Nature enthusiasts, campers, hikers and bikers can all find something to do in the 156 squarekilometer Naturpark Schönbuch, or Schönbuch Natural Park, which earned the title of “Forest of the Year, 2014” from the German Forest Wardens Association and is right here in the Stuttgart area.
Founded roughly 150 years ago as a royal nature reserve by Queen Olga, wife of King Charles of Wurttemberg, the reserve was designated as a state park about 42 years ago. Since then, it has attracted thousands of visitors daily, sometimes as many as 100,000 in a single day, according to the Baden-Wurttemberg Forest Service.
Miles upon miles of hiking and biking trails snake through the park, offering hours of wandering and riding fun for enthusiasts of all skill and fitness levels.
For those more interested in simply taking in nature instead blazing through it on wheels or their own two feet, the park also offers a nearly endless variety of “Natur Denkmal” or natural points of inte-rest. From marshes and ponds, to springs, creeks and other natural attractions, visitors can seek these out for days on end without seeing them all. Many have been tagged as geocaches for those interested in this growing pasttime.
Wildlife lovers visiting the park are treated to numerous herds of the impressively large “Rotwild” or red deer, which can be observed in its natural habitat. Five nature preserve zones throughout the park serve as a sanctuary for a wide variety of native species, from those of impressive stature, like the aforementioned Rotwild, to the ignoble, but aptly-named yellow-bellied toad.
These preserves are fenced in, and entrance to them is through large wooden gates. Visitors who do not read German may assume these gates mean the area is off limits, but this is not so. Visitors are more than welcome in the nature preserves, but are required to remain on marked trails and must close the gate after they enter or leave.
In addition to the natural points of interest and the well-maintained trails and nature preserves, the park also offers various facilities throughout, including simple benches, scenic overlooks, fire-pits, playgrounds and camping areas.
Bordering the park on the north are Holzgerlingen, Weil In Schönbuch and Dettenhausen. Herrenberg and Entringen are the largest villages on the west edge of the park, and Tübingen sits just south of the park. Other villages and marked parking areas dot the perimeter of the park. Many of these feature restaurants, sports fields and other facilities. Also located at many of the entrances to the park are map and information boards. Some of these have free trail maps and other informational brochures offered by the various hiking and other leisure clubs that support the park.
There is no charge for entrance into the park, and the marked parking areas are free as well. Most of the facilities and activities in the park are also free, but certain sports fields and other nearby facilities operated by private clubs do have associated fees and requirements.
Whether it’s just a quick jog, a three- hour tour by bike, or a day trip enjoying nature in Germany’s
“Forest of the Year,” Naturpark Schön-buch has something to offer just about anyone.
The park is nestled southwest of Stuttgart and can be reached by car in about a half an hour from Panzer Kaserne, Patch or Kelley Barracks, with a little longer drive from Robinson Barracks. The park is easily visible on online maps, and can be accessed from any of the villages that border it. Travelers by car will most likely enter the park area from the north west via the A-81 and B-464 or from the east via the B 27. As an alternative to driving, the Schönbuchbahn train runs from the Böblingen train station and offers a scenic 10 to 15 minute ride to several villages that border the park. Getting to Böblingen from the Stuttgart main train station is a 30-minute ride on the S-1 line that leaves roughly every half hour and arrives about five minutes before the next Schönbuchbahn departure, for a total trip of less than one hour.
For trip planning, and ticket prices check out www.db.de.
Getting around once you’re there…
Trails and points of interest in the park are well marked, and featured on ‘Rad und Wander Karten’ (hiking and biking maps) available at many local bookstores or city tourist offices. These maps feature well-mapped trail systems that are usually marked with a particular color and symbol to help orient and direct trail users. For example, the red, blue and yellow trails that start from Entringen are represented on the map as red, blue and yellow dashed lines on the map, and are indicated on the actual trail with a red, blue or yellow square painted on a tree or sign at every trail intersection. These trail markings vary by the different trail systems which are usually maintained by local hiking clubs. The green and white cycling path directional signs found all across Germany help keep two-wheeled visitors oriented throughout the park as well.
To find out more about the park, visit www.naturpark-schoenbuch.de.