Hiking the Kirner Dolomiten – Rugged Peaks in Western Germany – 2023

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Welcome to Germany’s Baby Dolomites & Baby Venice in one hike!

Calling all craft beer lovers who love hoppy beer! This blog has focused quite a lot on German wine hikes, but just one hour from the KMC or Frankfurt (closest airport) is the Kirner Dolomiten. This stunning hike is located near the village of Kirn – famous for forgoing vineyards in the 15th century in favor of beer making!

🍺 Kirner beer dates back to 1798 and is only sold within 40 km of Kirn. And it actually has a high hops profile, unlike most german beers for you bitter beer lovers.

The Kirner Dolomiten are somewhat hidden. It’s neighbor to the north, the Mosel river valley gets all the British touristic love and the mighty Rhine river valley with all it’s castles is just to the east.

Thankfully, I saw the world “Dolomiten” on google maps (I’m always a sucker for anything Dolomites) and the free GPS guided city tour of Kirn is available in English. I’m so glad I took a chance on this “blue collar” German town and surely will return with my whole family as the Kirner Dolomiten History hike has got a little something for everyone and feels like you have the entire forest to yourself.

HINT: Hikers who want their loved ones to go along that’s aren’t as excited about Nature – book a stay at the luxury spa hotel nearby to have a treat after the hike.

Kirn germany
Near the start of the English audioguide tour.

You won’t find vineyards in this forested and craggy hilled region situated between the more touristic Mosel river valley and the castle littered Rhine river valley.

What will you find at the Kirner Dolomiten??? An impressive array of rocks, quartzite and responsible, sustainable tourism features with no lines or pretentiousness including:

  • Free History Audiotours available in English, Dutch & German
  • Restored Palaces with apartment rentals
  • Beginner and Intermediate Rock Climbing area and sport climbing with top rope and bouldering
  • All levels of hiking trails extremely well marked
  • Children’s Nature exhibits throughout the forest and playgrounds
  • Many castle ruins perched on rocky crags
  • Long distance 6 day Multi-Day Hike: Soonwaldsteig

It’s easy to notice that the government has gone “ALL IN” on responsible tourism here in the Soonwald forest to draw in people who want an experience that’s truly off the beaten path.

Kirner Dolomiten

can you say crags, the Kirner Dolomiten is full of them!

The purpose of this guide is to allow you to walk a fairy easy day hike filled with Germany’s most dramatic peaks outside the Alps, visit historical hunting palaces and finish up with a free English audio history guide of the town of Kirn with it’s tidbit of Venice vibes.

TL;DR: Very pretty family friendly hike with highly dramatic peaks and lovely local history audio tour.
Kirner Dolomiten
Standing guard like a postcard of a Golden retriever

Kirner Dolomiten History Hike
Distance: 6.2 miles, 10 km, 725 feet up/down
Duration: 2.5-3.5 hours Difficulty: Easy
GPS: Komoot Kirner Dolomiten
Audiotour: Lauschtour.de Kirn
Where to Stay:  Best LuxuryBollants Spa im Park Wellness Hotel
Families – Rose Garden Guesthouse
Best HistorySummer Residence of Von Furst Friedrich
Best BudgetPension Hannes

This is part of my Soonwald Germany series exploring this densely forested and steep hilly region. It is Germany’s forgotten forest and that’s why it’s one of my favorite places to go for an immersive and responsible tour where the locals will sit with you and share all their stories with pride!

The Niederwald forests aren’t easy to harvest for wood and the impressively steep hills aren’t easy to create farm fields. So historically it was the hunting playground of medieval knights and French princes who built modest, but grand palaces on the slate grey spines of “dolomite” or along the Nahe river.

To combat the difficulty of finding jobs, the local governments have subsidized impressive trail development and helped create a playground for outdoor lovers of all ages.

Walk with me on this hike in November’s Fall splendour and see the cliffs!

This guide is for history lovers who want to merge in a little Nature on their travels.

