The Zweitälersteig is a spectacular 116km long hiking trail that takes you on a remarkable journey through the enchanting Black Forest of Germany. This trail is divided into five captivating stages, each offering its own unique blend of natural beauty, cultural experiences, and physical challenges. With our insider tips and our Zweitälersteig itinerary you can turn this challenging hiking trail into an amazing and unforgettable adventure for you.
How to get to Waldkirch (starting point of the trail):
By Plane: The nearest major airport to Waldkirch is EuroAirport Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg (BSL/MLH/EDF). From the airport, you can take a train or rent a car to reach Waldkirch.
By Train: If you are travelling from major German cities such as Frankfurt, Stuttgart, or Karlsruhe, you can take a train to Freiburg im Breisgau, which is a larger city close to Waldkirch. Freiburg has good train connections and it will take you around 20 minutes to reach Waldkirch from there.
By Bus: There are very few bus connections in and around Waldkirch. We found a local bus that only runs three days in the week and only thrice a day. That is why we would not recommend relying on the bus services in this region. Instead you will be better off coming by car, if possible for you.
Where to stay: In Waldkirch we stayed at the campsite Elztalblick. However, while hiking we stayed in a different hotel or pension every day. You can find the details in our itinerary below, You should make sure to contact each pension/hotel and reserving a room in advance. Unfortunately, the only way to make a booking is by emailing the property and it is recommended to do it in German. If you don’t know any German, then Google translate is your friend.
When to come: The ideal time to walk the Zweitälersteig trail is in May or September. You’ll avoid the crowds while still increasing the chances of good and dry weather. We did the hike in the beginning of September and experienced very pleasant weather with temperatures around 25 degree Celsius and only one day of rain.
How long to stay: We walked the Zweitälersteig in 5 consecutive days. However, given that especially day 2 and day 3 of the hiking trail are considered to be difficult and we ourselves were VERY tired (sore muscles, achy joints, tight limbs, blisters, general fatigue), we would take an additional rest day between day 2 and 3 or day 3 and 4. At the end, you are going to be walking 25 kilometers every day with some very steep climbs in there, so recovery is key.
- Use Komoot: Some stages are not really well marked. We used our Komoot account throughout our hike, which helped us navigate our way through the Zweitälersteig. Komoot was also immensely helpful in planning out our whole route before even arriving in the Black Forest. Since it shows you interesting viewpoints along the way, we could also schedule our breakpoints around those and enjoy our lovely food alongside some glorious mountain views.
- Schnapsbrunnen: You will find plenty of “Schnappsbrunnen” along your hike. A Schnapsbrunnen is a small cupboard, sometimes located in a small waterbed, that contains drinks such as lemonade, beer and schnapps. They are placed there for hikers and cyclists and work on a trust-based system where you leave the money in a box next to the beverages. This was a real gem on our hike!
- Cash/coins: You will not only need to use cash, especially coins, for the above mentioned Schnapsbrunnen, but also to pay for your accommodation or your food in guesthouses and restaurants. Paying by card is more often than not simply not possible. We had to withdraw money on our trip, because even we didn’t carry enough cash.
- Pack the essentials: If you feel unsure what to pack in terms of food, clothes, cosmetics, etc., then you can check our our additional guide on what to pack for a 5-day hiking trip.
- Carry enough food and water: even though there are quite a few cafés and restaurants along the Zweitälersteig most of them are only open on the weekends, sometimes also on Thursdays and Fridays. If those are not your hiking days, it’s best not to rely on them for food and drink and instead, carry enough supplies yourself. We have been carrying our Sawyer water filter on every hike that we go to and can highly recommend it. You can read more about it here. We also created a post on the type of food we like to carry on our hikes.
Arrival in Waldkirch
In Waldkirch, which is famous for organ building, we stayed at Camping Elztalblick, and camped in our car. The campsite is situated a 40 min. walk away from the city center of Waldkirch. It is surrounded by apple trees and offers spectacular Elztal mountain views. The campsite was clean and offered the basic amenities including a nice restaurant (open until 9pm), where we spend the evening after our arrival. Since the locals also like to eat here, it can sometimes be difficult to get a table, but you are allowed to take your beer to your tent.
On our first night, we enjoyed a nice glass of Aperol Spritz, some local beer, German schnitzel with a potato salad and Fleischkäse, which is a traditional dish from South-Germany. It consists of beef, pork and bacon that is ground very finely and then baked as a loaf in a bread pan until it has a crunchy brown crust. It was served to us with Jägersauce alongside a big scoop of German potato salad. Overall, the quality of the food was good and it was exactly the kind of heavy meal we needed before starting our hike the next day. The dinner costed us around €35 and the stay around €25.
