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Hiking in the Black Forest on the Albsteig
Usually when I travel to Germany, I tend to stick to nearby places. However over the last few months I have put a little more effort into some hiking areas in Germany that are a bit further away. Last autumn I visited the Bavarian Forest and I walked part of the Goldsteig. This spring jumped into my Volvo Rudolph and drove all the way down south to go hiking in the Black Forest. Here I was invited by the German Tourist Office to hike a few sections of the Albsteig.
Note that I actually have to say the Albsteig Schwarzwald because at first there was some confusion about this trail. There turns out to be another Albsteig, but then in the Swabian Alb, north of the Black Forest. This is not connected to the Albsteig that I hiked, but I still wanted to have it mentioned to avoid confusion. My journey was therefore on the Albsteig in the Black Forest.
Before you continue reading, also check the short video I made:
About the Black Forest in Germany
Let me start this article with some more information about the Black Forest in Germany. Although the name suggests otherwise, the Black Forest is not nearly as dark as you think. There are various stories about the origin of the name Black Forest, but the most likely is that of the Romans. They traveled through this area and then came across a densely forested mountain area. They called this Silva Nigra, or the dark forest.
In the meantime, the forest is not nearly as dark as it used to because years ago almost all mountain slopes were cleared for forestry and the Black Forest consisted largely of meadows. Today you will find a mix of meadows, pine tree forests and deciduous forests and the name Black Forest sounds darker than the area actually is.
Where is the Black Forest?
The Black Forest is located in southwestern Germany, on the border with France and Switzerland. The length of the region is around 160 kilometers and the width between 30 and 60 kilometers. The highest point is the Feldberg, which measures 1,493 meters and is located in the Hochschwarzwald. During my trip I visit the southernmost part of the Black Forest: the Hochschwarzwald.
About the Albsteig Schwarzwald
As I mentioned earlier, I hiked a part of the Albsteig Schwarzwald. This is an 83.3 kilometer long distance walk that stretches from Albbruck in the south to Feldberg in the north. At Glashogsäge the trail divides into two parts: the eastern section to Feldberg and the western section to Feldberg. I hiked the eastern section and then a small bit of the western part. An online hiking map of the Albsteig can be found here. The Albsteig mainly follows the course of the river Alb where the name Albsteig derives from.
Hiking the Albsteig is great for everyone because they have made a handy division of the stages. Sports enthusiasts can walk the trail in four days (Etappen für Sportliche – approx. 25 km / day), while those who wish to take it slower, can walk the Albsteig in seven stages (Etappen für Genießer – approx. 10-15 km / day). I chose a mix of both, below you will find my extensive day-to-day description.
Day 1: Albtalsee – Häusern / 8 km
I park Rudolph the Volvo in the covered parking garage in Feldberg. Once again I check that I have everything I need over the next couple of days, close the trunk and and lock it. Bye Rudolph, see you in three days! Outside I’m waiting for the tourist office representative who will drive me to the start of today’s walk: the Albtalsee. As I only arrive in the Black Forest in the afternoon, I only hike an 8 kilometer stage today.
“Over the Sperre and then right” is the suggestion I receive when I exit the car. I get on the dam (where it clearly says “no walking path” but never mind) and at the end of the bridge there is indeed a sign which indicates the trail to Häusern. The first part of this hike takes me along the banks of the Albtalsee. The wind is blowing loudly and when the clouds float in front of the sun it is freezing cold. Fortunately there is more sun than there are clouds and generally speaking it’s a beautiful day! The trail that I follow is a wide gravel path and is occasionally connected with a narrow trail directly along the water.
Then the trail suddenly stops or well … runs into the water. The thaw has only recently started here and I suspect it the water level is higher than normal, which causes the trail to flood. I decide to walk back up and take the gravel road. Eventually I find the trail back again and I decide to walk back along the path to see what this looks like from the other side. But even there I quickly walk through the water up to my ankles. It’s time to head back and be happy to see that there is a ‘high water alternative’.
After I have crossed the lake again, this time over a wooden bridge, the trails sends me into the mountains. I cross several streams via a steep and stoney track, hop from one boulder to the other and finally arrive at the top of the mountain. Although the top of the mountain is wooded, I still occasionally have a glimpse into the valley. Below me lies Häusern, my final destination for today. The descent is gradually over a wide gravel track and not much later I am back in civilization.
Just after walking into the village, I’m treated to a nice final section of the day: the Waldlehrpfad that leads me past a rock face. A nice trail that leaves me a little speechless, just before I actually arrive at my place to stay: Hotel Alptalblick. A comfortable walking and wellness hotel where they have already counted on my arrival. I have a beautiful room with a ditto view and the food makes me enjoy the restaurant. While enjoying a fine glass of white wine, I eat a deer steak with Preiselbeeren. FInally, it’s time to go to sleep and get ready for the next day. And ofcourse enjoy a very fine sunset!
Day 2: Häusern – St. Blasien – Menzenschwand
After a delicious breakfast, it’s time to head out again. My plan for today is that I first walk for about an hour and a half to St. Blasien and from there onwards to Menzenschwand, a section of about 17 kilometers according to the description, with little elevation change. From Häusern I follow a wide gravel path that is not very spectacular. Fortunately the sun is shining and the birds are whistling all around me. In the distance I have a view of the Albstausee when I look over my left shoulder, the first signs of St. Blasien appear in the distance.