Read until the end where you can find a secluded Nahe spa hotel with it’s own Michelin starred restaurant that rewards your day of hiking with upscale delicious cuisine, a glass of prosecco upon arrival and absolute tranquility.

Quick Links for Kirner Dolomiten History Hike

When You Can Hike the Kirner Dolomiten History Hike

The best time is in October and early November where you can have the trail to yourself and the hillside palace is still open. Mud can be a problem in the shoulder seasons so bring a change of shoes.

This Kirner Dolomiten hiking guide includes detailed GPS guidance (without any special apps) so it’s simple and not frustrating to find your way, get local food recommendations, and history highlights.

You can hike year round, but the forest restaurants will close at the beginning of November and reopen in April or May depending upon weather. The town of Kirn is a working town and everything will be open year round.

Kirner Dolomiten Hiking Map

Google map – Like a Hiking Guide in your pocket. The blue line is 10km and pink line is 15km alternative 3 Castle Way.

This post links to products and services I love, which I may make a small commission from, at no extra cost to you. If you click and buy through these links, this is how I can continue to make Sustainable Outdoor Travel Guides!!

-Morgan

Kirner Dolomiten History Hike : Trail Report

The Kirner Dolomiten History (almost) loop starts at the free Aldi parking lot and goes straight toward the Dolomiten spine, then to the Kallenfels Ruine and over to the Wartenstein palace. It then heads back into Kirn (past the parking) and into the city for the free audio guided history tour of Kirn and back to the parking lot.

Highlights:

  • Solitude
  • Super craggy Dolomiten
  • History GPS Guide of the town of Kirn in English
  • Wartenstein Palace & it’s charming attendant
  • Easy parking – Quick bites from Aldi/Lidl on path
  • Nature placards for kids to play and learn in forest

Kirner Dolomiten History Loop

Distance: 6.2 miles, 10 km
Elevation: 725 feet up/down
Duration: 2.5-3.5 hours
Difficulty: Easy
GPS: Komoot Kirner Dolomiten History Hike Guide, Google Map

Free GPS KomootMy Komoot collection of Soonwald Hikes:  has one free region to download
Start/end point: Free Parking at Aldi

Kid-friendly: yes, 4+.  Nature exhibits throughout. Smaller children will likely need to be carried in packs on the uphills.
Stroller-friendly: no

Warning: There are some cliffsides at the Kirner Dolomiten but on the main path you won’t even get close to the edge. Simply walk to the sides of the path to see some dramatic views.

Dog-friendly: Yes

Fees: None.  No hiking pass needed. Free parking.

Behind the Scenes Stories:  Web Stories ******Kirner Dolomiten********

Kirner Dolomiten

Schloss Wartenstein History Room

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday closed
Thursday – Sunday Open 10:30 – 16:30

Season Open: 1 April to 14 November

Call for renting apartments in forest: 06752 135 155


******Kirner Dolomiten Trail Report Details
You’ll start by finding parking in the Aldi shopping center and walk out of town with the imposing Burgruine Kyrburg on your left. I’d go there separately to try their whiskey tastings and musueum when NOT hiking. I don’t know about you, but whiskey is tough on the trail. There are MANY trails here so keep an eye on the GPS as we’ll switch between a few different ones.

You’ll turn uphill onto a city sidewalk trail that passes the Entenfang restaurant. It’s really cute and has a playground so could be a good finish or start to the hike. Then continue uphill along the Soonwaldsteig (the long distance trail with 6 daily stages Kirn-Bingen) and head to the Kallenfels ruin. You’ll get beautiful views over the town. Do an about face and go uphill on a dirt road on K5.

Then you’ll switch to the single track Vital Tours 3-castle-way into the forest where it immediately becomes stony and you’ll be surprised by how quick the “Kirnen Dolomiten” springs up on you. The trail goes between two very rocky, very spiny ridges you can explore and get views to our next stop along the trail, Schloss Wartenstein.

This is a crossroads of many trails so as you come down off the Dolomiten spine follow the “vital tour – 3-Burgen-weg” and come out of the forest and around a facility. Cross the field and before you hit the housing development follow the trail that’s simply the edge of a farm field with great views, especially of sunset.

