We continue our journey in France with a new article which will be 100% about hiking and nature. We left you in our last article with the villages and castles of the Périogord, well this time we continue a little further north with always beautiful landscapes and castles in the Northern Vosges! 😉
It is in the area around Bitche that we dropped off our backpacks last week and in this article we wanted to share some ideas for hiking and cycling routes to do in the Vosges du Nord regional park. Are you ready? So we’ll take you for a little ride in the Bitcherland (this is really how locals call it around here)! 😉
Hiking to the castles of Falkenstein and Waldeck
We start this article with the biggest hike we did during this stay: I named the castle hike of the Bitche region. (It’s not the hike’s real name… it’s just the one we decided to give it)
A superb hike that hurts the legs a little bit (just as we like it) but above all, that allows you to pass through absolutely sublime areas! In this article, we will not give you the exact itinerary turn by turn, but instead we will focus on the main points of interest. Nevertheless, if you want to do the hike following in our footsteps, we have prepared a detailed map with the possibility of downloading the GPX a little further in this article.
We left from the Hanau pond and we quickly reached the Waldeck Castle. This castle was built in the course of the 13th century and has the particularity of having been built on a chain of 3 rocks.
Access to the ruins was long prohibited because the perimeter was not secure. But for some time now, it has been possible to climb again because facilities such as fences and stairs have been built. And that’s pretty nice because the place is really worth having a look.
When you arrive in front of the castle you have the choice between 3 “passages”. One leads to an observation platform using a small ladder, a second to the troglodytic caves and the third (the one we really recommend) is a little more atypical. 😉
By taking a small path that goes to the right when you are in front of the chamber at the foot of the castle (see picture) you reach the level of the 3rd rock. The latter is equipped with a rope that allows you to climb on the top….
And who says climbing, says also a nice view from the top! And believe us, this one is worth having a look!
The rock of Erbsenfelsen
After the short break at Waldeck Castle we set off again towards another “rocky” curiosity of the region, I named it: Erbsenfelsen Rock. It is in fact a huge arch that is 12m long and 8m high in the rock.
In the picture it doesn’t look very good because we were below, but I promise you that when you’re facing this giant stone it’s really impressive!
Attention! In the region there are many peregrine falcons! So I reassure you right away if I say attention it’s not for you…. They do not represent any threat to human. But, we are one for them. During spring and early summer it is the nesting season and the peregrine falcon nests directly in the cliff. The presence of humans can easily disturb them. It is therefore important to remain discreet in the area and especially to stay on the trails and stay away from the rocks.
The castle of Falkenstein has undoubtedly been our BIG favorite of the region! So much so that we will have ended up there 3 times to capture some images of the sunset.
You enter the castle by first following a large straight alley in the middle of the forest and after a small climb you reach the main entrance gate. It’s crazy because seen from below we don’t realize at all what’s waiting for us at the top! The place is, if you want our opinion, simply magical!
Built in the 11th century, very few parts of this castle remain in the end. Some troglodytic rooms, remains of a tower, the entrance gate and some parts of the walls. The highlight is undoubtedly the 360° view of the hills of the Northern Vosges that we have from above.
The castle is arranged for visits in the sense that secure stairs and footbridges have been installed but on the other hand there is no one on site (nor of course any entrance fee to pay). The place is certainly known in the region but it is still completely deserted! During our 3 visits (in all we spent 6 or 7 hours there) we met a total of… 6 people!
This castle is simply the dream spot for a picnic at sunset! But rather than talking to you in detail about the view at the end of the day, I’ll show you some pictures…
The pond of Liesbach
From Falkenstein there are only 4 short kilometres left to reach the starting point of the hike. As the hike was coming to an end and we were just beginning to tell ourselves that this hike was really nice, we arrived at the level of the pond of Liesbach. How can I explain to you that this little pond, that we certainly spotted on the map, still had quite some surprises reserved for!
Indeed, the pond of Liesbach is almost entirely covered with water lily and fortunately they were all in bloom at the time of our passage! Apparently the flowering season extends from June to September, but we can’t tell you if this is the case for Liesbach for the whole period. But what is certain is that when it is, this place is simply sublime!
- Start and finish: Hanau Pond
- Distance: about 16km
- Elevation change: abotu 400m (positiv and negativ)
- Duration: the walking time is about 4h-4h30 but to this must be added the time to see the castles, so it would be better to count 6h
- Difficulty: Easy-Moderate
Map of the Falkenstein – Waldeck hike
As usual we have prepared a small map of the itinerary we have followed. You can also download the GPX directly by clicking on the small cloud at the top of the map (or choose another format)
Electric bike ride to Altschlossfelsen
Cycling and me is not a great love story…. To tell you the truth, I really learned to ride a bicycle once I was in my twenties (hum-hum) but let’s say that with Benoit as a travel and life companion, I had little choice but to get started (with more or less success).
