The Rhine and Neckar rivers have shaped the nature and landscape of the metropolitan region to lasting effect and have thus given their names to it. The 45 km-wide Rhine trench, together with the low mountain range landscapes of the Palatinate and Odenwald forests with Kraichgau and Bauland bordering the east and west, forms the typical landscapes of the region. With their varying natural environments, these landscapes intersecting Baden, Hesse and the Palatinate offer all manner of opportunities for active local recreation, and are a veritable paradise for walking, hiking, trekking, mountain biking and geocaching. Around 213,000 hectares of the Rhine-Neckar metropolitan region are covered by woodland, which is almost 38% of its total area (Germany as a whole: 30%).
The largest proportion in the west and south of the region is covered by the Palatinate Forest nature park, which in its entirety forms Germany's biggest contiguous forested area. An official UNESCO biosphere reserve since 1998, it is primarily characterised by its coniferous trees, dry sandy soil and mottled sandstone formations. Not only is the Palatinate Forest known and loved by walkers for its 100 and more staffed cabins, an inviting stopover almost all year round, in particular it also attracts mountain bike riders with its varied routes and terrain.
The Odenwald area in the east and southeast of the region is marked by its interchanging forests and meadows. It is divided into the two nature parks, "Neckartal-Odenwald" (near Eberbach) and the "UNESCO Bergstrasse-Odenwald Geopark" (near Lorsch). The latter belongs to the Global Network of Geoparks, which are committed to the preservation of the world's geologic, natural and cultural heritage, environmental education and the mediation of knowledge about the earth and nature, as well as to the sustained economic and geotouristic development of their regions. Both nature parks offer a huge variety of active recreational opportunities, learning and experience pathways, theme-based guided tours and many other places of interest.
In addition to the large nature parks, a great many wildlife parks, zoos and zoological gardens throughout the region await visitors young and old. Even more action can be found at leisure parks such as the Holiday Park in Hassloch and the Kurpfalz-Park in Wachenheim.