Take a hike in the Valley of the Mills
By Jessica Love
Not so far away, in the northeastern corner of Luxembourg there is a path that leads beneath canopied forest, past ancient castles, to a picturesque waterfall, through quaint villages and along rock formations so perfectly shaped and sized that it’s hard to believe they’re actually real.
If you didn’t know any better, you might be picturing something out of a Walt Disney movie. But, add one part ingenuity to the mix and you’ve got Luxembourg’s Müllerthal Trail.
“Hiking has a very long tradition in the area. When we started marketing the region years ago we realized that we had the hiking but no structure around it,” explained Marianne Origer, tourism coordinator for the Müllerthal Regional Tourism Office. “There were many small local paths and most were uni-directional: you start at A and you end at B, but how do you get back to A?”
Trail extends tourist season
With support from Luxembourg, the European Union and local communes, the region created the Müllerthal Trail, a new route that connected several existing local and regional routes into six loops that together total 110 kilometers in length. In 2011, as part of its fourth summer as an official trail, it extended the region’s tourist season from two months to seven.
In its entirety, several days are required to complete the trail and each section requires a different level of athletic ability to complete, offering a little something for hikers who are beginners or experienced.
The easternmost loop of the trail, Route 1, leads ramblers on a tour of Echternach and an area south of the country’s oldest city. This path meanders through meadows and along the River Sûre, which forms the border here between Luxembourg and Germany. It’s not without its own rock configurations, either: one highlight is the aptly named “Labyrinth” formation. This 40km route is considered to be a medium level of difficulty.
The most difficult circuit of the lot is the 33km Route 2, but those who head to Luxembourg’s “Little Switzerland” area in search of its unique rock formations won’t be disappointed here. This route is full of them. And as a bonus, this route also passes by the “Schiessentümpel,” a charming and photo-inducing waterfall framed by a stone bridge, as well as two former grain mills; after which the Müllerthal, or “valley of the mills” area is named.
Those who travel the 37km Route 3 will be treated to breathtaking views from the high plateau outside of Blumenthal, will walk along a babbling brook, enjoy the ruins of castles in Larochette and Beaufort, and will also be treated to the Schiessentümpel, where Routes 2 and 3 intersect. Route 3 is considered medium in level of difficulty.
ExtraTours A, B and C are shorter in length and can be walked in addition to Routes 1, 2 and 3. Or, at 22km, 13km and 9km respectively, they can also be hiked as their own separate circular route that may be more manageable for those on a day or weekend trip to the area. ExtraTour C is the shortest and considered the easiest to walk. Don’t worry: you won’t miss any major sights of the region along these routes; they may be shorter, but they are still packed with pastoral countryside, towering rock formations, forest and fauna.
Potential hikers need not be put off by the lengthy distances of the Müllerthal Trail. There are plenty of shorter, family-friendly local circuits designed to share much of the same path. Local circuits always make a shorter loop and are marked after the town in which they originate, with the first letter of the town followed by the number of the path, such as E5 for the Echternach #5 route.
Anyone hitting the trail, however, would do well to invest 4€ in a Müllerthal Trail map. In addition to illustrating in detail each section of the route, including restaurants, overnight accommodation, parking lots and tourist information spots; the map also identifies trail markers for other paths and circuits that share the trail, with distances and degrees of difficulty for each.
This map can be purchased at the Luxembourg City Tourist Office on Place Guillaume II, at tourism offices in the Müllerthal Region and at bookstores around the country.
A firm favourite
But there’s one part that you’ll find difficult, whether you’re a novice or an expert hiker: choosing your favorite route. Even Mrs Origer still has trouble, and she has completed every section of nearly all three routes.
“I’ve walked almost the entire thing, and many of the smaller and local paths. Each route has its own specificities. Route 1 is up and down, near the rocks, Route 2 is mostly rocks and it goes up and down with many steps to take. Route 3 is a large variety with woods, forest, a large landscape, high plateaus and two castles,” said Mrs Origer. But when hard pressed to give an answer, she finally admitted, “Well, I would say that Route 3 is my favorite.”