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near Ruitzhof, Nordrhein-Westfalen (Deutschland)
This beautiful hike through the Hautes Fagnes/Hohes Venn nature reserve takes you from the Vennbahn station of Reichenstein to the highest point of Belgium (Botrange) and back. The hike is on trails, forest roads, and boardwalks. You will find something to eat at Botrange and the Maison du Parc Botrange (Centre Nature).
The hike starts at the parking of the Vennbahn station of Reichenstein, near the Reichenstein Abbey. You cross the cycling path and walk up into the woods past the border stones. About 600 m further you come to a rocky outcrop called Richelsley, with a large cross on top (Kreuz im Venn). A small cave with a Mary statue (Mariengrotte) can be found at the foot. From Richelsley you continue on quiet forest roads (largely paved) around the Pannensterzkopf hill. You descend towards the valley of the Hill/Helle river. Just before you descend you have a great view across the valley towards the Grande Fagne. Below, near the river, you find the Pouhon de Herzogenhügel, a source of ferruginous water. You cross the river and follow a small trail through the moors in the beautiful Helle valley, partly on boardwalks. At the Petit Bongard bush you turn right and follow a trail through the wood until you get to the edge of the Grande Fagne. A single path takes you straight through the moors. In the first section you pass a small lake, typical of the area. It’s called a pingo or palsa, a small lake created by the melting of a lens of ice. A bit further you pass the Geitzbusch, a forest with a lot of dead trees in the middle of the moors. You pass this forest and head for the next collection of dead trees, the Noir Flohay. From here the path turns left towards the boardwalk from Baraque Michel along the Helle. You follow the boardwalk upstream until you get to the Belgian-Prussian border stone. Here you turn left on another boardwalk along the Fagne Wallonne straight towards Botrange. Near Botrange there is a viewpoint across the moors. At Botrange, there is a restaurant, and a small hill with stone steps bridging the gap between 693 m altitude and 700 m (the Baltia tower). Parallel to the main road you walk to the nature center, where there is a small restaurant (‘Fagnetaria’) as well. You cross the road and walk northeast along the Fagne Wallonne and the woods. You turn right on a forest road until you get to the Sentier de la Roer, a small track through the woods taking you along one Roer branch to the other. You then cross the young river and walk on the other side of the Roer until you get to a forest road bridge across the river. A path takes you along the Bosfagne moor before you cross woods to the Nesselo moor and the Scheidbach. Just past this moor I went left through the Rurbusch, but found at the end that the track was off-limits to hikers. I replaced the track for this part with an alternative track, right and then left twice getting you to the same point (the waypoint marked Rurbusch). You follow the forest road, turn right until at the end you walk through grass on a minor path and another minor path through the woods until you get to the forest road. You follow the road until the turn-off taking you to the Schwarzsee, a small reservoir in the Schwarzbach valley. You then follow the valley on a forest road and then a track until you get to the German border. You cross the stream and the border and then walk up into the Ruitzhof enclave. This piece of land is completely surrounded by Belgian borders (part of it the Vennbahn), and consists of pasture with good views of the Eifel. You leave the enclave on the other side and walk back to the starting point.
A broad forest track takes you along the Fagne Wallonne and spruce forest. The Roer river has two sources in the Fagne Wallonne to your left.
Artificial hill named after a Belgian military officer. The steps take you up to 700 meters altitude.
A boardwalk and then an unpaved road takes you along the Fagne Wallonne towards the Botrange.
Beautiful board walk along the Helle (or Hill) river.
Border between the German enclave Ruitzhof and Belgium
Border stone in the woods
Here you descend towards the Hill/Helle valley with view to the Grande Fagne
Paved forest road between Sourbrodt and Kalterherberg
Forest with quite a few dead trees in the middle of the Grande Fagne
Crossing of the Hill river
Trail through the Hill valley
Big cross on top of the Richelsley rocks
Viewing platform on the edge of the Fagne Wallonne
Small 'cave' in the rocks with Mary statue
Minor path through grass and then woods.
Collection of dead trees in the middle of the moors. Peculiar sight
Straight trail through the Fagne des Deux Séries, part of the Grande Fagne
Bush at the edge of the moors
Little lake called a pingo or a palsa (I am not sure). Formed by a lens of ice pushing away the ground and then creating a lake after melting
Source with water containing iron.
A border stone between Belgium and Prussia. The border ran from here along the Hill from Eupen to Baraque Michel.
Former station on the Vennbahn, now an access point to the new cycling path.
Here you walk through the Roer river (not too deep), and continue along the river to the bridge.
German enclave with farms, fields and beech trees. Good views of Kalterherberg and the Eifel.
Forest near the Roer river.
Forest road through the Schwarzbach valley
Dam creating the Schwarzsee
Viewpoint across the Schwarzsee.
Here you enter a trail along the Roer river which is closed between 2 hours before sunset to 2 hours after sunrise to protect red deer.
Highest point of Belgium with a restaurant, large parking, telecommunication tower and the small Baltia tower which brings you up to 700 m
Trail along the Schwarzbach valley
Unpaved forest road taking you to the Sentier de la Roer
Between two forests is a small moor called Nesselo