Rennsteig - Thuringian Forest in April 2022


After a long Corona break and only day routes, I finally went on April 21st, 2022 to a multi-day tour, this time on the Rennsteig through the Thuringian Forest.

Since I have planned only three nights outdoors, I had only light luggage with me. Accordingly, the tour was not overly long (66 km / 41 mi), which was not bad at all due to the weather on the last day. But more about this below.

Route

Show complete map

I had chosen the Thuringian Forest because it is one of the few larger semi-wild forest areas in Germany, which I also did not know yet and which is not too far away for me. Only afterwards I learned that my planned tour is pretty much – except for a few deviations – on the hiking trail called “Rennsteig”. Well, lets do the Rennsteig in the Thuringian Forest then.

Accordingly, I didn’t put a lot of work into the planning. The route turns mainly to the Bärengrund once (see “Camp 2” on the map above), but otherwise I pretty much just followed the Rennsteig.

Due to my limited vacation, I had planned three nights outdoors, plus an additional night in Eisenach and two nights in Meiningen for a nice finish. But this post is only about the hike.

Gear

Since I was only hiking for four days and three nights, I stuffed my 24L daypack (Gregory Arrio 24 RC; see photo below) to not have to take my heavier trekking backpack. Surprisingly, I was able to carry everything I needed.

For the overnights I took my tarp with me. My tent does not fit in my backpack anyway and also weighs 2.5 kg / 5.5 lbs more. The Tarp is just a green 2x3 m / 6.5x10 ft hardware store tarpaulin with eyelets for 6.50 € from the German Bauhaus hardware store, so no expensive super-duper-ultralight stuff of Hilleberg. Of course, for the Tarp one must take pegs and some cord. As supports I have taken my hiking poles.

My backpack with two water bottles, waterproof bag and tarp on the left.

My backpack with two water bottles, waterproof bag and tarp on the left. (0.10MB)

In terms of clothing, I had of course long pants, hiking boots, hiking socks and a rain jacket with. Plus normal t-shirts and two/three pairs of underpants and thin and thick socks. I drive the 2-socks strategy (thin sneaker socks and over it thick hiking socks).

For sleeping, I took my Ultralight Air Mat (highly recommended!) from Sea To Summit and a summer sleeping bag from Frilufts with me. But since it was April, I got myself a fleece inlay in addition, which worked together quite well. My winter sleeping bag fits – similar to my tent – not in the backpack anyway.

For cooking, I used my simple Essential Trail Stove from Primus with a normal gas cartridge. I also had a windbreak, which was very usful!

Food

For breakfast, I had a kind of porridge (oatmeal + BP-WR emergency bar + dried fruits). Simple, filling, reasonably tasty and easy to make. In addition, I had an instant coffee.

For the main meal I had two ready meals (Trek’n Eat & Sea To Summit) and a DIY meal of couscous, red lentils, sauce powder and dried vegetables, which also worked very well. In addition, I had a few soups with me to have something warming in the evening in addition to tea.

For in between I had some cereal bars, dried fruit, crispbread and nuts. To warm up I had of course tea, soup, broth and hot lemon (shugar powder with lemon flavour and vitamin C) with me.

Since the Rennsteig is quite well known, you can eat and drink something at several location along the route (see map above). Even in the off-season, many locations were open.

Weather

The first day it was relatively warm (I guess about 15 °C / 60°F up to 20 °C / 70°F at noon). Around noon I went on in a T-shirt and let the sun shine on my fur after the Drachenschlucht with coffee and cake.

On the second day it was clearly colder and I woke up in the thick fog at about 5 °C / 40 °F. It didn’t get that much warmer, I guess around 12 °C / 54 °F. Especially with the wind on the Großer Inselberg mountain it was quite cold.

On the third day it started to rain at noon until the following day.

So:
Typical German April weather with sunshine, fog, blue sky, rain, warm weather and near freezing temperatures.

Day 1: Eisenach → Klinzingshütte

Last day in civilization, so I had a delicious breakfast in a bakery in Eisenach. Strengthened I then went to the famous castle Wartburg, the climb was for me as a Nordlicht (person from the flat northern Germany) was already pretty exhausting (not to be compared with the ascent of the Zugspitze , but still exhausting). Arrived at the top, I had already taken off all jackets and was already sweating wet to some extent. But the view was worth it! In the courtyard is the south tower, on which you can on for one euro - worth it, you should invest that one euro!

