Through Germany's Black Forest
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Guidebook to the Westweg (Westway), a 285km walk across Germany's Black Forest from Pforzheim to Basel. This classic route, which includes Feldberg, Black Forest's highest peak, takes 13 to 14 days, each day stage ranging from 15 to 28km. Two variants are described, both well way-marked and suitable for those new to long distance walking.
- The Westweg is a Höhenweg, or 'high route', so it is best to walk this trail during the main hiking season between April and the end of October.
- The Westweg starts in Pforzheim or in Basel, but it is possible to do half the route and start in Hausach
- A medium-sized mountain range, the Black Forest's highest peaks are just under 1500m. The terrain is easy, although some of the ascents are steep. Anyone with a good level of endurance and some hill walking experience would be able to enjoy this long distance trail.
- Must See
- Feldberg - highest mountain in the Black Forest; Belchen - sacred mountain of the Celts; the source of the Danube; Lake Titisee; Herrenwieser See; Burg Rötteln castle; Sausenburg; Wolsfsschlucht gorge;the vineyards and orchards of the Markgräflerland; Kaltenbronn nature reserve; Mummelsee; Murgtal; Black Forest National Park; Ruhestein; Dachsberg; Herzogenhorn; Hochblauen
This guidebook is all you need to discover The Westweg, a 285km walk along the length Germany's Black Forest from Pforzheim to Basel. This classic long-distance trail takes around two weeks to walk, in stages of 15-28km. The route is well way-marked and suitable for experienced hikers and those new to long distance walking, though some sections are steep. The Westweg incorporates many of the region's highlights, such the Schwarzwald National Park, the source of the Danube and Lake Titisee. At Titisee there is a choice to make: the western route taking in the Black Forest's highest peak Feldberg and the vineyards of the Markgräflerland, or the quieter eastern route via the Herzogenhorn peak and on to Basel, with all its cultural attractions and old-world charm.
With well-maintained and waymarked trails, an efficient public transport system and conveniently placed huts and farmhouse inns, the Black Forest is one of Germany's best-loved walking destinations. Soft-contoured, forest-clad hills, interspersed with pastures and picturesque villages combine on with far-ranging vistas right across the Alpine chain.
Detailed descriptions and 1:100,000 maps accompany each stage of the route and the book describes options for shortening stages using public transport. There is also information on when to go, where to stay and a German-English glossary - all of which will earn this useful guide a place in your rucksack.
Plants and wildlife
Walking the Westweg
Walking without luggage
Where to stay
First and last nights
Food and drink
Dangers and annoyances
When to go
Maps, navigation and GPS
Health and insurance
Using this guide
Pforzheim to Hausach
Stage 1 Pforzheim to Dobel
Stage 2 Dobel to Forbach
Stage 3 Forbach to Unterstmatt
Stage 4 Unterstmatt to Alexanderschanze
Stage 5 Alexanderschanze to Hark
Stage 6 Hark to Hausach
Hausach to Titisee
Stage 7 Hausach to Wilhelmshöhe
Stage 8 Wilhelmshöhe to Kalte Herberge
Stage 9 Kalte Herberge to Titisee
Western route: Titisee to Basel
Stage 10A Titisee to Notschrei
Stage 11A Notschrei to Haldenhof
Stage 12A Haldenhof to Kandern
Stage 13A Kandern to Basel
Eastern route: Titisee to Basel
Stage 10B Titisee to Feldbergpass
Stage 11B Feldbergpass to Weißenbachsattel
Stage 12B Weißenbachsattel to Hasel
Stage 13B Hasel to Degerfelden
Stage 14B Degerfelden to Basel
Appendix A Route summary table
Appendix B Accommodation
Appendix C Further information
Appendix D German–English glossary
Maps, navigation and GPSMaps
The most useful map for the Westweg is the Leporello map, at a scale of 1:50.000. Leporello maps are a bit odd in that they tack each bit of the way below the previous section, showing just a little bit of what lies east or west of the route, and the whole thing unfolding like an accordion. The scale is a bit small, but it still shows a surprising amount of detail as well as providing additional information, such as a brief route description (in German), hotels en route, places to eat, local tourist offices, museums and bus stops. The map is laminated, which makes it waterproof and tear resistant. It is available from the Black Forest Tourist Board (seeNavigation and signage
About a decade ago the Black Forest trail system underwent an extensive reform. Previously, markers of every shape, size and colour proliferated on every other tree. The trail system has since been condensed and simplified. Now there are basically three distinct types of markers, almost all of which take the form of a diamond. (But just to confuse matters, some local areas have hung onto their old signs and routes, which may not coincide with the new system.)
