This article was published on 02.02.2023 and updated on 19.01.2024.
Hiking trail on the Roter Hang
To many, winter seems gray and boring. But with a little snowfall, a wonderful winter landscape opens up for hiking on the slopes of Rheinhessen. The Rote Hang near Nierstein is virtually predestined for a winter hike with its geological features, its views and its proximity to the Rhine-Main region. Ideal conditions are offered by the only 8 km long circular hiking trail "Wine Experience Red Slope".
A wintry blanket of snow had descended on Rheinhessen, the morning sun was shining, and so my wife and I decided to take a short morning hike to Nierstein. Although there is no parking at the starting point of the hiking trail at the Kilianskirche, it is not far from the parking lots at the train station. Coming from the Rhine-Main area or the Rhine-Neckar area, the train station is served by the S6 every 30 minutes. From the train station it is a short 20 minute walk to the Kilianskirche.
The wine experience
The association Red slope has designed the circular hiking trail with 12 stations. At the stations, red boards provide information about interesting facts, there is an audio guide, and you can enjoy the landscape and the beautiful views in the Rote Hang - where Rieslings of world renown grow.
The tour leads from Nierstein in a northerly direction slowly ascending along the Red Slope, then returns at the top of the hill to the Wartturm, turns west to the castle tower of the Schwabsburg, and then leads along the slope back to Nierstein.
The hiking tour is available at Rheinhessen.de (Wine Experience Red Slope - Hiking between Heaven and Rhine) and on the outdoor platform Outdooractive for re-hiking. Due to the very good trail marking, the tour can also be hiked without an electronic map.
The route planning provides for a duration of 2:10 hours. We want to take about 3 hours to stop at the stations, enjoy the views and have a snack.
The hike begins at the Catholic parish church of St. Kilian. Around the church we admire the oldest documented location in Germany: Nierstein bell. It is said to have existed at least since the year 742, according to a deed of donation. Allegedly and traceably, the vineyard bears its name after the bells of the church. A forerunner of the present church is also said to have existed there in 742. The present church gathers parts and architectural styles from different centuries. From it, the view opens onto Nierstein and the Rhine.
On the right side of the church, we pass it in a small hollow way until we reach the coastal view. "Coast?" we ask ourselves. Until we realize that it is not the view of the Rhine that is meant, but the view 300 million years back, when seawater could be seen here on a coast. The continental plates had shifted, and so began the history of the Red Slope.
The red information panel shows how far it is from the last station and how far it is to the next station. A QR code calls up further information and the audio guide.
Today the snow on the trees and the landscape forms a wonderful contrast with the blue sky over the Rhine. We return to the path and continue to the right in a small depression over a farm track, and then it goes up.
At the break-off edge, the red earth of the Red Slope jumps into our eyes. Here, on the Rote Hang, the Rotliegend rock layer comes to light, which was formed by displacements millions of years ago. It also exists in other areas of Rheinhessen, but nowhere can it be seen so far on the surface and on a break-off edge as here on the Rhine.
The path continues northward on the Red Slope, always with the Rhine and the vineyards in view. The flags of the Red Slope flutter on poles. Sometimes it goes down briefly, but steadily it goes up. Over a snow-covered wooden post ("Stickel") we look back and recognize the Kilianskirche towering above snow and landscape.
Alexander von Humboldt already reported in 1790 about the noble wine and the red rock in Nierstein. At Alexander-von-Humboldt-Blick, we imagine enjoying the view here together with him and talking about the environment and ecology.
To the Fockenberg hut
Just a few meters above the Alexander von Humboldt lookout, we turn directly left onto a natural path that later becomes a trail. Today we trudge through the snow and catch glimpses of the Rhine again and again.
At the Fockenberghütte we take a first short rest. From here we look down again on the Kilianskirche, Nierstein and the Rhine. Clouds are gathering a little, but we are not disturbed by them.
Continue on the upper farm track until you reach the Nierstein watchtower, a medieval signal tower from the 12th century. For a long time, the tower still served the winegrowers as an observation tower and headquarters for bird defense. With loud noises, like with scare guns, the birds were deterred from ravaging the ripe grapes. In front of the tower there are some benches and tables, a family is just setting up for vespers. From here, the view goes far over the vineyards and the Rhine to the Odenwald on the other side of the Rhine.
Castle tower view and castle tower
We trudge further west through the snow above the slope and later catch sight of the castle tower. Schwabsburg Castle was built in the 13th century and initially served as a base for the Hohenstaufen dynasty on the Rhine. After changing owners, the imperial castle was destroyed by Spanish troops during the Thirty Years' War. Only the remains of the keep remained. It was restored only a few years ago and now serves many as an excursion destination. Throughout the year, you can climb up an increasingly narrow staircase inside and enjoy the scenery from above.
Today we stay down and just look at the vineyard "Schloss Schwabsburg" and the Nierstein district Schwabsburg until we start our way back.
At the Oelberg vineyard, the largest single vineyard in the Roter Hang, the Roter Hang hut invites us to rest. We unpack our coffee and some provisions and let our eyes wander over Nierstein.
Just a little below the edge of the slope, we walk further east towards the Rhine. We encounter a family that we had already seen at the Wartturm. There they had just unpacked a Vesper. We chat briefly about the wonderful but cold snowy weather before saying goodbye. Down in the valley, we see vintners with their tractors at work in the vineyard - while we enjoy our free time. In the audio guide, we learn what work needs to be done throughout the year.
At the dinner table we pause for a moment and think about the hard work of the winegrowers.
We descend via the Auflangen-Steig and then hike back to Nierstein. In Nierstein, it would only be a few hundred meters to the Kilianskirche church. We could also walk straight back to the parking lot if it weren't for the market square. Among other things, the market square has the "Genussheldin" to offer.
Coffee and cake at the Genussheldin
We cannot and do not want to resist the temptation. Fortunately, especially in the "Pleasure heroine" The table with the sofa is free on the left. The gourmet heroine is Lisa Schindlbeck. In her cozy café, she offers breakfast à la carte, coffee and cake and lunch dishes. The cakes and pastries are homemade, of course.
We opt for a latte and baked apple tart - just the thing for cold days, right? This is how we enjoy the end of our hike before we set off for the remaining meters to the parking lot.