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Norway - Two-thousand kilometers by bicycle, from Trondheim to Europe's northern-most point, the North Cape. Tunnels, camping, grocery shopping, ferries and other information.

Brenner Pass Across the Alps by Bicycle. A route from Innsbruck across the pass (1370 meters) and into South Tyrol (Italy)

Additional information

Ruhr Valley Cycle Route website in German only.

Ruhr Industrial Heritage Trail - partly in English

Zeche Zollverein coal mine museum in Essen

Ruhr Valley Bicycle Route:
Cycling through Germany's Rust Belt

Ruhr Valley Cycle Route Logo

A 250-kilometer cycling route from the rolling hills of the Sauerland to the Rhine River

Zeche Zollverein - Shaft 1/2/8  Ruhr Cycle Trail 21 km upstream from Essen
Contrasts in the Ruhr: A mining shaft at the Zeche Zollverein coal mine in Essen and the Ruhr Valley Cycle Route a few kilometers upstream

View Ruhr Valley Bicycle Route in a larger map

Most people probably associate the name “Ruhr” with coal-mining and steel. The region along the Ruhr River was the cradle of German industrial power in the twentieth century. Today most of the mines and steel mills have been shut down. Many old industrial sites have been preserved as park-like campuses with museums and venues for recreation, culture and sport. One of them, the huge Zeche Zollverein coal mine in Essen, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and attracts thousands of visitors every day. In 2010, the Ruhr is European Captal of Culture in 2010, with hundreds of events throughout the region.

Ruhr Bicycle Trail near Velmede
Cyclists heading east (upstream) on the Ruhr Valley bicycle route near the town of Velmede.

So it may come as a surprise that the Ruhr is also remarkably green and criss-crossed by excellent bicycling routes. One of them, the Ruhr Valley Cycle Route, runs from the river’s source in the Sauerland to Duisburg on the Rhine River about 130 kilometers (straight line) to the west.

The Esterbauer Bikeline guide RuhrtalRadweg provides good maps and an indispensible list of overnight accommodations along the 240-kilometer bicycle route.

Hardenstein ferry near Witten
Bicycle ferry across the Ruhr near Witten. The ferry runs daily from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. between mid-April and mid-October. There is no charge, but donations are encouraged.

The guide describes the route from Winterberg, a resort and winter-sports town about 700 meters above sea level. The route first leads to the Ruhr’s official source - a cement and stone basin in the forest east of the town. From there, riders follow forest tracks and side streets north across the hilly landscape to the town of Olsberg, where the route turns west.

The Ruhr Valley Cycle Route mostly follows minor country roads or asphalted bike trails and lanes. Further downstream, long stretches of the route are directly next to the river on the old towpaths – now paved – that were originally used by the mules and horses that hauled barges up the river.

Despite all the nearby industry, the river is clean and inviting and is popular not just with cyclists. You will pass countless anglers, athletes training in racing canoes or kayaks, hikers, herons, ducks, swans and wild geese. In several places, the river has been dammed, creating long lakes where sailing clubs hold regattas. There are also castles and palaces, as well as interesting industrial landmarks like the Nachtigall coal mine near Witten where visitors can take a guided into the narrow tunnels where miners extracted black coal from inside the mountain.

The Ruhrtal Cycle Route is extremely well posted with permanent metal signs. It is mostly flat, easy to follow, suitable for families with children on bikes, and in Duisburg it connects with the Rhine River cycle route that leads to countless other interesting regions.