – Diana (the Goddess of the Hunt), Ares (the God of War), and Silvanus (the God of the Forest) – carved into the side of a sandstone cliff. While the figures are not particularly easy to make out – perhaps not surprising, given their age and exposure to the elements – we enjoyed the short walk to view them.
Back at the border, the main trail turns to the left, leads briefly uphill, and begins to wind beneath the sandstone towers of the Altschloßfelsen.
After leaving the Altschloßfelsen, the trail follows a series of logging roads as it loops back toward the village. At approximately 8 1/2 kilometers, the trail reverts to a more narrow forest path as it approaches the pond of Eppenbrunn, pictured below.
Just beyond the pond, the trail deposits hikers back in Eppenbrunn – but at the opposite side of the village from the car park. Follow the trail marker closely here, as it leads you briefly along the main road before turning left into Eppenbrunn’s leisure park and winding beside a small creek. Hotel-Restaurant Kupper is located several hundred meters beyond the western boundary of the park.
For more information on this beautiful hike, please visit: https://www.outdooractive.com/en/hiking-trail/palatinate/altschloss-pfad/17333276/
Note: While the map in the link above suggests taking the loop in a clockwise direction, I recommend the opposite; in other words, begin traveling west through the forest from the car park.
Thank you for joining me on this hiking adventure in Rheinland-Pfalz! – B. June