Hike offers a close view of strange and wondrous red sandstone formations in Germany
Stars and Stripes May 27, 2021
Hiking, or “wandern” as it’s more whimsically called in German, is one of the few activities in Germany free of coronavirus restrictions.
In the last year, I’ve worn out a pair of hiking shoes trekking miles of trails through four seasons, discovering some new favorite routes along the way.
One of them lies about 28 miles south of Kaiserslautern in Germany’s Pfalz Forest, also known as the Palatinate Forest. It's the country’s largest swath of contiguous woods, in a region strewn with medieval castle ruins and magnificent red sandstone formations.
The Dimbacher Buntsandstein high path offers distant views of some of these Middle Age relics and up-close observations of colorful sandstone carved into strange shapes by natural forces. The 6-mile circular route is one of more than 50 trails in the country certified as a “premium walking” route by the German Hiking Institute.
The association of hiking experts considers trail surfaces, traffic density, landscape features, scenic beauty, cultural and historical significance and other factors when classifying walks. The institute guarantees “a balanced and beautiful hiking experience” on its certified trails, it says on its website.
I’m not sure what a “balanced” trail experience means, but balance is key on this route since much of the way winds along narrow, rugged paths and climbs more than 1,300 total feet in elevation.
The beauty part is no mystery. It’s evident in the red sandstone formations rising out of the deep forest, towering in places above the trees with a few windswept overlooks providing panoramic views of the valley and surrounding low mountain range.
The unique geological formation on display is the Buntsandstein, sediments of feldspar, mica and quartz transported and shaped by erosion into “mighty sand dunes” over millions of years, according to an website describing the geology and other natural features of the area.
The trail starts just outside of Dimbach, a village of less than 200 people. It's mostly a cluster of quaint farm houses, including one with poodle-like Silkie chickens strutting about. A restaurant with a beer garden offers an enticing resting place when things open up again.
Other local landmarks include the Falkenburg Castle ruins and Burg Berwartstein. while the Muskatellerhof Winery in the nearby village of Gleiszellen produces wine made from muscat grapes and serves up Pfalz dishes in its restaurant.
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Directions: From Kaiserslautern, the fastest route to the trailhead is via B48 through Johanniskreuz. Parking can be accessed via the main road into Dimbach; Hauptstrasse 76848 Dimbach on GPS. Parking may be full on weekends. The circular route can be hiked in either direction. Times: Open all year. Food: The restaurant Zur Dimbacher Schenke in Dimbach, Hauptstrasse 4, has food and a beer garden; call for hours due to coronavirus restrictions at +49-6392-914-4092. Information: In German at tinyurl.com/3s5f3cr4