I give it to you in the bull’s-eye, riding a bike on the roads of the Bitche country was his idea. 😉
In search of “real” bicycles, or not….
The tourist office offers electric bicycles for rent by the day, so I was a lot more motivated than during our bike trip to Taiwan. But that was without counting on my man’s obstinacy…. For him, electricity is cheating, bicycles are the real thing and nothing else! In other words, Benoit totally overlooked the tourist office’s option and started looking for “real bicycles”. We went to the local DIY store, we looked online, but in the end we had to admit it (especially Benoit): In Bitche there are no “normal” bicycles to rent, this day we were going to do it by electric bike! Mouahahahahaha
The objective of the day was, initially, to reach the Altschlossfelsen rock by using the bike lane (we talk to you about the rock and the hike to go there in more detail below).
Cycling in the Bitche region
In short, it was a very cheerful start that morning, taking great care to leave the electric assistance at the minimum (a matter of pride towards my man). After leaving Bitche we quickly reached the cycle path. The path is really very pleasant and relatively flat (and for the few steeper climbs I had my secret weapon: the “Power” mode on the bike) 😉
After only 3km of road, we had a big surprise: camels! Yep…. So I reassure you that it was not the sun that hit too hard that day, but Bitche there is indeed someone who has a huge field in which he has horses, cows and… camels! 🙂 Might as well explain that it made us laugh. No idea why they’re here, but their little face clearly put us in a good mood for the rest of the day.
Arrived at the fork with Roppeviller we left the cycle path to follow the road for a small part and go for a short hike in the direction of Altschlossfelsen. We also tell you about this beautiful hike later in the article.
After the detour in Roppeviller we returned to the cycle path and continued to Walschbronn, which is only a few kilometres from the German border. To tell you the truth, we were there because we saw on our map that there was a castle. Hmmm… the bike path to get there is very nice, on an electric bike is super easy to get there, but other than that, Walschbronn is nothing really crazy if you want our opinion.
From Walschbronn we took the bike path back to Bitche. Just after having said hello again to our friends the camels we opted for a second small detour to go see the ossuary of Schorbach. It is difficult to say how many bones are present here, but what is certain is that, due to lack of space in the cemetery, the tombs were regularly emptied and piled up here between the 12th century and the French revolution.
It may seem a little weird to show off a lot of bones in the open, but we found it was still very impressive to see!
A few last pedals and we were back in Bitche. We really had a very nice day on the roads of Bitche. Not sure if I can convince Benoit to definitely adopt electric, but personally I thought it was great.
Cycling in the Bitche region
- Starting point and finish: Bitche, tourist office
- Distance: about 45km of cycling, mostly on a cycle path (to be combined with the 6km hike to Altschlossfelsen, see below)
- Renting bicycles: If you do not have a bike with you, you can rent electric bicycles at the tourist office for 19€ per day (35€ for 2 days, then 15€ per additional day)
- Points of interest en route: The rock of Altschlossfelsen, the ossuary of Schorbach and the camels of course! 🙂
Map of the day by bike in the Bitche region
Hiking to Altschlossfelsen
In this part I will talk to you in more detail about the hike to Altschlossfelsen. The path to get there is very well done, but it is still much more comfortable to take it on foot than by bike… So if you arrive by bike as we do, we recommend that you park your bikes in the village and continue on foot following the itinerary given below.
Altschlossfelsen is a must if you come to the Bitche country (Bitcherland if you prefer). Plus, this mini hike is definitely an international trip 😉 Yes, we start the hike in France, but the actual rock is about a hundred meters from the border, on the German side. Achhh Nein!
Personally, it was photos that I had seen online that made me want to come and visit this place. Actually, from the pictures, I thought quite naively that it was “just” a single, well photogenic rock. So in reality this “small” pebble is actually a big rocky bar that is 1.5km long! So yes, THE spot where the vast majority of the photos are taken is there:
But let’s face it, that’s not all… The details in the pink sandstone are simply impressive. The closer you look, the more you see small details…
For the visit we advise you to make the complete tour of the rock, i. e. start by the side via the small path that passes below and then return to the base by taking the path that passes above.
Besides, you can tell us what you think, but when you take the path that goes directly over the rocks it’s quite crazy because you just don’t feel like you’re on a rocky bar. Nature has regained 200% of its rights and we simply have the impression of walking in a forest which looks 100% “classic” (except that we just have to keep in mind not to get too close to the edges).
- Start and Finish: Roppeviller
- Distance: 5,7km
- Duration: about 1h-2h depending on how often you stop to take pictures 😉
- Difficulty: very easy
- Note: If you want to do a longer hike and not come by bike it is possible to start from Haspelschiedt and follow the path that goes up towards Roppeviller. It will then be possible for you to go through the Haspelschiedt polisher on the way, which we will talk about in more detail below.
