Is hiking in the Netherlands a good idea? Yes, indeed! Although the Netherlands is notorious for being “flat,” it nonetheless has wonderful hiking trails and routes for everyone. In fact, it’s amazing to see how hiking can be so diverse in such a small country.
Why Should You Go Hiking in the Netherlands?
True, there are no mountains to climb here, but what it does offer is a diverse range of landscapes and a wide variety of flora and wildlife than you might expect. As of this writing, the Netherlands has 21 national parks and 160 nature reserves! (Sources: Stichting Samenwerkingsverband Nationale Parken and the Government of the Netherlands.)
Another thing we like is that thanks to an excellent public transportation system, it’s actually easy to go to any of these hiking destinations. So you won’t be all tired and spent even before you start your hiking adventure.
The hiking routes in the Netherlands are also well-marked. Most parks and nature reserves offer a map at the entry that indicates the various paths (marked by different colors) and the length of each trail. Simply keep an eye out for poles that indicate directional changes along the trail, and you’ll be fine.
Our Tip: Looking for more advice? Check out this article for our hiking tips for beginners to advanced hikers.
Hiking in the Netherlands – Where to Find Trails and Routes
Hiking Apps such as Komoot, the ANWB Eropuit, and the Natuurroutes Natuurmonumenten are great ways to find a hiking route near you. The latter two are in Dutch, but in our opinion, much of the information regarding the hiking routes are self-explanatory. Besides, once you download the GPX file (map), it should be easy to follow the hiking route.
Find an NS Walk is another interesting resource. The Netherlands’ main railway operator is NS (Nederlandse Spoorwegen). In an effort to promote train travel, they’ve mapped several hiking paths from train station to train station! And don’t think of these as dull city walks. You can hike through the woods, along the beach, through the dunes, or through the city, depending on where you are.
And, of course, let’s not forget the Staatsbosbeheer, the official Dutch entity that oversees the nature reserves in the country. You can see their recommended “Out in Nature” routes here. (Yes, it’s in Dutch, but if you use Google Chrome as your web browser, just right-click the page and click Translate to English.)
Top 10 Hiking Routes & Trails in the Netherlands
It doesn’t matter where you are in the country; there’s always a hiking trail to take and enjoy, regardless of the season. Following are our recommendations.
Note: The following list is by no means exhaustive. It’s just to give you some inspiration across the entire country. Also, the following destinations tend to be excessively large. Please keep in mind that there are multiple hiking routes in these locations, so they will have short, medium, and long distances to cover.
If you’re in the Dutch province of Groningen, then consider hiking at the Lauwersmeer National Park. With over 100 bird species to spot, it’s a haven for bird watchers. This area didn’t even exist until 1969 when it was decided that a dam should be built to prevent flooding from the Wadden Sea. As a result of this endeavor, the area has become a natural habitat for birds. But birds are not the only things you can encounter here. Big grazers like Konik horses, Highland cattle, and regular horses and cows are used to keep the landscape open. Hiking here is also great if you like different types of trails. You can stick to the dry areas and cross fields or hike along the beach!
If island hiking is your thing and you’re in the Dutch province of Friesland, visitSchiermonnikoog, a 20-kilometer-long island, municipality, and national park, all rolled into one.
Strong water currents, powerful winds, and drifting sand created this island, and the general belief here is to just let nature takes its course. As such, hikers can expect to encounter pretty wild and diverse flora and fauna on its trails. November is considered “Hiking Month” here, so if you want to hike in a more festive atmosphere, this is the time to visit.
3. Drentsche Aa
The Aa is a stream that runs through the provinces of Groningen and Drenthe. The Drentsche Aa (the Drenthe section of the stream) is notable because it is said to be the only stream in the country that has maintained its natural curving channel for generations! The Drentsche Aa is known for its sand dunes, hay fields, and heathlands, but if these don’t pique your interest, how about prehistoric burial mounds? Hiking here will lead you to these “slopes,” some dating back to the Stone Age.
4. Dwingelderveld National Park
The Dwingelderveld National Park (also in Drenthe)is the largest quiet wet heathland in Western Europe. Hikers like it here because there’s some “elevation.” The topography is distinct from other hiking trails in the country, with moderately steep sandy slopes and damp lower areas.
5. The Veluwe
The Dutch province of Gelderland spoils hikers because this is where the Veluwe is located. The Veluwe is the Netherlands’ largest unbroken natural reserve, originating around 160,000 years ago during the Saalian ice era.
There are numerous hiking routes to choose from in De Hoge Veluwe and Veluwezoom National Parks. In fact, these are among our personal favorites because you can hike for days!
6. Utrechtse Heuvelrug
In Utrecht, you can hike the Utrechtse Heuvelrug, which is the second-largest forest zone in the Netherlands. It’s a relic from the last ice age, which lasted over 130,000 years! It stretches for around 30 kilometers and is home to a diversified pine forest, heath, lakes, meadows, and aeolian sand. There is also a diversified fauna, which includes deer, foxes, and several bird species.
7. De Biesbosch Natural Park
In South Holland, you won’t be remiss if you hike at De Biesbosch Natural Park, which features a lot of “wet” terrain. This park is one of the largest in the country and has one of the last large regions of freshwater tidal wetlands in Northwestern Europe.
If you want to get in some long-distance hiking, consider the 169-kilometer Biesboschpad, which will take you to almost every corner of the park. But if you’re not ready for that, no worries. There are plenty of shorter hiking routes available here.
8. Schoorlse Duinen
The Schoorlse Duinen in North Holland provides the highest dune area in the Netherlands you can climb. Over 60 kilometers of hiking routes lead to the highest dunes, oldest woods, and drifting dunes (shifting sands). These make for a challenging hike even in the best of weathers. But don’t think that Schoorlse Duinen is barren. Some of the underlying dune valleys are reached by the North Sea water. This means various seawater flora and fauna can be seen here too.
9. Amsterdam Bos
Hiking in Amsterdam? Is that even possible?! Well, sort of. Amsterdam has so many tourist attractions that just walking through its streets is a hiking adventure in and of itself. However, if you want to be in nature, you may leave the city center (by bike, car, or train) and do so.
The Amsterdamse Bos (Amsterdam Forest), for example, is a man-made park just 15 minutes by car from Amsterdam’s city center, and it encompasses over 1,000 hectares. Although the forest is man-made, it has a diversified geography and hence a vast selection of plants and fauna to enjoy.
10. The Pieterpad
The Netherlands is not a big country. It’s often said you can drive from one end of the country to the other in about four (4) hours. But what if you hike it instead? That’s precisely what Tilburg’s Toos Goorhuis-Tjalsma and Groningen’s Bertje Jens were thinking. So off they went and discovered the Pieterpad.
The Pieterpad is a multi-day hike that stretches from Groningen to Maastricht. But don’t feel obligated to complete the entire route. You can always hike only a piece of this massive trail.
Our Tip: Are you ready to go hiking in the Netherlands? Read our tips on the best daypacks for hiking and traveling.