Guided forest walks & ranger tours in Eifel National Park
Experience a unique natural landscape your way
Stress-free and map-free: Discover Eifel National Park your way with tailored tours led by an experienced forest guide or ranger.
Eifel National Park is the only national park in North Rhine-Westphalia. Here, nature is being left to its own devices in an area covering some 110 km² in the Eifel mountains. In 2004, the harvesting of the park’s natural resources like timber and crops came to an end. Nowadays, visitors reap different rewards: the flashing gaze of a wild cat, the low rutting call of the stags in autumn or the clattering of the rare black stork. As many as 1,800 endangered animal and plant species are now free to thrive in their natural habitat – and be admired by walkers and hikers exploring the great outdoors.
Located just 65 or so kilometres from Cologne, Eifel National Park is the perfect escape for city-dwellers. This is where burbling streams wind their way downhill, where impressive beech woods enhance the landscape, and where the Rursee, Obersee and Urftsee reservoirs provide breath-taking panoramas for visitors. Hikers can fully immerse themselves in nature on the Wildnis-Trail (Wilderness Trail). Here, nature puts on a spectacular show all year round: from the yellow sea of wild daffodils in spring to the icicles hanging off boughs and mysterious footprints in the snow in winter.
Guided forest walks: Experience the natural landscape your way
Quality outdoor time with friends – without having to grapple awkwardly with a map. An outing with your sports club – where enjoyment of nature can be combined with a spot of training. Or a leisurely family stroll – surrounded by nature at its untamed best. All of these experiences and more are possible in the Eifel. So why not take it easy and let one of the 160 forest guides in North Rhine-Westphalia’s only national park organise your ideal walking experience.
Seasoned forest guides can bring the ancient Eifel forest to life for visitors from a variety of angles. Depending on the tour theme, you might amble by sunny glades of wild daffodils or gorse bushes in full bloom, or take in diverse terrain in shady upland valleys before stopping for a hearty picnic at the reservoir, or perhaps you will take a more adventurous path through dense undergrowth. Whichever you prefer, the forest guides know exactly where they are going and can point out the highlights of Eifel National Park along the way. The forest guides don’t have any fixed itinerary by the way: instead they tailor the tours to each visitor’s wishlist of things to see.
A tour tailored to the visitor’s interests
The forest guides are able to plan tours that are perfectly tailored to the visitor’s interests. Whether from the vantage point of a horse saddle or a bicycle saddle, or even on a horse-drawn carriage ride, Eifel National Park offers all kinds of tours at a pace to suit everyone. The forest guides, who are all volunteers, undergo at least 70 hours of training until they become professional in their field. They are familiar with the sometimes rare native flora and fauna, they have learned about the local geology, and they have a huge store of anecdotes about the culture and landscape of the region to share with visitors. The tours are particularly enlivened when the guides open up about their own personal backgrounds. Some of them are genuine entertainers while others are clergymen, geology graduates, former housewives and employees at the nearby Vogelsang attraction. In addition to German, some of the forest guides also speak English, Spanish, Dutch, Turkish, Polish, the Eifel dialect and German and Dutch sign language, so language is no barrier here.
Speaking of no barriers, Eifel National Park has created an accessible pathway for wheelchairs. The “Wilder Weg” (Wild Way) is a 1.5-kilometre-long circular trail which leads directly to the equally accessible Kermeter forest adventure area. This is where disabled visitors can experience how the forest is gradually returning to its original, natural state. Information boards in four languages and in easily understandable German for those with language difficulties provide interesting details on the native animals and plants.
Ranger tours: A rewarding experience with the national park experts
As well as the volunteer forest guides, visitors to Eifel National Park can choose to be guided through the wilderness by a professional ranger. The main duty of the rangers is to make sure that no plants or animals are disturbed in their range of Eifel National Park. Whether they are being led by a forest guide or a park ranger, visitors should at all times show respect for the habitat of the different species of plants and animals they encounter along the way. The rangers are full-time caretakers of the landscape and the national park, and they share their knowledge with visitors on a variety of tours.
Many of the free-of-charge tours are organised on a regular basis, and would also be of interest to children. Indeed, some are pushchair-accessible. Every month, the rangers lead a tour with a seasonally changing theme, which might involve identifying animal prints in the snow or learning to recognise different flowers or animals. Summer tours are rounded off by a group barbecue, and in winter participants can warm themselves up with mulled wine or non-alcoholic punch. Every Saturday, meanwhile, ranger tours depart for Rurberg to visit the cliffs that are the favourite haunts of wall lizards and smooth snakes. Another tour organised on Saturdays follows winding paths right to the top of the Kermeter upland, where an old fire lookout tower provides breath-taking views of the national park. For wheelchair-users, ranger-led boat tours provide a wonderful way to see the park, and many tours are also adapted to the hard-of-hearing and visually impaired.
Seeing the national park on two or four wheels
A former military training area lies within the boundaries of Eifel National Park. The Dreiborn Plateau, where tanks once used to roll, is now ideally suited to horse-drawn carriages, bikes and even wheelchairs. Nature has well and truly re-established itself in the old military training grounds, and walkers and carriage passengers can now enjoy the extensive network of paths. The trails are also perfectly accessible for disabled visitors. On a horse-drawn carriage ride, passengers can sit back and relax as they watch the alternating pastures, scrubland and fast-growing forest pass by. Visitors can also learn more about the history of this unusual place. The covered wagon tour begins at the former national socialist training academy of Vogelsang, overlooking Urftsee lake and now converted into a modern exhibition and training centre, and ends in the so-called deserted village of Wollseifen, where only a church, a chapel and a few other buildings remain.