An easy stroll through woodland between Thannenkirch and Ribeauvillé passes the ruins of three medieval Châteaux that providing an insight into the history of the region, and allow sublime views across the Alsatian Plain.
Having left Thannenkirch the path immediately enters woodland and begins a barely-noticeable ascent. As you gain height you begin to feel that surely a good view lies just beyond the thick blanket of trees that teases you and blocks all viewpoints. Only dappled patches of sunlight fall through the canopy and reach the woodland floor allowing a welcoming refuge of shade on those hot summer days.
As you burst above the trees to step atop the first hill you are greeted with an inviting vista of the Alsatian Plain which stretches all the way to Germany, though often lost in the hazy horizon. A green fabric ripples over small undulating hills, studded with vineyards and dotted with villages. The ruins of Chateau du Haut-Ribeaupierre stand prominent and conspicuously on this hill, offering a prized 360° panorama; this is the first of three impressive Châteaux you will pass as the path descends to Ribeauvillé.
Ribeauvillé is a mesmerising village to arrive in with a kaleidoscopic historic centre where the houses, shops and restaurants explode with bold colours. Wander the winding cobbled streets trying to absorb all the over-stimulating sights, sounds and smells of a modern-day village in Alsace, or just sit down and let it all come to you!
Walk the length of the pedestrianised street that runs through Ribeauvillé. Each twist and turn reveals something new and unexpected.
There are some exposed and unfenced edges throughout the walk; be careful and remain on the path.
There are several stretches where you must walk on the road as there is no pavement. Walk on the left side facing the oncoming traffic unless there is a sharp left bend, in which case you should cross to the outside edge to allow drivers the maximum time to see you.
Some of the path is along rocky steps; be careful as these may be slippery, especially when wet.
Sturdy hiking boots and a waterproof/wind-break layer are required. Walking poles will be a big advantage on some of these ascents and descents.
Ensure your phone is fully charged; if you doubt the battery will last throughout the hike, it might be beneficial to bring a power bank.
Make sure you bring enough water. It is recommended to drink 0.75 litres per 1 hour of hiking in hot weather.
Be sure to bring plenty of sun-cream and a healthy respect for the sun.
Points of Interest
Three Châteaux punctuate the latter-half of this walk, those of Château du Haut-Ribeaupierre, Château de Saint-Ulrich and Château du Girsberg.
Château du Haut-Ribeaupierre
This is the first tower you will come to, and also the highest one with a complete 360° panorama. It was built during the 13th century to warn locals in case the French King tried to invade Alsace. Later, it was repurposed to scout for forest fires.
Château de Saint-Ulrich
The second castle is the most intact and undoubtedly the most eye-catching. It features an intriguing blend of Gothic, Romanesque and Renaissance characteristics, which will particularly interest architects. From the 11th century, until the 16th when it was abandoned, this château was the main residence for the powerful Ribeaupierre family.
Château du Girsberg
The third and final Château is impressively built atop a rocky outcrop which would have provided an extra level of defence. It was built in the 13th century and abandoned 400 years later in the 17th century.
Ribeauvillé was previously the seat of the Lords of Ribeaupierre. A leisurely amble around Ribeauvillé reveals this village’s enchanting and lengthy history, with a medieval wall and guard-towers still in place.
Food and Drink
There is nowhere to get food or drink between Thannenkirch and Ribeauvillé, so be sure to bring enough food and drink provisions for the duration of this walk – approximately 2 hours 30. Around the three Châteaux there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy a picnic, otherwise you can aim to reach Ribeauvillé in time for lunch.