Story by Azure Hall, featured image (“Devil’s Table”) by rphstock / Shutterstock.com
Hiking is an excellent way to enjoy the spring sunshine and get in some physical activity. Germany offers a plethora of hiking and walking trails for beginners and experienced hikers alike. A trail guide with Outdoor Recreation, located in the Ramstein KMCC, calls the area “rich with hiking and cycling opportunities.” Any one of these hikes would be a spring day well spent.
This hike takes you from the Vogelweh Housing development out into the woods, leading you to the remains of an ancient Roman fort called Ring Mauer. To begin this trail, you will park within the Vogelweh Housing area, just be sure not to park within designated residential spots. Trail time is roughly four hours roundtrip, or two hours each way. The trail is roughly 12 kilometers long and the route has sections that are both paved and unpaved.
There are two Frankenstein castles in Germany, but this is the one closest to Ramstein – roughly one hour away. There is a designated parking lot at the base of the hill that provides access to the hiking trail. While it is unknown exactly which of the castles inspired the writing of Mary Shelley’s famous novel, it is known that the author spent time in many parts of Germany, especially along the Rhein River. These ruins are accessible via a short hike up the side of the mountain, roughly fifteen to twenty minutes each way. There are picnic areas nearby and a number of geological formations in the surrounding area. This hike is perfect for someone looking to get a little fresh air without devoting much time to a hike.
The destination for this hike is located a short distance away from Kaiserslautern, about a thirty-minute drive, in the village of Wolfstein. This quiet village offers a number of public parking lots within walking distance of the trail. It is the first stage of the much longer Pfaelzer Hoehenweg, including but a small portion of the 100-kilometer-long trail. This hike is just under 12 kilometers long, looping around the town and making it a perfect hike for a day trip. The hike ends with a spectacular view of two separate castle ruins.
The Palatinate Forest Trail
Any portion of this 143-kilometer-long trail would make for an excellent hike. The trail offers views of spectacular crags, deep valleys, undisturbed countryside and verdant forests. There are a number of parking areas, depending on what entry spot you choose. Along the way, hikers can stop at the sustainability house, Haus der Nachhaltigkeit, in Johanniskreuz, to learn more about preserving nature and the surrounding area. The Drachenfels Ruins and the Berwartstein Castle, Germany’s only remaining currently occupied castle, are both along this route. The trail is broken into nine stages, any of which can be hiked individually or as a longer multistage hike.
Our trail guide recommends that hikers just starting out opt for a Volksmarch- style hike, wherein you hike with a group along a predetermined trail. There are a number of Volksmarching groups in and around Kaiserslautern for those interested in joining.
When participating in any physical activity, hiking included, safety and preparation are of the utmost importance. Our guide recommends “bringing plenty of water and planning for changes in weather. In Germany, a sunny day can quickly turn to showers and hikers should know that before hitting the trails.”
Additionally, it is important to know where you are going. “German trails are well marked,” says our guide, “but it is still a good idea to know the route you’re taking.” Doing a little research before heading out can mean the difference between a pleasant day of outdoor activity and being lost in the woods.