View towards the Wartburg with the south tower in the middle.

View towards the Wartburg with the south tower in the middle. (0.34MB)

View from the south tower over the sheer endlessness of the Thuringian Forest.

View from the south tower over the sheer endlessness of the Thuringian Forest. (0.18MB)

Past the restaurant Waldhaus Sängerwiese I went on to the Drachenschlucht (Dragon Gorge, a narrow gorge), one of the highlights of the Rennsteig. If you are near the Drachenschlucht, you should definitely pay it a visit, it’s worth it!

Within the Drachenschlucht. There’s a stream flowing below the metal grid.

Within the Drachenschlucht. There’s a stream flowing below the metal grid. (0.48MB)

It was a little bit more busy there and soon the first people were audibly annoyed about their inadequate footwear. A father was so annoyed because his new sneakers got dirty that he angrily stamped his foot, splashing his entire pants with mud and stomped off with a nasty look … along with that sloshing sound of his wet sneakers. Mother and daughter rolled their eyes and felt a little sorry for me, the trip was probably gone.

Especially in the later (southern) part, sturdy hiking shoes are simply a must! Not only are there a lot of stream crosses and fords, but the way runs partly within the still young and muddy stream.

The stream in the Drachenschlucht. Sometimes the path is dry, sometimes (in the picture further back) the path and stream are indistinguishable.

The stream in the Drachenschlucht. Sometimes the path is dry, sometimes (in the picture further back) the path and stream are indistinguishable. (0.57MB)

Shortly after the Drachenschlucht comes the hunting castle “Hohe Sonne”, with a nearby snack bar where I enjoyed coffee and cake in the sunshine. Here I completed already half of the planned kilometers for the day and it was only 1 PM, so I still had enough time.

Then it went past the forest inn “Hubertushaus” and the mountain rescue station “Auerhahn” to the forest hut called Klinzingshütte. But it is well hidden in the forest and I had to search a bit until I found it. It is not a public hiker’s hut or something, much more a shed that someone just had built there.

The hut itself was actually open, but to spend the night it was with too narrow and dirty. But on the porch I have cooked my dinner and for the night I put up my Tarp nearby.

My tarp streched up with two hiking poles.

My tarp streched up with two hiking poles. (0.63MB)

Tag 2: Klinzingshütte → Bärenbruch

Shortly before 7 AM I got up and was in the middle of a heavily foggy fairy tale forest. Spooky, but also very beautiful.

The Klinzingshütte in the fog in the morning … as if Hansel and Gretel were just collecting firewood.

The Klinzingshütte in the fog in the morning … as if Hansel and Gretel were just collecting firewood. (0.41MB)

I had breakfast at a hut called Glöcknerhütte, a few minutes walk away. There it was dry, clean, sheltered from the wind and furnished.

The Glöcknerhütte from outside.

The Glöcknerhütte from outside. (0.25MB)

Inside it was nice, sheltered from the weather and dry.

Inside it was nice, sheltered from the weather and dry. (0.29MB)

At around 8 AM I was ready and already met the first joggers and people with dogs. At the snack bar Imbiss zur Wallfahrt near the Schillerbuche, I continued along the hardly traveled L1127 road to the forest tavern Dreiherrnstein.

One of the more beautiful hiking trails after the Schillerbuche.

One of the more beautiful hiking trails after the Schillerbuche. (0.49MB)

After a short break and another 5 km / 3 mi I reached the Großen Inselberg mountain at 916 m / 3000ft, the highest point of my tour. The highest point of the whole Rennsteig is with 983 m / 3225 ft the Großer Beerenberg further south. Even in the somewhat hazy air one had a great view from time to time. On the summit, I then treated myself to a coffee and met a group of hikers who wanted to do the complete Rennsteig.

Transmission towers on the summit.

Transmission towers on the summit. (0.24MB)

After strengthening, I had to go down the mountain. At the parking lot of the Inselberg I went past the cart track built there to the northeast in the direction of Bärenbruch. It went along different brooks steadily downhill.

At a fork of several streams was another hut (a sign nearby said Am Tempelchen), where I made myself somewhat fresh at the stream. It was also only afternoon, so I have also killed some time there, but finally went further up the Bärenbruchgrund to the Bärenbruchwand, where I have then built my camp.

The camp sheltered near the Bärenbruchwand.

The camp sheltered near the Bärenbruchwand. (0.52MB)

Tarp at the fireplace with central hiking pole.

