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The Höllental - gateway to the Black Forest

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Geography and course of the Hell Valley

The huge, in parts also gorge-shaped, approx. 9 km long Höllental is one of the most beautiful and impressive valleys in the Black Forest.

The deep valley, surrounded by up to 600 meter steep rocky slopes, is located southeast of Freiburg Southern Black Forest Nature Park. The approximately 20 km long Rotbach, a main source river of the Dreisam, meanders through the valley.

The federal road 31 leads deep down in the valley basin. These too Route Verte or Green Road called route, begins in the French Vosges, leads through the southern Black Forest over the Hegau to Lake Constance. A railway line of the German Federal Railroad, the Höllentalbahn, which connects Freiburg with Donaueschingen and vice versa, also runs largely parallel to the B 31.


Before the 12th century, only a narrow mule path ran along the Höllental, which was later converted into a road.

In the Middle Ages, this route was known as the Falkensteige, the shortest connection from Donaueschingen through the Black Forest to Freiburg. This route was used by numerous travelers, traders, farmers and knights. Probably the most famous of these was 14-year-old Maria Antonia, Archduchess of Austria. On the way from Vienna to Versailles in 1770 she crossed the narrow valley with a train of 57 carriages and more than 230 accompanying persons to get to her bridegroom, who later became King Louis XVI.

Hiking in Hell Valley

A wonderful hiking trail, the so-called Jägerpfad, runs through the bottom of the gorge. In the area of ​​the Hirschsprung the path leads through a tunnel. Since this passage was walled up, the hunters path can unfortunately no longer be used today. The responsible district office had the road closed in 2009 due to the risk of falling rocks and collapse and has not yet reopened it. However, a detour was created over the rock massif, with a length of 2,6 km, where you have to overcome 400 meters in altitude. The extremely steep path, slippery when it rains, is therefore only suitable for experienced hikers with the appropriate level of fitness.

The Höllental hike around the Hirschsprung is more suitable for older people and families with children. With a length of 12 km and approx. 739 meters of altitude, this hike can be mastered in about 3-4 hours.

For those who like it shorter, we recommend a hike through the wild Ravenna gorge near Hinterzarten. With a length of 7 km and a walking time of approx. 1-2 hours, it is also suitable for inexperienced hikers.

We have a nice selection of hikes around the Höllental ich-geh-wandern.de discovered.

Tired hikers can regain their strength in Hofgut Sternen at the lower entrance to the gorge.

Castles in Hell Valley

In the 12th century, the Lords of Falkenstein, from the Zähringer family, controlled the traffic route through the valley from their castle of the same name.

The former customs castle Falkenstein was built on a steep rock ledge above the confluence of the Engenbach in the Höllenbach. Today's Höllental, which was still called Falkensteiner Tal at the time, begins directly below the castle.

Only a few remains of the castle remain today. In addition to a shield wall and a neck ditch, some remains of the wall have been preserved, which are closed for security reasons and therefore cannot be visited. Entering the castle area is prohibited due to the existing danger to life.

On another rock ledge on the north side of the Höllental, about 500 meters west of Falkenstein Castle, you will find Rubenstein Castle, built in the 12th to 13th centuries. Remnants of the wall and the neck ditch (approx. 5 m deep and approx. 8 m wide) have been preserved.

More Attractions

  • Hofgut Sternen glass factory: The history of the Höllental glass blowing already begins in the 18th century. In the glass factory Hofgut Sternen you can still experience this old craftsmanship up close. You can watch the glassblowers at work in the open studio and then purchase the unique glass objects made there.
  • Höllentalbahn: The railway, which opened in 1878, mostly runs along the B 31 and connects Freiburg with Donaueschingen. The route is famous because it has to overcome a height difference of 441 meters on the section between Himmelreich and Hinterzarten. A drive through the 9 tunnels and over a large number of viaducts is definitely worth it.
  • Deer jump: this narrowest part of the Black Forest Höllental is also known as the Höllenpass. The gorge-like rock walls rise up to 130 meters here.
    The name Hirschsprung comes from a local legend. This tells that at that point a deer allegedly saved itself from a hunter by jumping from one side of the gorge to the other. Quite conceivable, because before today's road was expanded, the gorge was only about 9 meters wide. Deer can easily jump up to 10 meters. In any case, to commemorate this sensational jump, a bronze deer figure weighing 350 kg and 2,50 m high was placed on a rock, which can be seen from the street.
  • St. Oswald Chapel: the former Gothic style chapel of the Lords of Falkenstein is located at the eastern end of the Hell Valley near the Ravenna Bridge. Politically, it belongs to Steig, a small district of the Breitnau community, and to the parish of Hinterzarten. St. Oswald is the oldest still existing parish church in the Upper Black Forest and has space for approx. 250 people. The chapel is dedicated to St. Oswald of Northumbria, who was king of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of the same name from 634–642. The choir room with cafeteria, the Oswald altar with high altar retable and the ossuary are well worth seeing.
  • Ravenna Gorge The gorge worth seeing is a side valley of the Hell Valley. The Ravenna creek of the same name flows through here and plunges into the depths as a waterfall over several cascades at various points. The large Ravenna fall has a height of 16 meters, the small Ravenna case has a height of 6 meters. There are several well-preserved mills and sawmills along the stream. A very special highlight is the 40 meter high Ravenna Bridge built at the end of the gorge. The Höllentalbahn travels over this impressive viaduct on its journey from Freiburg to Donaueschingen through the gorge.
ravennaschlucht, viaduct, hellental
Viaduct of the Ravennaschlucht
  • Bisten waterfall: The small waterfall below the hamlet of Bisten and to the west of Hinterzarten, with a height of at least 50 meters, can be reached via a narrow path. However, it only deserves the name waterfall after extensive rainfall. In times of little rain it is sometimes almost anhydrous or just a trickle. A hike there is definitely worth it, because there is a viewing platform at the waterfall. From here you have a wonderful view of the Ravenna viaduct of the Höllentalbahn.
Image courtesy of Photo by mila-del-monte on Pixabay