Hiking in the Netherlands, say what?! The flattest country ever, below sea level, and the highest ‘mountain’ only being 322 meters high… Moreover, the country is super crowded and there seem to be buildings everywhere. But don’t be fooled, even though it may be nothing like our European counterparts, there are still amazing natural parks to be found to enjoy all-day hiking. During (another) lockdown year I decided to try a Dutch hike every month to see how much hiking can be done in the Netherlands. I walked a total of ten of them varying between 13 and 22 km and I have to say: I have been surprised. I have thus listed my top 5 best hikes (or hiking areas) in the Netherlands for you below. Oh, and the best part is, all of these hikes can be reached via public transportation!
1. De Kampina
Choosing number one for this list was not a hard task; hiking in De Kampina it is! Situated in the province of Noord-Brabant this area is truly a hidden gem in the Netherlands. Not that many people know about it, including me until last year, which makes De Kampina a wonderful place to explore without the ‘crowds’ that can de found in some of the other more famous areas in the Netherlands. The first hike I did this year was in De Kampina and it definitely set the bar for all the other hikes yet to come. The NS-wandeling I did, starts at the train station Boxtel and runs all the way to the train station in Oisterwijk. The first ten to fifteen minutes covers an industrial area, but after that, it is nature only. De Kampina is beautiful, diverse, quiet, and magical. I loved how every few kilometers I was surprised again by how the landscape kept on changing. From coniferous forest to heath landscapes, moorland, fen, and deciduous forest. I loved it so much that during the summer when the heath was all purple, I went back for a second time. This time to walk the two-day hike from Boxtel to Tilburg by Nivon. With the completely changed landscape, it was a treat all over again and I still want to come back for more.
2. De Veluwezoom & Posbank
I think this hike was recommended to me most often when I asked for hiking advice in the Netherlands. A 15-kilometer hike stretching from Dieren to Velp, crossing the most famous natural area of the Netherlands: De Veluwe. This is also the largest nature reserve in the Netherlands and it is not hard to tell why it is so popular. Endless stretches of forest, sandy dunes, and again fields full of heath. The area is also famous for spotting wildlife like deer and boar. This NS-hike from Dieren to Velp, starts with some challenging first kilometers as it goes uphill and down a few times through an old deciduous forest. After leaving the forest you suddenly find yourself at the Posbank – beautiful sandy hills covered with heath. The hike continues right through this area to then finish again in a quiet forest where we even managed to spot boar! There is hardly any concrete on this route so it really feels like you are in the middle of nature all the time. It can get busy, especially on weekends and holidays, but the route is worth it nonetheless.
3. Utrechtse Heuvelrug
This is another famous area for people to spend time in nature, especially for those living in the ‘Randstad’. I went here because it is a relatively short and easy travel from Rotterdam. My expectations were not really high as I thought the proximity was the main reason for most people to visit. This assumption turned out to be completely untrue and already during the hike I knew this one would make the top three of the best hikes. What I loved about it? Again the diversity of the landscape was something that made me really enthusiastic about this 15km NS-hike from Driebergen-Zeist to Maarn. A mixture of dense evergreen forest, ponds, vast expanses of sand with a tree here and there, and sheep roaming freely in it. I was here on a foggy Wednesday morning so it was really quiet, but on other days it can get pretty busy. Although this is mostly the first part of the hike, the part that goes through Langoed Heidestein is much quieter as I understood from someone I ran into during this hike. He was even surprised to see me out there as usually there are no other people at all!
In the pre-covid era, I think this area was mostly known to people living in the surrounding towns and cities. By now, I feel like most people living in the Western part of the country have discovered the Kennemerduinen. The area is beautifully located at the seaside with dunes, small lakes and a bit of forest as well. Scottish Highlanders walk around freely, and if you are lucky you can spot some deer as well. The area is indeed stunning and surprising, but a little too busy for my taste with many people from the cities of Haarlem and Amsterdam visiting during the weekend. I did a self-designed loop hike based on the information board at the entrance of the area. It started close to train station Santpoort-Zuid and the hike was about 19km. If you do not want to do a loop or want something pre-designed, there is also the 16km NS-wandeling from Sandpoort-Noord to Zandvoort, which appears to be very nice.
5. Soesterduinen and Hoge/Lage Vuursche
In this area I did two hikes, first NS-wandeling from Amersfoort to Hollandsche Rading (22km) and second NS-wandeling from Baarn to Hollandsche Rading (13km). Both are nice and have relatively diverse landscapes, however, to my taste, they are a bit too organised. What I mean by that, is that you often cross highways or walk through built environments for example. This is because there are several smaller natural areas in this region but it’s not one continuous area. So compared to the hikes above this one feels less like you are right in the middle of nature away from everything else. Especially the first part of the second hike, passing Paleis Soestdijk was not really appealing to me for those reasons. However, later on in both hikes, there are beautiful areas that you walk through, such as the Soesterduinen or the Lage Vuursche. Both hikes end with the forest at HollandscheRading, which in my opinion is the best part of the hike.
Ps. small disclaimer: these hikes were made departing from my hometown in Rotterdam, so they are more or less centered around that city. In the case of the Kennemerduinen and Posbank I stayed overnight. I am of course aware that there are many more hikes that could and should make this list, but as I traveled with public transportation, some of them were just too far away for me to do in one day (especially during short winter days – and even more so because I’m not a morning person ;)). Just so you know.
More impressions? Check out my highlight ‘Hiking NL’ on Instagram for a detailed photo and video report of each hike!