The Black Forest (German Schwarzwald) is a large forested mountain range in the state of Baden-Württemberg in southwestern Germany.
The name Black Forest comes from the general dark color of the numerous pine trees that grow in this region.
The Romans were the first to use the name “Black Forest.” The Roman soldiers were walking through Germany and their path was blocked by a dark, dense forest. They called it “Silva Nigra”, which means “Black Forest” in their Latin language.
Stretching west to the Rhine River and south into the Alpine foothills in Switzerland, this southwest corner of Baden-Württemberg has one of Germany’s most beautiful natural landscapes.
Unspoilt landscapes, nowadays rare in Germany, characterize this unique and varied part of the country and almost the whole Black Forest has now been designated as a nature park – the largest one in Germany.
The Black Forest region is almost rectangular in shape with a length of 160 kilometers (99 miles) and breadth of up to 60 kilometers (37 miles).
The Black Forest is a mountainous terrain at about 200-1500 meters (650-4900 feet) above sea level.
Its highest peak is the Feldberg with an elevation of 1,493 meters (4,898 feet). It is the highest German mountain outside of the Alps and it offers wonderful panoramic views.
Rivers in the Black Forest include the Danube (which originates in the Black Forest as the confluence of the Brigach and Breg rivers), the Enz [photo below], the Kinzig, the Murg, the Nagold, the Neckar, the Rench, and the Wiese.
Triberg Falls is one of the highest waterfalls in Germany with a descent of 163 meters (535 feet) (at between 711 and 872 meters above sea level), and is a landmark in the Black Forest region.
Important lakes of natural, glacial origin in the Black Forest include the Titisee, the Mummelsee and the Feldsee.
The largest natural lake in the Black Forest, Titisee stretches for some 2 kilometers (over 1 mile). It is one of the most famous places for tourists in the Black Forest.
Geologically, the Black Forest consists of a cover of sandstone on top of a core of gneiss. During the last glacial period of the Würm glaciation (last glacial period in the Alpine region), the Black Forest was covered by glaciers; several tarns (or lakes) such as the Mummelsee are remains of this period.
Originally, the Black Forest was a mixed forest of deciduous trees and firs. At the higher elevations spruce also grew. In the middle of the 19th century, the Black Forest was almost completely deforested by intensive forestry and was subsequently replanted, mostly with spruce monocultures.
There are many historic towns in the Black Forest. Popular tourist destinations include Baden-Baden, Freiburg, Calw (the birth town of Hermann Hesse), Gengenbach, Staufen, Schiltach, Haslach and Altensteig.
Blessed with a wonderfully mild climate and numerous hot springs, Baden-Baden has for centuries been one of the world’s most popular spa destinations.
Some Black Forest villages are hundreds of years old. They have picturesque shops, churches, and other buildings. Baden-Baden is one of the picturesque towns of the Black Forest.
Wood-carving is a traditional cottage industry in the region and carved ornaments now are produced in substantial numbers as souvenirs for tourists. Cuckoo clocks are a popular example; they have been made in the region since the mid-18th century and much of their development occurred there.
The Vogtsbauernhöfe is an open-air museum that shows the life of 16th or 17th century farmers in the region, featuring a number of reconstructed Black Forest farms.
The German Clock Museum in Furtwangen shows the history of the clock industry and of watchmakers.
Today, the main industry of the Black Forest is tourism.
In spring, summer and autumn extensive hiking and cycleway networks enable various target groups to use the natural region. Winter sports include both downhill and Nordic skiing for which there are numerous facilities.
The forests in “Hansel and Gretel”, “Snow White”, and “Rapunzel” are based on the Black Forest. They are all German fairy tales.
Black Forest gâteau (British English) and Black Forest cake (American English) are the English names for the German dessert Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte, literally “Black Forest cherry-torte”, where it originated.
With over 14,000 distilleries, Black Forest has the world’s highest density of spirit distilleries in the world.