Steinberg Path

The Steinbergweg

This circular trail shows the other side of the Hainich National Park: valuable open land areas. They provide a habitat for rare animal species. Hikers can also enjoy wonderful views of the Thuringian Basin, the Thuringian Forest and the surrounding villages. Numerous seating areas invite you to take a break.

If you're lucky, you might spot a shepherd here, who still traditionally leads his flock of sheep across the land with his dogs. The trail takes its name from the Steinberg (344 m above sea level), which it circles.

Ammonite - an extinct animal often found fossilized in the area.

10 km

Starting point
At the "Thiemsburg" parking lot not far from the National Park Center.

National Park Center
Thiemsburg 1
99947 Schönstedt

Difficulty level


Starting point
The trail initially runs parallel to the road for 100 m before turning right into the forest. Here you will find a large number of different deciduous tree species in a very small area, including the rare wild service tree. Orchids can be admired in spring. We now follow the path to the left down to the Steingraben.

Through the Steingraben
The Steingraben is a typical example of the Hainich's streams that only carry water periodically. Water only flows here after heavy rainfall or during snowmelt, which is why it is usually only filled with stones. Otherwise, the water seeps into the karstified subsoil, is channelled underground to the north-east and only reappears at the foot of the Hainich in the form of karst springs. After crossing the stone ditch, the hiker enters a beech forest with a species-rich undergrowth.

Beech forest
In spring, the white blossoms of the lily of the valley, the fragrant flowers of the daphne and the delicate wild violets delight the eye of the attentive hiker in the beech forest. The interspersed conifers still reveal the work of man. The hiking trail leads along some fallen trees, the lying deadwood. Here you can see the large round root plates of the trees.

The path leaves the beech forest. At the edge of the forest, you will notice sprawling oaks and mighty field maples (a multi-stemmed field maple is the thickest of its kind in the national park). The hiker now looks out over grassy areas covered with bushes and hedges.

From military training area to open land habitat
The site has been part of the Weberstedt military training area since 1971. Tactical training and military exercises took place here. The grass areas were grazed by sheep until 1998 in order to halt succession, i.e. the natural development towards woodland, and to keep the areas passable. The grazing encouraged the growth of invasive plants such as blackthorn and hackberry or unpalatable and poisonous species such as the autumn crocus, which blooms a delicate pink from the end of August.

As a result, valuable extensively used open land habitats were created, which are very rare in our intensively used cultivated landscape. They provide a habitat for rare bird species (e.g. red-backed shrike), butterflies and amphibians. Other typical bird species in these areas are the grasshopper warbler, skylark and yellowhammer. As part of the NATURA 2000 network of protected areas, they are still specially protected today and are kept open through maintenance and grazing.

Almost the entire Steinbergweg follows the boundaries of the national park. In some sections, there are intensively farmed fields just a few meters from the path - the contrast could not be clearer.

Doline (sinkhole)
The path soon passes a funnel-shaped depression with an old willow growing at the bottom. This is by no means a shell funnel, as one might assume due to the former military use of the land, but a so-called sinkhole (or sinkhole). It was formed when an underground gypsum deposit was washed out and the resulting cavity collapsed.

Breathtaking distant views
On the rest of the trail, there are numerous small bodies of water along the edge of a forest in spring, which dry out in summer. Soon afterwards, hikers are rewarded with an impressive distant view of the Thuringian Forest with the Großer Inselsberg. A seating area invites you to take a break. Finally, you reach a beautiful lime-rich oak-hornbeam forest, the Netzbornholz, whose ground is covered with a magnificent carpet of flowers in spring. With a bit of luck, you may spot the middle spotted woodpecker here.

After crossing the forest, the hiker comes to the Waagebalkenweg directly at the national park border. Turn left and head back to Thiemsburg Castle.

As the path continues, the spruce forest there catches the eye. The entire spruce stand is dead. Its undergrowth consists almost exclusively of young beeches and maples. Both are a clear sign that spruce does not occur here naturally. Left to its natural development, the spruce stand will therefore change over time into a deciduous forest dominated by beech.

The path turns north again and we walk along the national park boundary. When you reach the cycle path coming from Bad Langensalza, turn left. The path here is lined with the yellow-green, elongated inflorescences of woad, an old dyeing plant, and the purple flower heads of wild teasel, which turn brown in the fall. We also pass a small stand of juniper. You soon reach the stone ditch again, where you can clearly see the rock.

The light-colored limestone that makes up the Hainich was formed just over 200 million years ago. At that time, the area that is now Hainich was at the bottom of a shallow sea. Over the course of millions of years, the limestone shells of dead marine animals (among others) formed the layers of shell limestone that make up the Hainich. The last kilometer before returning to the starting point is again in the forest. The trail runs along the floodplain of the Steingraben stream, where you can admire the large numbers of spring snowflakes in spring.