ABC in KMC: Pfälzerwald

Altschlossfelsen near Dahn photo by LianeM/

The Pfälzerwald, or Palatinate Forest, is one of Germany’s largest connected forest areas. The Romans that settled 2,000 years ago gave it its name. The Pfälzerwald has a total area of 1770 square kilometers (683 square miles) and covers about one third of the complete Pfalz Region. The City of Kaiserslautern aced it and is situated in a valley right in the heart of it.

Apart from the actual forest and natural habitat for an array of domestic animals, it also offers spectacular attractions. For example, a fabulous view over the countryside from Donnersberg at an altitude of 686 meters (2250 feet), just north of Winnweiler. Celts also favored this spot about 3,000 years ago and a restructured village can be visited in Steinbach.

Another great way to experience the forest is a picturesque train ride from Kaiserslautern through Neustadter Valley. There you can board a historic steam engine train and enjoy a relaxing ride in slow motion. Hambacher Castle is an attraction in Neustadt’s city section Hambach. The castle is embedded at the fringe of the forest and holds historical significance as Germany’s “cradle of democracy,” when citizens stood up in opposition to the Bavarian government in 1832. Germany’s black, red and golden flag was first introduced at that time. The vista over the vineyards along the “Deutsche Weinstrasse” is magnificent and on sunny, clear days you can see all the way to Mannheim.

Past the highest mountain in the area the “Kalmit,” the trails will lead you past Landau and Wissembourg, France, to nearby Trifels Castle in Annweiler. There, none other than “Richard the Lionhearted,” King of England, was held captive in 1193 for about a year until a ransom of 23 tons of silver was paid for his release. In addition, there are a number of “Pfälzerwaldhütten” along the many trails, consisting of cozy wooden cottages that usually offer food and drinks for hikers.

The forest is also a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, and the Palatinate Forest and Nothern Vosges are celebrating their 25th anniversary this year with a number of special events. The “Haus der Nachhaltigkeit” (House of Sustainability) is located near Trippstadt and offers a garden with domestic plants, a delicious buffet for butterflies, an orchard with almost extinct fruits, a climate station, a picnic area with playground and trees to climb on. Seminar rooms can be booked for conferences and the center offers a treasure chest of information regarding nature protection and sustainability.

Just nearby in Dahn, the forest shows yet another face, the Dahner Felsenland is a fascinating world of bizarre sandstone formations such as the “Teufelsfelsen” (devil’s rock). The “Baumwipfelpfad” (treetop path) will treat you to a spectacular view at dwindling heights.

Hiking fans can venture into neighboring France and experience yet another section of the forest leading up to the historic City of Bitche with a mighty citadel and its Garden for Peace.

The Palatinate Forest has a total of 5,000 kilometers of hiking and walking trails on a network stretching north-south, east-west or even crisscrossing. There are 272 different trails to choose from and Landstuhl just recently opened two new premium trails in Karlstalschlucht (valley) just past Hohenecken.

The longer one is for passionate hiking fans and the second, shorter round for a more relaxed walk on fastened trails. Some communities offer culinary hikes on paved walkways where you can enjoy a leisure walk, dine and wine along the way while experiencing incredible views. 

High time to don your hiking boots and hit the trails. For inspiration and routes as well as resting areas, visit: