Birds chirping, leaves rustling and nothing but fresh, clear air. Welcome to the SaaleHorizontale in the Middle Saale Valley around Jena! There is hardly a more beautiful place to switch off, recharge your batteries and simply change your perspective. The SaaleHorizontale is a 72-kilometer hiking trail and the undisputed highlight among the outdoor activities in the region.
Forests, castles, striking shell limestone mountains and in addition the magnificent view of the pulsating University city Jena. All this can be found in the Saale Valley. No wonder that hiking has a long tradition here. Since 2008, there has been a paradise for outdoor fans with the SaaleHorizontale hiking trail, which has been classified as a quality trail by the German Hiking Association. "At that time, we combined the most beautiful elements of the Jena landscape to offer hikers an essence of something special," says Olaf Schubert, Jena's city forester. The narrow trails run for 72 kilometers between Jena and Dornburg on both banks of the Saale. In colorful variety, the route passes through nature reserves and forests, through lush meadows and sleepy villages, past orchids and vineyards. "You also pass through original deciduous forests that are unparalleled in their composition. Here are still tree species as they existed many thousands of years ago," raves the forester. But also the many historic castles, palaces and ruins along the way set exciting accents.
Even as you climb up to the SaaleHorizontale, you are offered magnificent views over colorful meadows, ancient walls, pine groves and beech forests into the expanse of the Saale Valley. Particularly rewarding vantage points are the three Dornburg castles and the ruins of Lobdeburg, Kunitzburg and Tautenburg. And also the Light city Jena with its sparkling modern landmark, the JenTower, always remains nicely in view.
Would you like a break and some fine refreshments? In view of the 16 cozy inns and mountain restaurants scattered along the route, hikers can fortify themselves more practically at any time - with a cool beer and regional delicacies. Once again, the dream view is part of the offer, because some of these addresses, which always warmly welcome hikers, are located on the highest elevations of the region.
A large part of the trail runs through nature reserves. The SaaleHorizontale is a habitat for small and large animals. If you look carefully, you might spot the eagle owl or wildcat, partridge, kingfisher or bat, all of which are native to the Saale Valley. The Middle Saale Valley is also known for its abundance of orchids - a highlight of any hike when they bloom in spring.
Along the SaaleHorizontale there are plenty of access routes and exit options, so that every hiker can tailor their tour to suit their individual needs.
Especially popular with the younger generations (but not only!) is the ascent via the dinosaur trail to Jenzig, Jena's most famous peak. Along the way, lifelike replicas of dinosaurs sit ready to leap. There are also many exciting interactive stations. And if you have a smartphone with you, you can on the road via augmented reality beamed directly back to the Triassic of 250 million years ago. Holla the river lizard!
Cover photo: On the SaaleHorizontale, hikers have the university town of Jena in view © JenaKultur, Photo: C. Häcker
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