4-Day Adventure Itinerary in the Black Forest & Where to Snowshoe
Updated: Oct 15, 2020
Germany wears forests like a blanket. Tucked into the nook of a knee, a bend in the road, or pulled up around the shoulders of a hill, you'll find singing birds nestled in birch branches everywhere you look. We love living in Germany, because you can literally walk out your front door into the woods. Germany is one of the most wooded countries in Europe.
In no time at all, you can be spying on deer, startling squirrels, and enjoying shaded paths.
What's so Cool About the Black Forest, Anyway?
After a long year full of many changes, including finishing my Master’s degree, taking on an international move, facing infertility challenges, and changing employment, Ryan and I wanted to take a relaxing weekend to enjoy some R&R. We decided to spend a 3-day weekend in the Black Forest—aka Schwarzwald.
In the Black Forest there is a 100 mile stretch of trees so dense that the sun doesn’t reach the forest floor—hence the “blackness” of the forest.
The forest is also world-world-renowned for it’s wood, which is used around the world from boats in Netherlands to buildings in Japan.
It is is the birthplace of the infamous cuckoo clock, numerous thermal spas, and is the setting of many fairy-tales, including several Grimms brothers tales—Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White, Rapunzel, and Sleeping Beauty.
Soon you'll be singing, "I wish...Into the woods, It's time to go, I must begin my journey"
The Black Forest has been visited and enjoyed by the Romans, famous persons of the 19th century, and modern celebrities. It is a place where “you lose track of time in ten minutes… the world in twenty,” - Mark Twain
This itinerary begins in the town of Baden-Baden and takes you on a 4-day loop through the Black Forrest back to the Rhineland-Pfalz area.
Naked Baths, Scenic Drives, Toboggan Rides,
and Wild Game.
1. Kick Off Your Trip Early With a Textile-Free Morning.
If you've seen the movie Failure to Launch, then you could pull a Terry Bradshaw moment and just walk around your house naked..., but I'm suggesting a little more luxurious experience.
Baden-Baden is known for it's thermal baths. Each day 800,000 liters of thermal water come up from 12 underground springs to fill thermal baths in Baden-Baden. The waters are presumed to have healing properties and have been sought out for over 2000 years for healthy rejuvenation and therapeutic rest!
There are two main thermal baths in Baden-Baden: Friedrichsbad & Carcalla.
Friedrichsbad is a bit pricier and more luxurious than the Carcalla spa. It is also a nude thermal bath (Carcalla allows clothing). Even if you feel apprehensive about the nudity, I would really encourage you to go. This spa is worth seeing and experiencing.
When you arrive, you'll receive a wrap to use in the sauna rooms and a locker to store your things. At Friedrichsbad you'll go through 17 stations of alternating baths, brush massages, showers, steam rooms, and warm to cool temperatures. The 17-step recommended sequence is very easy to follow. Each station has instructions written on the wall in English, French, German, and Russian.
Once you finish the final station, you'll get wrapped up in a heated towel and directed to a lotion station where you can slather yourself with all types of luxurious creams.
You then have options to take a nap in their relaxation room or to sit in a quiet lounge room and sip some yummy tea.
Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays men and women bathe separately, but they will always mix and bathe together at stations 10 and 11 where the most beautiful bathes are located. Holidays will also be all mixed stations. Map of the spa
Open 9am to 8pm for admission (but stays open until 10pm).
There are 4 price options.
25€ for a 3-hour basic package, no brush massage
37€ for a 3.5 hour basic package plus soap and brush massage (The brush massage is really nice and gets all your dead skin off. I would recommend it)
49€ for everything at the 37€ price plus a cream massage
59€ includes a meal and a drink plus everything from the 49€ price.
You can park underneath the spa for 0.50€ for the first two hours and then it is 1€ every hour after that. Directions on how to get here. Important: If you are using a GPS to help find the parking garage, enter "Rotenbachtalstrasse 4, 76530 Baden-Baden" as your destination. Then follow the signs to the"Bädergarage" parking garage.
2. Take a Scenic Drive of the Black Forest High Road—Schwarzwald-Hochstrasse.
If the naked spa is too far out of your comfort zone, you can get started with this scenic drive instead. You can take more time to make stops and explore the forest instead of taking your morning at the spa.
The Black Forest High Road is a 30km route that runs from Baden-Baden to Freudenstadt. It takes about an hour or two to drive depending on how often you stop to take in the scenery.
If you decide to visit the Spas, then the next step for you is to enjoy this scenic drive through the forest.