Zweitälersteig Stage 1: Waldkirch to Kandel
- Distance: Approximately 9,11 km
- Total Ascent/Descent: 880m ascent, 110m descent
- Average Time with breaks: 4-5 hours
- Fitness Level: Moderate to Advanced
Our adventure commenced in the charming town of Waldkirch, nestled amid the lush Black Forest. Stage 1 started strong with a 10km uphill climb right to the highest point of the Two Valleys trail, the Kandel summit at an altitude of 1,241 and thereby the highest elevation of the Middle Black Forest. On the way there, we first arrived at the Thomashütte, a refuge where we took a break and enjoyed the view over the Glottertal. Throughout our hike, we were accompanied by paragliders and even passed by one of their take-off spots located behind the Kandel summit.
Where to stay: We recommend you stay at the Plattenhof, which is a little further away from the Kandel than the Guemmenhütte, but since the walk is flat, it won’t add much to your first day and help you out a lot on the day 2. Because the Plattenhof was booked out, we had to stay at the Gummenhütte, which we still fully enjoyed. It’s a rustic mountain hut with a restaurant that’s open between Thursday and Sunday. We paid €80 for a double room.
What to eat: Since the restaurant at the Gummenhütte was open when we were there, we enjoyed some nice pine needle lemonade, local beer, the traditional German Fleischsalat (sausage salad), Rohesser (a type of dried sausage), courgette tarte with vegetables and for dessert some bread pudding with Zwetschgen (a type of German plum) and vanilla sauce. Each dish was around 8 Euro’s and everything was homemade by the owners of the Gummenhütte.
Insider tip: follow the signs for Kandel-Pyramide instead of for Kandel. That will lead you to the Kandel summit that you want to reach.
Zweitälersteig Stage 2: Gummenhütte to Simonswald
- Distance: Approximately 25,6 km
- Total Ascent/Descent: 600m ascent, 1390m descent
- Average Time with breaks: 9 hours
- Fitness Level: Advanced
Leaving Gummenhuette, where we had a simple but filling breakfast, we began stage 2 by descending 10km across Plattenhof and then the empty Plattensee,. We snacked berries from the berry bushes that surrounded us on all sides along the walk and then enjoyed a longer break next to the majestic Zeribach waterfalls, We then continued through a wild forest to Wilden Gutach before hiking up to the Hintereck Hut. The end of the day was filled with a steep descend into Simonswald and then a long walk through the city of Simonswald.
Where to stay: We stayed at Hotel Gasthof Krone-Post, even though we arrived on a Monday, when they are normally closed. The friendly owner met with us at the main hotel and then gave us the keys to our hotel room, which was another 10 min, walk away. Our room was spacious with a nice bathroom and an amazing shower. The breakfast the next day was good and typically German including fresh bread rolls with cheese, jam, ham, eggs, cereal, coffee and juice. We paid €90 for a double room.
What to eat: We had one of our best dinners of the trip at the restaurant opposite the main hotel building called “Gasthaus zum Hirschen”, which translates to “guest house to the deer”. We ordered Maultaschen, a typical dish from the region of Baden that consists of big dumplings that are filled with spinach and/or meat. We also tried the Rinderroulade, which is a beef roulade filled with onions served with spätzle (South-German mac and cheese). Both dishes were amazing and the service was excellent.
Insider tip: Simonswald is the biggest town you are going to come across on this hike, so make sure to load up on food supplies here if you have to. We can recommend the local bakery that opens at 6am and the grocery store that opens at 8am. Both close at 6pm. There is also a pharmacy that opens at 8;30am and closes at 6:30pm.
Zweitälersteig Stage 3: Simonswald to Oberprechtal
- Distance: Approximately 27,8 km
- Total Ascent/Descent: 1060m ascent, 960m descent
- Average Time with breaks: 8-9 hours
- Fitness Level: Advanced
Stage 3 started with another climb up the Rohrhardsberg, which we skipped, because we were too tired (and blistered up) from the previous two days. Instead we climbed the Hörnleberg, where we discovered a pilgrimage church with an amphitheatre like altar in front of it. We enjoyed a glorious view over the Elztal while munching on some German pretzels and yes, these pretzels did make us thirsty ;-). Afterwards, we continued our climb uphill along the ridge of the Rohrdhardsberg before following the path into the Oberprechtal that for the last 2km turned into a steep descend.
Where to stay: We stayed at the Gasthaus Zum Schützen, which is a family-owned hotel with restaurant and they even have their own butchery. Although a bit outdated, the room was clean and had everything we needed. We felt especially welcomed by the warm-hearted owner that awaited us. We paid 84€ for our double room.
What to eat: It was super convenient that we only had to walk downstairs to have our dinner at the hotel-owned restaurant. Because the meat comes from their very own butchery and is all local and organic, we ordered the deer ragout and the cordon bleu. The food was good, the portions were huge and the service was outstanding. The breakfast the next day was simple, but filling.
