Make safety part of your forest hike in Germany

Swabian Alb forest, Germany. Courtesy photo.

By Seth Dyer
Kaiserslautern, Germany

Germany is one of the most densely wooded countries in Europe with almost 44,015 square miles of forest, and of that, 42 percent is located in the Rhineland-Palatinate, according to the German Federal Ministry.

German forests are managed quite differently than in the United States. The forest areas are leased by the state, district or city government to farmers, hunters and loggers. The paved trail you walk your dog on in the morning receives traffic from all three groups regularly — and often at the same time. Unless you belong to one of those three groups and have the permission to drive on those forest and farm roads, you are breaking the law. So never take your vehicle on these forest trails unless it is an emergency.

German farmers generally drive tractors and trucks down the trails and are often driving fairly fast. Be sure to keep an eye out for them and ensure your children and pets are off the road when they drive by.

The hunters (Jaeger) work with the farmers to ensure wildlife doesn’t become too abundant and damage crops and forest plants, but a big part of their job is to control the spread of diseases like rabies (Tollwut).

Hunters regularly host large community hunts in the wintertime to control the wild boar population that damage crops. So, if you see a large number of green-colored SUVs and wagons and a lot of people in orange vests, you should probably find another forest to hike in that day. German hunters are very cautious and follow strict safety rules, but there is no reason to take a hike through a hunting location and risk possible injury.

As with any remote area, German forests typically don’t have good mobile phone reception. It’s important if you are hiking alone, that you always let someone know exactly where you are going. Be sure to create a plan, let people know about it and then follow that plan.

Enjoy your hikes and walks in the forest by knowing what to watch for and how to keep yourself safe.

When hiking along forest roads, watch out for German farmers driving tractors. Be sure to keep an eye out for them and ensure your children and pets are off the road when they drive by. Photo by Alberto Casetta

For more information, call the U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz Safety Office at 541-2300/2301/2302 (Rhine Ordnance Barracks) or 531-2748 (Baumholder).

Stuttgart area information:

Guide to Volksmarching

German Hunting Course, with Outdoor Recreation

Interested in doing a little hunting while in Germany? The German Hunting Courses is offered twice a year based on demand. This two month course consist of classroom sessions held twice a week and range shooting that is conducted once a week in the evenings, two Saturdays are devoted to learning about the hunting area. The examination consists of four parts: Safety Brief, Written Test, Oral Test, and 3-part Shooting Test. The course is open to U.S. DOD ID cardholders 18 or older. Class fees are subject to change. Those who pass the course will receive a German Hunting Course certificate that allows you to purchase a hunting license. Register with ODR by calling DSN: 431-2774/civ. 07031-15-2774.