While there is no doubt that the Erpetal (the Erpe Valley) is a beautiful respite from the busy city in the summer months, a fresh snowfall or even a crisp and frosty morning makes this a perfect destination for a wintry walk amongst unspoilt nature.
The best part? Erpetal is actually within Berlin’s city limits. Part of the much, much longer European Hiking Trail (E11), this route is easily reachable with the S-Bahn and is perfect for all ages and abilities.
The well-trodden 12km trail follows the Neuenhagener Mühlenfließ, a small river which is an offshoot from the Spree, that winds through a seemingly endless landscape of forests and meadows. The system of gullies that make up the Erpetal area were created after the Ice Age (that’s nearly 18,000 years ago!) and this is one of the few such river valleys remaining in and around Berlin. In 1995, the Erpetal officially became a conservation site and remains home to wild boars, grazing sheep, friendly horses, and a robust bird population. In fact, here you’ll see mallards, grey herons, reed warblers, and even the odd kingfisher.
Whether you come in the summertime and find yourself meandering through a lush green oasis or you arrive in late January to find a winter wonderland like I did, you’ll surely be impressed by this gem located at Berlin’s south-eastern city limits.
Below you’ll find a collection of photos from a late afternoon visit in January 2021 that will definitely convince you to jump on the S-Bahn to explore this off-the-beaten path destination.
Remnants of the GDR
On the way, you’ll also find a few remnants of the former German Democratic Republic (GDR). This includes the half-collapsed outer walls that would have once belonged to a practice shooting range of the paramilitary youth organization, “Society for Sport and Technology”. You’ll also pass the so-called GDR Design-Depot, where you can see some of the state-approved designs from East Germany. Unfortunately, on my latest trip, the depot wasn’t open due to COVID-19. However, the sign outside provided some clues about the contents of the collection of everyday houseware.
How to prepare
A small backpack with some water and snacks is a must, particularly as there is not much in the way of kiosks, restaurants, or other snack spots along the circular route. There are, however, many great picnic spots along the way. Even on a snowy day in January, many families had brought their own hot drinks and sandwiches to enjoy.
How to get there
From the centre of Berlin, with an AB ticket, you can jump on the S3 to Hirschgarten S-Bahn station. You can also start this walk one stop later at at Friedrichshagen S-Bahn station. While some choose to walk through the Erpetal to Hoppegarten S-Bahn station, you can also choose to do a 11km loop, which is what my partner and I chose to do on this particular visit. You can download our route from Komoot here.