Tarp at the fireplace with central hiking pole. (0.56MB)

Accommodation from the inside.

Accommodation from the inside. (0.27MB)

This time I had the tarp – as you can see above – stretched up with a central hiking pole. Thus, the entrance is somewhat blocked, but the tarp reaches the sides to the ground, so that hardly any wind comes into the tarp. I highly recommend this setup.

At the camp itself – one of the most beautiful I ever had – I was completely offline. But I had just enough network to make a phone call when I climbed the rock above my camp.

Tag 3: Bärenbruch → Wachsenrasen

During the break on the previous day I already noticed that I lost my rain pants. I tied them to the outside of the backpack, which probably didn’t hold.

Lesson learned:
Everything that is not secured with a carabiner or otherwise belongs in the backpack!

So after breakfast I left and walked the almost 4 km / 2.5 mi back to the parking lot at Inselberg hoping to find the pants just along the way. Unfortunately, I found nothing, so I had to make do with just my rain jacket.

Matching this mishap, it has then started to rain at the parking lot, but rather sporadically and not particularly much. However, my rain jacket was no longer the youngest and despite impregnation no longer really waterproof. The little bit of rain at this time, however, it has put away.

I followed the Gelber Weg trail, a parallel path to the Rennsteig, and only changed at the Gabelwiese back to the Rennsteig.

The rest was rather unspectacular, only it has started to rain more strongly from the mountain inn Heuberghaus. At least the path from here on was quite beautiful and the forest was not particularly heavily farmed.

Until the quarry Splittergrund I was then already well wet and wanted to dry my things and drink something warm in the mountain hotel Ebertswiese, but unfortunately it was closed. In a hut a little further I took a break, ate something and made me a tea. My rain jacket was meanwhile somewhat overwhelmed and so I was already wet even under it.

View from the viewing tower “südlichen Spießberg” towards west.

View from the viewing tower “südlichen Spießberg” towards west. (0.26MB)

On the way to the snack Rennsteighaus Neue Ausspanne it then started to pour really, now I was well wet even under the rain jacket.

Lesson learned:
Pay attention to reasonable rainwear!

Arrived at the snack bar, first of all I allowed myself a coffee and a hot lemon. There was another hiker there warming up. His name was Kristian and he planed - just like the group on the Inselberg - to walk the whole Rennsteig together with his young dog. We had a nice chat and he left a bit before me.

A little later, a bit behind the viewing tower “Kramerod”, we met again and continued our hike together. In company it was much nicer and the next six kilometers just flew by. Despite that his dog was still relatively young, she was fully involved, found every little thing super exciting and wanted to discover everything.

At the hut Wachsenrasen we made a break. I wanted to set up my camp directly there, since I wanted to go to the nearby Steinbach-Hallenberg on the next day, from where I wanted to go to Meiningen. Kristian has then also set up his camp in the hut and so we both and his dog have spent the night in the hut.

The hut is completely open on one side, but no rain came in and it was wind-protected and dry. Unfortunately, there was quite a lot of garbage lying around behind the hut, but inside it was clean and dry.

The hut at Wachsenrasen from outside …

The hut at Wachsenrasen from outside … (0.24MB)

… and inside with my camp. The ground surface was gravel so my tarpaulin was able to show what it can do.

… and inside with my camp. The ground surface was gravel so my tarpaulin was able to show what it can do. (0.25MB)

Kristian and I talked a lot about hiking. He was amazed at the little luggage I had with me, but he on the other hand packed a few things too much. But that’s always the problem that you like to pack too much, a small backpack helps to concentrate on the essentials.

Tag 4: Wachsenrasen → Meiningen

In the morning it was still quite hazy and cold. Kristian and I had breakfast together and then said goodbye. For the two it went on towards the Saale river, for me to Steinbach-Hallenberg.

I hiked along the Königsweg trail, an easy hiking trail consisting of forest paths. From time to time, however, one has a very nice view over the landscape and the villages of Oberschönau and Unterschönau.

After a short time I reached the train station in Steinbach-Hallenberg and my hike was over.

Fazit

Despite the ready-made trail with lots of infrastructure, tourist attractions and little wilderness, it was a very nice hike.

However, one will directly notice the many places where the forest is used and trees are cut down extensively. Such passages are of course not nice to hike. But places like the Drachenschlucht, the Inselberg or other viewpoints and towers, make up for it.

So:
Definitely worth a trip and maybe I’ll do the rest of the Rennsteig sometime.

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