Fog Cave (Nebelhöhle)

Fog Cave- Nebelhöhle


Location: Swabian Alps  Map

Overall length: 813 meters


Description of the Fog Cave

Fog Cave (Nebelhöhle) or a Mist Cave is an underground system located in the Swabian Alps in the districts of Genkingen and Reutlingen. The total length of tunnels of the Fog Cave is 813 meters. The name of Fog Cave or Mist Cave is given due to the fact that evaporation from the cave seeped through crevices above ground crating an appearance of a mystical fog. Given the fact that it was coming from the underground it was quickly blamed on Hell, Satan and demons who somehow created this strange phenomena. Some people blamed it on ghosts and spirits.
Regardless of the views the Fog Cave was largely avoided by the locals due to its unflattering fame. Its most famous feature are numerous stalagmites and stalactites of different shape and size. Some of them have their names. The Fog Cave was apparently discovered accidentally in 1486 after a cave in opened parts of the hidden underground passages. Some suggested that the Fog Cave was used as a hiding place by Ulrich of Württemberg during his retreat from his enemies. In 1803 the cave entrance was extended for the visit of Frederick I of Wurttemberg. Additional wooden stairs were added for easier descent. Over 1000 candles lit up the place. The view was apparently very impressive so once a year the light were brought to the empty dark corridors of the Fog Cave or Nebelhöhle in German and hence the Nebelhöhlefest was born.


The fog cave is located in the White Jura delta under a knoll near the Albtrauf. The currently known total length is 813 meters, 450 meters of which are accessible to visitors. The bottom of the cave is about 780 m above sea level. NN.

The fog cave has impressively large corridor cross-sections. It is a very old cave, which can be seen from the fact that the surrounding dry valleys are deeper than the cave. In the lower parts of the cave you can see numerous caves. Weathered walls with a chalky surface (up to one centimeter deep) can also be seen. In some halls you can find huge fall blocks. A huge block above the corridor is particularly impressive. In the middle of the hall, funnel-like depressions are lined up.

Above all, the fog cave has magnificent floor stalactites, especially the second hall, which is accessed through a regular stalactite forest, with a man-sized stalactite standing in the middle of the way. Occasional sinter cascades are found below chimneys.

The fog hole
In 1486 the first mention of the fog hole, a wide rock portal in the cave wall, through which daylight fell into the cave. In 1803 it was expanded into a conveniently accessible entrance for the visit of Elector Friedrich I. After the actual fog hole had been closed by a door, the name was transferred to the much smaller hole in the top of the cave, which is still called the fog hole today.

Because people observed how fog rose from this hole, especially in winter, the name Nebelloch came about. It was named at a time when mountains, forests and, above all, unknown holes that led into uncertain depths, were associated with all kinds of spirits and demons. The hole in the fog was one of those connecting portals between the lower and the upper world and as such was not very secure.

The name of the cave
The phenomenon of the mist that rises from the hole can easily be explained: The cave temperature is around eight to ten degrees Celsius all year round, the humidity around 90 percent. If it is quite cold outside in winter, the warm air rises from inside the cave - in return, cold air falls from outside through the opening in the ceiling. When it escapes into the cold ambient air, the water of the moist cave air condenses and fog forms.

This is why the name of the hole from which the fog rose was transferred to the cave and was called the fog hole for centuries. In contrast, it was first used as a fog cave in the 19th century.

Discovery of the Old Mist Cave
With the appearance of the interactive CD-ROM on the Nebelhöhle in May 2008, the history of the cave discovery has to be rewritten. While it was previously assumed that a hunter discovered the cave on the hunt at the beginning of the 16th century, this cannot be confirmed on the basis of the historical sources.

In around a dozen mostly very detailed reports from 1596 to 1893, there is not a single mention of a hunter and the discovery of the cave is only mentioned once. In 1631, Wilhelm Schickard, who visited the cave like many others, said that it had been known since "human memory" and was found by shepherd boys.

If you read the old reports carefully, it becomes clear that apart from the opening in the ceiling there was once a large opening at ground level in the cave wall, which was then obviously converted into an entrance in 1803. This is also the reason why it was no longer perceived as a natural opening and was forgotten. The cave was discovered early, in the 15th century at the latest, via this opening, which is said to have been so large that “a carriage driving into it” would have found space (certainly a little exaggerated) and then eagerly visited in the following centuries .

In 1486 the cave was first mentioned as the "fog hole", which at that time referred to both the entrance portal and the entire cave. It can therefore be assumed that the cave has been known since time immemorial (before 1486) and that the discovery was so far ago that it was no longer preserved in memory.

The fog cave is gaining popularity


After the Nebelhöhle had already attracted numerous visitors in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, it became a magnet for visitors with the visit of Elector Friedrich I of Württemberg and the development of the Nebelhöhlenfest.

