I have always wanted to see a canopy path. Fortunately, I had the chance to experience one as part of a PR trip to the world heritage region Wartburg-Hainich.
We got to visit the canopy path despite the rain on that day. It is only closed during really bad weather like storms, thunderstorms, or during winter.
Where is the canopy path Hainich?
The National Park Hainich was established in the winter of 1997 and is the only National Park in Thuringia. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage natural site since June 2011.
The park covers an area of approximately 75 km² and is part of the biggest continuous broadleaf forest of Germany, Hainich (about 160 km²). About 91% of the National Park remain untouched by any human intervention.
The canopy path is about 10 km from the town Bad Langensalza. Visitors can get there with their own car or with a shuttle called “Wanderbus” (hiker bus).
We took the bus which brought us to a huge car park (about 280 spaces). From there it is a 200-meter walk to the visitor centre of the National Park.
The visitor centre of the National Park
The visitor centre is also the main entrance to the canopy path and to the “World of Experience”, an exhibition within the Visitor Centre. A combi ticket grants entry to all the facilities of the National Park so that visitors can discover all the secrets of nature in Hainich.
I really liked the exhibitions. As a pedagogue and mother, I was delighted how child-oriented everything was. They had interactive presentations and small experiments – everything so that kids can learn and understand all facets of the ecosystem of a forest. Great stuff! And a closer look reveals that every now and again an adult visitor also turns some wheels, speaks into pipes or inspects the cave under a root and the lifeforms within it.
That cave beneath the root is one of the many highlights of the exhibition in the visitor centre by the way.
Here we go – to the canopy path!
After being exposed to all that information visitors are really drawn to the canopy path. A well-signposted way of about 500 meters leads from the visitor centre to the canopy path. And then one can see it between the trees, the viewing tower of the canopy path.
We climb some stairs, up to the path above the trees. Less mobile people can take a lift to the path, however, the lift doesn’t go up to the viewing tower.
Once we are up we get a first idea of what to expect. Two circular routes, about 24 meters above the forest floor, make visitors smitten with amazement. The view is spectacular despite the rainy weather. And up here one can also learn a thing or two.
Big, wooden animals are hanging above the path and mark the many stops on platforms throughout the path. We stopped under a wooden bat, for example, and saw a bat tree. The Bechstein’s bat likes to hide out in dead trees. Hollow trees are ideal for them. But one can’t see the bats during the day, of course, they only come out at night.
Fascinating – you can hardly tell but the path is at an incline and we climb higher and higher into the trees until we are at about 24 meters. We arrive at another platform. A wooden wild cat can be seen high above the path. This is completely new to me but there are actual wild cats still roaming the Hainich. These elusive animals live well hidden in the woods. Even the park ranger that has been working here for many years has only ever seen some young wild cats once.
Before we walk the second circular route we climb the stairs to the viewing tower. Up there at 44 meters, we have an almost great view. The clouds are still grey and heavy and it is very gloomy.
They say the view is amazing in clearer weather. Some info panels on the railing tell us in which direction we are looking now. But can one really see all the way across to the National Park Saxon Switzerland (Sächsische Schweiz)??? I doubt it!
The second circular route introduces some action into the experience. There is the option to walk across some chain bridges. It is like being in a jungle on these chain bridges. All that is missing is a slide that brings us down to the ground again.
As we approach the exit we see a sign that says “Geocaching”. There is a multi-cache here in Hainich with multiple stops. It was laid out as part of a project called “Geocaching to protect nature and culture”. Too bad we didn’t have enough time for that. I would have loved to go hunting for clues. But that seems like a very good reason to come back to the National Park Hainich – right?
Opening Hours canopy path (2018):
April to October: Daily 10.00 – 19.00
November, December, March: Daily 10.00 – 16.00
January, February: open only occasionally
Opening Hours National Park visitor centre (2018):
April to October: Daily 10.00 – 18.00
November to March: Daily 10.00 – 16.00
Combi ticket for the canopy path and the visitor centre (2018):
other discounts are available