I went off track here a bit, don’t follow my little line here. Stay true to the side of the field as it leads to Schloss Wartenstein. Go into their gardens and explore and buy a drink from the lovely tour guide and get a birds eye perspective of these mini mountains and the ruined castles all around. You can book a stay here if you’d like, but they prioritize the rooms for kids with medical problems like cancer so it may be difficult in high season.

When you leave the hunting palace you’ll head down a long hill lined with Nature exhibits. Then as you get to the road follow it back into the town of Kirn. Keep an eye out on both sides of the stream for the famous blue-slate rocky spines for which this area is famous.

Kirner Dolomiten
Steinkallenfels

Once you pass your parking area head to the center of Kirn to the tourist information center. It’s a small wooden booth along the Nahe river (where it looks sort of like a canal with waterfowl dipping their beaks in for fish) that’s just outside the main square. This is where to audio tour begins.

Start the app Lauschtour.de and follow the directions as it takes you through about 10-15 historical locations within the town center. Return to car past the Alte Kellerei.

Alternate 15km : 3 Castle Way

For a longer hike try the 3-Burgen-Weg or 3 castle Way.


Kirner Dolomiten
Kyrburg Ruins- There’s a whiskey museum!

Distance: 9.6 miles, 15.5 km
Elevation: 1282 feet up/down
Duration: 6 hours
Difficulty: Easy-Moderate
GPS: Komoot 3 Castle Way

Kirn Germany Trail Travel Guide

How to Get to the Kirner Dolomiten

The closest airport to the Kirner Dolomiten is Frankfurt International or Frankfurt Hahn. The best way to reach Kirn is by public transportation and tickets can be purchased at DB Bahn. The train service Vlexx has the RE3 line from Mainz frequently.

  • KMC to Kirn : About 1 hour drive, 1.5 hour train
  • Frankfurt/Wiesbaden to Kirn : 1 hour drive, 1.5 hour train
  • Stuttgart to Kirn: 2.5 hour drive, 3.5 hour train

Related:  

Dolomites in the Summer : Best things to do including hiking the Alta Via 1 Hut to Hut trail in the Italian Dolomites 

Gimbelhof 4 Castle Hike : Another off-the-beaten path über charming history hike on the border of Germany & France.

Where to Stay : Kirner Dolomiten Hotel Guide

Best Eco-Friendly Luxury

Have an incredible relaxing experience with a stay at the Bad Sobernheim Luxury Spa, Bollants Spa im Park. It’s 20 minutes down the Nahe river and it’s Michelin star restaurant serves amazing cuisine in an Art Nouveau building that’s been decorated Asian and Mediterranean style.

With private gardens, a pool, spa and excellent service, this is a treat especially good for a romantic weekend getaway after hiking the Kirner Dolomiten.

Best for Families Exploring Nature

Stay at the lovely Gästehaus Rosengarten Nahetal for a peaceful and relaxed ambiance. You’ll get enough of a kitchen to avoid crowds or be back just in time for nap after a morning hike. Kids and dogs are welcome.

Best for History Lovers

Stay in the heart of town at a historical summer residence of Prince von Fürst Friedrich III. He was beheaded by the French before he got to finish his fancy summer home but you can enjoy staying in a real piece of history. Book early.

Best Budget

The Pension Hannes offers a comfortable stay just over the main square of Kirn for incredible morning views.

Super Budget : Car Mattress

Summer can be challenging to get accommodations if you don’t plan early!  If you’re out of luck finding a room, try getting a mattress for the back of your SUV as it’s totally legal to sleep one night in your car in Germany.  There’s nothing like waking up to the forest in the morning. 

Stay in the Soonwald-Nahe Nature Park in a Palace for a Wilderness Experience

The Schloss Wartenstein offers several full apartments for tourists. Half of the apartments are reserved for children with medical problems so plan early if you want a special stay for you and your family. Call  Tel.: 06752/135-171 for reservations. They are closed Nov 15- April 1.