It was accessed in 1803 by a wooden staircase, wooden paths and bridges. Over 1000 candles were burned during a great illumination. The spectacle was so popular that the lighting was repeated two weeks later. In the following years the tradition developed to illuminate the cave once a year, on Whit Monday. The Nebelhöhlen Festival was born.

Interest in the Nebelhöhle was increased by Wilhelm Hauff's novel Lichtenstein, in which Hauff had Duke Ulrich, who fled the countryside, stay in the Nebelhöhle. The festival reached its climax at the beginning of the 20th century when the Lichtenstein Festival was added in Honau. At that time, 30,000 and more people are said to have visited the cave on Whit Monday.

Duke Ulrich in the fog cave
Duke Ulrich von Württemberg was one of the great princes who began to create territorial states around 1500. The Free Imperial City of Reutlingen was a thorn in his side because it was in the middle of his territory, but did not belong to his rule. This foreign body had to be eliminated, especially since Reutlingen, as an imperial city, was a prosperous trading city and the duke constantly struggled with financial difficulties - it was not until 1514 that the introduction of a consumption tax (similar to today's value added tax) on meat and other goods resulted in the uprising of poor Konrad, a forerunner of the Great Peasants' War of 1525, broke out.

After the death of Emperor Maximilian I at the end of January 1519, who as Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation was the supreme - and only - lord of the imperial cities, the duke saw his time come, besieged Reutlingen and took the city after eight days. However, now the Swabian Federation came into action, an association of smaller principalities and especially of imperial cities. Reutlingen, a member, had asked for federal aid. The Swabian Federation prepared a huge army of land servants and invaded the duke's possessions. Ulrich had to give way and flee.

In March 1519 he is said to have been hiding in a secret place. Many take the Nebelhöhle as this secret place, where he is said to have stayed during the day for around two weeks, but at night at Lichtenstein Castle, only four kilometers away. The Duke's stay in the Nebelhöhle became famous in particular through Wilhelm Hauff's novel Lichtenstein, published in 1826, which soon became a bestseller and was even read at North German high schools at the beginning of the 20th century. Part of the cave is still named Ulrichshöhle after the duke.

The New Fog Cave
The discovery of a continuation of the cave by W. Kopp and K. Rau in 1920 led to the construction of today's cave entrance. The previously known part of the cave, now referred to as the “Old Fog Cave”, was largely on the boundary of today's municipality of Lichtenstein, while the newly discovered part was on that of the village of Genkingen. The Genkingers began to develop their part of the cave in the year of discovery 1920, and the entrance was completed in time for the Nebelhöhlenfest in 1921. In the course of time, the Genking entrance gained acceptance because of its better location and accessibility. Today you go through the old and new caves in one go, first the new, then the old part, so that you go through the cave in reverse chronological order.

The sawn off stalactite
In the last hall, very close to the Great Lake, there is the sawn off stalactite. This stalactite was the largest of the entire cave, over 4.5 meters high, a stalagnate that connected the cave floor and ceiling. It was sawn off for the restoration of the New Palace in Stuttgart, which had been badly affected by the Second World War. Experts had found that the large decorative fields in the stairwell of the New Castle were filled with stalactite jewelry from the caves of the Swabian Alb. A large stalactite was needed to restore it to the original, so the restorers turned to the Nebelhöhlenvereinigung, obviously with success. In 1961 the stalactite was sawn off and the panes were used for decorative fields on the wall cladding in the stairwell of the New Castle.

Cave and art
In 2003 the Stuttgart artist Michael Lesehr visited the Nebelhöhle and drew four pictures of a cave series in it over several days.


The Mist Cave was visited frequently and regularly in the early centuries. The first cave guide appeared in print as early as 1715 and speaks of almost daily visits, especially in summer.

Today the Nebelhöhle, with around 45,000 visitors annually, has about half as many guests as the neighboring Karls- und Bärenhöhle. In addition to Lichtenstein Castle, the two caves are popular destinations for day-trippers in the region and are the most frequented show caves in the Swabian Alb.

There are 141 steps to enter the fog cave. It is therefore not suitable for wheelchair users or people who find it difficult to climb stairs. In contrast, the bear cave is accessible at ground level and only has a few steps inside from the fifth hall.

The brochure about the cave (with black and white pictures) contains three essays on the topics of origin, flora and history.

An interactive CD (virtual tour through the cave) has also been available at the ticket booth since May 2008. Thorough research was carried out in community and private archives to create the CD. The fog cave was not discovered through the hole in the ceiling, as previously assumed. The first electric cave lighting was installed before 1893.

Also since May 2008 there is a new large postcard with pictures from the cave. On the back there is a picture of Duke Ulrichs von Württemberg, who is said to have sought refuge in the cave in 1519.