| The race track
The race track is probably the most well-known hiking path in Germany. This mountain path stretches from a total length of about 168 km and runs, like you can see from the hiking map, in northwest direction from Blankenstein on the Saale river (about 47 km southeast from the 963-lauecastle hotel Franconia Forest) and Horschel on the Werra river (about 152 km northwest from the 963-lauecastle hotel Franconia Forest). Of course, you can also hike in the opposite direction. Blankenstein lies about 24 km northwest from Hof in Bavaria and about 51 km southeast of Saalfeld in Thuringia. Horschel lies about 8 km northwest from Eisenach in Thuringia.
The race track leads from Blankenstein on the Thuringia side along the border to Bavaria, before it leads through three middle mountain landscapes. These are, seen from southeast to northwest, the Franconia Forest, the Thuringia slate mountains and the Thuringer Forest. Near Ludwigsstadt-Lauenhain (about 8 km south from the 963-laue castle hotel Franconia Forest), the race track leaves Thuringia and runs on a stretch of about 13 km through the north Franconia Forest in upper Franconia in Bavaria.
From the 963-laue castle hotel Franconia Forest in Bavaria you can reach the race track on the shortest way (about 7 km), if you drive in southwest over Ebersdorf in direction Kleintettau between the race track towns Steinbach near the forest (about 11 km south from the 963-laue castle hotel Franconia Forest) and Neuhaus at the race track (about 26 km west from the 963-laue castle hotel Franconia Forest). About 2 km north from Kleintettau, the Bavarian section of the hiking path ends and the race track becomes Thuringia again until the destination town Horschel on the Werra river. The highest point of the race track is the big Beerberg mountain (982 meters above sea level) near the well-known winter sport town Oberhof in the Thuringia Forest (about 84 km northwest from the 963-lauecastle hotel Franconia Forest).
In the course of history, the race track had not only been walked on often, but also sung on often. There's even an own song about the race track. The race track song was especially known in the former German Democratic Republic, while in the west it was almost completely forgotten in association with the splitting of Germany.
The origin of the name
The research of the origin of the name "Rennsteig" (= race track) has different theories. A couple of people, for example, guessed it derived from the term "balk" in terms of "border". This interpretation wasn't all that absurd, because the hiking paths lead through a lot of border areas like no other and still today, about 1,300 border stones border it from the 16th to 18th century. They remind of the time of the German sectionalism. However, this theory was proved to be wrong.
The intensive occupation with documents, country maps and oral deliverances as well as the comparison with other routes, which also have the name Rennsteig or Rennweg, namely resulted that all such called paths were former express courier paths and courier paths for runners and riders.
The first evidences for the existance of the race track go back until the 9th century. But the first documentary mentioning comes from the year 1330. For the year 1530, it's documented, that no other than Martin Luther hiked on it. In 1666, the duke Ernst the Devotional from Gotha let it be measured, in order to use it for military purposes.
In 1806 Napoleon moved from Kronach in direction Jena over the race track. In 1830, the topographer Julius von Planckner wrote a detailed experience report after his hiking, which, among others, also inspired the poet Viktor Scheffel.
The hiking booklet of August Trinius, which appeared in 1890, finally caused a downright race track boom, which let the hiking path become to the most famous in the German empire. The foundation of the race track club in the year 1896 proves this.
The splitting of Germany resulted of the Second World War, caused the race track became more or less forgotten in the Federal Republic of Germany, since the greatest part of the route belonged to east Germany and therefore wasn't accessible any more for west Germans. Only the above mentioned 13 km ran on west Germany grounds through Franconia Forest in upper Bavaria. The German Democratic Republic shortened the route on its side of about 40 km because both ends of the race track were in the near bordering restricted area. Since April 28, 1990 the race track can be hiked on non-stop.
Sightseeings and things worth experiencing
On the route between Blankenstein on the Saale river and Horschel on the Werra river, the hiker passes several charming viewing points, from where he can enjoy landscaped beauties and the view towards the marvelously laid towns and sightseeings. Among these are for example, seen from southeast to northwest,
One always runs into small monuments, such as
The already mentioned 1,300 border stones are also monuments. A couple of kilometers before the destination Horschel the "Vachaer Stein" reminds of the times, as the race track couldn't be hiked on its total length. The end of the race track was here in the German Democratic Republic times because of the restricted area.
Race track stage hiking map
A 5-day or 10-day hiking is recommended for the hiking of the race track in the total length, according to condition. If you start in Blankenstein in Thuringia, the first or second day destination could be the 963-laue castle hotel Franconia Forest in Bavaria (about 37 km hiking stretch). You can also participate in an organized hiking. The race track is marked with a "R". It's also helpful to get a hiking map for the race track and other regional hiking maps.
Race track biking bicycling bike bicycle tour
The race track can not only be hiked on, but also be experienced as a bike tour. The bicycle hiking path slightly varies in the stretch guidance from the hiking path and that's why it's about 25 km longer.
Race track run marathon
On the race track, more than one run is arranged every year. A race track club in Schmiedefeld for example, arranges the biggest cross-run in Europe at the race track in Thuringia. The race track is also location of other running events such as marathons, half marathons or ultra marathons.
963-laue castle hotel Franconia Forest Bavaria Germany Thuringia Rennsteig Mountains
Rennsteig Mountains hiking map Thuringia Franconia Forest Bavaria castle hotel