3. Stop at the Mummelsee or the Meliskopf Bob.
As you wind through this scenic route, you'll take in Germany's hilltops, forest, and beautiful lakes. We particularly enjoyed stopping at Mummelsee, where there are ropes, stretching machines, and jungle gyms to play around on. (If you have kids, this is a great place to stop).
You can also stop at the Mehliskopf Bob in Sand along the way to take a toboggan ride. We were really looking forward to this toboggan ride... but they happened to be closed on the day we went! (Even though their website said they're open daily from 10:00am to 4:00pm, they are not). When we arrived we learned they are only open Saturdays, Sundays, and on no school days for the Germans. If you get a chance to go, it looked like a lot of fun!
There are 13 steep curves for a total length of 1,300 meters (roughly 4,260 feet).
Adults €4,10, Kids €3 or you can buy passes for multiple runs.
You can also rent VR headsets for a completely different experience!
Mehliskopf Bob is open year round. There is another toboggan ride in Gutach, but it it only open in the spring/summer.
Mehliskopf Bob Address:
Am Stadtwald 4
77815 Sand bei Bühl/Baden
phone 07226 1300
4. Check-in to Your Hotel
For our weekend of adventure, we selected a random hotel that ended up being quite lovely. We stayed at Der Hirschen (the Deer in German) in Sankt Märgen, where we were pleasantly surprised to feast on locally-caught, wild game for dinner
We could choose from deer, wild boar, goose, trout, cod, and wild mushrooms. Ryan chose to try the goose and I had the wild mushrooms ravioli. Both were incredible! (and not too pricey to boot, at about €20 an entree). It was a perfect way to end our day.
Plus, Gracie was allowed in the restaurant to eat with us.
She got a few pieces of goose too.... shhhh! Don't tell the chef.
Delicious German Food, Cuckoo Clocks, & Forest Walks
1. Sleep-in, indulge, and relax.
We started our morning with a food-coma-worthy breakfast. Germans know how to do breakfast right! We had every choice of cold cut, eggs, juices, breads of all kinds, fruits, oatmeal, teas, cereals, and some things I'm probably even forgetting. It was a smorgasbord (I spent the first 15 minutes of that breakfast wandering around with face cream on my nose not realizing I hadn't rubbed it in all the way.... but nothing was going to ruin this morning!)
2. Visit the House of Clocks.
As we continued our journey to Sankt Märgen, we stopped in at House of Clocks, because Ryan really wanted to purchase a cuckoo clock. Here’s the one we got:
Haha, just kidding. Cuckoo clocks of this size cost several thousand dollars.
We did get a cuckoo clock, but a much, much smaller one.
I was impressed with the shop’s carpenters who have been carving cuckoo clocks for over 50 years. You could see their work stand in the shop where they hand-carve the cuckoo clock’s characters, trees, roof tiles, etc. (I’ve never been a “fan” of cuckoo clocks… I find them gaudy and overworked, but Ryan really wanted one. Plus, it seemed fitting to take one home with us as our own little piece of the black forest and as a memory of Germany).
Although I don’t love cuckoo clocks, I sincerely appreciate craftsmanship.
The little couple that owned the shop was adorable because as Ryan and I went back and forth for over an hour trying to decide on a clock. They were anxious and eager to help us make our selection. We finally settled on one we liked, but it didn’t have a dog on it. We really wanted one with a little dog that looked like our Gracie-girl.
After some shuffling around the shop, and some back and forth banter and searching between the elderly couple, they emerged from a back room with a little wooden dog that looked just like Gracie to add to the cuckoo clock!
He offered to attach it for us no problem, and voila! We had our pooch-complete cuckoo clock.
3. Enjoy more scenic driving in the Black Forest.
Although the forest is gorgeous and lovely to drive through, one of the things I wanted the most was to step into the lives of the people who live there. As we passed through several lumbering towns, I caught sight of bowling alleys, diners, tennis courts, and several enormous farm homes. I wondered about the vibrancy and life of these communities.
I wanted to experience what it would be like to live in them. Who are these people? How long have they been in these businesses? What meals do they cook? What stories do they tell?
Near Gutach, there is an Open Air Museum where you can step into several of these farm homes and see what farm life has been like in this area over the last 400 years. There are tours of mills, sawmills, storehouses, distilleries, fields, kitchens, gardens, and a chapel. The museum teaches about the architecture, traditions, customs, trades, and the way people lived in the Black Forest through the ages. Unfortunately, the museum is only open in the spring/summer, so we missed out on this one, but I would love to go back!
4. Relax and prepare for a full-day of snowshoeing tomorrow!
We settled in the for the evening and prepared for a full-day ahead of us packed with snowshoeing and hiking adventures!
