Anyone can enter the forest for recreational purposes. However, entering sensitive and easily damaged areas of the forest is prohibited. Thus, nature conservation areas and cultivated areas may not be entered, for example. The same applied for blocked off and enclosed areas and trails. The following applies throughout Germany: Entering the forest is at your own risk. An intact forest also includes old and dead wood. Parts of trees and entire trees that are no longer used for forestry purposes may die off. Dead branches and trees can also collapse without the external influence of wind or storms. Small branches can fall from the treetops onto the trails at any time. Please be aware of this danger and avoid standing under dead trees for long periods. Please leave the forest in strong wind and during storms.
Lighting fires is absolutely prohibited, as is smoking in the forest from 1 March to 31 October.
If you use the trail network in Sauerland, Siegerland and Wittgenstein, you will meet pedestrians, cyclists and riders as well as cross-country skiers in winter. You are all united by your interest in nature and recreation. Encounters between nature sports enthusiasts can be mutually satisfactory if both parties behave respectfully:
- Do not go into the forest at twilight or when it is dark.
Considerate behaviour in the forest is especially important from sunset to sunrise, as the animals can in particular be disturbed by noise and bright light, for example. If possible, avoid overnight stays or using bright lights in the forest.
- Use the trails responsibly.
The trails available to you to enjoy nature are the lifelines of forest management. They were primarily built for the commercial management of the forest and are regularly maintained for this purpose. But the trails have, to a large extent, been left in their natural state. Inappropriate driving can cause damage to the rails through erosion. In particular, natural trails or trails surfaced with a fine covering can be damaged by careless braking.
- Even the forest belongs to somebody! Obey barriers and follow instructions.
The forest in Sauerland and Siegen-Wittgenstein belongs to private owners, towns and municipalities as well as the state. The forest plays an important commercial role for the owners, especially for private forest owners. Respect the rights of the land owners and understand that, as you go about your activities, you may come across signs of forest management if timber transporters and forestry personnel in their vehicles drive through the forest, trails are affected by commercial activity or prohibition signs warn you of danger due to logging. Prohibition signs must be observed. Failure to comply with these will put your life in extreme danger.
- Allow other nature users to pass by without risk.
If someone is faster than you or travelling in the opposite direction, allow each other to pass without risk.
- Make your presence known in a timely and friendly manner.
If you come across other nature users and want to overtake them, make your presence known in a timely manner if they have not already noticed you. We are all here to relax in nature and want to co-exist in a friendly manner.
- Adjust your speed so you can react at all times.
Reduce your speed when other users are approaching. This is the only way to leave enough time to react appropriately.
- Behave with foresight appropriate to the routes and conditions.
For your own safety and the safety of other nature users, anticipatory and appropriate behaviour by everyone is important. Along stretches with low visibility and narrow or steep parts of the trail, obstacles or other nature users may appear at any time. Stopping at such points also presents a risk. Trail subsoil and weather conditions impact whether shoes, horse hooves or tyres have enough grip. On fast descents, you should be aware that wild animals may also cross your path at any time. The following therefore applied for cyclists in particular: You must be able to stop within visual range!
- Stay on the trails designated for you.
Even though pedestrians are allowed to enter the forest, specific rules are in place for other nature users under the State Nature Conservation and Forestry Act in North Rhine-Westfalen and Hessen. Bicycles are permitted in the forest along so-called “festen Wegen” (paved trails) (definition see e.g. Cologne Administrative Court ruling). Riding is only permitted on signposted bridle paths, except in so-called exempt areas (information on this is available from the respective municipalities and independent towns). Upon arrival, the following always applies: Park your vehicle only in the designated parking areas.
- Conserve and protect animals and plants and behave appropriately.
Many species of wildlife live in the forests of Siegen-Wittgenstein and Sauerland. You may come across red deer, wild boar (wild sows), mouflon and, most recently, bison in the forest. The risks presented by these animals for normal hikers is low and can be reduced to an absolute minimum through appropriate and respectful behaviour. Mothers have an unconditional impulse to protect their young. This applies for all species of wildlife. The following applies if you do encounter such a creature, especially wild boar or bison:
- Pass the animal quietly and discreetly at a distance, do not startle the animal and do not look it directly in the eyes.
- Watch out for threatening gestures! When sows clatter their teeth or bison lower their head, they expect you to retreat. Then move back!
- If the animal approaches you, remain calm, do not turn your back and leave the area calmly, facing the animal at all times. If the animal comes closer than you are comfortable with, shout loudly, whistle or make your presence otherwise known using noise.
- Take note of how to behave around wild animals with your dog (Point 11).
- How to deal with ticks: In order to prevent infection, you must examine yourself carefully after walking in the forest in order to find ticks before they bite, if you have been in direct contact with grasses and bushes. Remove the tick using appropriate means within the first 24 hours to significantly reduce the risk of infection. Further information on dealing with ticks can be found at: www.zecken.de
Please do not damage any plants or mushrooms and do not pull them out. They may be protected. Misconduct can result in severe penalties. You must observe the legal provisions on collecting mushrooms and berries.
- Take your rubbish home with you!
If you leave your rubbish behind, you are endangering the animals and plants and destroying the landscape for other nature users and yourself. Take your rubbish home with you and dispose of it properly.
- Dogs may only be taken along the trails or on the lead (except in dangerous situations).
If you have a dog with you, you are obliged to keep it under control at all times. This is essential so as not to unsettle other nature users. You must keep your dog on a lead off the trails. If your dog is attacked by an animal, release the lead! The dog is faster and more agile than you and is sure to find its way back to you.