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A sweeping view of the Palatinate Forest can be seen from the observation deck on top of the Humbergturm.

A sweeping view of the Palatinate Forest can be seen from the observation deck on top of the Humbergturm. (Jennifer H. Svan/Stars and Stripes)

A sweeping view of the Palatinate Forest can be seen from the observation deck on top of the Humbergturm.

A sweeping view of the Palatinate Forest can be seen from the observation deck on top of the Humbergturm. (Jennifer H. Svan/Stars and Stripes)

The city of Kaiserslautern as seen from the observation deck on top of the Humbergturm. The tower can be reached via several trails through the Palatinate Forest south of Kaiserslautern, Germany. It sits on a hill about 1,900 feet above the city.

The city of Kaiserslautern as seen from the observation deck on top of the Humbergturm. The tower can be reached via several trails through the Palatinate Forest south of Kaiserslautern, Germany. It sits on a hill about 1,900 feet above the city. (Jennifer H. Svan/Stars and Stripes)

The winding stone staircase inside the Humbergturm just south of Kaiserslautern, Germany, has 162 steps.

The winding stone staircase inside the Humbergturm just south of Kaiserslautern, Germany, has 162 steps. (Jennifer H. Svan/Stars and Stripes)

A picnic table near the Humbergturm offers great views of the city of Kaiserslautern, Germany.

A picnic table near the Humbergturm offers great views of the city of Kaiserslautern, Germany. (Jennifer H. Svan/Stars and Stripes)

The Humbergturm was built with sandstone blocks in 1900.It's a good destination for a day hike close to Kaiserslautern, Germany.

The Humbergturm was built with sandstone blocks in 1900.It's a good destination for a day hike close to Kaiserslautern, Germany. (Jennifer H. Svan/Stars and Stripes)

The trail to Humbergturm, south of Kaiserslautern, Germany, is well-marked.

The trail to Humbergturm, south of Kaiserslautern, Germany, is well-marked. (Jennifer H. Svan/Stars and Stripes)

Lots of foliage, like this green fern, add color and tranquility to a hike to the Humbergturm.

Lots of foliage, like this green fern, add color and tranquility to a hike to the Humbergturm. (Jennifer H. Svan/Stars and Stripes)

The hike to Humbergturm, south of Kaiserslautern, Germany, is a steady climb through the Palatinate Forest.

The hike to Humbergturm, south of Kaiserslautern, Germany, is a steady climb through the Palatinate Forest. (Jennifer H. Svan/Stars and Stripes)

Before holiday preparations nearly got the best of me, I discovered the perfect stress reliever.

A short drive south of Kaiserslautern, Germany, in the Palatinate Forest are a network of interconnected, well-marked trails that offer tranquil day hikes ranging from the easy to the moderately difficult.

I think a hike is most fun when there is a destination or goal in mind — a reward for one’s effort — so I chose the Humbergturm trail.

The trail signage, marked by a red tower, makes it hard to get lost. There are several points from which one can access the trail, but all require an uphill trek. The Humbergturm, or tower, sits on top of a hill about 1,400 feet above Kaiserslautern, and the largest contiguous forest in Germany, offering sweeping views of the cityscape and surrounding countryside.

I started at the Bremerhof, a rustic restaurant near the forest that’s more than 200 years old. After talking to the goats grazing out front (sadly, it was a one-sided conversation), I crossed the street and found a sign pointing the way to the tower, about one mile away.

The trail made a steady climb through towering old pines, young evergreens and a mix of deciduous trees. Slabs of reddish sandstone padded by green moss fringed the trail in places, offering an occasional soft seat on which to rest. The climb wasn’t strenuous, but it required focus. Roots and rocks poked out of the ground, in some places concealed by dead leaves, presenting tripping hazards even for the sure-footed.

The tower rose into view quite suddenly.

Reaching the top of the hill, I understood why the citizens of Kaiserslautern chose this location to build a tower more than 100 years ago. The trees open up, and the view of the city is stunning.

But there’s more. For a panoramic view of what lies below, there are stairs to climb, about 162. The stairs wind and wind to a small observation deck that puts one well past the treetops. It’s a chance to see the city again from even higher up, or walk around to the other side to get a bird’s-eye view of the vast Palatinate Forest.

On this particular day, no one else was in the tower. That was good, because the stairs are narrow on the railing side, with little room for passing comfortably.

The hike took me about two hours round trip. That included lots of stops to take photos. For those interested in a longer hike, there is a 3.1-kilometer route (about 1.9 miles) that passes by a colorful sandstone fountain (the Pfaffenbrunnen) and the Dreieckstein, a triangular stone displaying several coats of arms. This hike is accessible down a trail that runs behind the Bremerhof, toward Dansenberg.

The tower area is outfitted with several benches and picnic tables; pack a picnic or enjoy a traditional German meal afterward at the Bremerhof.

svan.jennifer@stripes.com

Hike to the Humbergturm

DIRECTIONS One place to start a day hike to Humbergturm is at the Bremerhof restaurant and beer garden, located on Bremerhof 1, 67663 Kaiserslautern. Look for trail signage to the tower.

TIMES Trails to the tower are open all year.

COSTS None for the hike or tower.

FOOD The Bremerhof, which is open all week, offers traditional and local German cuisine; its large beer garden, situated next to a small playground for kids, is a nice place to sit outside during warm weather. Find an English link at bremerhof-kl.de.

INFORMATION There is an English link at www.humberg-kaiserslautern.de

author picture
Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

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