HAMMER TOUR: HIKE THROUGH THE HISTORIC GELPE VALLEY
In search of bygone industrial history through the beautiful Bergisch landscape
This hiking tour is 6.5 kilometres long and takes you approx. 170 metres above sea level through the beautiful Gelpe valley. From Steffenshammer across the Bergisch Ziller valley to Käshammer and back to Steffenshammer. You will discover the beauty of the Bergisches Land up close and see exciting testimonies to Bergisch industrial history along the way. Two steeper sections and some rough ground make this hike quite challenging. Sure footing is required and sturdy footwear is recommended.
Starting point is the historic district of Clemenshammer
The starting point for this tour is Steffenshammer at Clemenshammer. Several hammer mills, blacksmith and grinding cottages set up shop in this residential district which dates back to the late 16th century. Of the four original hammers at the site – Bollenhammer, Rottsiepershammer, Schliepershammer and Steffenshammer - only the latter remains. If you are interested, you can find out about the age old art of blacksmithing at the Steffenshammer, which is still in working order, on many Saturdays throughout the year (www.steffenshammer.de).
A highlight right at the beginning: the picturesquely located Steffenshammer
Passing the Steffenshammer, go through a gate and take the forest path immediately to the right that climbs steeply up the mountain. Keep left at the fork in the path. Ignore the next turn off and continue straight ahead until you reach a wider hiking trail. Cross this trail and continue along the path to the right past an electricity pylon. The forest path turns into a farm track. If you want to take a short break after the climb, there is a bench here with a fantastic view towards Remscheid. At the end of the track, which winds between picturesque meadows, there is a wider forest path. Turn left here. At the next fork, follow the path to the right down through the forest until you reach a wider track. Turn sharp right here and then take the next turning left. Stay on the flat track and do not take the path that continues left into the valley.
Magnificent view of the Saalbach reservoir ponds
To the left, there is a view down into the valley of a series of back-to-back reservoir ponds. The Saalbach river was dammed for the metalworking industry and hammers and cottages once used the stored water to generate energy. Signs along the industrial history trail point out the former production sites at the relevant places along the Saalbach and Gelpe rivers.
Keep left at the crossroads at the end of the track and cross the Saalbach before turning left again and walking through the valley on the other side of the reservoir ponds.
Opportunity for a rest in the Bergisch Ziller valley
There is a miniature golf course behind the ponds where you can play a round of star golf (a kind of miniature golf with slightly different dimensions and rules) under the protective canopy of leaves, especially on warm summer days. At the crossroads where the golf course is situated, you can decide whether you want to take a break at the “Haus Zillertal” (www.hauszillertal.de) or a detour via Käshammer.
Extra tour to Käshammer
Turn right to go to Käshammer. You can take either the tarmac road or the parallel footpath running to the right of it. At the end of the footpath, turn right and then immediately sharp right again where the path climbs steeply up the mountain. No need to get confused, it feels like a 180-degree turn, but you are going the right way. The paved forest path winds steadily up the mountain to a mountain hut. Turn left at the hut. The path then leads gently downhill.
Before a no through road sign, turn left into the forest. A little attention needs to be paid here as the way is not always clear. After about 50 metres, keep right until you reach a gravel track and then keep left and continue downhill. A few houses can be seen to the left in the valley. Turn left on two more occasions crossing the Gelpe river. The track leads past the houses you saw earlier from higher up. At the end, there is a typical Bergisch timber-framed house. This is the former eating destination “Käshammer”. At the fork in the road, you can see the old Käshammer mill in its idyllic setting on the right. It is one of the best-preserved hammer mill buildings in the Bergisches Land, but is no longer in operation as a production facility.
The route continues to the left along the Gelpe river. It meets the crossroads again where you first walked up the mountain and the footpath met the road. This time, keep right and stay on the tarmac road that leads back to the miniature golf course. Turn left towards “Haus Zillertal” and here there is another opportunity to stop and recharge your batteries for the last part of the walk.
Final push: From Haus Zillertal to Steffenshammer
Leave the grounds of “Haus Zillertal”, turn right and take the road to the left. After a few metres, leave the road again on the left and join a footpath that takes you along the stream. If you look closely, you can still see the brick embankments and bridges in many places, reminiscent of industrial use, but today they blend romantically into the landscape. If the path is too uneven underfoot, just stay on the road at this point. The path rejoins the road; turn left over the small bridge. After 500 metres or so, the road leads straight back to the starting point at Clemenshammer.
PUBLIC TRANSPORT: Bus 615 (direction Remscheid or direction Wuppertal) to the “Remscheid Gerstau” stop. It’s only about a 10-minute walk from here to the starting point. To get to the starting point, turn left into “Morsbachtalstraße” at the “Scheider” car dealership and follow it until you reach the “Clemenshammer” road.
Parking: Walkers’ car park at Clemenshammer or “Clemmenshammer” road, access via “Morsbachtalstraße”. The car park at Steffenshammer only has four parking spaces and more often than not these are full. Parking is possible at the side of the “Clemenshammer” road.