Germany’s National Parks: Hainich National Park

Even if you’ve only been in Germany for a short time, you probably know that forests are a big deal here. They are an essential part of German culture, representing a love of nature, a connection to a (far more heavily) forested past, and a desire for balance. Hainich National Park, located in the country’s wooded heartland, may just be one of Germany’s greatest forest preserves. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has an incredible tree canopy walk, is tailor-made for families, and is an unbeatable day trip.

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Why beech forests matter in Hainich National Park

Germany looked very different 200 years ago. No autobahns, no factories, no air bases, no ski lifts. Instead, there were forests – often made up of ancient beech trees, which were one of the primary life forms to take up residence in Germany when the last ice age ended 10,000 years ago. According to, two-thirds of the country would be covered by beech forests today, if it weren’t for human intervention. The beech tree matters in Germany.

It’s one of the reasons why Hainich National Park is so cool. There are thick stretches of primeval forests populated by centuries-old beeches. They represent a direct connection to the past, and a concerted effort to preserve and grow these forests for future generations. Primeval beech forests are home to thousands of different plant and animal species, which makes visiting them a fantastic experience.

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The Canopy Walk – A Must-do

A highlight of any visit to Hainich National Park is the Baumkronenpfad, or Canopy Walk. This incredible elevated loop walk high above (sometimes more than 100 feet!) the forest is a can’t-miss destination. Visitors are treated to breathtaking views, loads of good information, and a whole new perspective on the forest and all the life it holds.

The walk is accessible for all visitors (including those with strollers or in wheelchairs), and is open all four seasons. Adventurers can even pick their way across a hanging rope bridge!

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Hainich National Park’s ‘Jungle for Families’

The park does a fantastic job of catering to families, and makes education fun for learners of all ages. It’s also a fun place for Tolkien fans. Legends of elves and gnomes have been around for generations, and the park offers a ‘secret gnome village’ playground with a picnic area that young kids (and even some older ones, not surprisingly) love. Kids also love the Wildkatzenkinderwald, or Wikakiwa for short, which bills itself as a primeval woodland playground for kids. That is a technical definition, and and mostly accurate. For parents, Wikakiwa is a sure-fire way to get the kids to sleep well on the car ride back home.

Speaking of wildkatzen, nearby Wildcat Village, open year-round, is a must-see for animal lovers. Germany is famed for its wildcats, but they are elusive creatures. At Wildcat Village, though, you can get up close and personal with lynxes and the small, fluffy wildcats that call Hainich National Park home.

The park’s MärchenNaturPfad Feensteig, or Fairy Tale Path, is also a must for families. An easy, 1.5 mile-long trail, it offers 14 different stations that give visitors insights into some of the most marvelous mythical creatures from old German bedtime stories. Tales of giants, dwarves, talking animals, and more emerged from forests just like this one. You’ll be enchanted in no time.

A dream for cyclists

The park is certainly excellent for walkers and families. It’s also amazing for cyclists. Hainich National Park has three dedicated cycling routes, covering more than 50 kilometers, that plunge cyclists deep into the heart of the primeval forest.

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There’s a circular route that is ideal for families or for those who are interested in a leisurely approach to seeing the park. For those who are a bit harder core, either the yellow or red routes will do. Neither is too gnarly in terms of the types of tracks used, but there is quite a bit of uphill (and downhill, sometimes steep) for both routes.

Getting to Hainich National Park

By car, Hainich National Park is 3 hours from Kaiserslautern, 2.5 hours from Wiesbaden, and 4 hours from Stuttgart. The park is open year-round.

Categories: Travel