Hike through Drachenschlucht near Eisenach

Hike through the Drachenschlucht near Eisenach

Why look into the distance, …. although you can also take an interesting hike through a gorge relatively close by.

But who has ever heard of the Drachenschlucht? Breitachklamm, Partnachklamm and Höllentalklamm are probably the most well-known natural bottlenecks when hiking, when it comes to particularly narrow gorges in the mountains with sometimes overhanging rock faces. The entire or almost entire valley floor is filled by a watercourse, with hiking trails accessible to tourists above or next to it.

Day hike through the Drachenschlucht

drachenschlucht eisenach 05We had heard several times about the Drachenschlucht in the Thuringian Forest, which is located in the “Forests with Gorges between Wartburg and Hohe Sonne” nature reserve and which we should have hiked long ago, especially since we have already been on the Rennsteig a few times. The gorge is located in the south of Eisenach, between the southern outskirts of the city and the forestry town of Hohe Sonne am Rennsteig.
The actual Drachenschlucht, which is only 68 centimeters wide at its narrowest point and only 3 kilometers long, forms popular hiking destinations with the Landgrafenschlucht to the east and the Ludwigsklamm rising from the Johannistal, especially in the summer months. So if you want to hike in the area all day or even explore other parts of the Rennsteig, you will find excellent options here. The southern entrance to the Drachenschlucht is located at the Hohe Sonne hunting lodge, the northern entrance is at the driveway to the Waldhaus Singerwiese.
Past the wonderful villas in the southern town of Eisenach, built in historicism and Art Nouveau, we reach our starting point for today's hike in the Mariental. Starting from the Mariental car park, turn right, past a pond, into the Drachenschlucht. The B 19 runs parallel to the gorge from Eisenach towards Gumpelstadt and Meiningen. There are parking spaces at both main entrances for hikers who just want to explore the Drachenschlucht. For safety reasons, additional paths were created to enable quick exit from the gorge in the event of storms or accidents.

Historical information about the Drachenschlucht

drachenschlucht eisenach 03In the Middle Ages, the upper Mariental was a refuge for hunters, charcoal burners and mineral hunters who sought their fortune and their prey here. For the ducal court, the construction of walking paths and hunting lanes had already begun in the 18th century in the forest area to the south between Hohe Sonne hunting lodge and Wilhelmsthal Castle - the field names Schwalbennest for a rest area, Hochwaldgrotte, Luisengrotte and Princessenstieg are reminiscent of this. When the first excursion restaurant - the Fantasy - was built in Mariental, far from the city, in 1830, the rocky gorges south of the city were opened up for hikers and walkers. At the same time, Gottlob König, Carl Grebe and Herrmann Stoetzer sought to utilize and develop the forests and provided funds for forest and path construction.
As early as 1832, the part of the Annathal, then called Steingraben, was made passable for walkers and was given the attractive artificial name “Drachenschlucht” as a new tourist attraction. This name comes from Eisenach's patron saint, St. George the Dragon Slayer. In the local variation of hagiography, the Hanjörg fights against a lindworm, which is also what the modern Hanjörg festival refers to. This lindworm is said to have once lived in the narrow and wet gorge of the Dragon Gorge.

Tourist development and nature reserve

drachenschlucht eisenach 04In 1961, the forest area between Hohe Sonne and Wartburg was designated as a nature reserve “Wartburg - Hohe Sonne”, and in 1977 the Drachenschlucht, Landgrafenschlucht and some grottos nearby were also placed under protection as geological natural monuments. The erosional forms are considered one of the region's greatest geological and morphological attractions. Against this background, the nature reserve was expanded to 788 hectares and redesignated in 2015 under the name “Forests with Gorges between Wartburg and Hohe Sonne”. Some of the areas are total reserves. The BUND, the district association of Wartburgkreis (with the city of Eisenach), designated the Drachenschlucht as the biotope of the month for January 2001.
In order to make the gorge safe and accessible, paths and steps had to be carved into the rock; the path was continued for many meters with wooden planks and footbridges over the spring stream. Unfortunately, the forces of nature - ice masses that form in the gorge in winter and the floods that occur during storms - destroy these parts of the path, so that new replacement buildings are always necessary. In the 2009 season, gratings made of robust plastic were installed and tested.
drachenschlucht eisenach 02Initially wide, the walls narrow, rise steeply and form a wildly romantic gorge that is only shoulder-width in some places. The stream rushes beneath the feet as they walk on the lattice walkways. In winter, condensation and frost often form bizarre ice formations that can spread to such an extent that the gorge is no longer accessible. You continue through the Annatal to the Hohe Sonne. If you return via the wine route, it becomes a beautiful circular hiking trail. Past the small Drachenstein, before the large Drachenstein turn left through the Landgrafenschlucht, you return to the starting point in the valley via the Wichmann promenade.
Circular hike to the Drachenschlucht and Landgrafenschlucht: Length: 11 km / Duration: approx. 3.5 hours
All year round, after storms, heavy rain or due to icing, the Drachenschlucht can be closed for a short time for safety reasons. If in doubt, please ask the Tourist Information (03691 79230) or the Forestry Office (03691 26800).

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