Depending on what one would consider "wilderness", the Veluwe could very well be the largest wilderness area of the Netherlands.
The total area covers about one-third of the province of Gelderland, and boasts the nation's tallest "mountain" outside of the Ardennes' foothills in the southernmost part of Limburg province.
60 percent of the Veluwe is covered in woods, mostly stretches of mixed decideous and coniferous forest. (The Netherlands tallest tree, a 170 ft /52 meter tall Douglas fir grows here, as well as the most voluminous tree, a 147ft/ 44 meter Sequoiadendron Giganteum, both of which not native to The Netherlands)
Of the remaining 40 percent, large areas are covered in heather, and even some small sand deserts, which started to appear in late medieval times, after extensive overfarming of the area.
Stripped of all the topsoil, these sandy plains at one time covered half of the region, and some small farming towns were engulfed by sand dunes, forcing the inhabitants to move out.
Hoge Veluwe National Park
In the late 19th century the Dutch government planted a large number of Douglas Fir trees throughout the region to get these large dunes under control. "Hoge Veluwe Nat'l Park" was the first national park in the Neterlands, incorporated in 1909.
Depends on where you want to go. There are numerous railwaystations around the edges of the area, and Bus #107 (BBA) connects Arnhem in the southernmost part of the region with Putten in the Northwest.
Open dunes and heather landscape, Hoge Veluwe
Station names in bold indicate that all trains will stop there, except international express trains, they'll only stop in Arnhem, which offers good connections with the rest of Europe.
Except for Lunteren, every station is on a main East-West line, and is located less than 5 miles from the forest. Lunteren is on the Ede-Wageningen-Amersfoort branch.
This service runs straight North from Apeldoorn, connecting it to Zwolle, just off the Northeasternmost point of the Veluwe, about 35 miles / 55 km North. Most of the trip will be just east of the Veluwe proper, and this is probably one of the least scenic routes in the area, but still important, because there aren't any other public transportation options in this part of the region.
Towns served by Bus 90
This service cuts for 40 miles / 65km through the Northcentral part of the Veluwe, connecting the City of Apeldoorn with Harderwijk in the Northwest.
Very scenic route, although it runs through the densest populated area of the Veluwe region.
Towns and Villages served by Bus 104
This service runs 55 miles / 90km from Arnhem to Putten.
Probably one of the most scenic bustrips one can make in the Netherlands, and excellent for not having to start your hiking trip in the middle of a city.
Villages and Areas served by Bus 107
Veluwezoom National park, Winter.
Hoge Veluwe Nat'l Park
Bus 108 connects Ede with Apeldoorn, and runs for 25 miles / 40km through the Southcentral part of the area. Hoge Veluwe Nat'l park is served by this bus as well.
Villages and Areas served by Bus 108
Hoge Veluwe Nat'l Park
Much of the South Veluwe region is a Nat'l Park (either Hoge Veluwe or Veluwezoom)
Most of the Central Veluwe is a royal estate, called "Het Loo", just west of Apeldoorn.
The North and West Veluwe is mainly military trainingground, largest areas are "Woldberg" in the Northern tip, "Harskampsezand" in the West, just east of the village of Harskamp, and "Ginkelse Heide" in the Southwest, inbetween the cities of Ede and Arnhem.
Most of the remaining 35% of the Veluwe region is owned by organizations like "Geldersch Landschap", "Natuurmonumenten" and "Staatsbosbeheer", and are either nature/wildlife preserves, or National Forest. (Staatsbosbeheer)
This may seem a bit tricky, but their rules look a lot similar.
Generally you're not allowed to camp, and you have to be out by dark.
Off-trail hiking is generally not permitted, as are dogs without a lead.
some areas have location-specific rules, and i'll explain the most important ones here:
Hoge Veluwe Nat'l Park:
Entrance Fees. No Vehicles.
Not allowed off the paved trails during hunting season.
Not allowed off the paved trails during military exercises.
My view on Veluwe regulations
The Netherlands is an overregulated country.
Personally, i do not recommend camping illegally in the military zones, especially not "Harskampsezand" because they train with live ammo there. Same goes with "Het Loo" during fall.
In areas maintained by Staatsbosbeheer, Natuurmonumenten (includes Veluwezoom Nat'l Park) and Geldersch Landschap (all posted) you should be fine, as long as you keep a low profile and don't disturb the wildlife. Camping outside a designated camping area is illegal everywhere in the Netherlands, but as long as you keep a low profile and pack up around dawn, you're likely
to get away with it.
Climate and Weather
The Netherlands have a mild maritime climate, although, with plenty of continental influence, due to the lack of North-South oriented mountain ranges in Northern Europe. (The Urals, on the western edge of Siberia is the first) The following are averages for three places in or near the Veluwe: Rheden, South Veluwe, 15 meters/ 50 ft, Hoog-Soeren, Central Veluwe, 84 meters/ 276 ft and Nunspeet, North Veluwe, 4 meters/ 13 ft.
Rheden, 52.00N, 6.03E, Elevation 50ft/15m
Jan Hi/Lo: 42/31F 6/-0C
Apr Hi/Lo: 57/37F 14/3C
Jul Hi/Lo: 74/55F 23/13C
Oct Hi/Lo: 58/43F 14/6C
Annual precip: 794mm/31.3 inches
Precip >1mm/0.04 inch : 134
Hi temp > 80F/26C : 22
Hi temp > 90F/32C : 4
Lo temp <32F/0C : 68
Lo temp <10F/-12C : 1
Hoog Soeren, 52.22N, 5.87E, Elevation 276ft/84m
Jan Hi/Lo: 39/29F 4/-1C
Apr Hi/Lo: 56/35F 13/2C
Jul Hi/Lo: 73/54F 22/12C
Oct Hi/Lo: 57/42F 13/6C
Annual Precip: 952mm/37.5 inches
Precip >1mm/0.04in : 147
Hi temp >80F/26C : 17
Hi temp >90F/32C : 2
Lo temp <32F/0C : 73
Lo temp <10F/-12C : 2
Nunspeet, 52.37N, 5.78E, Elevation 13ft/4m
Jan Hi/Lo: 41/32F 5/0C
Apr Hi/Lo: 54/40F 12/4C
Jul Hi/Lo: 71/56F 21/13C
Oct Hi/Lo: 57/44F 13/7C
Annual Precip: 772mm/30.4 inches
Precip >1mm/0.04in : 134
Hi temp >80F/26C : 14
Hi temp >90F/32C : 1
Lo temp <32F/0C : 54
Lo temp <10F/-12C : 1