Eifel National Park
Eifel National ParkThe only national park in North Rhine, this protected area is located 40 miles from Cologne in the northern Eifel mountain range. Founded in 2004, it spans some 42 square miles, much of which has been shaped by volcanic activity over the centuries. Still technically a “national park in development” (meaning three quarters of the area needs to return to nature over the next 30 years), it nevertheless serves as a natural habitat for red deer, wildcats, kingfishers, and daffodils. Visitors can also expect to find natural beech and mixed forests, crystal-clear lakes, waterfalls, scenic valleys, and the open grassland of the Dreiborn Plateau, all of which can be explored on a hike, bike ride, or guided tour with a park ranger or forest expert. For a real challenge, try the 52-mile Wilderness Trail, which winds past the park’s full range of landscapes, or explore the area via its charming small towns like Monschau. There’s also the National Park Center, which offers a massive interactive nature experience called Wildnis(t)räume, explaining the natural cycle of creation and decay in the park.