It seems that the Dutch love a good pavement, even better if you can run it right through the middle of nature. If no pavement is available, then well planned trails with minimal mud will make it easy for you to never truly worry about getting your shoes dirty.
I recently complained about this phenomena to two Dutch colleagues of mine, who bless them, were kind and listened and then came up with suggestions. My criteria for nature were somewhat simple: I wanted something that was fairly close to Amsterdam – coronavirus and all – and wouldn’t be the normal haunts of Noord or Zuid.
woods, dunes, deer – all the nature, all the non-paved paths (sort of)
Just past the Heemstede Haarlem NS train stop lies the beautiful nature preserve of Amsterdamse Waterleidingduinen. It is rather difficult to get to the Amsterdamse Waterleidingduinen by public transport, but it isn’t impossible. We couldn’t be asked to faff around with the trains so we rented a car through Greenwheels for the day.
Once you have your car, you need to figure out the parking situation… which will test the patience of everyone in the car. There are two parking lots – EUR 2.00 – both of which fill up super quickly. We drove around, got frustrated and made our way to a parking lot further afield and walked from the car park at Buitenplaats Leyduin. Top tip, it’s Free, plenty of space to park, but is also about 5 kilometers away from both entrances to the park. #stepcount.
Once you get to the park itself (EUR 1.50 per person that you can buy online here) you will be struck by just how beautiful the landscape is, but the best way to see it is to leave those damned paved paths. Following the dark blue path will give you about 8-9 kilometers and pretty solid overview of the park. You’ll pass dunes, loads of deer, lots of wooded area, and even encounter some mud.
As with most walking trips in the Netherlands, bring extra gear – especially waterproofers (you never know) and some hiking boots if you have them. You’re not climbing Everest so leave the super technical ones at home.
One final thing to look out for. There are no toilets in the park and the restaurants selling takeaway food and drink also do not have a toilet for customers to use. If you need to wee you’re going in the park.