Extensive ranges of hills, dense woods, untouched valleys and sparkling streams - the Palatinate Forest is a real jewel among the German forests.
Covering an area of over 1,700 square kilometers (1,000 miles), the forest is the largest contiguous forest area in Germany. In contrast to many other German forests, you will find here almost exclusively natural forests without fast-growing pine or spruce trees. On the excellently signposted Pfälzer Waldpfad (Palatinate Forest Trail) you will travel 145 kilometers (90 miles) from north to south through the entire forest.
In addition to lonely forest trails, the region is characterized by numerous streams and natural ponds, which you can find again and again along the wayside in idyllic nature. A special highlight, however, is the rock formations in the southern part of the Palatinate Forest. The red sandstone is stronger here than in the surrounding mountains and has thus withstood the erosion more strongly. Today, the sometimes mighty and sometimes bizarre rocks rise above the surrounding treetops as towers, ridges and rock plateaus. Many of them can also be ascended without climbing equipment and above you can enjoy unique views of the green mountain ranges of the Palatinate and the Wasgau.
The Pfälzer Waldpfad leads you to picturesque small towns and secluded hiking homes. Here you can spend the night comfortably and replenish your provisions because not all hikes offer the possibility to stop for lunch. But you're not going to let that stop you. Grab your hiking boots and let the forest enchant you.
Your hike on the Pfälzer Waldpfad starts at the station in Kaiserslautern. After just a few steps you leave the city behind you and follow the path up to the Great Humberg.After the steep ascent you continue up to the Humberg tower. Once at the top you will be rewarded with a fantastic view of your hiking area for the next days, the Palatinate Forest.Afterwards, the Pfälzer Waldpfad leads you up and down through the dense forest and over the gentle hills. Shortly before your destination, you will go over the Moosalbe and finally you will reach the Naturfreundehaus in the Finsterbrunnertal. The picturesque Wanderheim offers you a crowning glory for your first stage through the dense Palatinate Forest.
The second day of hiking is dedicated to the Moosalbe, the 26 kilometer long tributary to the Schwarzbach. Since at the time of industrialization, numerous water-driven hammer mills were founded on the Moosalbe, it is referred to by the residents as Hammerbach.At the beginning of your tour, you will leave the narrow Finsterbrunnertal valley and migrate upriver along the lively Moosalbe. Soon you will reach Café Unterhammer, which is housed in a lovingly restored hammer mill.A little further on you can also make a detour to the well-preserved ruined castle of Willenstein on the other bank of the river at the Klug mill. In the renovated and rebuilt part of the castle is now a school camp.If you leave the Klug mill behind you, you enter the picturesque Karlstal. Steep and wooded slopes rise up on both sides, and there is a unique atmosphere in every season, while the moss-ostrich flows peacefully. In the middle of the valley you will find a small, meanwhile mossy pavilion. A perfect resting place in this idyllic nature.The trail continues along the course of the Moosalbe to its source. Shortly after you reach the small hamlet Johanniskreuz with the House of Sustainability.In Johanniskreuz there is a small hotel with reasonable overnight prices. However, the hotel has been negatively affected in recent years by its creative pricing with meals and additional costs. Alternatively, you can stay overnight in Trippstadt. The Landgasthof "Zum Schwan" also organizes transfers to Johanniskreuz for you so that you do not have to take a detour.
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Your third stage of the day leads over particularly lonely and natural forest paths and leaves you completely to rest.From Johanniskreuz it goes first to the Burgalbsprung and the Burgalbweiher. The Burgalbe, which rises here, is the most important tributary to the Schwarzbach, the third largest river in the Palatinate Forest.Already after one kilometer Burgalbe and a small brook join together into the Schwarzbach. You follow the upper course of the Schwarzbach and then leave the valley up to the Hahnenkopf.Here you will pass several streams and ponds, all of which also flow into the Schwarzbach. You follow the Pfälzer Waldpfad on comfortable and quiet paths to your today's stage destination, the Naturfreundehaus in Heltersberg.
On your fourth stage, the landscape slowly changes along your hiking trail. In the southern Palatinate Forest, numerous red sandstone cliffs can be found on the wooded ridge, which has been shaped by erosion over centuries into spectacular rock formations.After a forest, you will reach the first of these rocks, the famous and mighty Soul Rocks. Covered entirely by trees, it shows itself only to the hikers who explore it on the forest paths.Soon you will reach the inconspicuous ruins of Heidelsburg. The foundations you can visit here are ancient and considered to be the best preserved Roman fortress in Germany.Along the course of the Schwarzbach, the forest path takes you through the place of pilgrimage Maria Rosenberg and soon after you reach your stage destination in Rodalben. The hiking Hilchberghaus is located above the small town and from its terrace you have a beautiful view of the surrounding hills.
