13 August 2015

Neuschönau: The Longest Tree Top Walk in the World

If you go down to the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise – a very big surprise! Nestled in the Bavarian forest just outside the small town of Neuschönau, the longest tree top walk is an unexpected but spectacular sight. It is as if the fantasy of a young child with perhaps too much imagination has suddenly come to life.

The statistics certainly stagger the imagination. The walk way is over 1300 meters long, and at its greatest height takes the visitor to over 25 meters above the trees. Yet what really captures the eye is the oval shaped dome at walk way’s end. At 44 meters high it spirals around a massive pine tree, allowing for startling views of the canopy of this beautiful German forest and beyond to the Alps.

Perhaps it is not so much of a surprise to discover that the walk is situated in a portion of the biggest protected forest area not only in Germany but in Central Europe – the Bavarian Forest National Park. It became Germany’s first national park in 1970 and was expanded in the 1970s. It borders the Czech Republic’s Bohemian Forest.

It looks as if the tree top walk is only for the physically fit and steady of foot yet there are amenities to enable people of all abilities to visit and get up high among the trees. To begin with there is no need to climb at all – the start of the walk (Baumwipfelpfad in German) is accessed via a lift. As long as 1300 meters is not daunting, then neither is the walk. As you make your way the path slowly inclines and before you know it you are above the trees.

There were some concerns that the walk way might disturb or even destroy the local ecology. Although building the walk way necessitated some intrusion among the pines, its situation above the earth ensures the ground is never walked upon, so allowing the local flora and fauna to flourish.

For those with a little more ambition there are some ‘adventure stations’ along the walk way. There you can balance on beams with the ground far below you (with a safety net of course!). While the kids (big and small) are playing there are learning stations spaced along the walkway with translations available in English and Czech. Besides it isn't as if there isn't plenty to look at while you wait. Ready to go large?

Yet the real treasure is at the end of the walk way. The egg shaped observation dome allows visitors to circle forever upwards, ascend a lazy spiral and, at its top, wonderful views of the national park, the untouched wilderness and the ocean of trees in the Bavarian and Bohemian forests.

All pictures (bar the Wikimedia one) by Flickr User Frank Hamm.