Finish

Experience and protect Europe’s forests — #FinishWaterWaste for nature

Sebastian Kowalke

Experience and protect Europe’s forests — #FinishWaterWaste for nature

Hiking Collection by Finish

18

Tours

66:17 h

151 mi

11,400 ft

For many of us, when we're feeling stressed or anxious we escape to places like the forest to unwind. But what if our beloved forests are under stress? Due to the effects of climate change, summers are getting hotter and drier. As a result, the water table is dropping, meaning young trees and shallow-rooted species can no longer reach that most important elixir of life: water. Signs of this so-called ‘drought stress’ include bare patches, dry tree crowns, bark beetle infestations or even the death of the trees themselves.

Large-scale spruce monocultures, which prefer a wet, alpine climate, are particularly hard hit. Throughout Germany, but also in Austria and Switzerland, you can witness the sad sight of large, previously forested areas razed to the ground by pests or storms. Our forests as we know them, the Earth’s green lungs, are changing.

But there is still hope for preservation. Many plantations are being converted into diverse and species-rich mixed forests. The planting of new species from other regions of the world, such as the Douglas fir and the black walnut, represent rays of hope.

In this Collection, we present you with 18 day Tours: 16 for each state in Germany, plus one each for Austria and Switzerland, as the drought is not only affecting the German forests. From many vantage points, towers and treetop trails, you can witness the bare patches in the canopy for yourself, giving you a unique perspective on the issue. Most of the Tours can be reached by public transport, though some are only accessible by car.

Natural forests give us so much: they filter pollutants from the air, store large amounts of CO2 in both the soil and the wood, and provide us with valuable oxygen every day. It's time to give something back to them. Every one of us — each and every individual — can contribute to the preservation of our forests.

Climate change isn’t the only challenge we face. The extreme extraction of groundwater or the draining of wetlands for residential areas and farmland are making it increasingly difficult for trees to survive. Let's work together to conserve water and preserve our forests! The challenge is great, but it also offers opportunities, because the future could once again become more vibrant, species-rich and colourful.

On The Map

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Tours & Highlights

  • Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors
    Intermediate
    04:34
    10.9 mi
    2.4 mph
    400 ft
    400 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Due to its location between the North Sea and the Baltic Sea, Schleswig Holstein is less plagued by drought than the rest of Germany. Due to the high humidity, the …

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  • Difficult
    05:08
    12.3 mi
    2.4 mph
    400 ft
    400 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    On the island of Usedom, the foresters are struggling with the lack of rain: In the area of the Neu Pudagla Forestry Office, tens of thousands of young trees are …

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  • Easy
    01:59
    4.72 mi
    2.4 mph
    175 ft
    175 ft
    Easy hike. Great for any fitness level. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The forests in the Hamburg metropolitan area are also affected by drought. Only around seven percent of the area of Hamburg is covered by forest. As an important recreational area …

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  • Intermediate
    04:23
    9.71 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,050 ft
    1,075 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    Ever drier summers have also affected the forests in Brandenburg: The water reservoirs in the trees can no longer be replenished, and this also affects the following years. The result …

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  • Intermediate
    03:12
    7.52 mi
    2.3 mph
    375 ft
    375 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    As in Brandenburg, the trees in Berlin suffer from the sandy soil. Despite the proximity to the Wannsee and the Havel, shallow-rooted species such as pines are increasingly drying up, and oaks and beeches have to expend a lot of energy to get the elixir of life. Dry summers keep the groundwater level falling. More and more giant trees do not survive this.

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  • Intermediate
    03:20
    7.36 mi
    2.2 mph
    650 ft
    1,125 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The Harz forests have been plundered and changed for centuries. Large amounts of wood were required for ore extraction, which almost made the native deciduous forests disappear. In the past, fast-growing spruce trees were reforested, but they were not adapted to the low altitudes in the Harz Mountains and dried out in moderate summers - a great food for the bark beetle.

