Altchlosspfad Hike in Germany, A Trail of Self-Discovery & Soul-Food
Updated: Aug 10, 2020
A Silent Retreat for the Soul
About a year ago, I attended my first silent retreat. For 8 hours, my colleagues and I were asked to participate in various forms of meditation. We were asked to avoid any verbal and nonverbal communication with each other, which included no eye contact.
At the start of the day, I remember sitting on my Zafu–that fun yoga pillow–and thinking there is no way I am going make it through 8 hours of this. Absolutely, no way.
I definitely struggled at the beginning, but as the day progressed, I found myself settling into the silence and introspection.
I felt the subtle strength of my own feet as we participated in walking meditations. I felt incredible gratitude for my body, the world around me, the ability to think, to breathe, and to feel. I slowly painted clouds in the sky with a session of Qigong–another first for me. I realized 8 hours is a long time to be alone with yourself. The lessons I experienced were tender, and not easily grasped. They came to me slowly, and even as I reflect now I struggle to capture the extent and intensity of the experience of silence.
Loud conversations with ourselves can begin the moment we invite silence into our lives.
Wandering Alone in the Forest
"Your own exploration has to be personalized; you're doing it for yourself, increasing your own store of particular knowledge, walking your own eccentric version. ” - Geoff Nicholson
Many people are scared to spend time alone with themselves. I sometimes think the older we get, the more demons we collect. Yet, in my heart I know, no human soul is a monster.
No matter how many demons we harbor, we all deserve to be friends with ourselves. After all, it's probably the most enduring life-long friendship we'll ever have.
Every time I take a solo-hike, I am reminded that life is good. I don't know what it is about nature that gets all the good-brain-juices flowing, but it does. Sitting at home or at the office, it's easy to feel alone. I've found nature has a powerful way of swallowing up loneliness. Even when I hike alone, I never feel lonely.
In the woods, there are no expectations. There are no deadlines to meet and no friends or family members to disappoint. There is only freedom from formalities and every chance to move at the pace you choose. It is a freedom I rarely experience elsewhere in my life.
Perhaps, this is why I've learned to love hiking. Hiking is not so much about the pictures we take or the destinations we discover, but the walks we take along the paths in our own hearts. Hiking is a re-connection with the self. It is a journey taken over and over that allows us to return back to the daily grind re-energized and re-affirmed that it's all going to be okay.
Hiking the Altschlosspfad
The Altschlosspfad takes about 4 hours, giving you plenty of time to relax and enjoy quiet nature. The trail is diverse with valley meadows, wildlife, forests, and massif sandstone cliffs full of caves, caverns, and arches to search and explore. It's name comes from the German word Altschloßfelsen, which means "old castle rocks." There used to be a castle atop the monumental cavernous walls, but nothing of the castle remains to be seen today.
This route earned the Premiumweg Hiking Seal from the German Hiking Institute of Marburg. Meaning it includes user-friendly route markers, nature and landscape experiences, interesting and varied routes, as well as points of interest.
The starting point of the hike is at the Hotel Kupper in Eppenbrunn.
There is a car park to the right and behind the hotel where you can park. The trail is begins as a paved path just a few meters from the car park and starts into the forest. The paved path quickly turns into the dirt path pictured above (this is the start of the trail).
As you begin walking, you'll enjoy the peaceful river down below. Gracie had a blast splashing around in the water as we walked the start of the trail. You'll walk straight for a bit beneath treetops along a clear, dirt path until you come to a 3-way fork. Don't go across the bridge to your right, or take the trail to the left.
Continue straight, following the Altschloss marker. Once you're past this fork in the trail, the rest is easy peasy! Just keep following the signs.
You'll eventually wander through the meadow fields of the Martelbach valley. I found it actually quite challenging to get turned around on this trail, because there is a rope fence/railing you can follow almost the entire hike. This trail is very well-marked.
The highlight of the hike will be when you reach the Altschlossfelsen–old castle rocks. Explore and enjoy! There's so much beauty to see.
You're almost to the end when you reach Hohler Felsen. Only a kilometer or two more, and you're done!
Trail Details at a Glance
Trail Name: Altschlosspfad
Trail Marker Symbol: pictured -->
Loop Trail: Yes, walk clockwise.
Start At: Hotel Kupper in Eppenbrunn (Himbaumstraße 22, 66957 Eppenbrunn)
Parking: Car Park to the right and behind the Hotel Kupper
Distance: 10.2km (approx 6 miles)
Duration: 3 to 4 hours
Elevation Gains: 198 meters
(approx 650 feet)
When to Hike: All year round
Kid Friendly: Yes, I saw many kids 7 to 8 years old and older on the trail. Just make sure they're okay hiking 6 miles.
Dog Friendly: Yes
Outdoor Active Link: Altschlosspfad
Hiking Highlights: A 1.5 meter long 35 meter tall rock wall (approx 115 feet tall). If you've ever been to the Grand Canyon, then here you'll feel like you're walking with a Grand Canyon wall on one side of the trail and forests on the other.
Another highlight: Stand in two countries at once! 4km in to the hike you'll reach the French/German border where you can stand with one foot in each country.
You really can be in two places at once! Search for this stone:
Still Another highlight: When you reach the French/German border stone, you can take a detour to see the Diane Rocher–the Diana Rock (I do not recommend taking this detour with kids as it can get pretty steep on the way back down). This detour takes 0.2km and the signs are clearly marked to guide you to the Diana Rock. Try to find the carved image of three Roman deities carved into the sandstone cliff! (Diana, Ares, and Silvanus).
*Although this trail is clearly marked, you should always take a hiking map with you for safety, and be prepared for an emergency. Make sure you have a safe place to get down in a thunderstorm, rain protection, and enough food/water. It's a good idea to carry a small first aid kit.
Be mindful of uneven ground, roots, stones, or holes that might trip you up. Sometimes these things can be hard to see or are covered by fallen leaves. After storms, it's possible for trees or branches to fall. Watch for muddy or slippery parts of the trail, especially after or during rainy conditions. Wear proper footwear.
Carry your ID with you, take sunscreen, and make sure some one knows where you'll be hiking and for how long.
Walk the Forest Path for Silence and Solitude.
We're all on a search to deepen our connections with ourselves. We try every day to perceive ourselves, explore our inner world, and to understand our circumstances with increased clarity. Dan Millman once said, "the secret of change is to focus all your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new."
The Altschlosspfad trail offers a chance to look up, lift your head high, and realize just how beautiful the world is around us. If you've been looking for a trail to hike in Germany, start with the Altsclosspfad!