Photograph by Horst Mahr, Alamy
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Glass sculptures stand in for trees on a snowy hillside in Germany’s Bavarian Forest National Park.

Photograph by Horst Mahr, Alamy

Bavarian Forest National Park, Germany

Name: Bavarian Forest National Park
Location: Germany
Date Established: 1970
Size: 93 square miles (241 square kilometers)

Did You Know?

Natural Lands Bavarian Forest National Park’s hands-off management philosophy is “Let nature be nature.” The pursuit of this plan is allowing a large landscape of wild forests and bogs to develop and thrive here in the heart of Europe where managed forests are an ancient human tradition.

Left to Go Wild A destructive thunderstorm savaged swaths of the forest in 1983, uprooting thousands of spruce trees, but the natural disaster was turned into an opportunity. By choosing not to remediate the damage, park officials took a critical step toward creating a truly wild forest here.

Rare Species Among the uncommon bird species that live here are the white-backed or three-toed woodpecker and the pygmy owl, Europe’s smallest. Some of the park’s most important species, including 45 that are endemic, can be seen in wildlife enclosures at national park centers. These locations give visitors an excellent chance to watch boar, bear, wolves, wisent (European bison), and many other species.

Ice Age Souvenirs Prevalent glacial moraines and Lake Rachel (Rachelsee) are among the enduring reminders of the ice age that locked this area in its frozen grip some 10,000 years go.

Flower Garden An extensive natural garden at the Hans-Eisenmann-Haus Visitor Center near Neuschönau is worth a visit during any season. The exhibition includes more than 700 different plant species.

Germany's First This was Germany’s first national park, straddling the mountains along the border between Bavaria and Bohemia. On the Czech side of the border is Sumava (Bohemian Forest) National Park, founded in 1991. The two parks are being managed with similar schemes and together they protect the largest area of forest remaining in central Europe.

How to Get There

The international airports at Munich (100 miles/165 kilometers) and Prague (103 miles/180 kilometers) provide access to the region. Frequent buses and trains service the park’s various entry points.

When to Visit

Summer is the most popular season to visit Bavarian Forest National Park but winter snows encourage snowshoeing, hiking, and cross-country skiing. On most days of the year children and families can enjoy free guided tours geared to the natural themes of the current season.

How to Visit

While the forest is left to evolve in its own way visitors are encouraged to actively seek out its charms. The park has more than 186 miles (300 kilometers) of hiking trails, 124 miles (200 kilometers) of designated cycling trails, and, in winter, 50 miles (80 kilometers) of cross-country ski trails. Mountain inns and forest cottages provide plenty of opportunities for relaxation.