If you find yourself in Germany in autumn, a gorgeous place to explore is Hainich National Park, where the forest is the colour of gold and the conservation efforts have massively paid off. In 2011, Hainich National Park in Thuringia made it to the UNESCO World Heritage sites list. Not too shabby for the former military exclusion zone of Hainich forest that has become a national park.

Hainich is a large deciduous wooded area in Thuringia, situated in central Germany not far from Eisenach that is home to the famous Wartburg Castle. Hainich is the largest continuous area of deciduous woodland in Germany.

Hainich National Park Photo: Thüringer Tourismus GmbH

Photo: Thüringer Tourismus GmbH

After the reunification of Germany in 1990, it didn’t take long to recognise that the forest was a valuable natural asset. Developed in the shadow of the Iron Curtain, hardly any forestry had taken place in the large wooded parts of the military training area which left nature to take its course over 50 years. Such a green asset is a rarity in central Europe.

It was also important to preserve the forested area as Hainich has several beech wood types growing on limestone. In Hainich, the beech forests are of a size and shape which cannot be found anywhere else. And so a national park was born in 1996.

Hainich National Park Photo: Rüdiger Biehl/ NLP Hainich Verwaltung

Photo: Rüdiger Biehl/ NLP Hainich Verwaltung

An interesting feature is the national park’s unique Treetop Trail. The canopy walk way is in the south eastern part of Hainich. The walk way has a tower with a tree house, view point and a 530 m-long path  that begins at the tower which takes you to the roof of the forest. You just might be greeted by a woodpecker or two here.

Other residents of Hainich include 49 species of mammals, including wild cat and 15 species of bats, 189 bird species, around 2,050 varieties of beetles and about 1,650 species of mushroom!

Hainich National Park Photo: Rüdiger Biehl / NLP Hainich Verwaltung

Photo: Rüdiger Biehl / NLP Hainich Verwaltung

On forest walks and guided tours, you could meet rare animals like wildcats, black storks and protected bat species, such as Bechstein’s bat. Themed trails like in Brunstal, circular walks and ridge trails like the Rennsteig are a lovely way to take in stunning landscapes. The Rennsteig trail features cultural and historical attractions like the 1000-year-old Mendicants’ Oak and ancient stone crosses. Other attractions include medieval houses and a town wall that you can walk along in Mühlhausen, a rose garden and Friederike Villa in Bad Langensalza, Anrode convent near Bickenriede and the monastery village of Volkenroda.

Thüringer Tourismus GmbH

Photo: Thüringer Tourismus GmbH

Finally, we love the motto for the German National Parks – “Let nature be nature”. Amen to that. For more information visit their site.