If you’re a dedicated cycling fan and haven’t been living under a rock for the last couple of years, you’ll have probably heard something about the thrills of gravel riding; indeed, there are a plethora of websites devoted to exactly this genre of cycling. And if you are willing to take your bicycle off the tarmac, Berlin has considerably more to offer than you might have imagined.
Listed below are 5 gravel roads/trails we recommend riding in and around Berlin. This is by no means an exhaustive list, so if you have suggestions for others, feel free to get in touch. We have marked the beginning of the routes on the map under each description. Sometimes the paths are not immediately obvious, so zoom in if you have to. While you don’t need a special bike to ride them, something with wider, knobbly tires would certainly make riding these roads more comfortable.
Starting in the western end of Zehlendorf at Benschallee and running through the Düppeler Forst to near S-Bahn Griebnitzsee, Königsweg is part of the Mauerweg, the route that runs where the Berlin wall once was. Interesting, but we’re not here for a history lesson; most importantly around three quarters of the the Königsweg is crunchy gravel with a couple of minor hills that might even necessitate a gear change. Go nice and early or at a quiet time and you will be rewarded with a great stretch of stones to sink your teeth into. Follow the Mauerweg after you finish to the picturesque Babelsburg Park before riding into Potsdam to get some grub and a beer.
2. Der Bienenschreck
Bizarrely named the Bienenschreck by somebody on Strava, this is a fire road that cuts through the forest between Tegeler See and the river Havel. It can be a bit tricky to find if you don’t know the area – the best way to reach it is from Alt Tegel: cross over the Humboldtinsel via the cute little bridge and start riding around the lake, anti-clockwise on the path. After about 300m, you’ll find the fire road on your right as the road forks into two. This long, straight stretch offers some fine, fast riding and was very quiet when we rode it. After you finish there are other options to ride through the Tegeler Forst or even take a small ferry over the Havel and ride along the picturesque Havel up to Henningsdorf.
3. Grunewald Gravel
Even if your Berlin geography isn’t great, you probably know that there’s a large forest in the west of the city called Grunewald. Luckily for you, within this forest there are ample opportunities to ride fine Schotterstraßen (translate that). We suggest entering the forest from the east side at Harbigstrasse, behind S-Bahn Heerstrasse. Keep going straight until you come to a small Kleingarten colony on your right. After this you’ll see the gravel road Schildhornweg on your right. Follow it all the way until you reach Havelchaussee. If you want more, turn left onto Havelchaussee and get onto the next gravel road on your left after about 50m, this one will take you all the way down to the AVUS motorway where you can either right along the paved Königsweg back to civilisation or explore yet more of the stony stuff.
The Panke is a small river which starts in Bernau and eventually empties into the Spree, about 30km later. Before it reaches urban Berlin, the riverside path offers plenty of opportunity for fun, speedy gravel/singletrack riding. Take the S2 (if you’re not riding) right to its northern terminus at Bernau and ride south out of town on Lohmühlenstrasse. A little after going under the railway tracks, you’ll see the Panke path on your right. The path takes you along the river for most of the way back to Berlin, where it is eventually canalised and goes underground. We suggest riding the whole thing from Bernau right down to Berlin. There are several gravel highlights mixed in among paved paths. Our favourite stretch is probably the part between the Karower Teiche nature reserve and Bahnhofstraße near Blankenburg (see map).
5. Schönower Heide
Although it’s just outside the city limits, no article on gravel riding in Berlin is complete without mentioning Schönower Heide: a nature reserve just northwest of the suburb Bernau. Here you’ll find some of the best gravel riding available in the local area. The paths are in fantastic condition, the scenery is great and there are wild animals to watch (if you ride slow enough!). By riding from Berlin along the Panke and via the Karower Teiche nature reserve, you can pretty easily put together a longish, mostly gravel ride. Highly recommended for both nature and cycling fans alike!