The Westweg marker is a solid red diamond on a white background, which is also the logo of the Schwarzwaldverein. (Note that the Mittelweg trail symbol is a red diamond with a white line through its centre.) Despite the fact that Westweg is extremely well marked and generally quite easy to follow, there are still a few spots where the marking is ambiguous, missing or counterintuitive. The trail may amble along on a broad forestry track, when suddenly a half-hidden marker may point to a tiny little trail that heads off through the bushes. Or, there are spots where the route splits into a couple of variants, offering walkers a choice. The present book describes all the official variants that were marked at the time of writing, but these things can change – another reason why it is important to carry a current map.
Local trails are marked with a yellow diamond on a white background, while blue markers indicate regional routes. Long-distance routes have their own symbols, often composed of two different colours or a solid background with a logo in the centre. Trails often converge for a while before going off on their own again. Signposts are placed at important intersections, often holding many blades pointing in different directions. One blade at each signpost will usually show the name of the current location and its elevation. If there is more than one signpost in a given town or location, the name will follow the format ‘name of town’/’specific location’ – eg Pforzheim/Kupferhammer. If you use a Schwarzwaldverein map these names are shown next to the little yellow flags that mark the signposts.
The little symbols next to the various destinations indicate what you might find at a given location – eg bus stop is a green ‘H’ in a yellow circle; a train symbol indicates a train station, the star or half-star a viewpoint. From one signpost to the next only the markers guide the way. Watch out for these little plaques or stickers! Some (fortunately not many) may have become overgrown, paled to obscurity or been placed in patently stupid places where nobody would ever think to look. Sometimes you have to chance walking down a trail for a few metres before spotting the plaque. Sometimes looking back might provide that reassuring clue, as the marker may have been placed more obviously for people coming the other way. As a general rule, keep your direction unless a marker points you to another trail.
Be aware that sections of the trail may occasionally be closed due to tree felling (especially in the autumn) or trail clearing after a storm. In such cases there is usually a banner barring passage, or a sign that reads something like ACHTUNG WALDARBEITEN and LEBENSGEFAHR (‘Attention forestry works’ and ‘Danger to life’). On major trail routes such as the Westweg, a diversion is usually signposted – although in rare cases it may not be! A map will come in handy to figure out an alternative route.GPS navigation
GPS navigation systems seem to have become the norm. While they can be helpful in pinpointing your current location, it is difficult to get ‘the big picture’ on such a tiny screen – if you can see anything at all with the sunlight glare, that is. However, it is not a good idea to rely exclusively on such electronic devices, as signal coverage is not 100 per cent. GPX tracks are available as free downloads from www.cicerone.co.uk/775/GPX
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Map P 53: location of Eberhard-Essich-Hütte, should be marked just after crossing Größelbach below Sagkopf.
P.80: The alternative route mentioned in route notes is now in place , nevertheless, in bad weather conditions the original route would be more comfortable / preferable .
Information for backpackers January 2016
If you want to walk the route carrying all supplies, it is possible, but there are sections where you don’t actually come across villages or shops and have to go out of your way to find them. There will always be little guesthouses and restaurants, which will be open unless you hit them on one of their days of rest.
It is usually possible to camp out in the shelter huts encountered along the route. There are no toilets or showers and there may not be access to water, but they provide a roof and sometimes even a little stove.
The Westweg is a long-distance walk for those who like to rest in comfort at night, rather than a hard-core wilderness trek. In spite of that, although it is not far from civilisation, the route avoids actual contact with towns and villages for quite a lot of the way. So finding supplies is not that easy. The key consideration is to make sure you take enough water and beware of ticks.
The following information may be useful.
Stage 1 Pforzheim-Dobel: shops along the way, and in Dobel, at the end of the stage. Best camping option is near Dobel at the hut pictured on page 30, which is at Dreimarkstein.
Stage 2 Dobel-Forbach: no shops en route, only the huts mentioned in the route description, which may be serviced on weekends, and a restaurant (higher end) at Kaltenbronn. At end of stage in Forbach all services are available. Best camping hut is the one after Prinzenhütte (it doesn’t have a name) below Draberg (pictured on page 66).
Stage 3 Forbach-Unterstmatt: no villages or shops en route, although there are guesthouses and hikers hostels (mentioned in the appendix), the stage ends at Unterstmatt, where there are a couple of little guesthouses but practically no services or shops. There are no shelter huts nearby. Hochkopf, just above Unterstmatt is a nature reserve, so no camping allowed. But just a bit further along past Unterstmatt there is Ochsenstall Walker’s Hostel (Naturfreundehaus).
Stage 4 Unterstmatt-Alexanderschanze: shops (tourist trap) at Mummelsee and huts along the route, but otherwise no shops. Guesthouses/services at Ruhestein. No good shelter huts along the way, but reasonably cheap accommodation at Zuflucht. The village of Kniebis is off the trail, past Alexanderschanze (about 3km) - shops and services available.
