The first things that might come to mind when the Black Forest is mentioned are cute cuckoo clocks, sweet gateaux, or the much-less sweet Grimm’s fairy tales. However, there is much more to this stunning part of Germany than many travelers realize. The region is the perfect spot for outdoor activities like cycling and hiking, and is also home to a variety of top-notch spas to soothe tired muscles after long days of exercise.
Located along Germany’s border with Switzerland and France, the Black Forest area has been shaped, over the years, by both its history and its location. If you’re keen to see just what this region, immortalized in fairytales, has to offer, read on.
Within the city of Baden-Baden, famous for its spas, lies the crown jewel health and well-being destination, Friedrichsbad. With stunning mosaics, a dome, and a Carrara marble pool, this popular bathhouse gives off a neo-Renaissance palace vibe, and combines Roman and Irish bathing traditions. The facility has been relaxing visitors for more than 125 years with a bathing sequence that involves 17 different steps. The long-ritualized process involves changes in temperature and baths, plus scrubbing, and dunking into the site’s thermal waters.
Famous novelist, Mark Twain, was a fan of the establishment, and once commented in a letter to a friend that “at the Friedrichsbad you lose track of time it takes to succeed within 10 minutes and track of the world within 20.”
Another top spa is located within the decades-old Parkhotel Wehrle in Triberg. The Sanitas Spa has wrap-around windows to provide views over the nearby forested hills, plus a kidney-shaped pool for relaxing in. Sanitas, which opened in 2007, is home to a relaxing, waterbed meditation room, beautifully-tiled hammams, a whirlpool, sauna, and steam rooms.
Treatments at the spa are varied, with options including reiki, Ayurveda-based therapies and rhassoul clay wraps.
Less than 10 miles east of the reservoir lake of Schluchsee, and near the pretty town of Bonndorf, there is a wild gorge called Wutachschlucht that is a top site to explore. The deep gorge was shaped by a fast-flowing river and is flanked by almost vertical rock faces. Here, on the southeastern fringe of the Black Forest, visitors will find a fascinating microclimate filled with flora and fauna such as ferns, spot orchids, lizards, and butterflies. Hikers can travel along the eight-mile trail that leads upstream to a rest house (once an old watermill and inn) at Schattenmuhle.
Another great spot to walk begins at the small hilltop chapel of Martinskapelle, at the head of the Breg Valley. The spot is around seven miles southwest of Triberg and sits at one of the sources of the Danube River. From the chapel, hikers can enjoy an easy and very scenic walk that winds its way through pristine forest to the lookout tower at Brendturm.
Incredible Cycling Tracks
Cyclists are well advised to book a ticket on the Schauinslandbahn cable car that is situated around four miles south of Freiburg. The 20-minute trip takes travelers to the more than 4,000-foot Schauinsland peak where, apart from stunning views, there is a lookout tower and variety of cycling and walking trails to explore. In addition, biking enthusiasts can choose to make their way downhill on one of the longest off-road scooter tracks in Europe.
On a bike, the region around Freudenstadt is also well worth exploring. Forested valleys, quaint villages and spectacular landscapes sit around the fringe of the district town and provide a variety of interesting paths for tourists to follow. There is the over 50-mile-long Kinzigtal-Radweg route that goes to Offenburg, or the more than 40-mile Murgtal-Radweg track that runs north along the Murg River to Rastatt.
If you’ve snagged cheap airfare through to Germany and want to enjoy some scenic drives that are picture perfect, you won’t be disappointed in the Black Forest region. To learn about the story of clock making in the area, take the Deutsche Uhrenstrasse, the German Clock Route. This looping drive takes travelers through a variety of towns that have been creating the iconic cuckoo clocks for hundreds of years.
If wine is of more interest to you, take the Badische Weinstrasse route from Baden-Baden to Lorrach. The journey along the winding, 100-mile-long Badische Wine Road runs through Rhine Valley vineyards and past ruined castles. Travelers can stop along the way to sample and buy fine wines at co-operatives and private vineyards.