The Black Forest (or Schwarzwald) is an enchanting region of Germany, nestled against the borders of Switzerland and France. We chose to explore the Southern Black Forest Highlands for our summer family holiday and it did not disappoint!
Travel to the Black Forest
We love a European road trip so we decided to drive to the Black Forest, from door to door (Bath to Kirchzarten) the journey took around 12 hours and was nearly 700 miles. We drove down to Dover and took a P&0 ferry to Calais.
From Calais we took the A26 motorway all the way down to Reims. Stopping for the night in an airbnb in the small town of Châlons-en-Champagne. This broke up the journey really nicely and the next day it was an easy 5 hour drive to the Black Forest. The only hiccup was the air-conditioning broke in the van, meaning it got a bit warm!
We had a fantastic time camping in Brittany last year and so we were keen to camp again – campsites in Europe (and the weather) make it so easy! After much research we booked a pitch at Camping Kirchzarten just outside the city of Freiburg.
After a very friendly booking in service we were directed to our pitch. There are 500 pitches of varying sizes available to book and all include a power connection. The price includes the use of all sanitary facilities / showers / hot water. Also the use of the water-park next door (which was much needed!) and a KONUS guest card – which allows free use of public transport across the region (AMAZING!!).
We were a little disappointed with the size of the pitches, we have a large family sized tent and it was a bit of a snug fit. Everyone felt a little on top of each other, with not much space to spread out. Everything else about the site was brilliant. The sanitary blocks were large and generally clean, despite the campsite being very busy. There were even free to use dishwashers!
The playground was good for kids of all ages and there was a free kids club everyday. Although our kids were not keen to join in. There was a bar / restaurant as well as a basic shop.
Camping Kirchzarten is on the edge of the town of Kirchzarten, which has a couple of decent sized supermarkets. Bars, restaurants and a train station for connections across the Black Forest region. It was a really convenient location within the Dreisamtal region and we found plenty to do within an hour of the campsite.
Black Forest for Families
We chose the Black Forest for our family holiday because of the amazing activities on offer as well as the opportunity to relax and unwind. There was so much to do we only really scratched the surface of what was available. These were some of our highlights.
Schauinsland Museum Mine
At the top of the Schauinslandbahn cable car you will find the Schauinsland Museum Mine. We headed to the mine to escape the heat, but it was also a really fascinating trip. With over 100 km of mine workings, the Schauinsland Museum Mine is the largest mine in the Black Forest. We took a tour that lasted about an hour, and although it was all in German, we all loved the experience of heading underground and learning about what life was like as a miner.
The Schauinsland is also a really nice place to hang out for a couple of hours. We took a picnic and enjoyed the views!
In the middle of the Todtnau mountains the Todtnau waterfall plunges down 97 meters into the valley. There are a lot of hiking trails in this region, but we started at the top of the valley by crossing the spectacular Blackforest Line suspension bridge.
This thrilling high-line bridge across the valley is not for the faint-hearted. Its stretches for over 450 meters with epic views of the waterfalls and surrounding mountains. After crossing the bridge it is an easy half-an-hour walk to the top of the waterfalls.
We spent some time chilling out and the boys went for a paddle. It is a popular destination in the middle of Summer so get there early to avoid the crowds. From the top of the waterfalls we continued round on a circular walk back up to the car park. The walk back up is pretty steep!
Lake Schluchsee is the biggest lake in the Black Forest and is packed full of activities. We just passed by to have some lunch on the shores of the lake – the kids were having a proper melt-down because of the heat so we didn’t stay long before retreating back to the waterpark at the campsite!
The lake is very pretty, the town itself is a bit of a tourist trap with cuckoo clocks and black forest gateaux on every corner! But a very pleasant place to spent a couple of hours before retreating back into the forest.
The Wutach Gorge
The stunning Wutach Gorge is a 60 to 170 meter deep gorge located in the heart of Germany’s largest nature park – in the Southern Black Forest Nature Park. This is a true escape into the proper Black Forest.
We spent the morning exploring the Lotenbachklamm, which is a 1.5km branch of the main gorge. It is a stunning walk through a wild gorge with its waterfalls, still pools and rocks. You had the sensation of stepping back to a prehistoric time, surrounded by wild ferns and dripping moss. We felt like we were proper adventurers and half-expected to meet a dinosaur coming the other way!
Kirchzarten is just a 15 minute train ride from the city of Freiburg (free with the KONUS card). We spent a day exploring this beautiful old city. Frieburg has almost a Mediterranean feel in the Summer, with it’s lively squares and cobbled roads. Full of medieval buildings, alleyways and streets, every corner has a new surprise around it.
We happily wandered around taking in the sights including the Cathedral and surrounding traditional markets. We took a walk up towards castle mountain and enjoyed the views across the city and stumbled across some great playgrounds for the kids to run wild in!
Baumkronenweg Waldkirch is a natural playground on the outskirts of Waldkirch. It includes a magnificent tree-top walk, with amazing views across the Black Forest. An adventure trail and a tube slide ride. The experience starts with a sensory trail, which is 700m uphill – it’s a lovely walk on a forest track, but in 30+ degrees it took a bit of persuasion to get the kids to the top (bring sweets!).
At the top you will find a playground, tree top walk and adventure trail. We spent a good 2 hours doing the trails (and could have stayed longer if we’d brought a picnic with us!). The way back down was a bit more exhilarating with the option of a 190 meter tube slide! Europe’s longest! It’s not for the faint of heart and there definitely was some screaming (watch the video here) but what an adrenaline rush. The kids agreed that it is worth the walk up!
We couldn’t come all the way to the Black Forest without doing some mountain biking! The Hexenwald-Trailpark is located on the outskirts of Kirchzarten. This purpose built trail park has 3.8 km of trails, and a pump track.
Some local knowledge would have been good, as we dragged the kids (literally kicking and screaming) to the top of the blue graded trail. Only to find it was pretty steep and not really suitable for the 6 year old! So we walked back down! Parent fail!
But the trails at the bottom – up a short uplift walk, were perfect. And had we known we would have stuck with them. The kids happily explored the different lines and we all had a great time… in the end!
There are quite a few of these mountain rollercoasters spread across the Black Forest region. The Hasenhorn in Todtnau is one of the longest! A ticket including ascent via the chairlift costs from €11. Children can ride from 4 years old and can go alone from 8 years old.
The ride down is 2.9km long, and full of twists, turns and waves. You can control your speed so go as fast as you dare! We all loved the ride and could have happily had more then one turn!
Our Black Forest Family Holiday
We all absolutely loved staying and exploring the Black Forest, there are so many great activities on offer for the whole family. I felt like we barely scratched the surface of what you could do and would love to head back, especially to do more hiking and mountain biking – or even snowboarding in the Winter!