Heavenly hiking at the Allerheiligen Wasserfälle

Still chasing waterfalls in the Black Forest!

On May 19th of this year, Bill and I paid a visit to the lovely Burgbach Wasserfall in Bad Rippoldsau.  On that day, we had made tentative plans to also visit the Allerheiligen Wasserfälle (All Saints Waterfalls), which I found out about when I read this guy’s blog about waterfalls in Europe.  His post about the Allerheiligen falls led me to believe they weren’t anything special.  I was also thinking they were closer to Bad Rippoldsau than they are.  We couldn’t visit the All Saints falls on May 19th because while we were eating lunch, the sky opened up with rain.  Having now been to the Allerheiligen Wasserfälle, I’m pretty glad we chose to visit them on a different day.  The visit was a lot more intense than I was expecting.

We left the house at a few minutes past noon and made the trip to the Black Forest National Park.  The falls are located just north of the village of Oppenau.  As usual, we enjoyed a lovely ride through the Black Forest, past Freudenstadt and Kniebis.  The only thing that made it a little stressful were the many bikers sharing the road with us.  The Black Forest is very beautiful, and it attracts motorcycle enthusiasts in droves.  They can be rather aggressive in their need for speed.  More on that later.

A lot of people had the same idea we did.  We arrived at the falls at about 1:00pm and the first parking lots we encountered were pretty full.  We parked on the street, where there are a number of spots available.  Here’s another hint.  Keep going past those first lots and you will eventually find the main entrance to the waterfalls.  There is also a large, free parking lot there.  On the other hand, if you want to eat before you hike, parking at the first lots will get you close to the very good gasthaus there.

A lovely view of the mountains, meadow, and a war memorial honoring men who died during World War I.

Besides the majestic waterfalls, Allerheiligen is also the site of a ruined monastery, the foundation of which originated in 1192.  Evidently, the site of the monastery was determined by a donkey, which threw off a sack of money in the area.  A wooden chapel was built, and by 1657, it became an abbey.  The Allerheiligen Kloster was at the height of its power during the 18th century, but in 1802,  Margrave Karl Friedrich of Baden began a course of secularization.  He dissolved the abbey and took all of its possessions.  The monastery was already damaged by several large fires between 1405 and 1555.  In 1804, there was another fire caused by a bolt of lightning.  It wasn’t until the end of the 19th century, when people started to tour the Black Forest, that anyone thought to preserve what was left of the ruins.  So many years later, they are still very interesting and kind of majestic in their starkness.

We encountered the ruins first, as they were at the end of the trail we took from our roadside parking spot.  Below are some pictures.

Now you see Bill…

Now you don’t.

This creek eventually turns into the waterfalls…

A more modern church on the hillside.  We didn’t investigate it because frankly, after walking up and down the falls, we were exhausted!

If you like photography, this is a beautiful place to be.  There’s a lot of interesting scenery.


The gaststätte is conveniently located next to the ruins.  Bill and I arrived just in time to snag a table. The hardworking staff was busy the whole time we were there and no table stayed empty for long.  We sat down next to two tables consisting of two couples with kids.  I’m pretty sure the husband of one couple was German.  Everyone else was very obviously American and spoke loudly enough for everyone to know from where they came.  It made me chuckle.

A very slender and extremely friendly lady took our order.  She spoke some English and was relentlessly chipper.  I admired how much she seemed to enjoy her work.  She was all smiles.  I used to wait tables myself and I can promise that I struggled to smile a lot when I was doing that work.  It was truly a pleasure to be served by her, though.  Not only that, but the food at the restaurant was surprisingly good.

Bill peruses the menu, which was passed to us by a nice guy at the next table.

Bill settled on Schweinebraten, which was served with brown gravy and a mound of delicious mashed potatoes.

I had fresh trout, topped with toasted almonds and served with mashed potatoes.  Those potatoes were off the chain!  They were very buttery and delicious!  It was such a treat!  I don’t remember ever being served mashed potatoes at a German restaurant before, but these would have made my mother proud.  We both enjoyed Weizen beers.


The food at the gaststätte is typically German.  They do have vegetarian selections and both a children’s menu and a menu for seniors.  We were pretty full after lunch, but I had to try the Black Forest cake.  All told, we spent 46 euros.

We shared a piece.  It was delicious.  Definitely not what you’d find at Busch Gardens in Virginia.  I used to decorate the fake Black Forest Cakes there. 

As we were about to leave, a group of bikers sat at the table next to ours.  It was good that we were leaving, since they pulled out their cigarettes and clearly intended to foul the air with smoke.  Sorry… I don’t mind smokers unless I am forced to sit next to them, especially when I’m eating.  But we were on our way to the falls by the time they lit up, so it was all good.  

Another shot of the ruins.

They were still busy when we left… and when we came back an hour later.  This restaurant only runs until 6:30pm, but it appears they work all day.  We thought it was well worth the trip.

There is a public restroom.  It’s not the cleanest and the doors have locks on them that require 20 euro cents to open.  I didn’t have to pay, though, because I got one that was left open by someone else.

A small museum with three rooms in it.  If you can read German, you can learn more about the history of the Allerheiligen monastery.

A fountain.

As you walk toward the falls, you encounter a fork.  If you go straight, you will go straight to the waterfalls.  If you bear left, you climb a gentle hill to the war memorial I mentioned earlier and pictured below.

You can unlatch the gate and look at the memorial close up.  We chose not to, which in retrospect was a wise decision.  We had many steps in our future.