With only 10 kilometers, the tenth stage is pleasingly short. So you have a perfect chance to explore the unique sandstone rocks above Rodalben in detail.The trail leads you along impressive rock formations. Here you pass the Saufelsen, the Rappenteichfelsen and the Rappenköpfe. Some of the rocks are completely surrounded by trees, others tower with their highest points from the canopy.If you can tear yourself away from the rocks and their gullies, furrows and peaks, the Pfälzer Waldpfad leads you through the Hohlbachtal at the Birkwieserhof in the direction of Merzalben. The Landgasthaus Birkwieserhof is also perfect for a relaxing break, before you continue the last short stretch to the stage destination.
The short fifth stage is now followed by the queen stage of the Pfälzer Waldweg. Not only do you expect a distance of 23 kilometers and a climb of more than 500 vertical meters, you also climb to the Weißenberg. At 607 meters, this is the highest point of the entire hike.It is best to start early, so you have enough time to visit the castle ruins of Gräfenstein, which is on your today's stage. In addition to the view from the keep of the castle, there are two more beautiful lookout points along the way today. Even the Winschertfels offers you a perfect panorama, but the Luitpold Tower on the Weißenberg is the absolute classic for long-distance views over the Palatinate Forest.After more than 15 kilometers you reach the small town Hersbergerhof. Here you have earned your rest at the Café Ingrid, before you go on the last hiking section to the stage destination Hauenstein.
The seventh stage takes you first from Hauenstein over the paddle pond into the picturesque Stephanstal. Through the small valley runs the upper reaches of the Queich, one of the four major rivers of the Palatinate Forest. Here the stream is still narrow and gurgles peacefully in its stream bed.At the end of the valley you will find the Wanderheim Dicke Eiche, a perfect resting place on today's tour. The hut is named after the nearby famous Dicken Eiche, a landmark of the Palatinate Forest.On comfortable forest paths, it goes on to the final destination to Dahn. Shortly before arrival in Dahn it goes up to the Dahn Rockland. Around Dahn, you can find vast and diverse Buntsandsteinfelsen. Thanks to stairs and railings, you can climb up to some even without climbing equipment and admire the fantastic view from above.
The eighth stage is hard to beat for spectacular highlights. Rock walls, viewpoints and castles, this stage offers you everything.The Pfälzer Waldweg takes you first up to the Hochstein, a rocky ridge of the Dahn Rockland. High above the city and the trees you have a great view of the landscape and the other sandstone rocks.Continue to the Dahner Castle Group, a unique collection of three castles. All castles once belonged to the knights of Than, who have continued to expand their castle over generations. After the family died out in the 17th century, the castles fell into disrepair over time.A few kilometers from the final destination you finally reach the impressive rock castle Drachenfels. With its unique keep and spectacular, rock-adapted architecture, it seems like a fantasy movie.After a break at the Drachenfelshütte, you will reach the stage destination Erlenbach.
Your ninth and last stage will offer you a worthy finale for your hike through the Palatinate Forest.Shortly after your start the castle Berwartstein awaits you. The castle is still inhabited and is in fantastic condition. This is a unique testimony to the southern German castle construction and the last inhabited castle in Wasgau.At the Seehofweiher with its cozy café and its beach, the hiking trail leads you back into the dense Palatinate Forest. Here the forest path lives up to its name, because for several kilometers the path runs exclusively between the tall tree trunks and away from civilization.After eleven kilometers you reach the restaurant Germanenhof, which is located directly on the German-French border. After a well-deserved break, continue and follow the path across the border to France. Numerous remnants in the form of landmarks and fences bear witness to a time when the border crossing was not as easy as it is today. Just before the end of your hike, the landscape changes dramatically. The forest gives way to open fields and your gaze sweeps over the vast vineyards.After crossing the German border again, you reach the massive German Wine Gate at your destination in Schweigen-Rechtenbach. If you step through the gate, you've finally left the forest behind. On your nine daily stages across the Palatinate Forest, you got to know and love the diverse character of this unique forest. And one thing is for sure: this beautiful forest is worth a visit.