The Emperor's New Roads

Hiking in the Footsteps of the Staufers in the Swabian Alb

Auf dem Löwenpfad Staufer-Runde ist man dem Staufer-Kaiser Barbarossa auf der Spur. Unterwegs gibt es traumhafte Ausblicke auf die Zeugenberge.
Discovering the Staufer Trail near Göppingen

Great Landscapes and Fascinating History

Discovering the Staufer Trail near Göppingen

Welcome to the world of the Staufers, whose most important scion - Emperor Barbarossa - celebrated his 900th birthday in 2022. In short, the Staufers were the mighty Swabian noble family that quickly rose to the top of European power in the mid-12th century, producing several Holy Roman Emperors. Just as quickly, the family disappeared from the world stage 100 years later. Their origins lie in the Swabian Alb. The Staufer Trail, one of 16 certified Löwenpfade Trails, is a good 11 kilometres (almost 7 miles) long, so as well as enjoying the cultural landscape of the Swabian Alb, you will also be taking a small but exciting journey through time. So let's start at the beginning. Just follow the emblem of the Löwenpfade Trails, a stylised lion with a green mane on a white square.

Der Löwenpfad Staufer-Runde startet an der Burg Wäscherschloss in Wäscherbeuren.
The Staufer Trail starts at Wäscherschloss Castle in Wäscherbeuren. | © TMBW, Foto: Gregor Lengler
Im Wäscherschloss in Wäscherbeuren sind alte Ritterrüstungen ausgestellt.
Old suits of armor are on display in the Wäscherschloss Castle in Wäscherbeuren. | © TMBW, Foto: Gregor Lengler

The tour starts in Wäschenbeuren. If, before starting your hike, you would like to immerse yourself in the Staufer era, visit Wäscherschloss Castle and the local castle warden Krisztina Mutter, who loves to chat with visitors about the day-to-day culture in former times: which cereals were cultivated, what people ate and how they slept. The wall around the building, made of rusticated cut stones, is ten metres (almost 33 feet) high. The castle, which dates back to 1220, was part of the Hohenstaufen fortifications. From here, you could see the ancestral castle on the mountain, and spot any approaching aggressors. 

Auf dem Löwenpfad Staufer-Runde ist man dem Staufer-Kaiser Barbarossa auf der Spur. Unterwegs gibt es traumhafte Ausblicke auf die Zeugenberge.
On the Staufer Trail, hikers follow the footsteps of the Staufer Emperor Barbarossa. Along the way there are fantastic views of the so-called 'Drei Kaiserberge'. | © TMBW, Foto: Gregor Lengler
Die Löwenpfade auf der Schwäbischen Alb sind gut ausgeschieldert. Einfach dem Löwen-Zeichen folgen.
The Löwenpfade Trails around Göppingen in the Swabian Alb are well signposted. Just follow the lion sign. | © TMBW, Foto: Gregor Lengler
Der Löwenpfad Staufer-Runde führt auch durch idyllische Wälder und über kleine Bäche.
The Staufer Trail also leads through idyllic forests and over small streams. | © TMBW, Foto: Gregor Lengler

Then, the Staufer Trail heads through the spectacular Beutental Valley and up to Hohenstaufen Mountain. It was once the seat of the Staufer family, but even the ruins are barely visible now. The view from Hohenstaufen Mountain extends far across the Swabian Alb and the district of Göppingen. Two other conical mountains rise like islands from the sun-drenched landscape: Rechberg Mountain and Stuifen Mountain. Together the three of them are known as the Drei Kaiserberge, the Three Emperor Mountains, of which the Hohenstaufen is the most famous. From its summit you have a magnificent view of the other two. When you're up there, your everyday concerns seem far away and you feel unassailable, maybe even lost in reverie. Perhaps this was one of the reasons why the Staufers chose this place as their seat.

Today, however, things are happening on the summit: a group of hikers is standing on a nearly three-metre-high marble Stauferstele - a memorial stone, many of which can be found in places with a connection to the Staufer dynasty. A couple say "I do" by the ruins of the Staufer Castle, and the scent of Swabian "Maultaschen" dumplings wafts from the "himmel & erde" inn.

Der Hohenstaufen in der Schwäbischen Alb war einst Stammsitz des Staufer Adelgeschlechts.
Hohenstaufen Mountain was once the ancestral seat of the Staufer dynasty. | © TMBW, Foto: Gregor Lengler
Von der Burg Hohenstaufen sind nur noch Ruinen übrig. Aber der Blick fasziniert bis heute.
Only ruins remain of the former Hohenstaufen Castle. But the view fascinates to this day. | © TMBW, Foto: Gregor Lengler
Vom Hohenstaufen haben Wanderende einen tollen Blick über den Albtrauf und die Schwäbische Alb.
From Hohenstaufen Mountain, hikers have a great view over the Swabian Alb and the Albtrauf, its prominent mountain ridge. | © TMBW, Foto: Gregor Lengler

We continue our hike down to the sunny Spielburg nature reserve. The name may suggest a defensive structure, but actually, it's a enormous rock formation. Millions of years ago it was part of the summit, but it was dislodged and slid down Hohenstaufen Mountain piece by piece until it came to halt. Today the rocks are home to a beautiful nature reserve. The meadows are dotted with purple sage and blue cornflowers. Gnarled trees provide shade and the air is buzzing with insects and shimmering in the heat. A level path leads up to the summit cross and ends at a rocky outcrop. From here you can scramble down steep paths along the landslide or sit on a bench with views over Göppingen.

Vom Hohenstaufen geht es weiter zu der Felsformation Spielburg und von da weiter zum Ausgangspunkt in Wäscherbeuren.
From Hohenstaufen Mountain, the Staufer Trail continues through the Spielburg nature reserve with its fascinating rock formations and back to the starting point in Wäscherbeuren. | © TMBW, Foto: Gregor Lengler
Bei guten Wetter hat man vom Hohenstaufen eine Panoramasicht bis nach Stuttgart.
When the weather is good, the view from the rocks reaches as far as Stuttgart. | © TMBW, Foto: Gregor Lengler

If, after finishing the tour, you cannot get enough of the Staufer dynasty, visit the impressive Lorch Monastery (20 minutes north of Göppingen by car), which the Staufers also built and where important members of the family are buried, you can relive their adventures. For example, there is a huge modern circular painting by the artist Hans Kloss, who died only a few years ago.

Das Bild zeigt eine Klosteranlage inmitten von Wäldern und grünen Wiesen.
Not only Hohenstaufen Castle and Wäscherschloss Castle, but also Lorch Monastery was built by the Staufer noble family. | © TMBW, Foto: Gregor Lengler
More Information on the Tour


More Information on the Tour

Hiking trail

Löwenpfad "Staufer-Runde" - Barbarossa's traces in front of a fantastic backdrop

  • 11.2 km
  • 04:15 h
  • 352 m
  • Kurzer Qualitätsweg kulturerlebnis
City view


Situated on the river Fils, surrounded by the Three Imperial Mountains, the Hohenstaufen town of Goeppingen invites you to stroll and linger with its …
Lorch Monastery

Monastery Lorch

Ehemaliges Benediktinerkloster Lorch

  • Your "Alb Inclusive" Vacation
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