Nestled in the eastern corner of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is a region affectionately referred to as Little Switzerland. The name seems to imply that the region bears a resemblance to that of the Alpine paradise but on a smaller scale. I suppose then that any place in the world with mountains, trees, and exposed rock formations could also be a Little Switzerland. But here, the nickname sticks.
This region is renowned for its hiking trail system known as the Mullerthal Trail, named after a small village in the region. There are about 112km of trails in the network including three large loop routes. I first heard about the Mullerthal Trails during my visit to Luxembourg in December 2019 to do research for my Battle of the Bulge post, so I was excited to get the chance to do one of the routes during the second weekend of July 2020 as a warmup for my hikes coming up in Big Switzerland.
I chose Route 1 which is the easternmost of the three loops. While you can start the route in many places, Echternach is the natural starting point. At 36km, it is possible for the hiking-hearty and sturdy-of-foot to do the entire thing in one day. While there are ups and downs, there are no intense climbs to deal with. For me, I am content maxing out around the 16-20km mark for a day hike. So I decided to do the loop over two days. But to do that, I needed to find a place to stay. On this route, there aren’t many options. Hauling your camping gear is one option. You could stay in Echternach and use the bus system to bring you to and from the segments. Otherwise, at least in Luxembourg, there are very few choices on hotel apps and Airbnb. Luckily, at precisely the half way point across the river from Moersdorf, Luxembourg is Metzdorf, Germany. Here there is a clean, cheap guesthouse Alter Bahnhof which can be had at around 30 euros per night for a private room with shared bath. This is also the only place I came across where you can actually enjoy a meal and a beer. The hike passes thru a few villages, Herborn, Mompach, Girsterklaus, and Rosport and I didn’t see a single cafe or restaurant along the route.
If you are planning to do an overnight hike starting from Echternach, there are two places to park your car near the city. The closest to the center is Parking Benedictins and the other is by the lake outside the city.
Day 1 Route: Echternach to Metzdorf
- Starting Point: Parking Benedictins, Echternach
- Ending Point: Alter Bahnhof, Metzdorf
- Distance: 20.8km
- My Moving Time: 4hr 11min
- Eating Place: Alter Bahnhof
- Komoot Link: Mullerthal Trail Day 1
Day 2 Route: Metzdorf to Echternach
- Starting Point: Alter Bahnhof Metzdorf
- Ending Point: Parking Benedictins, Echternach
- Distance: 18.7km
- Moving Time: 4hr 2min
- Eating Place: many places in Echternach. It is possible there are places in Rosdorf, but I didn’t see any along the route.
- Komoot Link: Mullerthal Trail Day 2
Day 1 Journal
Day 1 saw an overcast sky which lingered the entire day threatening rain throughout but only following thru with those threats for a brief few minutes.
Starting from Parking Benedictins, the route passes thru the city center of Echternach and by it’s famous abbey and Basilica of St. Willibrord. The abbey was founded in 698 and the city evolved around it. Today the abbey is a high school. The hike leads out of the city towards the lake.
Once you get past the lake, the trail climbs up to a plateau thru a forest. More or less, the trail will remain up on this plateau until coming down into the river valley at Moersdorf.
There is a prime view overlooking Echtenach on the way up.
The first half of the hike is thru beautiful forest. Beautiful, but I couldn’t help feeling like the Little Switzerland tag was a bit overzealous. Nevertheless, the trail views are lush.
The second half of the hike is thru the rolling farmlands with glorious fields of barley, oats, and wheat. There is nothing in this part of Luxembourg but farmland and forest.
As noted, the villages, while scenic, did not offer any noticable place for a weary thirsty traveler to stop for a Luxembourg beer.
Day 2 Journal
Day 2 found the welcoming return of the sun with mild temperatures around 20-22C perfect for hiking. My choice to do the hike in 2-days paid off in this respect.
The majority of the hike from Metzdorf is thru forests which start to foreshadow things to come.
Coming towards the minute village of Girsterklaus, you start to see signs of the rocky landscape for which the Mullerthal is reputed.
Girsterklaus itself is just a hamlet of a few houses, but has probably the most interesting building on the route, the haunting Kapelle Girsterklaus, which is purported to be the oldest Virgin Mary pilgrimage site in Luxembourg, dating from the 14th century.
From Girsterklaus, there is more forest trail until Rosport where the trail turns west towards Echternach. After Rosport, there are more great trail and farmland views.
About halfway back to Echternach from Rosport, the famous rock formations come into view and give a very Tolkien-like atmosphere. One could almost imagine toppled ruins of heroic statues of medieval warriors. If your mind doesn’t go the Tolkien route, it will probably conjure up ancient native ruins in a rainforest. Of the 36km route in the counter-clockwise direction, the last 4 are the payoff, justifying why counter-clockwise was also a good decision.
Franconian Switzerland this is not. I couldn’t help but get the feeling that had this trail been in Germany, it would be more point-to-point with stops along the way at biergartens. However, this trail literally is designed to be one continuous journey with little to distract except just the wonders of nature and the beauty of the Luxembourg landscape. It really is the type of trail to savor the tranquility and simplicity of hiking. There are no epic Alpine vistas here; a few scenes of the beautiful rolling plateaus of the region while the rest of the time is spent within the cozy blanket of forest green. In the entire two days on the trail, I only passed perhaps 10 people. That is just about one person per hour.
I can see why the Mullerthal Trails are highly rated among hiking societies. The trails are well marked and in wonderful condition. No areas beat up by standing water and perpetual mud. I will definitely be looking forward to doing the other two routes in the near future. However, it is time to kick hiking season into high gear. The next posts likely to be seen on this blog will come in two weeks as I return to Stechelberg (Lauterbrunnen) for another round of Jungfrau Region hiking. Big Switzerland, here I come!