The nights are drawing in and the days are getting cooler, but that doesn’t mean you have to lock yourself indoors all day! The weather may be chillier and wetter than during the summer, but autumn is a lovely time of year to explore more of the Dutch countryside and get the blood pumping by engaging in a leisurely or lively hike.
Bask in the autumn sunshine and enjoy the beautiful colours of the season on display across national parks in the Netherlands as the seasons turn from summer into autumn.
Where to hike in the NetherlandsThe Netherlands maybe be known for its flatness, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some gorgeous hiking trails out there for you to enjoy. Here are our picks for some of the most magnificent hikes for you to check out this autumn.
1. Utrechtse HeuvelrugLocated on the outskirts of the city of Utrecht, as the name suggests, the Utrechtse Heuvelrug is a gorgeous national park that’s easily accessible from a number of major Dutch cities. All in all, there are over 50 different walking routes, ranging from 2 to 21 kilometres in length, and some are wheelchair accessible or open to walkers with dogs, so there really is something for everyone.
One of the most popular routes is 8,9 kilometres in length, starting from Pannenkoekenhuis Bergzicht in Woudenberg and taking you on a lovely trail through the forest of the Utrechtse Heuvelrug, before finishing back at the pancake house – the perfect place to stop and refuel with a delicious pancake after a day of fresh air and exercise!
2. Veluwe National ParkLargely regarded as the most beautiful national park in the Netherlands, the Veluwe also has plenty of well-established and signposted walking trails for both amateur and professional hikers. They range from just 1,7 kilometres all the way to 55 kilometres, and many are also kid and dog friendly.
A popular one amongst visitors is the Rondje Barneveld route, which measures 26 kilometres and takes hikers on a trip around Baarneveld, a town right in the heart of the Veluwe. Alternatively, check out the 6,7-kilometre Hendrik Mouwenveldroute, which should only take around 80 minutes to complete and takes you through different kinds of nature – and, if you’re lucky, you might even spot some deer!
3. The ElfstedenpadIf you’ve spent even just one winter in the Netherlands, you’ll likely be familiar with the infamous elfstedentocht; a tour which sees skaters travelling 199 kilometres across frozen canals, lakes and rivers through 11 towns in Friesland. Sadly, this phenomenon has become pretty rare, as winters don’t generally get cold enough for the ice to be thick enough to skate on safely. Luckily, if you’re curious about the route or still want to get involved in this mysterious Dutch tradition, then you can walk the route all year round!
If you want to walk the whole route, be prepared for it to take a while (the total distance comes in at around 283 kilometres!) but you could also choose to cycle it or walk just a small part of it. One route, for example, is just 15,7 kilometres long, starting in Berlikum and finishing in Hallumerhoek, and allows you to get a glimpse of the beauty of the Dutch polder. Otherwise, there’s the 20,6-kilometre Bolsward – Waddenzeedijk route, which finishes right on the coast of Friesland.
4. The Nieuwe WaterliniepadA recent addition to the Netherlands’ list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Nieuwe Hollandse Waterlinie (New Dutch Water Line) also offers some exciting options for avid walkers and cyclists. The whopping 350-kilometre route stretches from Volendam, through Haarlem and across to Naarden, before heading south through Utrecht to the endpoint in Dordrecht.
Of course, it’s safe to say that 350 kilometres is a bit of a trek, but once again you can opt to follow just part of the overall route. Depending on how far you’d like to go, and what parts of the historic city defence lines you’re most interested in seeing, you can choose to walk one of the 21 legs of the walk, ranging from around 12 to over 23 kilometres in length.
5. The PieterpadThe Pieterpad has got to be the most famous hiking route in the Netherlands, and is a long-distance trail that runs the length of the country. Stretching almost 500 kilometres from Pieterburen (a town in northern Groningen) to the top of Mount Saint Peter (a hill south of Maastricht), anyone hoping to do the whole route will have to set aside between 16 and 38 days to do so.
While the route offers a gorgeous view through so many different parts of the Netherlands, it’s highly likely that you won’t be able to take the time to do the whole route (especially not all in one go). That’s fine though, because once again you can choose to follow just one part of it. For more information about all of your options, check out the official Pieterpad website.
6. SchiermonnikoogSchiermonnikoog may be a small island, (it measures just 20 kilometres long and 4 kilometres wide!), but it has a rich and beautiful landscape, and its car-free policy guarantees that it offers plenty in the way of breathtaking walking routes. Routes on this island are perfect for anyone who enjoys walking through dunes and hearing the waves crashing against the shore.
One of the most popular routes is, perhaps unsurprisingly, the 15-kilometre National Park Schiermonnikoog hiking route, which gives walkers the opportunity to take in much of the island’s beauty and perhaps even catch a glimpse of a seal or two. For true hiking fans, plan a trip to Schiermonnikoog in November, which the island has dubbed Hiking Month; a month jam-packed with fun walks and excursions!
7. Dutch Mountain TrailYes, you read that correctly. Now, you may be wondering how the Netherlands can have a “mountain trail” when the country is known for its flat landscape, but this 101-kilometre route is widely regarded as the most strenuous walking route the country has to offer, and connects the Seven Summits in South Limburg.
If you’re in the mood to really push yourself, you could attempt the full trail over the course of four days. Starting at Eygelshoven Station in Kerkrade, the trail takes you past fast-flowing streams, meadows, rock walls, plenty of spectacular views, and, of course, seven “mountains” (remember, this is the Netherlands, so the highest peak is just 257 metres above sea level).
8. Loonse en Drunense Duinen National ParkLocated in the south of the Netherlands between Tilburg and Den Bosch, a hike through the Loonse and Drunense Duinen is another great option for anyone who likes walking through sandy landscapes and dunes. Also known as the Brabant Sahara, it’s one of the largest shifting sand areas in Western Europe, but you’ll also find some areas of forests and, at certain times of year, gorgeous fields of heather.
It’s a large park, so there are plenty of walking and cycling routes to choose from, but the main hiking trail through the park is 16,4 kilometres long and will take around three hours and 40 minutes to complete. It starts at Natuurpoort van Loon and leads you along forest paths, and past two restaurants that provide the perfect opportunity to stop off for a drink or snack mid-walk.
Bonus: WadlopenOf course, one of the most famous (and unique) activities to partake in in the Netherlands is mudflat walking, or wadlopen. May through to the end of October is prime wadlopen season (and there are even some groups that organise walks throughout the winter, if you’re brave enough to give it a go).
There are plenty of areas you can go to for a great mudflat walking experience, but the key routes are generally around and between the Wadden Islands off the north coast of the country. What to learn more about what mudflat walking is and where you can do it? Read our guide to the exciting and muddy world of wadlopen here.
Grab your hiking boots and get walking!Well, there you have it: our picks for some of the most beautiful hiking spots the Netherlands has to offer. There’s certainly something for everyone out there, so regardless of your skill or fitness level, there are plenty of places where you can spend a gorgeous autumn day exploring Dutch nature. So, what are you waiting for? Grab those hiking boots (or a pair of sensible trainers) and get walking!