The ideal start / end point of the Thuringia Orbit is the hiking car park or the adjacent “Caravanpark Schwarzatal” campsite right on the track. However, you can start at any point of the route. From here it goes over the Saalfeld heights, peppered with its short toxic climbs and crisp single trails towards Saalfeld. There you can reach the well-known “Saalfeld fairy grottoes” – a huge abandoned mine that has been expanded into a show mine. If you have enough time, enjoy the original Thuringian Rostbratwurst here!
After a few ups and downs across meadows and fields you will reach the Hohenwart dam. This is the second, and also the largest of the five Saale dams. After the ascent to the upper pool, our track always winds along the right side of the dam. You will be rewarded with beautiful views of the dam with its many small hidden bays and campsites.
In Ziegenrück, a small sleepy town, you now follow the gravel roads upstream along the Saale towards Burgk Castle, and further along the Bleiloch dam to Blankenstein. This is where the Rennsteig ends and for you an approximately 60 km-long high speed section begins, with little altitude and mostly fine gravel highways through the Thuringian Slate Mountains and the Thuringian Forest. Shortly after Neuhaus, you leave the Rennsteig and the track turns into the almost untouched and enchanted Schwarzatal. Driving technique is in demand for the first few kilometres! Passing the Schwarzatal spring, the Dam-Alsbach dam, and the Wurzelrudihütte, the route tends to descend on beautiful singletrack towards the Katzhütte. From here follows a fairly steep ascent to the Meusselbacher summit. If you were fast and it is still light, you can enjoy the view of the Leibis dam after a few kilometres. The goal is already within reach! Enjoy the last 30 km through the beautiful Schwarzatal.
The ideal starting point for Orbit Thuringia would be Bad Blankenburg, Saalfeld or Blankenstein am Rennsteig. These three locations are all easily accessible by train. Ziegenrück is also possible by car.
A few more informations about the route and tips for the bike:
– Despite the many metres in altitude, the route is almost completely rideable
– Some MTB skills will be an advantage. If you are unsure about the trails and individual root passages, you might want to dismount and walk. But these sections are manageable!
– Be sure to take warm clothes and rainwear (also on summer days), heat storms and sudden drops in temperature are common in the low mountain ranges.
Ideal bike: MTB / gravel bike. If possible, do not show up with your narrowest tires!
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