Bavarian Forest
National Park

The Seelensteig

The Seelensteig (Photo: Maria Hußlein)

The Seelensteig – a window to the future of the forest’s natural development

With the establishment of the Bavarian Forest National Park in 1970 the exploitation of timber was phased out step by step and then stopped after 20 years. Today, in the area around the Lusen, the former commercial forests are allowed to develop and grow freely according to their own laws and without human intervention across a contiguous area, which from 2027 after a continuous expansion of the natural zones in the Falkenstein area will be nearly 20,000 hectares in size. Only in the buffer area of at least 500m width are measures taken when needed to protect neighbouring forests against the bark beetle.

From forests that were commercially exploited for centuries, diverse and mostly more stable natural forests are coming into being. Events such as storms and bark beetle infestations accelerate this unique process of forest renewal.

In order to make it possible to experience the birth of a wild forest in an inaccessible natural area, a 1.3km long wooden board walk was laid in the summer of 1995 through a typical mixed spruce-pine–beech mountain forest, where no exploitation had taken place for some 50 years. No tree was cut up in doing this and it was constructed in an environmentally friendly way. Obstacles were covered by steps, also to demonstrate that undisturbed forest dynamics have priority here.

The thought of letting your feelings for the forest run riot during your own private viewing in nature, of soothing and relaxing the soul, gave the path its name – Seelensteig, or Souls’ trail. It provides profound insights into the unimagined self healing powers of nature. Indeed, nature thanks us with a unique play, lets us experience the eternal circle of “Growing, Being and Decaying" and gives us trust in the development of the widespread renewal of the mountain spruce forest that has taken place since 1996. As a pioneer in time this process on the Seelensteig has become a window on the future of the natural development of the forest.