If you are new to the KMC and have your dog(s) with you, depending on where you live you may not have a chance to let your dog run loose, or know great places in the surrounding area to do so. Living in an apartment downtown or on-base/post housing sometimes restricts you to a quick daily walk with your dog before and after work or on weekends. Don’t let this prevent you from getting out and trying something new and exciting while spending quality time with your dog as well as the entire family.
There are hundreds of kilometers of trails to trek with your dog that either start where you live or are just a short drive away. In this article, I want to focus on Nordic Walking trails where you can take the pup with you, and let you to get back in shape for outdoor terrain after spending a lot of time either sitting by the fire or using indoor equipment. The trails also have stops offering food and beverages and water for your dog, just in case you run out along the way.
The Pfaelzer Bergland Nordic Walking trails are posted with signs at the start points with information including routes, distance, difficulty level and points of interest, including rest stops offering snacks. They all have three or four main routes. These trails surround the KMC, Baumholder and Sembach, are just a short distance away, and are dog-friendly.
Nature Fitness Park Waldmohr routes include the Hoehenweg, a 8.2 km-long, partly-paved trail; Glanaue, a 8 km-long trail; and the family-fiendly 10.7 km-long Mohrmuehlweg, half of which is paved. They interconnect and have varied terrain with a medium difficulty rating.
Nature Fitness Park Ombachsee routes include the Ohmbachsee Tour, a 4.4 km-long tour with an easy difficulty rating; the 6.6 km-long Ziegelberg Tour, with mostly paved trails; and the Loewenberg Tour, a 9.7 km-long trail, both with medium difficulty ratings.
Nature Fitness Park Baumholder has a 4.6 km-long easy-rated route called Am Bruderbach. This trail can be a bit more of a challenge during early spring due to very slippery terrain. Also around Baumholder are the 8.1 km-long Foersterrunde, 11.9 km-long Muehlenweg, and 12.4 km-long Zum Wildfrauenloch. All three have medium ratings, however, since most of the trails are not paved, they can be very slippery in early spring.
Nature Fitness Park Burg Lichtenberg also has three routes. Kleine Burgtour is the shortest of the three routes with a mostly paved 5 km distance; Grosse Burgtour is a 9 km tour on mostly paved underground, and the Roemertour takes you just a bit further with a length of 11.4 km. This is one of my favorite parks because they are all near Lichtenberg Castle where you can take a break to take a tour of the museums and the restaurant on the grounds. All routes have a medium rating.
What makes all of these trails great it that they are Rundwege, “round trails,” which have the same start and finish point, and have directional signs on trees or wooden posts so you can turn around and find your way back to the car easily if necessary. The views are amazing and the trails are well maintained.
During spring expect trails that are damp, sometimes muddy and slippery because of tree roots and the remains of leaves and moss from the fall. Depending on the elevation there can still be snow and ice in certain areas. Be prepared by checking weather conditions before you leave and letting others know where you are going. Ensure your safety by wearing sturdy water-resistant footwear, dressing in layers, and having a backpack with extra supplies such as water, food, snacks for everyone including the pup, first aid kit, and a phone for emergencies.
While taking your dog along, make sure to keep a few things in mind when it comes to the dos and don’ts of dog etiquette. Everywhere I go there are German hikers with dogs, and dogs are allowed to run off the trail to do their business, mark their territory on a tree, or just romp around and have fun. However, when another hiker (with or without a dog) approaches, the dog is called back to its owner’s side until you pass by. This is done for your and the dog’s safety and also applies to oncoming cyclists.
Ensure you always bring a leash while hiking. If you are not sure how your dog will respond to seeing strangers or your verbal commands, leash your dog in advance to avoid a bad situation. Also, be sure to lead them off the trail to relieve themselves when necessary to prevent fellow hikers from having to navigate around, or accidentally end up with shoes and poles that need a little extra clean up at the end of the day. Cleaning up after your dog is a common courtesy ensuring we all end our day on a good note. Cleaning up after them is especially important if your hike takes you through a public park, playground, or resting areas.
Local community offices have gloves and bags that are free of charge, and in many areas, they are supplied for free in dispensers along the way with signs attached.
The German Department of Public Order and local community administration offices have a danger prevention ordinance outlining your responsibilities while walking your dogs in different areas. This ordinance states that the owners must keep their dogs on a leash while walking them on public streets, and in housing areas.
In all other areas such as hiking trails and through the forest, dogs must be automatically put on a leash or otherwise controlled when other people approach. Violators may be punished with fines up to several thousands of dollars depending on the circumstance. They can also face paying medical bills and property damage costs due to an out of control dog.
It is also important to know that if you plan on taking your dog out for a walk that requires car travel, Germany’s law requires dogs in cars should be safely secured in either a kennel or other restraining devices such as a seatbelt or safety net. This not only protects your dog but prevents unexpected driver distractions that could result in traffic accidents.
The driving distance for the trails in this article from anywhere in the KMC is less than an hour away. For more information, you can contact the Kusel Tourist Information office at 06381-424-270 or email Touristinformation@kv-kus.de. You can also obtain hiking maps from the tourist offices all over the KMC including the Window to Rheinland-Pfalz information kiosk located in the KMCC Mall.
About the author: Ron Juhans has spent many years traveling around the world guiding and teaching outdoor adventure skills in the United States, Europe, and Asia while being on active duty for over 21 years in the Army. As a youth counselor, he planned and led over 150 weeklong adventure camps for Outdoor Recreation and Youth Programs in the KMC area which received numerous accolades and articles in the Kaiserslautern American, and Stars And Stripes.