Delicious German Food, Cuckoo Clocks, & Forest Walks
1. Snowshoe at Feldberg.
Saturday morning we put on our winter gear and headed to Feldberg to snowshoe. As we drove into the Black Forest, we had little hopes of snowshoeing. Even though we had planned to snowshoe, when we reached the Black Forest there was no snow. There were just little patches here and there, hardly anything that would even require snow boots, let alone snowshoes.
As we rose through the hills to Feldberg, however, the heavy fog descended and we were met by a glorious winter wonder-scape. It got cold, fast!
We quickly added a few more layers to our bodies before heading out.
Prior to planning our trip, we had contacted the Naturschutzzentrum Südschwarzwald to find out if any snowshoeing trails would be open. We knew it hadn't been a great year for snow, but we were hopeful.
We also found a TON of trails on the internet, but couldn't figure out which one would be the best for us. The employees at Naturschutzzentrum Südschwarzwald were super helpful! There are SOO many trails to pick from, it’s really worth getting their advice on which one will be best for your trip. Plus, they speak English.
If you want to snowshoe with your pooch, I highly recommend getting some Musher's Secret. You can find it on Amazon.
We got some and rubbed it on Gracie’s paws. She had no snow/ice build up in her feet and was able to snowshoe with us no problem! We do have Kevlar booties for her too, but they often fall off. There’s nothing like spending 30 minutes to an hour searching for one little Kevlar booty lost in the snow somewhere because Gracie got adventurous… ugh.
At one point, as we trekked up the hillside, Gracie bounded off out of eyesight (probably after a squirrel). As we called for her…. She didn’t return.
We waited, and waited. Still no Gracie.
Gracie is like my child, okay? So, dog-mom starts to panic over here. She still doesn’t come. I'm freaking out.
Finally, I start down the hill after her and what do I see? Gracie, trying with full force to speedily run though the deepest snow she’s ever been in! It was HILARIOUS to watch.
She was basically swimming through the snow trying to anxiously get to us, because she heard us calling for her. I think she learned to stay on the trail after that ;)
We passed several sledders, hikers, skiers, and made our way up the hillside.
After we got about 3 to 4 km in, the fog became increasingly thick! At one point, we couldn’t even see the next trail marker or in any direction around us. We decided that rather than getting lost in the forest, we should turn around and follow our feet back. So, we did.
I’ve heard the views up there are spectacular… but there was too much fog for us to see much :P Still, it started snowing and we had a blast! It was awesome to be in the forest with our pooch, exploring and breathing fresh air.
2. Hike to Ravennaschlucht (or take a bus)
We finished off our day by heading down the to Ravennaschlucht Christmas Market, which is a uniquely-set market surrounding the base of a bridge where the Devil’s Railway crosses. Ravenna Gorge is so-named because Ravine is the French word for Gorge, and in 1796 French troops were retreating through the steep gorge and nicknamed it “hell’s gorge” or the “devil’s gorge”. I imagine it’s much less delightful to hike out than in, as it is quite a steep descent.
As you make your way through the gorge, you stumble into the Christmas market. A train passes overhead as you snack on candied apples, bratwurst, fish and chips, and all the other delicious finds at the Christmas markets. There is a shuttle that will take you down into the gorge, or you can hike down. We wanted to hike originally, but ended up taking the shuttle because we were tired. (You can also take torch-lit walks down into the gorge for a small fee and that looked like a lot of fun, too!) Dogs are fine to ride on the shuttles as well, and are allowed into the Christmas market.
We had several funny encounters of Gracie scaring the bageebees out of people as she gently brushed up against their legs behind them. Someone would let out a startle, and then turn around to laugh loudly at a cute little doggie who had bumped them (thinking it had been a person grabbing their legs or something).
On the shuttle Gracie started panting in the ear of the woman sitting in front of us, and she about died thinking a human was behind her breathing heavily in her ear...nope.
It's just Gracie.
We're getting quite a kick out of everyone seeing Gracie and telling us, "your dog is illegal!" Gracie doesn't have a tail, which we've learned is illegal in Germany.
I mean, what are we supposed to do now? It's not like we just carry around a tail we can stick back on her...
We get more stares in Germany than anywhere we ever did in the states, which is such a funny thing to me. It's so normal to me that Gracie doesn't have a tail, but I guess for them it's like seeing a dog walk by with only 3 legs. Gracie gets treats everywhere we go. Inevitably someone offers her a dog treat or a piece of their Christmas market food.
She's definitely spoiled.
