One of the happy things in autumn, to me, is hiking in a forest and enjoying the colors of autumn. So this autumn, I will be sharing some of my favorite forest hikes in Holland with you. I will kick off this series with an area that I often used to go hiking when I still lived in Amsterdam: the area around Baarn. Baarn is easy to reach by public transport from Amsterdam and Utrecht, so this is a perfect trip if you want to escape city life for half a day or so.
Baarn? Never heard of it…
Not so strange. Baarn is a small municipality in the province of Utrecht, with about 25.000 inhabitants. It is a rich town with villas, tree-lined alleys and big gardens. Apart from this greenery, there is not too much to see in this town from a touristic point of view. It is just a cool starting point for hikes.
Things to see around Baarn
Hiking around Baarn
In my opinion, the main attraction of Baarn is the nature around it. What I like about this area is its diversity. Baarn forest is what I call an organized forest. Actually, all forests in the Netherlands are planted (there are no native woods), but this is almost like a park with its structured paths and long straight forest roads. Then again, if you hike on in the direction of neighboring Lage Vuursche, the forest will get denser and more mysterious. Whereas if you go in the direction of Hilversum you may suddenly find yourself on open fields of moor and run into a flock of sheep. And in the middle of all this: quite a few palaces and castles, with huge park-like gardens. This area won’t bore you.
Palaces and country houses around Baarn
In the 17th & 18th centuries rich people built second homes outside of the (then) dirty cities such as Amsterdam. They spent a lot of money on these houses. Some are like true palaces or castles! You’ll probably pass a couple of them while hiking in and around Baarn. The most famous ones are:
- Palace Soestdijk, the residence of quite a few of our royalty. Its last famous inhabitant was Queen Juliana. Website is in Dutch only, but it says you can visit Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays between 11.00 and 17.00. (And if you really want to go for it: have a look at the royal waiting room at Baarn railway station too!)
- Kasteel Groeneveld, a rococo palace that often has exhibitions on. Their Grand Café is a nice be it slightly posh place to have coffee. This palace is opened every day except Mondays. It has beautiful landscape gardens that some of the hikes that I suggest below pass through and that are accessible free of charge.
Suggestions for hikes around Baarn
My all time favorite: the 15 km hike from Baarn railway station to Hilversum Media Park railway station. I must have hiked this route dozens of times when I still lived in Amsterdam. It’s a varied route, passing through the forests around the railway station of Baarn, past Kasteel Groeneveld and its majestic landscape gardens, through more forests, across moors with flocks of sheep and wild cows all the way to Hilversum Mediapark (where the Dutch Broadcasters are situated).
Other suggestions for hikes around Baarn
- Baarnse bossen, a 10 km hike south of Baarn. This passes by Palace Soestdijk in case you’re interested in adding some royal flair to your trip. Starts and ends at Baarn railway station
- Groene Wissel Landgoed en Kasteel Groeneveld, a 10 km round trip passing by Kasteel Groeneveld and its gardens. This follows the route of my all time favorite Baarn hike, but turns back towards Baarn railway station after Kasteel Groeneveld.
- Heuvelrugroute Baarn, 14 km, passing by Kasteel Groeneveld, Palace Soestdijk and a 3rd castle, in Lage Vuursche.
How to get to Baarn by public transport
Getting to Baarn is very easy.
- Coming from Amsterdam Central station catch the sprinter train in the direction of Amersfoort. This will get you straight to Baarn in just under 45 minutes.
- From Utrecht it’s about 30 minutes. There are 2 direct sprinter trains to Baarn, and more connections with one change over in Hilversum,
Check your schedule on the public transport website 9292.nl and read my tips about using public transport in Holland. Mind that there are extra rules for users of public transport during the COVID-19 pandemic. For example: you have to wear a face mask when using public transport.
What to do after your hike in Baarn?
The nearest cities of interest (and with good bars to find that after-hike-drink) are Amersfoort and Utrecht. Both are easily accessible by train.
Close to Baarn railway station (on the other side of the tracks, more or less) is De Generaal, a café and restaurant with huge windows overlooking the forest and the railway tracks. This is a relaxed place to have a coffee, a beer or even a meal. The staff is a bit too relaxed sometimes, but apart from that I would recommend it. They are used to hikers coming in and won’t mind the hiking gear.