You’re not supposed to wade or swim in the creek.  However, we saw plenty of people ignoring these ubiquitous signs.  We even saw one group that were actually wearing bathing suits and in the water.  Not saying you should do it, but I will say that there was no one policing.

The walk to the waterfalls is pleasant, easy, and flat.  You don’t know what’s coming…

 At the beginning of this post, I mentioned that we parked at the first parking area we encountered.  I think that was a mistake, even though I wanted to have lunch before we started our hike.  If you start at the top of the falls, you will get tired going down.  Then you will have to turn around and hike back up.  The hike up is a lot more strenuous than the hike down is.  There are seven levels, most of which aren’t steep drops.  However, at the bottom of the system, there are two big falls with many steps to climb up and down.  Keep that in mind if you visit.  Also… do not come to the falls with a stroller or a wheelchair.  This is a moderately difficult walk and requires participants to be able bodied or carried.

Below are photos from the walk down the falls.  It was fairly busy today, so a lot of people were taking pictures.  I think I did a pretty good job of not including most of them in my shots!  It took us about an hour to hike down and back, with another hour or so for a leisurely lunch.  If you have a lot of energy, you could combine this activity with another one.

One of the steep staircases to climb.

And a look at just how far down the mountain you are…

At the end of the falls, as we were approaching the main entrance.

Piles of rocks left by other visitors.

A map of the area.  If you wanted to, you could do a lot of heavy duty hiking here.

This is a picture of the main entrance– seems most people use it.

We turned around and started walking back.  This is a sign warning against winter visits, when the falls are closed.  I would imagine it would be dangerous to walk along the falls when it’s very icy.

A chair?  I sure could have used one.

Another long trip up the stairs!  Good thing I have a strong heart!

Although it didn’t take long to visit the Allerheiligen Wasserfälle, it was a challenging walk for Bill and me.  I was alternately panting, sweating, and thanking God I’m still able to do these kinds of activities.  I thought of my mom as I was climbing the steps.  She’s turning 80 in August and can no longer walk like she used to.  She would not have been able to enjoy the beautiful waterfalls here.  On the other hand, we did see a number of very fit seniors visiting this natural wonder.  So I will keep hauling my ass up the hills and taking pictures.  Even if I sometimes grouse at the hard physical work, crowds, and stinging nettle plants, I am never sorry I do these day trips.  I always come away better off for having made the effort to visit.

I was tempted to hike up and down this very short but steep shortcut.  But then I remembered being stung by plants yesterday and decided not to cheat.

One last shot…

 Now… earlier in this post, I mentioned the bikers and how they were creating a bit of a hazard on the road to the waterfalls.  Those of you who ride motorcycles should pay close attention.  Bill and I got in the car and started heading home.  My cell phone had absolutely no signal in the area.  While this was initially a nuisance for an Internet addict like me, it actually became what might have been a matter of life or death.

As we were driving along the road between where we parked and where the main entrance to the falls are, we passed a young woman dressed in biker garb.  I noticed that she looked very distraught.  She waved at us to slow down.  As we approached a sharp bend, I could see why she was waving.  There was a small group of bikers on the side of the road, next to the treelined cliff.  A young man stood in the middle of the road and flagged us down.  He motioned for us to lower the window and asked us if we had a “handy” (cell phone).  Bill and I were confused as to what was going on, but the look on his face told us something bad had just happened.  Clearly, he was hoping I had a signal so he could call for help.

I noticed the groups’ bikes were parked nearby and a couple of the men were looking over the edge of the mountain.  I can’t be sure, but it appeared that a very serious accident had just occurred.  Bill and I surmised that perhaps a member of their group had been unable to negotiate the turn and went over.  I don’t know this for sure, though… only that the people in that group appeared to be very upset.  It looked like whatever had happened had only just happened.  Hopefully, whoever came after us was more helpful than we were and no one was either hurt or killed.  But that’s sure the way it looked.

So if you ride a motorcycle, please slow down and be careful, especially on the very curvy mountain roads at high altitudes.  We saw an awful lot of people taking stupid chances today, even if we hadn’t run into this distressed looking group.

Edited to add:  Here’s a news report about the accident.  Our impressions were correct.  Looks like he survived.

Oppenau (ots) – On the county road 5370 between Allerheiligen and Oppenau came on Sunday afternoon at 16:25 clock a 47-year-old motorcyclist alone involved in a right turn to fall. The driver of a group of four slipped over the road after the fall and threw first against a tree on the left lane side and in the sequence down a slope. The man was seriously injured about 50 meters below the road to lie down, his admitted in France two-wheelers crashed about 80 meters in depth. The casualty was hospitalized in a hospital. During the extensive recovery, the county road was closed for about 2 hours. The damage to the bike is around 12,000 euros.

Minutes after we passed the guys on the side of the road, we passed the main entrance.  If we had parked there, we probably would have missed the whole drama.

It was a really beautiful day to visit the waterfalls.  And… I was thanking God we did it in June instead of late July or August!  I was still radiating heat when we got to the car.  By the way… it doesn’t cost anything to visit these falls.  Frankly, I thought they were gorgeous.  Triberg may have Germany’s highest falls, but I think Allerheiligen’s falls are much prettier.  In fact, I also liked them better than the falls at Bad Urach.  If you like waterfalls, I definitely recommend a trip to the Allerheiligen Wasserfälle.

Below are just a few photos I took on the way home.  The route took us a different way than we’d ever been before.  Oppenau looks like a really nice town.  I may have to explore there next.


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