Lauschtour Audioguide App Review

This app is exactly what I’ve been looking for to help give some context to the things I see while hiking and walking. It’s pretty good but I found it slightly clunky in the town, but you can see the blue dot on where to go next. It’s very well produced and in English and worth the trip to Kirn to learn about the interesting details. It would be nice if it included some of the history of the ruined castles, knights palaces and other attractions along the hike.

It basically tracks your GPS and then a loud bell rings when you should stop walking and tells you a short story about the attraction. It takes about 30 minutes total and adds a nice dose of culture to the Kirner Dolomiten History Hike.

Kirner Dolomiten

6 Best Things to do Beyond Hiking the Kirner Dolomiten

 ⚒ Just down the Nahe River is the Crystal and Gemstone Capital of Europe, Idar-Oberstein. The mystical Steinkaulenberg mines hosts a fabulous and immersive tour of the gemstone mines in English! Kids can dig for gems with picks and more. There’s no dust in the mines so you allergy sufferers can go just to have clear eyes for an hour.

 🎯 Kirner Dolomiten rock climbing is a huge rock climbing attraction for Germany. The day I went a film crew was doing some serious video and photos with the climbers. It’s not the Dolomites, but when you live 5 hours drive from the Alps it’ll do. Check out this post about the climbing opportunities.

 🥃 We didn’t hike to the Kyrburg castle that sits overlooking the town, but you’ll want to get over there for it’s famous Whiskey tour and museum. They host almost weekly events like the Scotland Whiskey tour. If you want, there is a 3 – Castle – Way alternative that hits all the castle ruins around Kirn.

 🏛 Take a bespoke English tour of Trier, just an hour away with it’s 2,000 year old Porta Nigra, museums and multiple grand cathedrals. Trier is a gem of a city that was founded by the Celts and full of ancient history.

📸  If you’re coming from Frankfurt consider these other daytrips that show you the best of Germany.

🦖 Fossilmuseum in Budenbach for your little ones that love dinosaurs and fossils.

What to Bring on the Kirner Dolomiten Hike

This route is not especially technical and a good pair of walking or running shoes will work just fine. Make sure to bring along sun protection for your eyes and a water bottle.

There is 1 stop along the Kirner Dolomiten trail for drinks and food but it is only open from April to November and limited. Aldi sells some pretty delicious to-go salads for less than 3 euros at the parking, or just plan to eat in the town of Kirn at the beginning or end of your hike.

Multi-Day Hiking & Backpacking on the Soonwaldsteig – with Camping

This new 6 stage multi-day trail was opened in 2009 and actually offers something unique for long distance hikers in Europe – official camping spots along the trail! Typically wild camping is illegal in most European countries so N. American backpackers are confused on how to arrange accommodations, but this trail offers a gentle adventure.

The Soonwaldsteig trail starts in Kirn and goes to the town of Bingen on the Rhine River. It would be perfect to extend and join to the 5 day Rhine Castle Hotel Way.

Here’s the Soonwaldsteig official website where you can book the camping spots and locate water stations. The start in Kirn and finish at Bingen are connected easily by train.

FAQ Kirner Dolomiten

When is the trail open?

It’s open year round.

How much time do you need for Best Hikes to Kirner Dolomiten?

2 – 3 hours for the loop and 30 minutes for the town audio tour.

How long is Kirner Dolomiten hike?

There are many hiking trails around Kirn. The trail has an elevation gain of about 725 feet and is about 6 miles long. It takes about 2.5 – 3.5 hours to do the loop.

Free Dolomities Packing List

What is responsible tourism?

Responsible tourism is all about meaningful connection and tries to minimize the negative economic, environmental and social impacts of travel. It includes local people, businesses and governments in the decision making process and is culturally sensitive to both travellers and the inhabitants of the area.

Well-being of tourists and locals are of utmost importance, while also working to improve the economic prosperity of places typically forgotten.

Leave no trace other than a fun conversation with a local.


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