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  • Intermediate
    02:11
    5.20 mi
    2.4 mph
    225 ft
    125 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Watering trees became part of everyday life for the teams at the environmental company in Bremen in the last hot summers. Too little water not only weakens the young trees, …

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  • Intermediate
    04:00
    8.48 mi
    2.1 mph
    1,250 ft
    1,250 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    The Sauerland is also affected by the dying forest: the large-scale spruce monocultures have suffered severely from the drought in recent years, which resulted in bark beetle infestation and storm …

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  • Intermediate
    03:18
    7.10 mi
    2.2 mph
    875 ft
    875 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Bare, brown and desolate: the forest in the Selke Valley is changing and is struggling with massive tree deaths. The spruce monocultures are no longer able to cope with the …

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  • Intermediate
    03:52
    9.38 mi
    2.4 mph
    175 ft
    175 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The Leipzig alluvial forest is a landscape worth protecting in the middle of the city. Due to climate change and the extensive hydraulic engineering measures of the last few decades, …

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  • Intermediate
    04:14
    10.3 mi
    2.4 mph
    175 ft
    200 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    Not only the increasingly extremely dry summers of the last few years are causing problems for the Hessian reed, the problems started as early as the 1970s: Species-rich wet meadows …

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  • Intermediate
    02:53
    6.59 mi
    2.3 mph
    500 ft
    500 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Although beeches are particularly drought-resistant, tree deaths occurred in the Hainich National Park (one of the largest original beech forests in Germany) due to the unusually dry summers. Ancient giant trees showed damage such as brown leaves, dry branches or even died completely. The effects of climate change are analyzed here in regular workshops and strategies for the Hainich beech forest are developed.

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  • Intermediate
    03:15
    7.88 mi
    2.4 mph
    150 ft
    150 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    2020 was the warmest year in Rhineland-Palatinate since weather records began in 1881. The consequences of the lack of rain and the increasingly hot summer can also be clearly seen …

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  • Intermediate
    03:03
    6.29 mi
    2.1 mph
    1,025 ft
    1,025 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    The condition of the Saarland's forests has deteriorated further: More than 40 percent of the trees show significant damage, the reason for this being the drought in recent years. The …

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  • Intermediate
    03:32
    8.12 mi
    2.3 mph
    575 ft
    575 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Although the Steigerwald is a mixed deciduous forest, clear traces of the persistent years of drought can also be seen here. In Bavaria, in some forest areas, 70 percent of the trees are damaged or even dead. In the hot summers of recent years, the spruce and pine trees in particular have suffered, but in the Steigerwald the beeches and oaks are also struggling to survive.

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  • Intermediate
    03:39
    7.00 mi
    1.9 mph
    1,575 ft
    1,575 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    The drought stresses the trees around Freiburg too: in the Freiburg Sternwald with its exposed and sun-drenched location, the firs and spruces have dried out in recent years and then …

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  • Difficult
    05:11
    11.7 mi
    2.3 mph
    1,050 ft
    1,050 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    Tree death does not stop at national borders: Austria's forests are also massively affected by the increasing drought. Within a year, in the Waldviertel alone, the bark beetle destroyed a forest area the size of half of Vienna. Afforestation with more robust mixed forest is inevitable. On the slopes of the Thaya Valley in Lower Austria, you can see dead spruce trees between the young deciduous trees at every turn.

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  • Intermediate
    04:33
    10.1 mi
    2.2 mph
    750 ft
    1,050 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    The Pfynwald is the largest contiguous pine forest in Switzerland and is located in the picturesque Rhone Valley. In recent decades, drought and downpour have had a particularly strong impact here, which is why the valley is one of the driest inner-alpine valleys in the Alps today. This has an impact on the pines, some of which are over 100 years old. The mighty giant trees increasingly show symptoms of drought such as strong bark beetle infestation and eventually die.

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    18
  • Distance
    151 mi
  • Duration
    66:17 h
  • Elevation
    11,400 ft
Finish

Experience and protect Europe’s forests — #FinishWaterWaste for nature