Winter forest hiking – time for adventures


by Ronnie Juhans

Photo by Jag_cz/shutterstock.com

For my fellow hikers who enjoyed the great outdoors trekking during the warmer months of the year, there is no need to put away those boots and let Old Man Winter keep you indoors until spring of next year.


Winter hiking and snowshoeing are excellent activities for those of you who are not into skiing or snowboarding and want to keep up your fitness levels while checking out amazing scenery, tasting schnapps and local food specialties along the way, visiting landmarks, and seeing a variety of wildlife and plants that thrive throughout the winter months.

Below are four routes for you to start enjoying nature in the colder months.

Gipfelrauschen Hike

This hike begins at the Hunsrueckhaus located next to the Erbeskopf ski slope.  The clearly marked trails lead you through dense spruce and fir forest areas with a variety of wide open spaces to narrow footpaths and nature preservation areas. It then takes a few upward spiral turns and drops back into a valley path that leads you to the Gipfel (peak) platform which is the highest point in the region. From the Gipfel you have a view of the hills, valleys, and villages for several kilometers in every direction. The path from the Gipfel leads you down to your start point at the Hunsrueckhaus where you can recharge and warm up with an amazing soup of the day, local schnapps, local food specialties, and visit the nature museum and souvenir shop.

Start point: Huns­rueck­haus am Erbeskopf, 54411 Deuselbach
Distance: 7.5 km
Time estimate: 3 h ours
Experience: Excellent
Terrain: Various flat and steep areas
Difficulty Rating: Mo­derate to dif­fi­cult. Not strol­ler or small child friendly.
Detailed info: www.erbeskopf.de

Wind, Wasser & Wacken Hike

The Wind, Water, and Rock trail is an excellent environmental education hike for adults, school groups, and anyone who wants to get out and enjoy a day crossing streams, meadows, and trekking along thick forest paths in the Hardtwald forest near Thalfang.

The theme is climate protection, energy conservation through the use of wind and water power in the region, and also focuses on geology. Along the way you encounter windmills, underground springs, mineral wells, a dark narrow oak forest area, and the Berger Wacken geological area. All areas have informational signs posted, and there are a variety of rest stops along the way for a picnic lunch and snacks.

Just below the start point in the village of Thalfang you will find a variety of restaurants and cafes to enjoy local food and drink specialties, as well as grocery stores and shops just in case you forgot to pack something for your day out on the trail.

Start point: Wander­park­platz, “Huns­rücker Windweg,” junction K77 / K76, 54426 Heidenburg / Berglicht

Distance: 10.1 km
Time estimate: 3 ½ Hours
Experience: Excellent
Terrain: Wide open meadows, narrow trails, creek crossings, dense forest
Difficulty Rating: Easy to moderate. Not stroller or small child friendly
Detailed info: www.erbeskopf.de

Baerenbachpfad Hike

The Baumholder community is often regarded by many as a place that they are stuck in with nothing to do and nowhere to go locally, especially during winter. However, there are many adventures just minutes away from post and the housing areas. The Baerenbachfad (bear stream path) hiking trail takes you on a very quiet and peaceful journey by streams, rock formations, waterfalls, through meadows, fields, and forest areas with amazing panoramic views. Take advantage of the many rest stops along the trail for a picnic lunch or to get a glimpse of the many inhabitants of this well-preserved forest region. The old town of Baumholder has a variety of small cafes and restaurants where you can find local specialties as well as American, Italian, and Asian restaurants.

Start point: Am Weiherdamm 1, 55774 Baumholder
Distance: 14 km
Time estimate: 4.5 hours
Experience: Excellent
Terrain: Excellent
Difficulty Rating: Moderate, not stroller or small child friendly
Detailed info: www.baumholder.de

Feldberg

Although I’ve been snowboarding and skiing for many years, snowshoeing is a way for me to mix up my activities while avoiding crowded slopes, long ticket and lift lines, and hauling a bunch of equipment around.

This very popular sport does not require hours of lessons, is very easy to learn, has a low injury risk factor, is inexpensive, and a great way to relieve stress, the winter blues, burn excess holiday calories, and spend quality family time outdoors.

One of my favorite snowshoe adventures start at the House of Nature adjacent to the Feldberg ski lift. All trails are clearly marked, and you can get a trail map for free or hire a guide for an additional fee.

Although some of the trails can be a bit challenging while trekking through deep snow, it is worth the extra effort to experience the panoramic views, crisp mountain air, and taking a break at one of many mountain huts and lodges to relax and recharge. They offer the best local specialties that include Black Forest smoked ham, sausages, cake, cherry schnapps, beer and wine. Some of them also have overnight accommodations.

The House of Nature in Feldberg offers regular guided snowshoe tours as well as snowshoe rental.

Based on snow conditions, tours are provided every Sunday from December till March at noon.

Start point: Haus der Natur, Dr. Pilet Spur 1, 79868 Feldberg

Distance: 12.5 km
Time estimate: 5 hours
Experience: Excellent
Terrain: Deep snow and slippery at places
Difficulty Rating: Moderate to difficult. Not stroller or small child friendly.
Detailed info: www.hochschwarzwald.de

What to bring:

Sturdy hiking shoes or boots, gaiters to keep snow out of your footwear, all-weather clothing that includes layers, water, snacks, first aid kit, toilet paper, sunscreen, phone or GPS and Euro. Most remote huts and rest areas do not accept plastic.

Dos and Don’ts:

  • Stay on the trails to avoid disturbing wildlife and eco systems.
  • Keep your pets in control and clean up after them.
  • Take frequent breaks based on your ability level.
  • Research and rent snow­shoes before purchasing them.
  • Constantly check weather conditions and know where to go for shelter.
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