The Pieterpad (Pieter Path) is the most famous long distance walking route in the Netherlands. The trail runs for 492 kilometres (306 miles) from the far north of the country at the village of Pieterburen (Hogeland region), to the far south at Mount Saint Peter (Sint-Pietersberg) near the city of Maastricht. The trail runs through a variety of landscapes including forests, reclaimed land, heathland, agricultural land, numerous small villages, and some larger cities. The walking route is also known as LAW9.
The route has been officially opened since 1983. Although it is not the longest long distance walking route in the Netherlands, it is the most famous one. The official website Pieterpad.nl and the guidebooks are only available in Dutch, but the route instructions are easy to understand. The entire route is marked using the internationally recognised white-and-red markings in two directions. It is thus possible to walk the route from north to south or from south to north.
The route has been divided in 26 stages of between 11 and 24 kilometres each, with the start and end points of each stage usually at locations that can be reached relatively easily using public transport.
The walking route can be started either at the northern end at Pieterburen, or at the southern end at Sint-Pietersberg.
The village of Pieterburen is in the Hogeland region of the province of Groningen, at the Wadden Sea coast. The village (bus top Pietersplein) can be reached by using bus route 68 from the railway station of Winsum. The bus route runs once per hour, and on Sundays once per two hours. Winsum is connected by train to Groningen city twice per hour.
The hill Sint-Pietersberg (Mount Saint Peter) is just south of the city of Maastricht in the province of Limburg, at the border with Belgium. The nearest bus stop, Mergelweg Sint Pieters, is at Fort Sint Pieter at the northern side of the hill. From the bus stop to the start and finish spot at Sint-Pietersberg is about 20 to 30 minutes walking. The bus stop is served 1 or 2 times per hour by bus route 4 from Maastricht's railway station.
The walking route has been divided in 26 stages. As mentioned above, it is possible to walk either from north to south or from south to north. Below it is described from north (Pieterburen) to south (Sint-Pietersberg).
1. Pieterburen to Winsum (11 km)
The official starting point of the Pieterpad is in the village of 1 Pieterburen (Hogeland region) at Hotel Waddenweelde. The route of this short first stage leads through the Hogeland region along the villages of Eenrum and Mensingeweer to the town of Winsum.
2. Winsum to Groningen (19 km)
Starting in 2 Winsum (Hogeland region), not far from Winsum railway station, the route leads to the village of Garnwerd. From there, the route goes through an agricultural area with several artificial dwelling mounds ('wierden') towards the city of Groningen. Groningen is the largest city on the route of the Pieterpad. The final 4 km of this stage lead through several neighbourhoods and parks of the city, as well as through the city centre. The stage ends at Groningen railway station.
3. Groningen to Zuidlaren (21 km)
From the railway station of 3 Groningen, the route leads along the Hoornsediep canal and the eastern shore of the Paterswoldsemeer lake to the villages of Haren and Glimmen. Then it crosses the provincial border into Drenthe, where it passes two dolmen sites at Midlaren, and the route leads further to the town of Zuidlaren (municipality of Tynaarlo).
4. Zuidlaren to Rolde (18 km)
Starting in the town centre of 4 Zuidlaren (Tynaarlo), the route runs through the Drentsche Aa National Park, the tiny village of Gasteren, and the heathland of Balloërveld, to the village of Rolde (municipality of Aa en Hunze).
5. Rolde to Schoonloo (18 km)
The fifth stage runs through a sparsely populated region without villages and only a few farms. Starting at the edge of the village of 5 Rolde, the route goes through heath and peatlands, to the small village of Schoonloo. Almost the entire route is within the municipality of Aa en Hunze, with a very short section in Borger-Odoorn.
6. Schoonloo to Sleen (24 km)
Starting in the village of 6 Schoonloo (Aa en Hunze), the route runs south through the municipality of Midden-Drenthe to the municipality of Coevorden. The route does not cross any significant villages, and ends in the village of Sleen.
7. Sleen to Coevorden (21 km)
The seventh stage is entirely within the municipality of Coevorden. It starts in the village centre of 7 Sleen, and the route goes along several canals and through some hamlets to the town of Coevorden.
8. Coevorden to Hardenberg (19 km)
The route in 8 Coevorden starts in the historic city centre, between the railway station and the castle. The route runs into the province of Overijssel and along the Vecht river. The route passes the town of Gramsbergen and ends in Hardenberg.
9. Hardenberg to Ommen (21 km)
Also in this stage the route stays near the river Vecht. The route starts at the Tourist Information Centre of 9 Hardenberg, and passes the protected historic village of Rheeze. The route ends near Ommen railway station, which is just south of the town of Ommen.
