With my husband stateside caring for his parents, my son and I have been doing a lot of dates together to get out of the house before the cold, grey shroud of German winter sets in. The leaves have been changing and the region is now a bright rusty color contrasted with green from the pines and amazingly-always-green grassy hills. We set early one morning to explore the Black Forest in all its autumn glory to the town of Bad Wildbad. Specifically to the Sommerberg atop Bad Wildbad and the Baumwipfelpfad (tree top path).
The town of Bad Wildbad is a very well preserved spa town. Two large and ornately decorated and well equipped spas are available within walking distance of each other and offer an abundance of wellness options and outdoor green space. My husband and I have yet to fully experience how to “wellness” like the Germans, but we hope to have a shot at a real attempt before we leave. The baby really threw us off and I forget how to take care of myself, most days. It’s a shame to live in one of the most spa filled regions of Germany and not take advantage of it.
The town is a typical cutesy German town with cobbled streets, flowing river (the Grosse Enz) running through the center, and window boxes of colorful, overflowing flowers in each of the half timbered houses. It’s picturesque and very easy to wander through to find cafes, restaurants, shopping, etc. As a family we had been to this area before and have hiked some of the trails. There are several ways to get to the Sommerberg, which is the mountain overlooking the town of Bad Wildbad and is filled with over 235k of hiking trails, gorgeous views over the valley, a playground, and several restaurants and biergartens. Sommerberg is also home to the Badwipfelpfad (tree top path) which is the reason my son and I went on this specific trip.
How to get to the Sommerburg
- Drive straight there! There is a parking lot at the top of the mountain, however the hill is steep, narrow, and parking can limited. If you go early, you are sure to find a spot. If you wait until after 9am or 10am, I wouldn’t even attempt it.
- Park in one of the pay lots in Bad Wildbad and take the funicular up. It costs € 3.50 each way for adults and € 2.50 euro each way for children (under six free).
- Hike it up there, or only hike one way. On our first family trip to this region we parked in the hospital lot of Bad Wildbad, hiked up to the Sommerberg, and took the funicular back town.
This link will provide you with timetables and information about the funicular/Sommerbergbahn.
Mother/Son Date to the Baumwipfelpfad
We arrived early, which is key in Germany, and parked in the pay lot at the Sommerberg which is an open lot with an amazing view down into the valley.
The Baumwipfelpfad is a wooden path built high in the treetops of the mountain with spectacular views and little activity stations set up along the path. The activity stations have facts about the local animals and trees (all in German, but with pictures…so that helps), and also have little obstacles to climb over and around similar to a Kletterpark (ropes course). To give those with a fear of heights a bit of a jolt, the obstacles are built over a see-thorough mesh netting so you can see exactly how high you are in the trees while manouvering over the courses.
I feared for a minute that my two year old son would be freaked out by this, but it didn’t seem to scare him at all. He is a typical toddler, so climbing, solving problems, and doing everything by himself is par for the course at this age. He was determined to do every single step and challenge with out my help and he did really well. I, on the other hand, stood by with clenched teeth and arms out ready to pounce at any moment. He drew a little crowd at one point since his miniature skill and confidence was much better than most adults who were trying to do it. However, the older you are, the more you know, and the more fear you have. For the most part kids are fearless, and this is a great (safe) activity for them to test their abilities.
The walk along the wooden path is a little under a mile and the activity centers are spaced far enough apart that it keeps the little ones focused to keep walking. My son tends to get easily distracted, so when I would see the next activity station and tell him about it, his little face would light up and he’d start running to make it to the next one. It keeps the flow of people going instead of having a bunch of bumbling toddlers standing in once place. Good thinking, Badwipfelpfad.
The flat wooden boardwalk ends at a massive metal spiral (which is actually a giant slide), but the wooden path continues upwards from this point in a circular path surrounding the spiral, which seems to go on for a loooong time. You can walk the circular path all the way to the top where riding the slide is an option, or enjoy a picnic and the panoramic views of the Black Forest at the benches set up along the final view point.
My son is obsessed with all things “FAST!” and especially slides. As we walked the path up to the slide entrance we could hear peoples’ echoed cheers as they zipped down the metal, enclosed slide. My son squealed and looked at me saying “slide? slide?”. I nodded and told him that yes, we can slide down together once we get to the top. This was wrong information. Most things in Germany don’t have an age limit if a parent is joining the child, however, this slide does. Once we finally made it to the top, we learned everyone who rides must be older than six. No exceptions if with a parent. My son didn’t understand this and crying and whining did commence. I apologized to him to no avail because now he sees me as a big ‘ol liar.
Baumwipfelpfad Prices for Adults € 9.50 Children € 7.50 (under six years old are free and there are senior, student, and group discounts) The slide costs extra at € 2.00 a piece.
I strapped his sad little self onto me in his carrier and walked him all the way back down where we rewarded ourselves with an outdoorsy picnic which included cookies. I’ve learned that cookies can fix just about anything with my child. After lunch, I sat and watched him enjoy himself as he ran around the woods and climbed on rocks, logs, hills and not once did I need to scream “no! Out of the road! Watch for cars! STOP!” I love being out in nature and getting away from the city to let my child roam free is a pretty perfect day to me.
The views when driving the curvy roads home seemed even more beautiful than the drive there. Driving anywhere in Germany this time of year is simply breathtaking. It was hard for me to keep my eyes on the road because the entire country looks transformed. I can only metaphorically compare the experience to driving through a painting with overly saturated oranges, yellows, reds, and browns against a teal blue sky. Since I typically use my phone, it’s hard to accurately capture the beauty in pictures, but in person it seems almost other worldly. I lived in a part of the world without seasons for a decade and every fall I’ve experienced here seems prettier than the last. If you happen to be near the Black Forest in the fall, make sure to take a hike, train, bike, or a drive through the forest. It will be worth it.