The big draw of the Naturerlebnispark is the Baumkronenweg, or treetop path. In order to reach said path, one must first climb to the top of the hill. Unfortunately, it’s rather steep, though not dangerously so. Fortunately, as with the Ritterweg, family-friendly activities line the trail to keep little legs climbing.
Tip: If you combine a hike to the Kastelburg with a visit to the Naturerlebnispark, reverse the order. The route to the castle ruins happens to be much easier in comparison.
To reach the top of the trees, start out at the fabulous climbing-themed playground that marks the entrance to the Naturerlebnispark. T-Rex is totally fascinated by rock climbing at the moment, and it was hard to tear him away from the bouldering wall when we began our ascent up the hill.
Small signs informed us of our progress every 100 meters or so. A picture frame hung just so outlined the view of the Kastelburg across the valley. Displays encouraged passersby to guess the strength of forest creatures and to match animals with tracks. A memory game introduced children to local animal and plant life.
About 200 meters from the entrance to the Baumkronenweg, we found a small rope bridge between two trees. It was an experiment, really. Could we handle climbing between trees on cables and small slats of wood? If not, paying to play Tarzan would hardly be worth it. Thinking the ropes were nothing to sneeze at, we all advanced without hesitation.
A gigantic wooden squirrel marks the spot where visitors must exchange cash for an experience. Adult admission cost 5,50 euro, children from 5 to 15 years 4,00 euro. Should you need to use the loo, porta-pottys are located across from the admission booth.
Beyond the squirrel, we found the hilarious sign, “Enter only if you are sure-footed and free from giddiness.” Say, what?! I had to know if this was an exact translation, so I called up my old pal Google Translate. Sure enough, it’s listed among the options! But really, the sign should’ve read something related to vertigo, not giddiness. Ha!
I might add that the sign also warned that the path wasn’t suitable for infants or young children. But since “young children” wasn’t defined and my infant was bolted onto Doc Sci’s back AND we had passed the just-in-case-you-might-get-freaked-out test on the mountain path, we went for it.
Would I advise you to do the same? Uh, no.
My almost-four year-old’s feet slipped a few times. Fortunately, I was within arms reach, and the gaps between ropes weren’t really big enough for him to completely fall through. Also, the last bit of the path is a single log, no railing, and only ropes overhead that don’t hang low enough for little arms to reach.
However, my five and a half year-old and his seven year-old friend zipped across all the ropes with no problem. The little rascals even scampered across the aforementioned log without the help of the dangling ropes.
I only freaked out once when several tweens climbed on to the same rope bridge where I was making my way across with Screech. Impatient at our progress (and clearly ignoring the directive to only have one climber on the bridge at a time), they starting jumping up and down, jeopardizing our balance. Out came mama bear, and luckily – for them and for me – they stopped their shenanigans albeit momentarily. We let them pass, and I heard another mama chewing the hooligans out only a few minutes later.
Halfway through the ropes, we found the entrance to Europe’s longest high-speed giant tubular slide. This sucker is not for the faint of heart. A sign near the entrance warns, “Caution – Black hole effect!” Riders pay 2 euros for the experience and sit on special mats made to increase speed, racing 190 meters down the mountain in pitch black conditions.
To be honest, I was more than a tad bit relieved the minimum age for the slide was 8 years.
After finishing the ropes course, we strolled along the treetop boardwalk. This wood and steel structure climbs to a height of 23 meters above the forest floor! A stunning view of the valley waits at the edge of the mountain. Just don’t look down!
If you’d like to stay closer to earth after these two aerial encounters, take your shoes and socks off to experience the oh-so-German barefoot path. There’s also a decent playground, though it’s certainly not worth the price of admission just to frolic on the spielplatz.
My boys loved the Naturerlebnispark, and I’d recommend it for any family “free from giddiness.”
The Baumkronenweg is open rain or shine every weekend from April to October and on public holidays. The slide is closed in inclement weather. It’s an easy walk from the Waldkirch train station to the climbing playground at the beginning of the Naturerlebnispark. Street parking and a car park are available. Don’t bring a pram – you won’t be able to push it up the hill or take it on the treetop path.