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A sign points the way to the Sieben-Buergen-Blick, or Seven Castles' View, an observation platform in the hills above the Rhine near the town of Niedernheimbach, Germany. It's about a 45-minute hike up a moderate incline to the platform.

A sign points the way to the Sieben-Buergen-Blick, or Seven Castles' View, an observation platform in the hills above the Rhine near the town of Niedernheimbach, Germany. It's about a 45-minute hike up a moderate incline to the platform. (Dan Stoutamire/Stars and Stripes)

A sign points the way to the Sieben-Buergen-Blick, or Seven Castles' View, an observation platform in the hills above the Rhine near the town of Niedernheimbach, Germany. It's about a 45-minute hike up a moderate incline to the platform.

A sign points the way to the Sieben-Buergen-Blick, or Seven Castles' View, an observation platform in the hills above the Rhine near the town of Niedernheimbach, Germany. It's about a 45-minute hike up a moderate incline to the platform. (Dan Stoutamire/Stars and Stripes)

A sylvan landscape along the trail to the Sieben-Buergen-Blick, or Seven Castles' View, an observation platform in the hills above the Rhine near the town of Niedernheimbach, Germany. Just above Sooneck Castle, the platform gives a commanding view of the river and surrounding area.

A sylvan landscape along the trail to the Sieben-Buergen-Blick, or Seven Castles' View, an observation platform in the hills above the Rhine near the town of Niedernheimbach, Germany. Just above Sooneck Castle, the platform gives a commanding view of the river and surrounding area. (Dan Stoutamire/Stars and Stripes)

The Sieben-Buergen-Blick, an observation platform from which visitors can see seven Rhine valley castles, rises above the town of Niederheimbach, Germany. The platform is a pleasant, moderately inclined hike from the town and the parking area for nearby Sooneck Castle.

The Sieben-Buergen-Blick, an observation platform from which visitors can see seven Rhine valley castles, rises above the town of Niederheimbach, Germany. The platform is a pleasant, moderately inclined hike from the town and the parking area for nearby Sooneck Castle. (Dan Stoutamire/Stars and Stripes)

A view of Sooneck Castle, bottom left, and the Rhine from the Sieben-Buergen-Blick, or Seven Castles' View, an observation platform above the town of Niederheimbach, Germany. The tower is a 45-minute hike from the parking lot for Sooneck Castle.

A view of Sooneck Castle, bottom left, and the Rhine from the Sieben-Buergen-Blick, or Seven Castles' View, an observation platform above the town of Niederheimbach, Germany. The tower is a 45-minute hike from the parking lot for Sooneck Castle. (Dan Stoutamire/Stars and Stripes)

Hardy explorers willing to brave Germany’s low winter temperatures can beat the summer crowds and be rewarded with a 360-degree view of the picturesque Middle Rhine valley from the lookout above the wine-making town of Niederheimbach.

The Sieben-Buergen-Blick, or Seven Castles’ View, is a four-story, wooden observation platform nestled in the hills above the riverbank near Burg Sooneck. It’s located directly along the more than 100-mile-long Rhine castle hiking trail, which runs from Bingen, near Mainz, north to Rolandseck in the Eifel region. Day-trippers might find it easier to simply park at the entrance to Burg Sooneck, which is also worth a visit.

The trek to the lookout was relatively grueling, with a steady incline all along the 45-minute route from the parking area, but for those able to make it up, the views from the top on a clear day make it all worthwhile. And, of course, the way down is much easier. The trail itself is well-marked and wide, looping up and around a wonderful sylvan landscape, which even in winter is visually arresting.

The lookout is about a 45-minute drive from Wiesbaden and just over an hour from Kaiserslautern.

The trail was ice-free when I visited, but it’s a good idea to wear sturdy boots and dress warmly in the event of snowfall or frosts.

I’ve long thought that the Middle Rhine, through which hundreds of day cruise ships pass during the warmer months, is among the most lovely areas in western Germany, and the view from the lookout confirms it. Here, the river winds peacefully through vineyards, forested hills and snug hamlets. Seeing it from high above is the perfect way to appreciate its beauty.

stoutamire.dan@stripes.com Twitter: @DKS_Stripes

DIRECTIONS: From Wiesbaden, take the B455 south to A66 west, followed by the A643 south to A60 west. Take exit 13 at Bingen to get on the B9, which you’ll take all the way to Niederheimbach. Take a left at Soonecker Strasse. From Kaiserslautern, take the A63 north to the A61 north in Alzey. Exit near Bingen for the B9, which takes you to Niederheimbach, before taking a left at Soonecker Strasse. Parking is available at Soonecker Strasse, 55413 Niederheimbach.

TIMES: Open 24 hours a day all year

COSTS: Parking and admission to the tower are free.

WEBSITE:niederheimbach.de/touristik/touristik_blick.html


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