Located in the southwest of Germany, the Black Forest (or Schwarzwald in German) is an all-season destination. It’s part of the Rhine-caption area but also the origin of the mighty Danube (Donau) river.
It lies on the eastern-bank of the Rhine river – on the opposite side of the Rhine we can find the French Vosges mountains which are similar in its geological history, age and origin. The range is 160km long and starts at the Swiss border and is famous for its large forests. In fact, it is the largest forest of Germany and the thick forest and the resulting darkness is what’s giving the Black Forest its name.
In total, there are 14 summits over 1,000 meters. This is tall enough to guarantee snow in winter. However, the mountains don’t lend themselves for being “ski slopes”, as the elevation differences from summit to valley are relatively small. This is exacerbated by the fact that the Swiss ski-slopes in the Alps are at a close proximity too.
The highest summits are found in the southern part of the Black Forest, southeast of the major city of Freiburg.
In the summer period, the Black Forest is cooler than the surrounding low(er) lands. Where the Rhine valley is notiorious for its warmth in summer, the forest provides ample escape from the blistering heat.
Glacial valleys in the Black Forest
During the last Ice Age (the Würm period), the Black Forest mountains and the other nearby mountain ranges were covered by ice: large glaciers filled the valley, with depths reaching over 500 meters of ice. One can still find evidence of this, simply by looking at the shape of the valleys and some summits. The “Gletscherkessel Präg” is such a place, where 6 glaciers collided in the valley and created a typical arch-like structure. This area is especially known for its hiking & snow shoe trails.
Winter activities in the Black Forest
The winter period doesn’t start nearly as early as in the Alps, due to a lack of altitude. Although quite snow-certain towards the end of the winter, the high summits don’t typically get an early snow cover like the high summits in the Alps.
Winter activities are mainly focused around cross-country skiing (Langlaufen) and snow shoe trekking. In terms of regular skislopes, it is far from impressive with just 30km of slopes.
Summer activities in the Black Forest
There are dozens, if not hundreds, of attractive hikes in the Forest. From difficult to less streneuous. One thing that never needs to be considered is the altitude for your performance or to acclimatize. However, there are steep walks and deep valleys available: elevation differences of about 500m are the maximum in 1 climb (or descend).
So not surprisingly: hiking is the main activity. It’s different though from alpine hiking: one would not go from cabin to cabin and cross high “Cols” or pass ways. Instead, the distances can be longer and mult-day hikes will most likely go from hotel to hotel.
All in all: the Black Forest is a great destination by most standards, and can certainly make for an enjoyable time.