Nature takes on the leading role on the Hohe Mark Nature Park Route. The more than 300-kilometre-long cycle route in the southern and western Münsterland region delights with large lakes, tranquil ponds, deep forests, wide horizons and a surprisingly diverse landscape. Rare wet meadows and floodplain landscapes are home to countless birds and insects. You will encounter wild cattle, Konik and wild horses, eagles, wolves and even bears. Castles, fortresses and lively towns shine in the supporting roles. A cycle tour full of surprises.
Water is the defining element on the first part of the Hohe Mark Nature Park Route. The picturesque Steverauen form the prelude to numerous nature experiences along the cycle path. Wild cattle, horses and donkeys populate the banks of the small river, which has developed into a true natural paradise in its floodplains. The fact that water plays an important role as a transport route becomes clear at the latest when you take a look at the nearby Dortmund-Ems Canal.
Not far away, the Stever flows through the two reservoirs of Haltern am See. The tree-lined lakeside paths offer wonderful views of the lake district. Plan some time for a boat trip across the reservoir. You have to get out of the saddle at Westruper Heide . The sandy paths, only a few metres from the reservoir, are reserved for pedestrians. However, a walk through the silence of the heath is one of the highlights of the cycle tour.
The signposted cycle path leads in a curve to the Frankenhof Wildlife Park near Reken. Numerous animal species can be seen on the extensive grounds. The park's large birds of prey are particularly popular. The Devil's Stones near Heiden tell a legendary story. Situated deep in the forest, the story of the large erratic blocks impresses visitors. You reach Raesfeld through the park landscape of the Münsterland. Even from a distance, you cannot miss the romantic moated castle. A wonderful place for a rest. Behind the castle lies the historic zoo, a real gem for nature lovers. Cross the park on three signposted routes.
Bocholt is one of the largest and liveliest towns in Münsterland. Not only is a stroll through the pedestrian zone worthwhile, but also a walk around Lake Aasee. Inevitably, the path will lead you to the interesting exhibitions in the historic textile factory.
Anholt Castle is the centre of attention at the start of the second part of the Hohe Mark Nature Park Route. The mighty castle and the interesting museum are worth the trip alone. Directly adjacent is the"Biotopwildpark Anholter Schweiz". Wolves, lynxes and 50 other animal species live here in large enclosures surrounded by gentle nature. The centre of the park is the "Swiss Cottage" in the middle of the lake. Close to the Dutch border, the Burlo-Vardingholter Venn is a wetland worthy of special protection and an important retreat for many animal species.
Gemen Castle in Borken is the next major castle on the cycle tour before nature takes over again. The historic zoo at Velen Castle is definitely worth a stop. The formally designed paths contrast beautifully with the wild and romantic vegetation. The Heubach meadows in the north of Reken are beautiful. The area, which is under special protection, is home to many meadow-breeding birds for which the wet meadows provide excellent living conditions.
Much larger are the most prominent inhabitants of the Merfelder Bruch near Dülmen. Europe's last wild horses live here almost without any human contact. For the most part, the hardy four-legged creatures move calmly and serenely through the wooded surroundings. A sight that not only gets under the skin of horse lovers. Dülmen is the last major town before the Hohe Mark Nature Park Route returns to its starting point in Olfen.
The Steverauen in Olfen offer a wonderful introduction to the Hohe Mark Nature Park Route. Between Heck cattle and Konik horses, a unique landscape has developed along the little river Stever. Visitors can observe numerous rare animal species and discover the Steverauen on foot, by bicycle or canoe.
The sandy soils of the Westruper Heide near Haltern am See offer a unique natural spectacle. Juniper and heather are criss-crossed by beautiful hiking trails. Rare plants and animals have found their way into the protected area. The slightly undulating profile always offers new perspectives over the different natural areas of the Westruper Heide.
The reservoirs of Haltern am See are among the most popular destinations in Münsterland. Beautiful cycle paths lead around the lake and provide views of the water again and again. In the summer months, the lido, the climbing garden and the excursion boat attract visitors to the lake.
The hiking and cycling paths through the historic zoo at Raesfeld Castle are simply fantastic. Heathland alternates with deep forests, small streams flow into picturesque lakes and wide clearings merge into orchards. Located directly at Raesfeld Castle, the historic zoo is a true oasis of tranquillity.
About 3 kilometres from Heiden, you can get to the bottom of the legend about the "Devil's Stones". What the devil was up to there is vividly explained on information boards. The erratic blocks, popularly known as "Düwelsteene", are part of a giant stone grave that is about 4000 years old.
Only a few metres from the Textile Museum is the small park by the Aasee. A circular path leads to deep green ferns and old rhododendrons. Especially in May, the park shows its colourful side. The paths merge into the lakeside path around the large Aasee.
A special attraction along the Hohe Mark Nature Park Route is the Anholter Schweiz Biotope Wildlife Park. About 50 animal species live in the seven different biotopes - from goose to wolf. The 6-kilometre-long paths also lead through the large "bear forest". A real eye-catcher is the "Swiss cottage" in the middle of the lake.
Velen Castle is the starting point for a detour to the historic zoo. Beautiful paths lead through the dense forest, where watercourses and small clearings are particularly charming. The park, designed by Johann Conrad Schlaun, still shows its Baroque main axis and the six-armed hunting star.
Shortly before Dülmen, Germany's only wild horses await you in the Merfelder Bruch. The horses live year-round in the beautiful terrain with large forests and lush green meadows. The highlight of the year is the wild horse catch, when the young stallions are separated from the herd. A unique experience.