Nature Reserves

The Rhine-Neckar Metropolitan Region centres around the large towns of Mannheim, Heidelberg and Ludwigshafen. Within the environs, however, there is a lot of opportunity to enjoy nature and unwind—or even exercise. Wherever and whenever the mood takes you. Visitors to three reserves looking forward to a recreational hike and those seeking a rush of adrenaline in sporting activities can equally enjoy themselves in the Palatinate Forest Nature Park, the Neckartal-Odenwald Nature Park and the Geo-Naturepark Bergstrasse-Odenwald. There you’ll find mountain bikers and climbers, Geocachers on a treasure hunt and lots of adventure that the countryside holds in store for families and children. Come along with us and explore the great outdoors!

Palatinate Forest Nature Park

Ralf Rudolph: Kuckucksbähnel train driver. Photograph: Geiss
Forest bathing with the nature and wilderness teacher Ina Schmitt. Photograph: Beekmann
Geocaching with Jürgen Mühlmann in the Bellheimer Wald forest. Photograph: Buck
Shepherdess Anne Mottl. Photograph: Weindel

The Palatinate Forest is the largest coherent forest area in Germany. It is a unique natural paradise that ranges from gentle valleys to dense forests and bizarre rocks. Founded in 1958, the Palatinate Forest Nature Park was one of the first nature reserves in Germany at that time. The initial goal has remained the same ever since: conservation and preservation of this unique landscape, where even wolves and lynxes have made their return and have become native to the “primeval forests” once again. In 1998, the German part and its French partner reserve joined together to form the only transnational biosphere reserve in Germany: the Palatinate Forest-North Vosges Biosphere Reserve. We accompanied a shepherdess and her flock on their work for rural conservation, we went treasure hunting, we flew among the treetops on ziplines, bathed in the forest and discovered its landscape from a new perspective from inside the historical Kuckucksbähnel railway. Our recommendation: Do try this! 

Only flying is better: In Ziplinepark Elmstein

Treasure hunting: Geocaching in the Bellheimer Wald forest

Pack your hiking pants: Forest bathing with the nature teacher Ina Schmitt

Woolly workers: In the fields with shepherdess Anne Mottl

Steam in the Palatinate: The Kuckucksbähnel (Cuckoo Railway)

Geo-Naturepark Bergstrasse-Odenwald

Green lung: the Geo-Naturepark Bergstrasse-Odenwald. Photograph: Geiss
Gliding through the Odenwald on solar powered rail trolleys. Photograph: Weindl
A ride on a dog sled across the Maulbeeraue meadow close to Lampertheim. Photograph: Weindel.
Geological history made tangible: the Margaretenschlucht ravine is a children’s adventure. Photograph: Weik

A visit to the Geo-Naturepark Bergstrasse-Odenwald is like a journey through geological history. The old courses of the Rhine and Neckar rivers, glacial periods, the subsidence of the Rhine Rift Valley—all of these have left traces that you can still see here: in the sandy soils of the Southern Hessian Ried, in the Bunter sandstone of the Neckar valley and in the lacustrine limestone soils of the Bauland region. The nature park was awarded the title of “Geopark” and included in the UNESCO “International Geoscience & Geoparks Programme” in 2015 because of its rich geological heritage. However, you need not be a geologist in order to be amazed at the varied landscape and fascinated by spectacles of nature such as the Felsenmeer (the ‘sea of rocks’) and

Climbing through geological history: Discover the Margaretenschlucht

On 40 paws across the Maulbeeraue meadow: a ride on a dog sled

Granite gems: bouldering across the Felsenmeer (‘sea of rocks’)

Deep inside the Odenwald: accompanying Geopark Ranger Michael Kauer

Time off, on rails: on solar powered rail trolleys through the Odenwald

Neckartal-Odenwald Nature Park

Along the Skultpurenradweg cycle track in the Bauland region. Photograph: Beekmann
Travelling to the past in the Histotainment Park Adventon. Photograph: Buck
Mythical places in the Little Odenwald. Photograph: Buck
Little religious shrines in the Madonnenländchen region bear witness to faith and good luck. Photograph: Beekmann

The Neckartal-Odenwald Nature Park borders on and overlaps with the south of the Geo-Naturepark Bergstrasse-Odenwald. It extends from the hilly countryside of the Odenwald across the Neckar valley with its gorges and its tributary rivers all the way to the Little Odenwald in the south. This park is somewhat less well-known than its “big brother” in the north, however, it is just as beautiful. You can explore the varied countryside walking, cycling or boating—and learn quite a bit about the region’s culture and history. Primeval saurians left their traces here, and so did early men, Celts and Romans. Castles and ruins line up along Neckar river like on a pearl necklace. And one or the other mystical creature is said to walk abroad in the forests.

Little Odenwald, great myths: Miriam and Peter Seisler collect legends

Witnesses made of stone: Little Religious shrines bear witness to faith

Vast landscapes, great pieces of art: The Skulpturenradweg cycle track

The Romans’ heritage: Tangible history in the Romans’ museum

Live like in the Middle Ages: The Histotainment Park Adventon


Tips for excursions and interesting stories about the Rhine-Neckar region can be found regularly in our newsletter.

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