Insider tip: After three days of very challenging and long hikes, our bodies needed a break and so we would advise you to schedule a break day in here. If you cannot do that, you can shorten the stage of day 4, which is what we did.
Zweitälersteig Stage 4: Oberprechtal to Schweighausen
- Distance: Approximately 27,6 km
- Total Ascent/Descent: 810m ascent, 860m descent
- Average Time with breaks: 8 hours (we reduced it to 6 hours)
- Fitness Level: Moderate to Advanced
Stage 4 was going to be less challenging than the previous days in terms of ascends and descends but just as difficult in terms of distance covered. Because our bodies needed time to recover, we reduced the hike by 2 hours. We went right for the Huberrock and then up some more to climb the 836m up to the Prechtale Schanze. It started raining, but fortunately we found some refuge in one of the many hunter’s lodges that we came across throughout the Black Forest. It was actually quite cozy if you ignored the spiders that were also looking for refuge there.
After an hour of an unscheduled sandwich break in the hunter’s lodge, we continued our hike. The landscape changed into more gentle meadows, scattered farms and smaller hills. After we crossed the Kinzig and Elztal valleys, we arrived at Höhenhäuser, where we were again surprised by another rainshower that we waited out on a closed terrace cafe. Because the Guesthouse Höhenhäuser Zum Kreuz was closed, we walked to the nearby village Schweighausen, where we spend the night instead.
Where to stay: We stayed at Gasthof Pension Krone in Schweighausen, because the guest house in Höhenhäuser was closed at the time. Even though the stay was very nice and came with a nice breakfast, we still recommend you to stay at the Guesthouse Höhenhäuser Zum Kreuz, just to avoid the morning climb from Schweighausen back to Höhenhäuser the next day.
What to eat: Schweighausen does not have a restaurant except for the restaurant at the Gasthof Pension Krone, which was closed the night we stayed there. Luckily, the nice lady from the local grocery store made us some local flammkuchen once she heard about our hike and even gifted us some breadrolls! With the flammkuchenk, a bag of German Chipsfrisch Ungarisch crisps and some local yoghurt, we enjoyed a nice dinner in our hotel room.
Insider tip: There is one grocery store/bakery/cafe in Schweighausen and it closes at 6pm, so if you don’t want to stay hungry, make sure to arrive in Schweighausen before 6pm.
Zweitälersteig Stage 5: Schweighausen to Waldkirch
- Distance: Approximately 25,4 km
- Ascent/Descent: 690m ascent, 740m descent
- Average Time with breaks: 8-9 hours
- Fitness Level: Moderate to Advanced
Our journey came full circle in Stage 5 as we hiked back to Waldkirch. Today’s stage offered some unique highlights starting with a climb up to a watchtower, where we met a friendly man who apparently designed parts of the Zweitälersteig. He told us that he was responsible for choosing the location for benches on the hike and then told us a bit about the local history, We wanted to take a break at G’scheid Inn, but unfortunately it was closed. We found out it’s only open between Friday and Sunday.
After a short break on the G’scheid’s closed terrace, we continued our hike with our first destination being the Kastelburg, an old castle, which you can explore within 10 minutes and from which you’ll have a great view over Waldkirch, After descending into Waldkirch, we stopped at an ice-cafe, where we got some ice-cream and a cappuccino. After exploring the city center of Waldkirch for a bit we finished our last part of the hike and finally arrived back at our campsite in Waldkirch.
Where to stay: We stayed at the campsite Elztalblick, where we originally parked our car. The campsite also comes with a nice bakery that sells very good croissants and freshly baked breadrolls in the morning. Of course there are also juices and coffee.
What to eat: Of course you should reward yourself for having just accomplished this incredibly difficult hiking trail by stopping by at one of Waldkirch’s café’s. We can recommend the Cafe Toscani, where we enjoyed some popcorn and fig-flavoured ice-cream. Afterwards we had some flammkuchen with salmon and leek as well as with cottage cheese and peppers alongside a big portion of fries at the campsite Elztalblick, where we spend the night.
Insider tip: We were very tired at the end of our final hiking day, so getting in a nice (caffeine) break in Waldkirch really gave us the final energy boost we needed.
As you embark on your Zweitälersteig adventure, remember to pack essential hiking gear. You can check out our packing guide to make sure you forget nothing essential. You can also combine this trip to the Black Forest in Germany with a visit to Strasbourg in France, which is exactly what we did. If you are looking for a one day trip itinerary for Strasbourg, feel free to use ours.
Finally, we hope that you enjoyed our Zweitälersteig itinerary and that it will help you plan and guide you through yours. We definitely enjoyed this challenging hike through the Black Forest and created memories that will last us a lifetime. Of course, we would love to hear about your hiking experience, so feel free to send us a message or leave us a comment!