From Pforzheim, Germany
to Basel, Switzerland
text by: Craig Taylor
Why you should do this route
The Westweg (the West Way) is one of the most popular long-distance hikes in Germany. It bridges the cities of Pforzheim and Basel, taking trekkers straight through the entirety of the beautiful Black Forest.
From the undulating hills and valleys of the northern Black Forest to the Alpine peaks of the south, the ‘Schwarzwald’ is a diverse place. And there’s no better way to see it all than by spending two weeks in your walking boots.
As you go, you’ll meander through moorland, dense forests, up over surprisingly high plateaus and pass some of the most beautiful, secluded lakes you’ll ever see. And the best part? Unless you come with a friend, you’ll have much of this natural beauty to yourself, especially on the sections that are a little further removed from the national park.
The true beauty of the Westweg, however, is in the flexibility it affords all who hike it. There’s 12 etappes that divide the route. Most of the stages start and end in the small villages or towns, meaning you can replenish your supplies as you go. Due to this, you’re always going to be able to find a suitable place to sleep — be it in one of the many luxury hotels en route or under a bivvy bag in one of the numerous emergency shelters en route.
Don’t have time to hike the whole thing? The Westweg can easily be divided into individual day hikes. Due to the sheer number of beautiful trails in the Black Forest, it’s also very easy to add stages of the Westweg to circular hikes over a weekend.
The Westweg is quite a trail. Coming in just under 290 kilometres in length, you may not want to do the whole thing on your first try. In fact, we recommend that only experienced hikers and those with ample long-distance experience give it a try. The good news is, however, that if you get fed up or decide to cut your adventure short, it’s incredibly easy to do so at practically any point along the trail. Due to the abundance of signposted pathways, you could even turn your one way experience into a circular hike simply by choosing a different trail back to your starting point. Too tired to do that? In the numerous towns, villages and hamlets you’ll pass en route, public transport is freely accessible.
Interestingly, and fairly uncommon for Germany, wild camping of sorts is also prohibited on the Westweg. As is the case throughout the country, tents are explicitly banned, although bivvy camping under a tarp is an accepted grey area. You can also freely spend a night in the various shelters spread throughout the Black Forest and the national park. These emergency huts offer little more than four small walls and a roof, but after a day on the trails, that’s probably all you’re going to need. To make the most out of this, we recommend taking at least a warm 3-season sleeping bag (although opt for 4-season if the weather looks unpredictable) and a waterproof bivvy bag, especially as the weather can turn at any moment. At many of the shelters, fires are permitted: Just look for a clearly marked fire pit. Additionally, tick, mosquito and midge repellent is also going to be necessary — especially if you come in the summer.
Along the Westweg, numerous natural springs also provide a convenient way to fill up on water. Visible on the map, you’ll pass one every couple of hours, so you can reduce the amount of water you need to carry at any one time. You’ll also pass at least one restaurant each day.
The trail itself is not particularly technical at any point, so it can be safely walked in training or trailrunning shoes.