Over the last few years, there has been a considerable increase in demand for high-quality trails. In order to measure the attractiveness of a hiking trail, the German Hiking Association and the German Hiking Institute have developed a number of objective criteria.
The slogan “Wanderbares Deutschland” (Wonderfully Walkable Germany) represents a quality certification system that rates hiking trails based on their format, signposting system, nature and landscapes, as well as cultural and civil environment. Unspoiled, path-like trails are therefore awarded more points than busy streets with unsafe crossings and concrete or tarmacked surfaces.
The signposting guideline helps to ensure that hikers can find their way around safely; it aims in particular to provide precise information about distances and connections with other hiking trails. Varied topography, typical natural landscapes, intermittent sights, near-natural waterways and stunning views should offer hikers new charms at every turn. Striking townscapes, cultural attractions and national monuments by the wayside also increase ratings. To tick all the boxes, there should also be opportunities for hikers to rest and stop for refreshments, and starting points should be close to bus stops, train stations or car parks for hikers.
If the hiking route passes through an area of natural stillness, with no noises to be heard from machines or traffic, and runs no closer than 300 metres from industrial estates, treatment plants, power lines and windmills, there’s nothing left to stand in the way of certification. In total, 23 optional criteria and nine essential criteria are assessed in a bid for certification, which is awarded for three years at a time.
The 220-kilometre Vogtland Panorama Weg was the first hiking trail in eastern Germany to gain certification in 2006: www.vogtland-tourismus.de/das-vogtland/natur-spueren/wandern/vogtland-panorama-weg.html. As a joint project by the Erzgebirge Tourist Association and the Vogtland Tourist Association, with the aid of the Saxon State Forestry Service and a large number of local partners plus the Erzgebirge/Vogtland Nature Park, the Kammweg Erzgebirge-Vogtland ridge trail (http://www.kammweg.de) also gained certification in 2011 following improvements to the route to meet the quality criteria.