Germany's south-western cornerstone is about 160 kilometers long and between 20 and 60 kilometers wide. The descent towards the Rhine is steep while the transition into the Neckar and Danube Valleys to the east is a more gentle one. With its fragrant meadows, dark forests and crystal clear waters, the region is still the epitome of the perfect world. The Black Forest is ideal for leisure activists: hiking, mountain biking, climbing and whitewater rafting is just as popular as visiting one of the many thermal baths between Baden Baden and Bad Griesbach.
Holiday route through the Black Forest National Park
Germany's oldest holiday route runs through the northern Black Forest and is part of the Bundesstraße 500, which begins in Baden-Baden and climbs up steeply to the main ridge of the northern Black Forest, reaching it at Bühlerhöhe. On a rock there is a small church of St. Mary, popularly known as the Adenauer Chapel, with glass windows worth seeing. When the weather is clear, one has a comprehensive view over the Rhine plain to the Vosges.
From Bühlerhöhe, the elevated road runs from 800 to over 1000 meters above sea level. Near Sand am Mehliskopf an all-weather bob run is in operation year round. Here is also the junction to the nearby Schwarzenbachtalsperre and to the cross-country skiing centre Herrenwies.
Below the highest mountain in the northern Black Forest, the 1164-metre-high Hornisgrinde, the road reaches the almost circular Mummelsee, around which leads a short plank track.
The administration of the Black Forest National Park, which the Black Forest High Road crosses over long distances, is located in the nature conservation centre at Ruhestein. To the west of Ruhestein, the only via ferrata in the northern Black Forest leads over the Karlsruher Grat. A few kilometres further south along the road lies the Lothar Trail, which demonstrates the consequences of hurricane Lothar. Over the heights of the Schliffkopf and the Kniebis the road finally leads to Freudenstadt, where it ends.
Quaint half-timbered houses in the birthplace of Hermann Hesse
Through the cloth, wood and salt trade this city in the Nagold Valley became one of the richest cities in Württemberg. The old town is lined with quaint half-timbered houses, whilst the cobbled streets lead to the splendid marketplace. Here, next to City Hall, is the birthplace of Hermann Hesse and at the northern end of the market there is a museum dedicated to him.
Beautiful views from the highest mountain of the Black Forest
At 1,493 metres, Feldberg is not only the highest mountain in the Black Forest but also in Germany not counting the Alps. A nature reserve has been established around the summit with its subpolar vegetation. Especially during inversion weather conditions during winter you have sensational views. Then the Vosges mountains pile up on the other side of the cloudy sea, while in the south the snow-capped Alps glitter – from the Zugspitze to the Bernese Upper Alps. In the House of Nature, which also serves as the administrative seat of the Southern Black Forest Nature Park, there is a permanent, interactive exhibition. Behind the house begins the nature trail “Wichtelpfad im Auerhahnwald”. (return: 2.2 kilometers, 0:45 hours, up and down 60 meters)
Moor on the highest mountain of the northern Black Forest
At 1163 metres, the highest mountain in the Nordschwalzwald is an elongated ridge. In the Black Forest Grinden are treeless moist heaths on a plateau, which were formed after the clearing of the primary forest. However, the high moor on the Hornisgrinde is naturally unforested. From the large car park at Mummelsee a nature trail with information boards leads across the summit level. The moor is crossed on a wooden path. (there and back: 4.8 kilometers, 1:30 hour, up and down: 130 meters)
Distant views of Mont Blanc
To the south of Freiburg lies a mountain peak called Schauinsland (“look into the country”); with 1284 meters one of the best viewpoints in the Black Forest. Especially in the fall, when the mountains rise “above the clouds” phenomenal views open up: to the Vosges, the Hornisgrinde and the Bernese Alps, even to Mont Blanc. Those who do not want to hike to the summit can take the Schauinsland-Tram.
Germany's highest lake
The glacial lake dating back to the last ice age was enlarged in 1930 with a dam wall which raised its level by 30 meters. Today it is the largest lake in the Black Forest. The Schluchsee is popular with swimmers and sailors. In contrast to the Titisee the shore it is easily accessible from almost everywhere. Many hiking trails skirt the lake. An 18-kilometer-long level trail around it is also suitable for parents with prams. From May to October the walks can be combined with boat trips.
Bathing lake amid beautiful forests
The lake surrounded by beautiful forests has, according to legend, waters of immeasurable and imperceptible depth. When trying to measure it, a voice from the bottom resounds: “You fathom me out, I will drown you.” But in actual fact the ice age lake at an altitude of 850 meters is only 20 meters deep. Large predatory fish such as pike and lake trout, as well as eels and many other small species live in its nutrient-poor waters. A hiking trail leads around the two-kilometer long lake. Swimming, sailing and pedal boating are also possible.
Waterfalls and cuckoo clocks
Germany's highest waterfalls, the famous Black Forest Railway, as well as being a year-round fog-free location make Triberg a popular and worthwhile holiday destination. The area around the entrance to the waterfalls is reminiscent of Disneyland. Here and in the town center shops offer cuckoo clocks, carvings, souvenirs, Black Forest ham and cherry brandy (Kirschwasser). To a large extent the quality products are handcrafted, but the plastic cuckoo clock ‘made in Taiwan’ can be found here as well. Also worth seeing is the Black Forest Museum which is located near the lower entrance of the waterfalls. For those who want to escape the hustle and bustle – the countryside around Triberg is fantastic and only a few hundred meters away you won’t see or hear either the cuckoo clocks or woodcarvings.
The life and work of earlier generations in the Black Forest
The open-air museum located at the exit of the Gutach Valley into the Kinzig Valley was built around the Vogtsbauernhof. Mills, day labourers' houses, sawmills and a chapel were added to the magnificent Vogtsbauernhof. With all your senses you can experience how people lived and worked in the Black Forest: In the stable there are domestic animals of old breeds, sheep and goats graze on the pastures, in the black kitchens there is a smell of smoke and ham. Daily activities provide variety throughout the season: cooking in the black kitchen, daily mill demonstrations, a museum workshop for families. In addition, there are events such as the day of traditional craftsmanship, the autumn and slaughter festival.
In the footsteps of charcoal makers and glass carriers
There have been glassworks in the remote Windberghochtal ever since the 12th century. Their fragile products were transported with great care through the Black Forest. The glass carriers with their custom-made “backpack cupboards” were specialized in this. The hike passes several huts and leads through a magnificent wilderness with waterfalls and ancient forest. In good weather you have a wonderful view up to the Alps. (return: 14.1 kilometers, 5 hours, up and down: 372 meters)