Explore the Romantic Pfälzerwald
At the very edge of the single largest forest in Germany, get a close up of Landstuhl’s bloody medieval history, soak in 3rd century preserved carvings in an ancient Roman spring, and savor schnitzel with the best views in all of Landstuhl on these romantic and gorgeous paths.
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.
TABLE of CONTENTS How This Pfälzerwald Trail Guide is Organized
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.
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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 comfortable Osprey Baby Carrying Pack.
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.
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
Something Good to Eat: Castle Tavern (Burgschänke Nanstein)
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.
Want to be right in the thick of the medieval village? Hotel Restaurant Ölmühle is a 17th century building with delicious food and family run.
Going budget and have an SUV? It’s completely legal to sleep one night in your car in Germany in a parking lot with a comfy SUV air mattress.
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
Stroller-friendly: no, but this Hiking Child Backpack will carry toddlers up to 48 pounds with pressure relief for your comfort.
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.
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. Want to be right in the thick of the medieval village? Hotel Restaurant Ölmühle is a 17th century building with delicious food and family run.
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:
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.
Despite being in the forest, please ensure proper sun protection during the summer months and protect your eyes from the damage inflicted by the sun.
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. Learn more about German castles with this great book.
Beyond the Best Hikes in Germany: Dolomites in Summer
If you’re looking for some amazing mountain adventures with WWI history, check out the Alta Via 1 Hike in the Dolomites. Hike and scramble over the path of the Alpini soldiers and explore the bunkers, via ferratas and outdoor museums at Cinque Torri.
You’ll be immersed in the history of the Italian Front during this gorgeous hike. It's only possible in summer between mid-June and mid-September. It’s absolutely necessary to plan 6 months ahead of time to get lodging at huts directly on the high elevation trails.
It’s a 2-3 hour drive from Venice or a 7-8 hour drive from Ramstein Air Base. Here’s a detailed packing list of everything you would need to complete a 5 day hut to hut hiking trip to explore the Italian front of WWI.
Camino de Santiago Blogs
Thanks for reading this Camino de Santiago Blogs entry #4 and I hope you enjoy rambling around Landstuhl at the edge of the Pfälzerwald.
Please share with a friend you think would enjoy it!
with 💖, Crave the Planet
Author profile: Morgan Fielder is a passionate hiker and writer, physical therapist, and European Cornhole Commissioner. She is living near Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany and featured giving science-based hiking tips and advice. Easy Nanstein Castle Hike - 2 Miles or 3.2 km
When not out exploring the mountains or sea, she’s writing articles and gear reviews to empower Outdoor Journeys that include family and good food. She is actively involved in the community and advocating for connection and sustainability with her community projects at Cornhole Europa andSustainable Investors Group.