Explore the Romantic Pfälzerwald & Learn About the Bloody Sickingen of Landstuhl
At the very edge of the single largest forest in Germany sits the Nanstein castle. It acts as a symbol of this interesting town with a long history that has evolved from pagan spiritual center, to German spa town to a U.S. military favorite overseas residence.
Close to a NATO base, it is a vibrant town with mostly German, Russian, Turkish, Ukrainian and Americans all mingling together.
It has many international choices for restaurants, especially considering it is a town of only 9,000 and everyone has less than 5 minutes walk to get to a mystical forest path.
This article will help you get a learn about Landstuhl’s bloody medieval history, find 3rd century preserved carvings in an ancient Roman spring, and savor delcious schnitzel with the best views in all of Landstuhl on these romantic and gorgeous paths.
tl;dr: 2 hikes on the edge of the Pfälzerwald (Palatinate forest). One long and one short way on easy wooded paths filled with ancient history. While not stroller friendly, the short path is easy enough to carry, pack, or amble slowly with little ones.
Burg Nanstein: Guardian of Landstuhl, Germany
More Great Super Local German Hikes:
- Adlerbogen History Hike
- Geierlay Suspension Bridge Hike
- Calmont Klettersteig Hike
- Boppard Mittelrhein Klettersteig
Getting to the Nanstein Castle Hikes
Also known as the Sickingenstadt, Landstuhl rests at the very northern edge of the Palatinate forest (Pfälzerwald in German) which is a UNESCO site.
It’s the first ever cross border project in Europe and spans from Kaiserslautern, through the Palatinate forests, the Wasgau forest and into the Vosges du Nord in France.
Located within the heart of the Kaiserslautern military community, Landstuhl is often overlooked as a place to explore by American expats living in Germany, hikers or travelers near Frankfurt seeking a unique and sustainable travel experience.
This 8,000 sq km biosphere reserve allows people of all fitness levels to walk on forested, soft paths that amble between medieval castle ruins, sandstone cliffs, tasty restaurants and ancient Roman sculptures.
An excellent resource to explore this park is the Pfälzerwald Verein, a club that supports the immaculate trails and markings, history placards, and adorable hütten (huts and restaurants) which offer hot meals, beer on tap and often bunk style beds for multi-day or long distance hikers.
I’m as guilty as anyone of not exploring my own backyard enough, so I’ve utilized some unseasonably warm weather to get out and hike in the winter with my best friend, Shadow in the fairy-like Pfälzerwald.
Maybe I’ll get in shape enough to walk all the way to France to the Vosges mountains.
This is part 4 of my ongoing German Camino de Santiago Blog series, an exploration of outdoor culture and accessible Nature experiences empowered by the enchanting Camino de Santiago pilgrimage path that spans most of Europe.
The trailhead is at the Stadthalle Landstuhl, or main cultural center. The weekly Friday morning farmers market is held here and various shows, performances and events.
The best way to access the Nanstein Castle hikes is by train. The (only) train station in Landstuhl is located less than ½ mile from the Stadthalle and a flat easy walk.
The easiest way is to use a car and park directly behind the Stadthalle in the Parkplatz Neuer Markt.
This Nanstein Castle Hiking Guide & Maps are for:
This hiking and food guide is for people who want to drop the to-do list, love to see ancient history relics, and need to recharge in Nature without having to travel extensively.
Each hike includes detailed GPS guidance so it’s simple and not frustrating to find your way, food recommendations, and history highlights.
Who is This Guide NOT for and What are the Alternatives?
This guide is not for strollers. There are beautiful single tracks that aren’t compatible with even sport strollers, however the shorter hike would be great for backpacking your kid with a child pack carrier.
However, If you’ve got little ones and want to ensure an action-packed toddler and elementary aged experience, consider the Käfer Safari Hike in Bruchmühlbach-Miseau.
It’s also a hop-on, hop-off Camino de Santiago (in German: Jakobsweg) hike and filled with really cool bug themed exhibits and experiences. With a delicious German Hütte serving up hot food and drinks, it makes for a great family day in Nature.
Another great place to get on the Camino is the Rhine River Gorge. There are plenty of things to do in Oberwesel in addition to hiking.
Easy Nanstein Castle Hike – 2 Miles or 3.2 km
Nanstein Castle Easy Loop : German Camino de Santiago Hike Series
This hike is for you if you want a castle and foliage-filled, kid friendly, easy stroll with great views of Landstuhl, Ramstein air base and more. It’s worth the time to get the schnitzel with pommes at the Burgschänke restaurant and soaking up the views all the way to Potzberg tower. Check out a Burg Nanstein Castle tour also, but they are closed on Mondays.