10. Ommen to Hellendoorn (21 km)
Starting in front of Hampshire Hotel Paping near the railway station of 10 Ommen, the route of this stage runs through the Sallandse Heuvelrug National Park. Compared to all previous stages, this stage is fairly hilly, with the Archemerberg (78m) the highest hill on the route. The route ends in Hellendoorn.
11. Hellendoorn to Holten (16 km)
12. Holten to Laren (15 km)
From the railway station of 12 Holten, the route goes south through the municipality of Hof van Twente and into the province of Gelderland. The route ends in the village of Laren (municipality of Lochem).
13. Laren to Vorden (14 km)
14. Vorden to Zelhem (16 km)
15. Zelhem to Braamt (18 km)
16. Braamt to Millingen (24 km)
From 16 Braamt, the route leads south through the Bergherbos forest area to the Rhine river at the village of Spijk (in the municipality of Rijnwaarden at the German border). From there the trail follows the river downstream through the village of Tolkamer to the ferry crossing 'Pannerden-Millingen'. After crossing the river by ferry, the trail ends in the town centre of Millingen aan de Rijn (Millingen on the Rhine river) in the municipality of Berg en Dal.
17. Millingen to Groesbeek (20 km)
Starting in the town centre of 17 Millingen aan de Rijn, the stage leads through a landscape of reclaimed land, a large push moraine (hill formed by glacial processes during the last ice age), meadows, and woodlands. On the way, the route passes the village of Leuth, the village of Zyfflich (just across the border in Germany, near Kleve in North Rhine-Westphalia), and the Wijlermeer lake. The stage ends in the town centre of Groesbeek. Apart from the small section in Germany, the entire stage is within the municipality of Berg en Dal.
18. Groesbeek to Gennep (15 km)
Along several creeks and through a chestnut forest, the route runs from the former railway station of 18 Groesbeek in southerly direction. The route crosses the provincial border into Limburg (municipality of Mook en Middelaar), and then to the municipality of Gennep. After walking on the border road with Germany, the route ends in the town centre of Gennep, near the confluence of the rivers Meuse (Dutch: Maas) and Niers.
19. Gennep to Vierlingsbeek (17 km)
The start is in the town centre of 19 Gennep, and the entire stage is in the valley of the Meuse river. In Afferden (municipality of Bergen), the Meuse is crossed using a small ferry. On the western side of the river, in the province of North Brabant, the route goes further south to the village of Vierlingsbeek (municipality of Boxmeer).
20. Vierlingsbeek to Swolgen (21 km)
From 20 Vierlingsbeek, the route leads via the small village of Holthees back to the province of Limburg at the village of Smakt (municipality of Venray). Via the villages of Geijsteren, Wanssum, and Meerlo, the stage leads to Swolgen (municipality of Horst aan de Maas).
21. Swolgen to Venlo (21 km)
Starting in 21 Swolgen, the route leads back to the Meuse river at Grubbenvorst (Horst aan de Maas). After a ferry crossing, the route continues on the eastern side of the river again at Velden. The end of the stage is next to the railway station of the city of Venlo.
22. Venlo to Swalmen (23 km)
23. Swalmen to Montfort (22 km)
From 23 Swalmen, the route follows an old Roman road, around the city of Roermond. South of Roermond, the route traverses the village of Melick and then enters the municipality of Roerdalen, where it passes village of Sint-Odiliënberg and ends in Montfort.
24. Montfort to Sittard (24 km)
After leaving the village of 24 Montfort, the route of this stage leads through the municipality of Echt-Susteren into the South Limburg region. The stage ends at the central square of the city of Sittard.
25. Sittard to Strabeek (22 km)
The market square of 25 Sittard is the starting point of the stage. The hilly stage leads via the hamlet of Windraak and the village of Puth to the village of Spaubeek (municipality of Beek), and then further south to the end point Strabeek (municipality of Valkenburg aan de Geul).
26. Strabeek to Sint-Pietersberg (15 km)
The final stage starts in 26 Strabeek. From there, the stage leads mainly in westerly direction towards the city of Maastricht, via Bemelen (municipality of Eijsden-Margraten). After crossing the Meuse river once again in the city centre of Maastricht, the trail turns southward again, to end just south of the city at the hill 27 Sint-Pietersberg (about 1 km from the border with Belgium).
The finish of the Pieterpad, the Sint-Pietersberg, is also part of two other long distance walking routes: the GR 5 from Hook of Holland to Nice and the E2 European long distance path from Northern Ireland.