The multi-award winning Wutach trail may be a trifle remote but is ultimately easy to reach – thanks to the ruthless efficiency of the local transport system
No offense to all the places where we have recently been hiking: thank you Greece, thank you Tuscany, thank you Gran Canaria, you were wonderful and we had a lovely time, but the fact remains that hiking in Germany is something rather special and unique. This comes down largely to two reasons.
First of all: Germany makes hiking so easy.
The Wutachschlucht on the eastern slopes of the Black Forest is relatively remote by German standards, and from Freiburg, the nearest city, you have to take two trains and one or two buses to get there, but these are all synchronized with one another, and we never waited for more than a few minutes on any of the interim stops. Within 90 minutes we were at the trailhead. This is a magnificent piece of engineering, in its own way as formidable as a BMW or one of those fancy German dishwashers.
Secondly, there is the nature of the landscape.
On German hiking trails, mountains can be high, but never so much that they will dizzy you, forests are dense but never scary, the countryside is lush, green and inviting, with farms and villages never far away.
Everything has been conceived on a human scale, and you never feel like an unwanted intruder while Nature plays out one of her Grand Dramas.
German landscapes rarely hit the high notes of sublimity, admittedly, but they make the best of what they have – with trails that are not designed to stun and frighten you but to put you at ease.
Award-winning trail on the Black Forest
The Wutach trail itself has won many prizes and regularly features among the top five of the annual “best trails in Germany” polls (this will give you an idea how seriously they take their hiking in Germany – as seriously as the US takes its movies and Britain its pop music).
I had wanted to go for years, held back mainly by the nagging feeling that it could only disappoint. I should not have worried.
The Wutach trail establishes its leitmotif early on: the river Wutach is on one side, a cliff on the other …
… but as soon as you have worked that out, the trail begins to play with your expectations, running its motive through a seemingly inexhaustible number of variations. The trail switches from one side of the river to the other, crossing bridges both small …
… and big …
… taking you on ascents …
… and descents in quick succession…
… changing between the low road, right where the river flows …
… and the high road, making you watch the Wutach as though you were standing on top of a 20-storey skyscraper …
… and in one place, there is not one river to follow but two and then even three, the Wutach splitting up into several branches that spread out and flow on different levels before, eventually, reuniting.
The Wutach trail has won many prizes in the past and I am sure it was a worthy winner. It may be a little remote, but do not let that discourage you: in the end, it is relatively easy to reach.
Just take the train from Freiburg to Neustadt (half-hourly service) and change – across the platform – to take the train to Löffingen where the “Hiking Bus” (the Wanderbus, line no. 7259) will already be waiting to pick up hikers.
Note, however, that this bus only circulates on Saturdays and Sundays from May to mid October. On other days and outside the hiking season, transport is a little more difficult to arrange.
Leave the bus at the Schattenmühle stop and look for the trail in the direction of Wutachmühle. The trail is about 14 km long but overall rather easy, so you should be able to do it – short breaks included – in roughly 5 hours.
From the Wutachmühle, another Wanderbus (line 7344) will take you back to Schattenmühle – where the 7259 will soon arrive to take you back to Löffingen train station. All functioning, as they say, like cuckoo clockwork in the Black Forest.
One last tip: buy yourself a RegioCard – a local transport pass – in Freiburg. That will cover all your trips by train. You will need to pay a small extra charge (€ 3.20 p.p.) for a Wanderbus day pass, however.