The dense forests of Germany’s Black Forest region are the inspiration behind stories and legends and a draw for hikers all around the world. The trails on offer are routinely voted as some of the most awe-inspiring hikes there are. The number of routes means that anyone can enjoy a holiday hiking in the Black Forest regardless of skill or fitness level.
Black Forest facts:
- The Black Forest extends northeast for 160 km from Säckingen, Upper Rhine River (on the Swiss border) to Durlach (near Karlsruhe)
- The Kinzig valley divides the Black Forest into two parts, and the highest mountain is Feldberg which sits at 4,897 feet tall
- The forests are mainly made up of fir trees and the dark shadows the trees create give the Black Forest its name!
- The main cities in the area are Freiburg im Breisgau, Offenburg, Lahr, and Rastatt
Where to stay in the Black Forest
Whether you are looking to engage in a hike of epic proportions or opting for a more sedate and leisurely trip, the Black Forest offers visitors an array of beautiful locations to base yourself. The city of Freiburg im Breisgau is known as the gateway city, perfectly poised on the forest’s edge with hotels and accommodation aplenty.
For an immersive experience, camping in the Black Forest is a fantastic option and well catered for. There are numerous campsites, spaces for RVs, and if you follow the guidelines, you can go wild camping. We cover all you need to know about camping in the Black Forest in a previous article.
Short-distance hiking trails in the Black Forest
An easy day trip from Freiburg is the gorgeous spa town of Baden-Baden, home to the Baden-Baden Panoramaweg.
The circular route is 45km in length with an ascent of 1420m and divides into four smaller sections with entry and exit points along the way. You can also opt to take the mountain railway to Merkur, Baden-Baden’s local pet mountain.
It’s a breath-taking route that hikers can navigate all year round and is suitable for all technical levels.
Another gorgeous hiking trail is the Belchensteig, a 15km circular route through the south of the Black Forest to the summit of Belchen Mountain. The third highest peak (1414m) in the Black Forest is also often described as the most beautiful climb with fantastic panoramic views from the top.
Rare fauna and species can be found along the trail too. The best starting point is from Wiedener Eck, and there is also a cable car (Belchenbahn) to help with the ascent or descent if required.
The Ortenau Wine Trail
The Ortenau wine trail is an alternative hike for wine lovers that is a part of the Baden Wine Route, which covers 200km.
The first section starts in Baden-Baden, taking you through Offenburg and Lahr until reaching Ringsheim and is roughly 70km.
Time your trip with special Wine Hiking Days in September in Offenburg or the Wine Show in May. The next wine town is Lahr, which hosts a wine festival in May, colorful timber-framed houses, and a flower festival in autumn that lasts three weeks.
The wine trail is suitable for all levels and is a massive part of the history of this region.
Long-distance hiking trails in the Black Forest
The Two Valleys Trail
The Two Valleys Trail (Zweitälersteig Trail) starts near the sunny city of Freiburg. It takes in both the Simonswald and Elz Valleys. It is 108km, but it is a hike for the more experienced and physically fit.
Hikers will climb 4,120m, and it’s the only route in Germany to have an age restriction – no under 16s!
Along the way, discover striking waterfalls, thick, dense forests, gorges, and various rock formations. The paths are often relatively narrow as they zig-zag at astonishing heights. Look out for the pilgrimage chapel on the Hörnleberg mountain. You will deserve that slice of Black Forest Gateau at the end of this trail!
Middleweg (Middle Route)
From Pforzheim to Waldshut is the Middleweg (Middle Route), a long-distance hiking trail through the Black Forest covering 230km.
Discover magical Schwarzwaldian woodlands, medieval castles, and gorgeous lakes. The trail starts from the Enz and Nagold Valleys. It goes over the Hochfirst mountain, which looks out over Titisee, before continuing to Lake Schluchsee.
In the south, you have the choice to go through the Schwarza and the Schlücht Valleys or the Mettma Valley. The hike goes through lots of small towns, but steep ascents require some level of fitness and take around nine days to complete.
A crossover with the Middleweg is the Schluchtensteig Trail which takes in the raw beauty of the southern part of the Black Forest close to the Swiss border.
The 119km route also takes in the iridescent Lake Schluchsee as well as the impressive Wutach, Gutach, Rötenbach, Haslach and Wehra gorges, and St Blaise’s Cathedral.
The trail opened in 2008 and has become popular with experienced hikers. You will come across ladders, and parts of the route have no footpaths, so proper hiking equipment and shoes are necessary.
Hiking tips for the Black Forest
Hikers are well catered for in the Black Forest. Its enchanting surroundings are world-famous! Nevertheless, there are some essential tips to keep in mind when embarking on a hiking adventure to the most idyllic part of Germany.
- If you need maps in English, it would be best to come prepared. You can buy maps at local tourist offices for a small fee, but they will most likely be written in German. Many of the best hikes exist in this book.
- Towns and cities will have hiking gear and clothing but remember that all stores are closed on Sundays.
- Trail markers are handy, but with so many trails in the Black Forest, make sure you’re following the right one as they often overlap.
- Bring food and water, especially if you are hiking off-season. In high season mountain huts are great places to stop for food and drink and sometimes accommodation too.
Other activities to do in the Black Forest
You will never run out of things to do in the Black Forest region, with countless towns, cities, castles, museums, and outdoor activities to enjoy. You can enjoy guided snow hikes near Titisee or stop off in Baden-Baden for a relaxing spa treat in the winter. Vineyards across the region are open to visitors, and it’s an absolute must that you try some Black Forest Gateau!
Meander the cities and quaint towns of the region, taking in weekend markets and old castle ruins. It’s also possible to take tours in cities such as Freiburg in English or seek out the area’s museums detailing the history of the Black Forest and its industries, such as cuckoo clock-making or glassblowing -both make our previous list of must-see places to visit and things to do in the Black Forest.
You may also want to detour from your hike to visit some of nature’s spectacles, such as the Triberg Waterfalls, or drive/bike along the Schwarzwald Hochstrasse. This 60-km panoramic road goes between Baden-Baden and Freudenstadt. There is an array of outdoor sports to choose from anywhere in the Black Forest. You could try swimming and boating on lakes Titisee and Schluchsee.