Stage 5 Alexanderschanze-Hark: no shops or services, not even guesthouses along the way until one gets to the end of the stage. There is a shelter hut at Littwegerhöhe, pictured on page 90 - but this would make the stage pretty short. You could also continue on past Hark to the Schwarzwaldverein Hut at Brandenkopf or camp at a little picnic/shelter hut just before that, at Spitzbrunnen.
Stage 6 Hark-Hausach: Hohenlochenhütte is only serviced at weekends and bank holidays and the ground around it is quite uneven, so not the best place to camp, although the views are beautiful. Spitzfelsenhut above Hausach would be better although exposed (the hut may not always be open). No shops en route, but there is a farm/restaurant at Kappelhof, past Hohenlochenhütte.
Stage 7 Hausach-Wilhelmshöhe: no shops or villages. There is a hotel/guesthouse just below Karlsfelsen and a bed and breakfast just before the end of the stage. The stage ends at Wilhelmshöhe, which is a simple guesthouse, but to get to the nearest shops you have to go 2-3km out of your way, to Schonach. There are no good camping huts along the way, just picnic tables.
Stage 8 Wilhelmshöhe-Kalte Herberge: plenty of guesthouses/restaurants, but no shops or villages on the trail. No real good shelter huts either. Furtwangen – off the trail – offers the best chances of finding a shop.
Stage 9 Kalte Herberge-Titisee: several guesthouses/restaurants along the way. There is a shelter hut at Weißtannenhöhe and a walkers hostel just before you get to Titisee (Berghäusle). Titisee has all services, shops and restaurants. There is also a campsite halfway around the lake (East route), but is is more for RV campers.
Stage 10 (Western route) Titisee-Feldberg-Notschrei: plenty of guesthouses/cafes and such around Feldberg, even a shop at Feldbergerhof (out of your way if you are walking the western route), and there is a simple little guesthouse just before Notschrei. No real good camping huts.
Stage 10 (Eastern route) Titisee- Feldberg: shop in Bärental, also at Feldberg. There is a hut before you get to Caritas house, but I don’t think it is open. Simple accommodations around Feldberg Ort.
Stage 11 (Western route) Notschrei-Haldenhof: hotels along the way (Notschrei/Wiedener Eck), snacks at Belchenhaus. There is a shelter hut at Richtstatt, just before Haldenhof. No actual shops. Haldenhof is a guesthouse.
Stage 11 (Eastern route) Feldberg-Weißenbachsattel: no shops or villages along the route. There is a shelter hut on Hochkopf (rather, a tower, which offers shelter, but don’t shelter there during a thunderstorm). End of the stage is Weißenbachsattel - there is a slightly more pricey guesthouse there. Cheaper accommodation at Todtmoos-Weg, 2km further along. Weg is a little village but no shops. Todtmoos is the next nearest safe bet for supplies.
Stage 12 (Western route) Haldenhof-Kandern: no shops or villages directly on the trail. Up on the Blauen is a cafe (which may soon offer accommodation too)and there are some shelter huts on the way to Kandern. Lange-Ebene Hütte is closest, but may not be open. Hexenplatzhütte is. Vogelmatt has a restaurant but not much in the way of shops (just farm shops -like little stalls selling apples or whatever is in season). Kandern has all services, even a supermarket.
Stage 12 (Eastern route) Weißenbachsattel-Hasel: the trail touches a few little villages but there are few shops, although they have little restaurants (e.g. Schweighof). You can camp out at Hohe Möhr (tower) although there is no real hut. Hasel does have some basic services and shops.
Stage 13 (Western route) Kandern-Basel: the trail passes little villages, cafes and restaurants along the way, but few shops - even on the approach to Basel.
Stage 13 (Eastern route) Hasel-Degerfelden: the trail passes closer to civilisation, but villages are very small and almost no services are available, except cafes/guesthouses/restaurants. It does pass through Oberminseln, but again nothing much there - you have to go to Mittel-Minseln (just off the trail) to find shops. No hotels in Degerfelden and no decent camping huts nearby either. (Nearest accommodation is in Rheinfelden).
Stage 14 (Eastern route) Degerfelden to Basel: the trail does pass the edge of some villages. To find shops you have to go into the villages themselves. Restaurant and limited services at Rührberg.
Keep in mind that restaurants often close one or two days a week and that shops are likely to be closed at lunchtime.
Another tip: upload the GPX data and check it out on Google maps - you’ll see exactly where the trail runs and how far away nearby villages are, and cafes, restaurant and hotels/guesthouses are often marked, and sometimes shops. You can even look at it in aerial view and get a better idea of the terrain.
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Born and raised in Berlin, Kat Morgenstern is a grassroots herbalist, ethnobotanist, writer and ecotravel professional. She has spent most of her adult life in the UK, US and France but currently lives in Germany's southern Black Forest, where she loves to roam the hills and forests.View Articles and Books by Kat Morgenstern
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