Just when I start to find the trail a bit boring, there is a turn to the right: into the Windbergschlucht. A schlucht is a narrow gorge and I know from experience that the gorges in Germany can be deep, dark but very beautiful. I follow a wide stream and after half a kilometer of climbing on a stoney track I arrive at the Windbergwasserfall: a beautiful six meter high waterfall that clatters down from the mountain top.
From here I follow the original trail back to the main road and I arrive in St. Blasien shortly after. I had never heard of this village before, but I was told that the dome they have is a special sight. And that turns out to be quite right!
A visit to St. Blasien
I join a tour through the center of St. Blasien and learn about the monastery and the dome, one of the largest in Europe. The dome attracts visitors from all over the world and to be honest, I was very impressed. Inside the color white and simplicity predominate, the maker of the dome wanted to contrast sharply with the darkness of the (especially winter) landscapes of the Black Forest. Because St. Blasien is rather isolated and the winters are long, the residents became depressed and lonely. They could find light inside this church.
After a one-hour tour and a Flammkuchen at Foodies, it’s time to head out again, to Menzenschwand. The trail takes me again over a wide gravel road. The sun is shining and I’m so lost in thought that I miss a turn and only realize this a few kilometers later, when I no longer see any Albsteig signs at an intersection. With the help of the map I determine my location and decide not to walk all the way back, but to descend at the first option and search for the right track.
Back on Track
I found it after half an hour and from there I walk onwards to Menzenschwand. The sun has now hidden itself behind a thick layer of clouds and the wind is sharpening. I set up a higher pace and arrive in Menzenschwand, a picturesque village in the middle of the Hochschwarzwald, at the end of the afternoon. Time seems to have stood still here and the peace and quiet on the street are a large difference to the tourist bustle of St. Blasien. I check in at Hotel Waldeck and enjoy an excellent evening meal here. After dinner I fall asleep with my e-reader on my nose. Being outside makes me hungry, but also very tired! Outdoor air fatigue is, in my opinion, the nicest fatigue there is!
Day 3: Menzenschwand – Feldberg – Herzogenhorn / 19 km
Today I have to get up early because around noon I have an appointment with someone from the tourist office who will hike a part of the trail with me. It is therefore important to be at the agreed place on time. After a quick breakfast, I throw my backpack on my back and step outside. Wow, it’s pretty chilly today but the sky is mostly blue. I’m sure it’s going to be a beautiful day again!
The first few kilometers lead me through the village of Menzenschwand, towards the end of the valley. The first attraction on the trail is Menzenschwander Wasserfall, which winds its way through a narrow gap. This is followed by a goat path through an apple orchard. Here I have really beautiful views of the surrounding area and I can already see the snow-covered summit of the Herzogenhorn in the distance.
From the goat path I descend a bit again and I follow a wide gravel track to the end of the valley. A steep climb follows and eventually the trail takes me to Feldberg. Here I meet Matthias from the tourist office who is walking along with me for the afternoon. Today’s actual stage ends here, but we are going to walk an extra stretch.
But first I’m visiting the nature center that they have here to learn more about the history and nature of the Black Forest. I’m shown around by one of the nature experts who works here and he tells me all sorts of interesting stories about why it is necessary not to go outside the marked trails and which animals live there.
Then I put on my backpack again and it’s time for the last part of my walk through the Black Forest. From the village of Feldberg you can climb the mountain of the same name, but this trail is not part of the Albsteig. The second highest mountain in the Black Forest, the Herzogenhorn, is part of it and therefore a climb of this summit is on the program for today. There appears to be a large load of snow, which occasionally causes some slippery bits, but the climb is not difficult and after an hour and a half I’m on top of the Herzogenhorn.
Unfortunately it’s cloudy but the view is beautiful anyway. Despite the clouds, I can see for miles and I feel on top of the world. However, it is also extremely cold at the top, so after quickly taking a few photos I descend again.
In Feldberg I find Rudolph again and it’s time to say goodbye to Matthias. I get in the car and drive to Hotel Peterle, a friendly family hotel where I again enjoy an excellent meal. After a good night’s sleep, it’s time to get back in the car and go home.
About hiking in the Black Forest
I have found hiking in the Black Forest and on the Albsteig very pleasant. The Albsteig is well signposted and on the way I hardly met anyone. I did travel in the preseason, but even in the summer you don’t see many people on this trail. It is of course a bit busier around the sights, the waterfalls and gorges but generally the trail was pretty quiet. By public transport you could also make these walks from one hotel. More information about this and for bookings of the hotels en route for your hiking holiday in the Black Forest you can go to the Wanderservice of the Albsteig Schwarzwald.
Conclusion en disclaimer
It soon became clear to me that there are so many walks in the Black Forest that I definitely want to come back here because the Black Forest is a true hikers paradise. In addition, as part of your holiday in the Black Forest, you can of course easily walk a part of this section, I found the last part of Menzenschwand to Feldberg and then the climb of the Herzogenhorn the most beautiful part of the trail.
I made this trip in collaboration with Tourism Germany and Tourismus Hochschwarzwald. All opinions given are of course only mine. Note that this blog contains affiliate links. If you book something through these links, I may earn a small commission of course at no extra cost to you.