Eifelsteig Part 9 – Hillesheim to Gerolstein

Rother Kopf descent

An old volcano and towering rock formations

Walking out of Hillesheim is more akin to a stroll through a park. You’ll pass the ruins of the city walls, and the path takes you past well-manicured lawns and a pond. After that you’ll ascend a steep ridge and down a valley before you reach the Rother Kopf, an old extinct volcano with stunning views of the surrounding countryside. As you near Gerolstein you’ll get up and close to some vertigo-inducing stretches around the 200-million years old dolomite rock pillars and cliff faces that surround the town.

Due to the horrific floods in the summer of ’21, parts of this leg had been re-routed. The alternative route was clearly marked and easy to follow, and was only for crossing the river Kyll safely in the first part of the trail. 

The fog was intense as I left Hillesheim, and some of the views from the surrounding hilltops were shrouded in secrecy, but it was still quite stunning. The original trail crosses the river Kyll further downstream from where I walked. I took a serious wrong turn just before the village Rother and had to double back a bit before finding the correct route, but that had nothing to do with flood diversions – just me misreading some signs.

On the road to nowhere
On the road to nowhere
Sunrise through the fog
Sunrise through the fog
Enchanted forest high up in the hills
Enchanted forest high up in the hills

The Rother Kopf is an old extinct volcano and is home to many sights, not the least the magnificent views, but also some old mines and other remnants of industrial history. There are some local legends that this hill is the head of a buried giant, but it has been in use since time immemorial for more mundane purposes. The romans used the basalt rock for making millstones, for instance.

View from the Rother Kopf
180 view from the top of the Rother Kopf

Nearing Gerolstein you will experience the wonders of the old dolomite mountains; calcified corals, worn over hundreds of millions of years have created sheer cliff faces and towering pillars of ancient rock jutting out of the ground. The sights are spectacular, and some areas are even fenced off with electric wire, not to keep animals in, but to keep humans out. These places are so dangerous with loose stones and crumbling rocks that having mere signs warning people to stay out just isn’t enough.  

Dolomite rocks jutting out of the landscape near Gerolstein
The Auberg dolomite rocks jutting out of the landscape near Gerolstein
Walking along the cliff face
Walking along the cliff face
The stone pillars of Gerolstein
The stone pillars of Gerolstein and the valley far below

Review of the eigth leg of the Eifelsteig trail

Beauty
5/5
Wildlife
3/5
Things to see
5/5
Overall
5/5

What do these categories mean? Check out the explanations for the stars!

The first part of the ninth stage of the Eifelsteig isn’t the most exciting. There is beauty and tranquility – at least early in the morning when I passed through, but nothing singular or especially noteworthy. This changes as you near the Rother Kopf, and the ante doubles up as you trek towards Gerolstein. The sights are marvellous, the history is breathtaking, and it’s so much fun being fascinated by old rocks! If you have the time, don’t forget to scrounge for fossils among the cliffs towards the end!

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