by Christa Rolls, USAG Bavaria Environmental Division
GRAFENWOEHR, Germany — Now that the warm season in Bavaria is here, there are a plethora of opportunities to get outside and enjoy the outdoors.
Whether you prefer something more slow-paced, or want to step on the wild side of what the region has to offer, there is something for everyone. Here are a selection of activities to try out this summer.
Take a hike
At nearly every turn, there is a sign-posted hike through towns and in forests throughout Germany. Town Rathauses and tourism offices have maps available detailing the hikes within the immediate region, and apps such as Komoot and Outdoor Active offer additional hike routes and details. The U.S. Army Garrison Bavaria Environmental Division offers a free monthly Get Into Nature! hike for anyone in the community – their Facebook page has a pinned post with all hikes conducted thus far. You can also check out these hike ideas posted on Bavarian News last spring.
If you’re new to camping, consider first renting a tent and setting up camp at the Wild B.O.A.R., where you can rent camping equipment and barbecues for overnight enjoyment. They even offer use of trailer campers on their property if you’re not too keen on sleeping on the ground. Venturing off post, there are numerous campgrounds, especially around the Fränkische Schweiz region just west of Grafenwoehr Training Area all the way down to the Camping-Resort Allweglehen, for example, outside of Berchtesgaden.
Grab a bug jar and guide
Some people might be turned off by the idea of capturing insects and inspecting them, but with thousands of different insect species in Bavaria alone, you or your kids won’t run out of bugs to identify. The library has fabulous bug — and animal — books available to borrow. Note that some species, such as bees, are protected in Germany, so be sure to release any insects back into the environment in which they were found.
Go berry picking
Berry picking season is officially on our doorstep, with strawberries having just finished and blueberries currently sweet and ripe. Raspberries, blackberries and currants are some of the other tasty berries you can find. Local farms such as Beerenhof Wiesneth in Hahnbach are close by and perfect for collecting as many berries as your basket can carry, and Beerenland (Beerenland.de) locations outside of Nuremberg boast berry picking throughout the summer.
Try sand skiing at Monte Kaolino
A quick drive from Grafenwoehr and Vilseck, Monte Kaolino is most known for its large sand mound deposits. The surrounding area has hiking and swimming, however, for a truly unique experience (and to hone your skiing skills in summertime), ski down the Monte Kaolino sand hill. The photos don’t quite do the hill justice, as it’s actually quite big. Snacks and camping are available on site.
Explore the world of geocaching
Geocaching allows people the opportunity to bring out a digital map and go on a scavenger hunt. You never know what you’ll find at a geocache site. Simply sign up at geocaching.com, find a geocache near you and go exploring. There are many in Bavaria to search for. Just note that Geocaching is not allowed on military installations.
Visit a lake
Lakes provide many opportunities, including canoeing, stand up paddle-boarding and swimming, all great ways to beat the heat. Nearby water bodies such as Diessfurt and Kleiner Russweiher are perfect for swimming, and the multitude of lakes around Schwandorf, such as Lake Steinberg and Murner Lake, offer water skiing and surfing. Keep in mind that these activities aren’t necessarily allowed at all lakes, especially those interested in primarily preserving the natural ecosystem and reducing disturbance, so make sure to check ahead of time what may or may not be allowed. For a map of swimming locations in Germany, visit www.baederatlas.com.
Take up rock climbing
Nearly right in our backyard is the famous Frankenjura rock formations, known worldwide for their numerous outdoors opportunities and levels for climbers of all abilities. Consider first checking out the Wild B.O.A.R.’s outdoor climbing day classes to see what the sport is all about before investing in a pair of climbing shoes and a climbing route book, which will map out all the routes in the whole region. Spending a day on the rocks offers a whole new way to get up close and personal with nature.
No liability is incurred or federal endorsement is implied with these recommendations.