Waterfalls, The World's Largest Cuckoo Clock, and Facing My Fear of Heights
1. Hike to the Triberg Waterfalls.
There are 3 different paths you can take to reach the waterfalls--Natureweg, Kulturweg, & Kaskadenweg. Here's a pdf map to the hiking trails. The paths will allow you to see some more of the forest, enjoy some hiking, and spend time in nature, but you can also get to the waterfalls easily by walking from the city center.
If you're arriving by car, you can park in the city center at Bergsee, Scheffelplatz, or Adelheid. Address of the main entrance: Hauptstraße 85, 78098 Triberg im Schwarzwald
The waterfalls were relaxing. If you stay in Triberg into the evening, you can watch one of the light shows projected onto the waterfall.
2. The World's Largest (and probably lamest...) Cuckoo Clock
The World’s Largest Cuckoo Clock was… well, a giant cuckoo clock. We've already established I don't love cuckoo clocks, but Ryan was more than overjoyed for this stop so, we added it to our list.
While it was unique to be able to say we’ve actually been inside a cuckoo clock, and to see it’s inner cogs, it wasn’t that exciting of a stop… in fact, it was pretty lame, haha.
3. Brave the Heights of the Baumwipfelpfad.
This had to be one of the coolest experiences on our trip! I am terrified of heights, and somehow my husband keeps getting me into situations where I have to face them… Is this some type of exposure therapy I don’t know about?
Baumwipfelpfad is a treetop walkway that leads to a tornado-looking structure that ascends 40 meters into the sky. It is one of 9 other treetop walks throughout Europe. It just so happened to be POURING rain and WINDY on our way up.
We got SOAKED and almost felt like we were going to blow off the top!
Dogs aren’t allowed on the walkways, sadly, but we felt it was better for Gracie to stay dry anyway because by the time we got back to our car, we were completely soaked through!
There’s also a 25 meter giant slide you can take from the top to the bottom (it’s closed in winter though).
The Black Forest is Full of Adventures and Fun Experiences
This 4-day itinerary meant we could enjoy:
- Thermal baths
- A Scenic Drive (Black Forest High Road)
- Mummelsee and Hornisgrinde Tower
- Mehliskopf Bob Toboggan (didn’t ride though)
- Snowshoeing at Feldberg Ravennaschlucht
- House of Clocks and House of 1000 Hours
- Triberg Waterfalls
- World’s Largest Cuckoo Clock
Ideas for future visits or "swap outs" if you want to customize any part of the above itinerary:
Black Forest Panoramic Road is a route through the southern part of the Black Forest. This route is 48 km long and is where the tv series “Black Forest Clinic” was filmed. You’ll get great sights of the Black Forest peaks, Rhine Valley, Voges Mountains, and the Alps. You can stop in at lots of cute villages/towns along the way.
Black Forest Valley Road aka Schwarzwald-Tälerstrasse is another route that will take you to Baden-Baden to the palace of Margravine Augusta (the largest collection of Meissen porcelain in the world). Then you’ll go through Murg Valley, the Schwarzenbach Dam, and you’ll run into the Black Forest High Road route.
Here’s a list of thermal baths throughout the black forest region.
There is also a Black Forest Spa-Route, which is 270km of road that takes you through several spa-towns.
Visit a cute German Town such as:
Gengenbach: Each year Gengenbach has a larger-than-life advent calendar in their town hall. Each evening at 6pm a new window is opened and reveals a picture by a famous artist. The event is accompanied by music and different theater acts. The Christmas market runs from 30 November to 23 December 2019. Monday through Friday 2pm-8pm, Saturday through Sunday 12pm to 8pm.
Schiltach: This 13th century town is surrounded by the forest and at the junction of 3 rivers. It became the hub of the Black Forest for timber rafting and tanning hides. There are two free museums (museum am mark and the apothecary museum). The Schüttesäge Museum is about the former sawmill work from 1491 to 1931. There you can see a giant water wheel more than 7 meters in diameter. The town is quite cute and worth a walking tour.
Take a Guided Snowshoe tour at House of Nature next to the Feldberg ski lift. All trails are clearly marked, and you can get a trail map for free. You can also hire a guide for a fee. There are many mountain huts/lodges along the trails where you can stop, relax, recharge, and eat Black Forest Ham, sausages, cake, and drinks. Based on snow conditions tours are provided every Sunday from December until March at noon.
Start point: Haus der Natur, Dr. Pilet Spur 1, 79868 Feldberg
Distance: 12.5 km
Time estimate: 5 hours
Terrain: Deep snow and slippery at places
Difficulty Rating: Moderate to difficult. Not stroller or small child friendly.
Detailed info: www.hochschwarzwald.de
They even have “murder mystery” guided snow showing tours (must have 8 people, no dogs allowed).