Trail Name: Nanstein Castle Easy Loop
Location: Landstuhl, Germany
Type of Hike: 1 Loop
Distance: 2 miles
Elevation: 275 ft up, 275 ft down
Duration: Approx. 45 min
Start/end point: Stadthalle Landstuhl
Camino de Santiago: Yes – Short Stretches on Camino
Coming from Out of Town? Best Places to Stay:
Want to be in the forest next to the Burg Nanstein? The Schlosshotel Landstuhl is gorgeous and secluded and perfect for a more wellness stay with a sauna, fitness room and wellness area.
🥾😓 Feeling Overwhelmed Planning a Hike? Use my custom-built online Hiking Time Calculator for Non-techie People.
Tips for Hiking in Landstuhl
Starting at the city cultural center the “Stadthalle” look up and you’ll see the ruined Landstuhl castle, or “Burg Nanstein” up on the hill. Walk down the street to the left and when possible cross the main road.
You’ll take your first right and have to cross over this busy road to access the entrance between two buildings immediately into the forest.
The path goes east at first and when headed south, it’ll be up a little ravine with a high burm on each side. Then you’ll switch back on the top and head toward the castle.
Enjoy the view from in front of Nanstein castle and walk past it to find the path around the backside. You’ll switch back again and wind down the hill and join the original path at the beginning but exit the forest in a side street with houses. Then you’ll walk directly back to the start along the main road.
How to use this map: Use your computer mouse or fingers to zoom in and out. Click on the icons to get more information. Click the arrow on the top left corner for the written index. Click the star next to the title of the map to add this map to your google maps account. To view the saved map on your smartphone or PC, open google maps, click the menu button, and go to “your places”/ “maps.”
Komoot App with GPS Tracking: You get one free zone with this free app.
Challenging Nanstein Castle Hike: 8 miles or 13 km
Nanstein Castle Challenging Loop : German Camino de Santiago Hike Series
This longer hike is for you if you want to view 2nd century Roman preserved sculptures hidden on a hillside, ruined bunkers, castles, airplane and valley views and a grand tower to climb to get views for miles around.
Trail Name: Nanstein Castle Challenging Loop : German Camino de Santiago Hike Series
Location: Landstuhl, Germany
Trail Guide: Nanstein Castle Challenging Loop
Type of Hike: 1 Loop
Distance: 8 miles
Elevation: 775 ft up, 775 ft down
Duration: Approx. 3.5-4 hours
Start/end point: Stadthalle Landstuhl Parking Lot Behind
Camino de Santiago: Yes, Short Stretches
Something Good to Eat: Right in town on the path is 9 Chan, a delicious Thai restaurant that has ever favorite for kids, Boba Tea.
Tips for Hiking the Burg Nanstein Weg:
This hike starts the same as the shorter loop, but you’ll just make a much wider loop where you can view the Bismark tower, Krämerstein, Herrengärtchen, Marienkapelle, and impressive sculptures from the 2nd century Heidenfelsen.
Komoot App with GPS Tracking: https://www.komoot.com/tour/623834283?ref=wtd
New to Komoot: Here’s how to use the free Komoot app to never get lost.
Tips for Hiking Nanstein Castle and German Camino de Santiago
Parking behind the Stadthalle (cultural center) can fill up and does require you to use a blue placard to annotate your time. Other parking areas include this one.
These paths are not especially technical so the short one could easily be done in sandals in the summer for a stroll. The longer path would be easy enough in any athletic shoe. Boots are not needed.
Bring your own water as the spring water is questionable and buying water in Germany tends to be rather expensive both at restaurants and at convenience stores.
It is never free to get tap water in Germany unless you have a serious hook up with a restaurateur.
Exploring Burg Nanstein History
The Burg Nanstein (Nanstein castle) has been mentioned as far back as 1162. It really is a great history site and on the tour you can find all of the fun things like ramparts, cannon balls, watchtowers, dungeons and everything else every Princess Bride fan would love.
The castle was originally part of the King Barbarossa’s defenses (from Kaiserslautern, and the best local bakery) but changed hands by marriage to the Knight Sickingen around 1480 who changed it from castle to fortress.
So who was this bloody knight (aka warlord) named Franz von Sickingen? By the way, my daughter goes to “Sickingen Gymnasium”, the local middle and high school and the city seems to love it’s long medieval history.
Famous for resisting progress and “city-states” , Sickingen engaged in multiple wars, conflicts and engagements to try to keep feudalism alive in the area. It resulted in multiple bombardments, his death from wounds and eventually the French burned the castle in 1689 and it lies a ruin today.
EXPLORE MORE MOSELLE RIVER HIDDEN GEMS
If you are curious about more German fairytale hikes, castles and wine tastingMoselle River hidden Gems:
📍 My post on wine tasting and hiking in Urzig
🍷 The Best Things to do in Beilstein on the Moselle
🏰 And… the best things to do in Cochem Germany
Author profile: Morgan Fielder is a physical therapist and passionate hiker who believes in exploring the world on foot with good food. Follow her journey as she shares science-based hiking tips and advocates for sustainable tourism.