Heidegger uses the metaphors of the forest, the forest path (Holzweg) and the clearing (Lichtung) for "Being", through which one must make a hazardous journey off the beaten track and beyond the boundaries of the familiar (Holzweg) to gain insight. The actual existing "being" is not the fundamental Being (the forest) but the way it appears to us (as a clearing).
Holzweg implies not only a natural path through the woods but also the darkness of the forest and one's ability to lose one's way in it. Being lost on a Holzweg is like being on a "wild goose chase."
Holzweg can refer to the space cleared by foresters to allow a tree to fall unrestrictedly to the ground. It may also be the path created as the cutting of trees progresses ever more deeply into the woods. In both cases, a Holzweg is a "path to nowhere".
In the beginning, the experience of following a Holzweg does not entail thinking one is lost at all. Eventually, one finds oneself in unexpected places...having several paths to choose from but not knowing which if any will lead one back to familiar ground.
Holzweg is distinct from Feldwege (a path to the field).