Altschlossfelsen – Hiking Map
The pond and polisher of Haspelschiedt
During the first days of our stay we stayed near the Haspelschiedt pond and so we didn’t go here in “hiking” mode but still took some walks in the area in the evening (and early morning too… but that’s another story…) 🙂
Hiking itinerary: the Haspelschiedt polisher
We had seen several pictures of the Haspelschiedt polisher but on the other hand we had a hard time finding the indications on where it is…. we prepared a small map for you to help you find your way around more easily. But basically you just have to leave Haspelschiedt by the pond and turn right at the end of the street. Continue straight ahead until the road turns into a forest track. You continue on this track and about 50m after passing a large electric pylon you take the track that goes to the left and then the small path that goes up towards the rock. Very easy we tell you! It takes 15 short minutes on foot to the rock if you leave from the pond.
Once at its foot our advice is to pass through the fault and then climb above the rock by taking the small path that goes around it to the left (left when you look at the rock). From above it’s funny because you don’t feel like you’re on a rock at all, but you do have a nice unobstructed view of the surroundings.
Getting to the Haspelshiedt polisher
Sunrise on the Haspelschiedt pond (or not)
So, I was talking about this pond in the early morning…. So on this point I have an ethical duty to make a correction. It wasn’t “we” but only Benoit. While I was deeply asleep, Benoit woke up 3 mornings in a row at 5am to capture the sunrise. Well yes, the sun rises in front of the pond and if you want our opinion it must be magnificent. Well the problem is that on the 3 mornings, Benoit was faithful to the post, but on the other hand the sun was quite absent…. #badluck
In other words, if you are in the area (and the weather is fine) the pond of Haspelschiedt is probably a nice spot for the sunrise. Don’t forget to send us a picture if you see it! 😉
Where to stay around Bitche?
Sleeping in a barrel 🙂
When we arrived in the country of Bitche the weather was… how should I say? wet! 😉 So we opted for a dry accommodation and our choice was an unusual accommodation: a barrel! Located on the edge of the Haspelschiedt pond, this small barrel is managed by the restaurant “les amis du lacs”.
The restaurant offers 3 lodgings in its courtyard: a barrel and 2 small wooden “chalets”. The chalets are a little cheaper, but they are much smaller. The barrel is equipped with a pretty terrace overlooking the pond, a kitchenette, an “office” space or dining table, depending on your needs, a bathroom and a double bed. We really enjoyed this unusual accommodation. 😉
The Haspelschiedt barrel is located in the courtyard of the restaurant “Les amis du lac”
- Price: 85€ the night including a great breakfast
- Réservation: The barrel is on Airbnb. But if you call directly it is a little cheaper and the prices are decreasing according to the number of nights 😉 For your information we paid 220€ for 3 nights with breakfast. Website: Les amis du lac
- Note:If you are in the area, we strongly advise you to eat one evening at the restaurant! The cuisine is 100% homemade and really delicious.
Campsites in the country of Bitche
From the moment our friend the sun made his big comeback we decided to opt for camping. The idea was to be as close as possible to Falkenstein and to be able to easily and quickly climb to the top for sunset. #WeLlNeverChange
Our initial choice was the Hanau campsite located at the edge of the pond of the same name. We really liked the location, overlooking the pond and the absolute calm that prevailed there. On the other hand, we regretted the very short opening hours of the grocery store (we never saw it open to tell you the truth) and the unfortunately non-existent mobile service and the bad wifi.
After 2 nights we decided to move our little house…. To tell you the truth, this move was quite motivated by the idea of having an ounce of network and leaving the famous “white zone”. So we headed for our second campsite of the stay: Ramstein beach campsite.
Network level our choice will have proved to be very unsuccessful…. The campsite is nice and equipped with wifi too, after having left a lot of patience for trying to upload a photo on instagram we finally dropped out and took the opportunity to do a little “digital detox”! 🙂
In the end, even if none of the campsites had a network coverage, we still had a slight preference for the Ramstein one. The restaurant by the water was very nice.
Camping de Hanau
- Opening: from April 1st to September 30th
- Capacity: 385 lakefront pitches
- Price: 23,6€ per night for a tent, 2 people and 1 car + electricity
Camping de Ramstein
- Opening: from April 1st to September 30th
- Capacity: about 400 pitches (many are for seasonal rentals…. for tents there are about 60)
- Price: 23,4€ per night for 2 people with a tent, a car + electricity
That’s it, that’s all for this first article on the Bitche country! We look forward to seeing you in a future article that will be a little more “cultural” with a visit to the Maginot line, the citadel of Bitche but also the magical world of crystal. 😉
See you soon on Novo-Monde 🙂
Our stay in the Bitche region was carried out in collaboration with the Tourist Office of the Bitche region. We would like to thank Sophie, Corinne and the rest of the team who trusted us and gave us “free rein” on this magnificent project. The entire program as well as the accommodation choices and reservations were made by us.