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A tree branch extends past an overlook on the Dimbacher Buntsandstein high path, a 6-mile circular route that winds through numerous red sandstone formations in the Pfalz Forest, a little under an hour south of Kaiserslautern, Germany.
A tree branch extends past an overlook on the Dimbacher Buntsandstein high path, a 6-mile circular route that winds through numerous red sandstone formations in the Pfalz Forest, a little under an hour south of Kaiserslautern, Germany. (Jennifer H. Svan/Stars and Stripes)

Hiking, or “wandern” as it’s more whimsically called in German, is one of the few activities in Germany free of coronavirus restrictions.

Many of the towering rock formations on the Dimbacher Buntsandstein high path near Dimbach, Germany, can be scaled by kids.
Many of the towering rock formations on the Dimbacher Buntsandstein high path near Dimbach, Germany, can be scaled by kids. (Jennifer H. Svan/Stars and Stripes)

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.

Signs along the Dimbacher Buntsandstein high path educate hikers about the geology of the area. A good app can translate them for English speakers. The 6-mile circular route winds through numerous red sandstone formations in the Pfalz Forest, just under an hour south of Kaiserslautern, Germany. 
Signs along the Dimbacher Buntsandstein high path educate hikers about the geology of the area. A good app can translate them for English speakers. The 6-mile circular route winds through numerous red sandstone formations in the Pfalz Forest, just under an hour south of Kaiserslautern, Germany.  (Jennifer H. Svan/Stars and Stripes)

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 red sandstone formations on the Dimbacher Buntsandstein high path date were formed more than 240 million years ago through wind and water erosion, when the southern Pfalz Forest had a desert climate.
The red sandstone formations on the Dimbacher Buntsandstein high path date were formed more than 240 million years ago through wind and water erosion, when the southern Pfalz Forest had a desert climate. (Jennifer H. Svan/Stars and Stripes)

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 Dimbacher Buntsandstein high path winds past towering pillars of red sandstone in the Pfalz Forest, just under an hour south of Kaiserslautern, Germany.
The Dimbacher Buntsandstein high path winds past towering pillars of red sandstone in the Pfalz Forest, just under an hour south of Kaiserslautern, Germany. (Jennifer H. Svan/Stars and Stripes)

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.  

Dimbach is the nearest village to the Dimbacher Buntsandstein high path in Germany’s Pfalz Forest. Hikers cross through the village of less than 200 residents when completing the 6-mile circular route.
Dimbach is the nearest village to the Dimbacher Buntsandstein high path in Germany’s Pfalz Forest. Hikers cross through the village of less than 200 residents when completing the 6-mile circular route. (Jennifer H. Svan/Stars and Stripes)

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.

svan.jennifer@stripes.com Twitter: @stripesktown

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

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