The Black Forest, located in southwestern Germany, is a true paradise for cycling enthusiasts. With its lush forests, endless gravel paths and charming villages, this enchanted region offers an unforgettable cycling experience. Running straight through the Black Forest is the Black Forest cycling route, a 375-kilometer cycling route from Karlsruhe to Basel. The Black Forest is the largest forest area in Germany with many peaks above 1,000 meters. It often feels wild and rugged, but civilization and amenities are never far away. It is a particularly popular vacation destination for good reason. As far as we are concerned, cycling is the ideal way to explore the Black Forest. After all, the forest roads are not accessible to motorized traffic. And this creates a true gravel paradise!
The Schwarzwald Radweg is an ideal bikepacking route for beginners. The entire route is very clearly marked with signposts showing a red diamond and a bicycle. About 40% of the route is unpaved over beautiful forest trails and gravel roads. The rest of the rout is on asphalt, with only the occasional stretch on a busier road. It is possible to make up your own detours to avoid asphalt. In fact, the forests are full of endless trails, mostly due to the timber industry. Still, those asphalt roads are often a pleasant change from the steep forest trails. Because yes, it is almost never flat in the Black Forest and the climbs are sometimes steep, quite steep, especially with a fully loaded touring bike. Especially in the northern part we found the climbs to be the steepest. 'Bikepacking route for beginners' we write, but physically you will be challenged!
The Black Forest sometimes looks like one big tourist park. Every house is either a restaurant, hotel or gasthaus. This of course makes it very easy to find a bed, but not to set up your tent just out in nature. Still, we camped wild every night and never had any problems. Everywhere in the Black Forest there are Schutzhutte (mountain huts). Many of these huts are closed and used for hunting but some are open and you can sleep inside. For us, these were ideal places to pitch the tent because there is often a flat patch of grass next to these huts. According to the rules, wild camping is not allowed in the Black Forest, but it is quite possible. The Schutzhutten are listed in most navigation apps and on this map you will find many more.
A part in the northern Black Forest is protected as Schwarzwald National Park. Here the rules for wild camping are very strict, though. We did not know we were inside the park boundaries when we set up our tent. Around 9 pm, a car of the park rangers suddenly passed by. They were very friendly, but had to turn us away. "Just follow our car and we'll show you a place where you can camp." A few kilometers later we were outside the park boundaries and were able to pitch our tent there, with the approval of the park rangers.
We cycled through the Black Forest in early May. Temperatures were still regularly around freezing at night, but during the day it was already pleasantly warm. In the winter months there is often snow, especially above 1,000 meters. In certain parts of the Black Forest there are ski slopes and cross-country ski trails. During the summer months it can be very crowded with campers, motorcycles and other tourists.
There are many villages all along the route. We often bought food for several days, but you come across a store to buy food every day. Supermarkets in Germany are very cheap, especially if you go to Lidl or Aldi.
In the smaller villages there is not always a supermarket, but there are always restaurants. In fact, there are so many restaurants that you could stop several times a day for drinks and food. Typical dishes are Schnitzel, but also Schwarzwald Käsespätzle and Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte and Semmelknödel are real regional dishes that you have to try along the way.
Finding drinking water is no problem at all. There are so many houses, restaurants and hotels where you can ask for water, but also along the route you will find countless springs with drinking water. The springs are often on the map in Maps.me, Komoot or another navigation app, but are also easy to find without a map. Usually there is a small structure or pump built to fill your drinking water. Sometimes at night we had to walk a few hundred meters to get to a spring, but we always found drinking water. In addition, if you carry a water filter, you can always provide yourself with safe drinking water, even without the springs.
Bicycle in the train. In Germany it is very easy to take your bicycle on the train. In the ICE trains you have to make a reservation, but in all other trains there is usually a lot of space. You pay about €6 per day, but in the Black Forest region you can take your bike for free outside peak hours. So ideal to take your bike to the start in Freiburg!
Free Wifi. There is often free Wifi at the Lidl and Aldi supermarkets.