Rhine Valley with the beautiful Rhine Castle Trail offers endless attractions. The main trail is over 200 km long, but it is connected with countless local paths, which makes it very flexible to be explored. The trail I am introducing today – Stahlberg Schleife, starts in Bacharach. This small city is so charming that it is worth to stay there for a few days.
It is a circular tour, so it finishes where it starts. It is about 12,6 km long and should take around 4h, however time strongly depends on weather, number of stops and your fitness. If you need a map or some additional information you can find it at Tourist Information in Bacharach or online: Touren Planer.
The best place to start the trip is the Burg Stahleck. It is already an interesting spot itself. If you ever dream about a night in the castle this one offers it at quite affordable price, since it hosts the Jugendherberge hostel. It can be reached by car or by walking from the city through Wernerkapelle. There is also a little bar at the courtyard and a terrace with tables and wonderful view to the Rhine river. The medieval character of Bacharach can be appreciated among those old walls. There is also a toilet inside, which might be the only one on the way and it is also the last chance to buy snacks and drinks – no shops available on the trail.
The first part of a trail leads through the forest and goes to the next village – Steeg, which is nicely located in a valley. Already from here you can see how the trail path leads at the opposite site of the mountain and people walking there. Green forests and wine yards surround the village with white timber-framed houses. In Steeg you can have a sit by the little donkey-fountain. You can also find a more detailed map with a lot of alternative paths. It is good to compare them and decide on the one you follow, because some of them overlap and it is very easy to get confused. They are marked by different colors and animal type and simply differ in distance.
It is not very difficult trail – sometimes you go up, sometimes down. But it mostly very opened, so if it rains, there is no much place to hide. If it is hot and sunny, sometimes there is no shadow for few kilometers. So get prepared accordingly to the weather.
Another interesting feature of this trail is that whenever you feel like you should be going to the right you turn left and other way round. When you see your destination point don’t hope to reach it as fast as it looks like. Huge height differences in a valley would make it very steep, so usually the longer but less steep way is chosen.
After Steeg you walk around some kind of mountain, and at its other site you have wonderful view to the ruins. Pay attention to your left to see quite scary caves in the walls of the mountain. Stahlberg ruins lay on the hill and are totally covered with grass and trees. It looks a bit sad, like a forgotten place. At the same time it has some fairytale vibe. It is possible to reach those ruins just by car. Parking is just 5 minutes away from the main entrance. To enter the “castle” or its remaining we cross the wooden bridge first. There are still 2 towers left and in between one can find some benches and tables. It is very convenient for a little picnic. The view is very interesting too – from one side green hills, from another little houses in the valley and wine yards around.
After the visit to the ruins it is already more than half a way, but still the highest point is in front of us. The next stage leads through the most beautiful meadows. All colorful flowers look just amazing. It is the great place to make another stop and just sit for some time. The shape of ground is not flat anymore but a bit concave and there are some windmills on the horizon reminding that somewhere near there is still a civilized world.
That part of a trail is not labeled so well anymore. Sometimes you may feel a bit lost among all the fields, but views are wonderful. In early summer time those fields are covered with blooming colza – just imagine… Landscape constantly changes, so after fields and little forest, you enter wine yards. Here again it is easy to get lost, so be careful with the signs, they are missing in few places.
At this point we enter area where the main Rhine Castle Trail leads and alternatively we could go towards Oberwesel, but let’s leave this option for another time. Instead we go back to Bacharach. From here just before we start going down to the city, there is again very pretty viewpoint to Rhine and Bacharach.
Very last part is to go straight down from the hills back to Bacharach. The path is really steep. It is the best place for panoramic photo of Bacharach. The very last thing to see before coming back to the city is the Post Tower, remaining of city walls.
Stahlberg Schleife is a realtively easy trail, perfect for one day trip. It is very quiet, far away from busy roads and cities. Views are just amazing and since it finishes in Bacharach you can enjoy the city again…and again…