By Vicky · Published Nov. 25th, 2023
This hike is one of the best in the Ries Crater, with several points of interest including geology, Roman ruins, caves and viewpoints.
Ries Crater Hiking Map
The Ries Crater Hike starts from the Literaturcafé am Geopark. You can park at the side of the road nearby.
- The Nördlinger Ries Crater was formed by a meteorite impact roughly 15 million years ago. Head to the Ries Crater Museum in Nördlingen to find out more!
- There’s a Biergarten (the Jagdhaus Alte Bürg) in the middle of the woods halfway through this walk, or a nice cafe (the Literaturcafé am Geopark) at the beginning and end.
- After this walk, visit Harburg Castle or the cute town of Donauwörth, or go on another walk in the crater nearby. Alternatively, check out our Germany Hiking Page for more great hikes nearby and for walking tours of the famous Bavarian cities.
Ries Crater Hiking Route
Head slightly into the woods and you’ll see a large sign for the Geotop Lindle. This is the name of the old quarry here, where you can see various geological features. There are several signs around the quarry, some with a bit of English. On the others, the pictures are quite informative.
Continue left along the track by the edge of the woodland after the signposts. There’s a nice viewpoint over the Nördlinger Ries Crater to the left. A bit further around the corner, you’ll walk into the main section of the quarry. You may also see some goats behind a fence. These are employed to clear the vegetation from the quarry sides so you can still see the rock layers well!
Walk onwards, and where the track bends the corner, there’s a smaller path leading across a couple of boardwalks. These go over some small ponds where frogs and salamanders live, then reach a sign underneath the cliffs above.
Return back to the track and follow it up the hill. There are some nice benches here and another great viewpoint over the Ries Crater. Continue on the track, which becomes smaller and heads through the woods. Soon you’ll come out at the edge of the fields. Take a detour to the mound in front of you – this is an old motte-and-bailey castle.
Then head along the track by the edge of the trees. A short distance later you can take a short out-and-back detour to a viewpoint over the quarry. Unfortunately, the viewpoint itself is closed (2023) but you can still get fairly good views from the side.
Continue around the field and you’ll come to a larger track. Turn left and you’ll walk down to a road. Crossover and turn right, then take the path to the left just before the main road. A tunnel then takes you beneath the road and onto a smaller lane on the other side.
Soon you’ll reach a bench with a panoramic viewpoint of Riegelberg Hill and the countryside of the Ries Crater. Continue onwards and keep left along a track through the forest. After passing a children’s playground, turn right and you’ll get to the Jagdhaus Alte Bürg, a biergarten in the middle of the woods. Opening hours vary throughout the year, but the place generally opens at 11:30 am and is more likely to be open Fri-Sun than during the week.
The hiking route continues past the Biergarten and up to the right. There’s then a short out-and-back to the top of the Alte Bürg itself. There’s a small chapel here, but not much in terms of views. Head straight onwards through the woods, turn right and you’ll be at another small quarry. You can see suevite here, a very rare rock time that only forms where meteorites hit the earth.
From the quarry, turn right and keep heading downhill and onto the Roman ruins.
Roman Ruins & Riegelberg in the Ries Crater
The Roman ruins are the remains of an old Roman estate, probably given to a retired soldier as thanks for his service in the Roman legions. All that remains now are some low walls that delineate where all the buildings were. Fruit and vegetables were probably grown within the outer walls, which also kept in goats and chickens at night time and helped to keep out unwanted animals.
From the ruins, head up the hill. The path is quite steep and leads first to the main cave, Große Ofnethöhle. Evidence of bones and tools suggests that people lived in this cave from 3000 to 5000 BC. A more surprising find, a pile of 33 human skulls dating to 7700 BC, was probably the result of a ritual burial here.
From the large cave walk right along the small path to the Kleine Ofnethöhle. This is a similar, but smaller cave, and quite cozy, with good views down to the plains below. It’s a great viewpoint on this hike through the Ries Crater. Leave the cave, then walk to the top of the hill over the little path up the rocks to the right. Head across the plateau and admire the views. Turn right at the fence on the other side. This surrounds another large quarry with steep sides.
Walking back through Geotop Lindle
Turn right at the track and it will bring you towards the main road. At the smaller road beforehand, turn right, then take the first track on the left to reach the main road. Carefully cross the road and turn left on the track on the other side.
When the track bends right, you can head up the small mound to reach a great bench with lovely views over the Ries Crater. Head back down the mound and take the track on the left leading into the woods.
There’s a small viewing platform by the path on the left, with views over the smaller quarry. The trail continues between the two quarries and then back down to the signpost where you started. This is the end of the Ries Crater Hike. Head to the Literaturcafé am Geopark for some post-walk refreshments or look around the historic town of Nördlingen nearby.
Guidebooks to explore more of Germany
Visit Harburg Castle or the cute town of Donauwörth, or go on another walk in the crater nearby. Alternatively, check out our Germany Hiking Page for more great hikes nearby and for walking tours of the famous Bavarian cities.