When it comes to hiking, the Harz region really offers something for everyone. Even those who associate hiking more with the term “walking” will find a network of easy-to-use terrain paths in most tourist locations, which can often be varied as desired.
Wide, safe but traffic-free hiking trails lead through a natural, varied landscape, some Harz Club trails even guide nature lovers on narrow paths or directly through rustic undergrowth and over granite blocks. Quite comparable to the tracks set in high mountains, markings guide the hiker to their destination every few meters.
Good equipment ensures more fun on the go
While special footwear is usually not required on the nearby spa trails in dry weather, they should always be comfortable here. On all other hikes, sturdy, worn-in hiking shoes / hiking boots are always strongly recommended. Even in dry periods, you will come across areas in the forest where the hiking trail is damp and muddy, and where rubble and roots can quickly lead to injuries to those who wear sandals.
At least the backpack for some food and additional clothing is compulsory, so to speak, the ideal is to split the load over several backpacks. In general, especially in the classic hiking times of spring and autumn, you should always be prepared to adapt your clothes to the often rapidly changing weather conditions. Which is extremely important in winter.
Because it can be extremely different on hikes in winter, which we once again experienced for ourselves on the way up to the Brocken on the last day of the year. Although it was initially cloudy and slightly hazy, the temperatures were very pleasant, despite just 2-4 ° Celsius. But that changed almost suddenly when we reached the summit, because a really strong, icy wind was blowing and within a few meters of altitude the temperature fell to minus 20 ° Celsius. But more on that later.
Many roads lead to the Brocken in the Harz Mountains
The entire area around the Brocken is popular with hikers. The so-called Goetheweg is such a hiking trail leading to the Brocken summit. It is named after Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who took this route around 1777. Many hiking trails lead to the neighboring villages of Schierke, Braunlage and Sankt Andreasberg. From the Brocken, the 100 km long Harzer Hexenstieg leads east to Thale and west via Torfhaus and Altenau to Osterode. The Teufelsstieg leads from the Brocken to Bad Harzburg or Elend. Mountain bikers use these hiking trails too, even in winter.
From Schierke, the asphalt Brockenstrasse leads to the summit, which, among other things, is driven by horse-drawn carts to the bone-breaking curve below the summit and is used by touring and racing cyclists. Due to the location in the national park, vehicles with internal combustion engines are just allowed to drive to the summit with a special permit. According to a study by the University of Würzburg, the Brocken summit is visited by around 580,000 tourists every year, who get to the summit on foot, by bike or with the Brocken railway.
An icy winter world awaits us
If you are looking for a connection between physical activity and literature, you should start from small town Elend, which we have chosen as our starting point this time. The course of the Teufelsstieg on this side of the Harz Mountains was modeled on the path that Goethe's protagonists Mephisto and Faust chose to climb the Blocksberg, a local term for the Brocken. Whether these events could also take place in winter remains to be seen. We started in Elend am Talwächter, a 200-year-old spruce near the train station in Elend, where there is plenty of parking space available. The hike is accompanied by boards that provide information about Goethe's Faust and the Blocksberg.
The Teufelsstieg is probably the hardest ascent to the Brocken. The hike begins in Elendstal and goes uphill on the Bode on a well-developed forest path to the Schnacherklippen. Then it goes downhill past the Mäuseklippe to Schierke to the Excellency path along the Cold Bode, over the next bridge on the right through the Schluftwiesen. After crossing the street, the ascent through the Eckerloch to the Brocken begins. The path leads along the Schwarzen Schluftwasser over the tracks of the Brockenbahn to the Eckerloch hut. The Eckerlochstieg leads to Brockenstrasse at the end. The Teufelsstieg continues on the circular path up past the Brockengarten, Teufelskanzel and witch altar.
There are a few cross stairs to Brockenstrasse that are currently not entirely harmless. It goes up here over frozen, snow-covered stones and ice sheets, it is very easy to get out of step into slipping and the risk of injury on the stony surface is quite high. It was not without reason that we chose the Brockenstrasse for the descent. Already at the first cross connection, which can mean a shortcut down to Schierke, the mountain rescue was inevitable.
On the summit is the Brockenhaus with a visitor center of the Harz National Park (sure, it was closed due to Pandemy), which includes an exhibition on the history of the mountain and the Brockengarten. Hardly anything could be seen of it, the clouds hung so low in the strong wind, which was also icy. Despite our good equipment, it was not a pleasure to stay long at the summit. So we moved our small snack break a little further down to the bone breaker curve, where there was warm tea with lemon and ginger with the bread we brought with us.
A hike of almost 30 kilometers on the return to misery when it is already getting dark. A great experience in the icy desert on the Brocken.
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