The national parks in Germany together cover an area of over 1,000,000. However, around 75% of this area is occupied by the two maritime national parks in the North Sea, so that the remaining national parks on the mainland share an area of approximately 210,000 hectares. The following list contains the ten largest national parks in Germany, most of which are located on the mainland, sorted by size.
Müritz National Park, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, 32,000 hectares
The Müritz is part of the Mecklenburg Lake District and gives its name to the largest national park in Germany. The predominantly forested area is characterized by a high proportion of pine trees and is only sparsely populated. The designation as a national park dates back to the GDR.
Harz National Park, Lower Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt, 24,750 hectares
The Harz National Park was created in 2006 from a merger of the previously separate national parks Harz (Lower Saxony) and Hochharz (Saxony-Anhalt), making it the second largest national park in Germany. Memberships in the European Charter for Sustainable Tourism and the European system of protected areas “Narura 2000” identify this area around the Brocken as particularly vulnerable.
Bavarian Forest National Park, Bavaria, 24,250 hectares
The Bavarian Forest is located in the eastern part of Bavaria and extends there to the border with the Czech Republic. With the Bohemian Forest on the Czech side, the Bavarian Forest is one of the largest contiguous forest areas in Europe. Founded in 1970, the Bavarian Forest is the oldest national park in Germany and has always played a major role in tourism in the region.
Berchtesgaden National Park, Bavaria, 20,800 hectares
The Berchtesgaden National Park has been operating under this name since 1978. In fact, this area not far from the German-Austrian border has enjoyed special protection for much longer. Until 1978 the area was called “Königssee Nature Reserve”. The national park has been part of the UNESCO Berchtesgadener Land biosphere reserve since 1999. The national park’s central tourist information office is located in Berchtesgaden in the “House of Mountains”.
Eifel National Park, North Rhine-Westphalia, 10,900 hectares
The Eifel National Park is the westernmost protected area within Germany and was opened in 2004 as the first and only national park in North Rhine-Westphalia. The Eifel National Park is particularly popular with amateur astronomers, as the region is very suitable for star gazing. Since the beginning of 2014, the national park has been officially entitled “Star Park”, which is awarded by the International Dark Sky Association.
Lower Oderland National Park, Brandenburg, 10,400 hectares
The national park is located in the Uckermark near the German-Polish border. Since it opened in 1995, the Lower Oder National Park has been attracting hikers and cyclists in particular to Brandenburg on vacation. There is a very well developed and well-trained network of bike and hiking trails starting and finishing in the town of Schwedt / Oder.
Hunsrück-Hochwald National Park, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland, 10,150 hectares
The Hunsrück-Hochwald National Park is the youngest protected area in Germany and was opened in May 2015. The primary goals include the complete renaturation of an area of around 75%, on which nature should be left to its own devices without human intervention. In the medium term, the national park is to be designated as an “EU bird sanctuary”.
Black Forest National Park, Baden-Württemberg, 10,000 hectares
The Black Forest National Park extends around the cities of Baden-Baden and Freudenstadt and was opened in 2014. On the border of the national park there are five peaks with a height of over 1,000 meters above sea level. The Black Forest was one of the strongest tourism regions in Germany well before the opening of the national park.
Saxon Switzerland National Park, Saxony, 9,400 hectares
The planning for the Saxon Switzerland National Park began long before reunification. From a tourist point of view, the national park appeals primarily to mountaineers and climbers. There is also a tight network of hiking trails.
Hainich National Park, Thuringia, 7,500 hectares
This national park in the heart of Germany forms the largest contiguous area of deciduous forest in Germany. This area should be left to nature in order to create the largest primeval forest in Central Europe.