Climbing & Wine

The Hessigheim Cliffs

Kletterrevier am Neckar, im Hintergrund ist Besigheim zu sehen
Climbing Area and Vineyards at the Neckar River

BW Story - CMR

Climbing Area and Vineyards at the Neckar River

"No jokes about heights, please." Johannes is cheerful, keeping our spirits high as he leads our small group to the top of the cliff. As we huff and puff our way up the last few steps, Marta is surprised: "Funny. From a distance the steps don't look that steep. Johannes points out: "They're called Stäffele here in the local Swabian dialect. The emphasis is on 'le', which means 'small steps'!" "Then I don't want to know what you call the big steps here," Marta jokes with a smile. Then our group falls silent, everyone concentrating and watching their feet as we make our way through the steep Hessigheim Cliffs.

Ein Kletterer klettert an einem steilen Felsen. Im Hintergrund fährt ein großes Schiff auf einem Fluss.
The Hessigheim Cliffs arise right on the banks of the Neckar River | © TMBW, Foto: Gregor Lengler

We are hiking in the beautiful countryside known as 3B-Land, a nickname that refers to the neighboring towns of Bönnigheim, Besigheim, and Bietigheim-Bissingen. Here, halfway between Stuttgart and Heilbronn, vineyards carpet the landscape along the Neckar, Enz and Stromberg hills. And rising like a sheer wall above the Neckar River is the rugged limestone of the Hessigheimer Felsengärten. This translates as the “Hessigheim Rock Gardens”, because these are a natural playground for climbers and hikers alike. Arriving at the top after an exhausting ascent is a wonderful moment. Everyone feels elated. "No problem, we are fit," says Anton, confirming what we all like to claim. The effort was definitely worth it. What a view! What a great river landscape! We can see why this was voted Württemberg's best vineyard view in 2016.

Ausblick über die Reblandschaften in Hessigheim.
After arriving on top of the rugged limestone, the view over the vineyards opens up.  | © TMBW, Foto: Gregor Lengler

The next part of the trail is much easier. Behind Johannes we follow the path along the edge of the cliff. As we enjoy the view, we look forward to what the locals call a "Viertele": a glass of local wine served in a small glass mug. This comes with a slice of Zwiebelkuchen, the delicious onion tart that is another local specialty. After a few minutes we reach a gorge. Unlike the cliffs overlooking the Neckar River, rock climbing is allowed here. There are about 130 different climbing routes, some up to 60 feet/18 meters long. Ranging in difficulty from level 3 to level 9, there are routes for beginners and advanced climbers, as well as boulderers and mountaineers.

Eine Kletterin seilt sich an einem großen Felsen ab.
The Hessigheim Cliffs are a paradise for climbing fans. | © TMBW, Foto: Gregor Lengler
Eine Kletterin klettert an einem steilen Felsen.
The Hessigheim Cliffs offer about 130 climbing routes in various difficulty levels. | © TMBW, Foto: Gregor Lengler
Auf einem großen Felsen überhalb des Neckars steht eine Person und genießt die Aussicht über den Fluss, die Wiesen und Weinberge.
On top of the rocks, climbers can enjoy the view over vineyards an the Neckar River. | © Gregor Lengler
Drei Kletterer machen eine Pause auf einem Felsen und genießen die Aussicht
A well-deserved break after a challenging climbing route. | © TMBW, Foto: Gregor Lengler

"Did someone say onion tart?" I am sure someone mentioned onion tart. On the way to a hearty lunch, our hike continues through the lush, historic landscape. Johannes points out the dry stone walls that winemakers have piled up over the centuries. "It's a special skill," he explains. "The stone helps retain the heat of the sun to help the grapes ripen and make excellent wine." "Did someone say wine?" I hint, moving from making wine to drinking wine, and also thinking about the onion tart. But Johannes is in full flow. "Rare lizards find their home in the stone walls. So do countless rare plant species." Pointing to something green on the ground, he continues. "Look over here. This is a Carthusian carnation." Marta interrupts: "Does onion tart grow there, too?"

Im Keller der Weinkellerei stehen viele riesige Holzfässer die mit Wein gefüllt sind.
The wines of the Felsengartenkellerei, the local winery from Besigheim, have received numerous awards in recent years. | © TMBW, Foto: Gregor Lengler

Finally, we can end the hike in style with a good meal. We head to Besigheim, with its charming half-timbered houses and traditional inns. We stop at the first tavern we see and order wine from the vineyards we hiked through. These are some of the oldest in Württemberg, so there are years of experience in every glass. Marta wonders if we should try a second glass. "I'll drink to that," says Johannes. Marta is happy: "Another Viertele, please!" With vineyards, Hessigheim's extraordinary cliffs, and excellent wine, we can confirm that travel really does broaden the mind, so we toast: "To the winemakers, our guide Johannes, and the perfect end to a perfect day."

Hessigheim Rock Gardens


Hessigheim Rock Gardens

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