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Harz Mountains

There is a possibility we will have an extra week in Germany this fall. We are four adults in our late-60s who like to hike. We will have our hiking gear with us, as part of the trip will be a hike through the Ardennes Forest. I recently heard about the Harz Mountains and I am intrigued. Looks like there are a number of quaint towns and places to hike. If anyone has personal experience in the area, for hiking options, or which town would be a place to stay for day trips or hikes, I would love to hear your suggestions.

Posted by
14507 posts

"...a number of quaint towns...." Not any personal experience. However, I heartily recommend one place in particular that you see in the Harz...Goslar. Spend at least two days there visiting and exploring this town, famous in German history and culture.

Especially the northern rim of the Harz gives nice hiking, as it rises steeply above the northern German plains. Bode valley at Thale is a canyon-like valley deeply cut into the hills, which gives great hiking with different exhaustion levels. So I would suggest a city at the northern edge of the Harz as a basis. Goslar is a nice suggestion, but I do prefer Wernigerode or Quedlinburg. Both are historical towns with hundreds of original half-timbered houses, Quedlinburg is even Unesco Woeld Cultural Heritage for that (Goslar has been destroyed in WWII and thus does have many replicas). Both from Wernigerode and from Quedlinburg there are narrow-gauge steam trains into the Harz mountains and each station gives a choice of lovely hikes. One narrow-gauge line even climbs up to the Brocken, highest mountain in northern Germany and spectacular views on a clear day; of course, you can hike up there too.

Posted by
3950 posts

We’ve stayed In Quedlinburg and Wernigerode for 3-4 weeks at time in the last 5 years and visited Goslar on those and more trips. While we aren’t big hikers we have done the Bodetal hike near Quedlinburg and several using Osterode as a base from our friends’ vacation apartment. They had a little booklet that they carried with them to collect stamps at the Hexehutte spread throughout the area, a website can map trails (Hartzer-Hexen-Stieg). We took the steam train up from Wernigerode to the top of the Brocken and hikers were all over the mountain trails including the old military tank trails (Panzerstrasse). There are also 1km wide Grüenerweg hikes along the old east/west border. Near Wernigerode we took a great hike to see the Teufelmauer. I would stay in any of these 3 cities (Q, W or G) but for authenticity I’d choose Quedlinburg or Wernigerode. The Harz aren’t tall mountains but they are laced with great trails.

Edit: If your hikes take you near any Klosters in the countryside see if they have fish ponds serving trout (forellen) at their charming restaurants. We ate at several by driving there.

Posted by
80 posts

My vote goes to Wernigerode - from personal experience. Hotel Gothisches Haus highly recommended. The town is picturesque, lively enough, has direct access to hiking trails and is an excellent transportation hub (buses, steam train) to the mountains. Quedlinburg was too distant from the mountains for my taste.

Posted by
671 posts

Thank you for these suggestions/recommendations. If we don't get to the Harz Mountains this year, we may have to plan a trip specific to that area. It sounds perfect!

Posted by
450 posts

Quedlinburg is amazing, but Wernigerode is just as good. We actually stayed in Friedrichsbrunn, a bit up the hill, this spring--much smaller, fewer food options, but quiet and really nice with good hiking. The Harz Pension in Friedrichsbrunn was amazing. Less half-timbered houses, but still very much quaint and pretty, with stellar service--on the top end of friendliness and helpfulness.

I would imagine you will have a great time no matter where in the Harz you go, though. SUCH an underrated place.

Be sure to hit up the Hexentanzplatz in Thale.

Posted by
230 posts

20 years ago our German daughter took us on a memorable hike in the Harz. Starting in Braunlage, we took the lift to the top of the ski jump. This was built facing East Germany, to spite the GDR. Lights were on day and night. We then hiked East down the jump to the old Iron Curtain. It is a 300 meter wide clearing with the concrete 2 tracks still in place (for GDR patrol vehicles). This now the "German Greenway". Continuing East we hiked through managed forests to Schierke for the night. There is a station in Schierke for the train to Brocken and Wernigerode.

Posted by
19092 posts

I spent five nights in the Harz in 2008. I stayed in Braunlage, which is actually up in the mountain vs Goslar, Bad Harzburg, Wernigerode, or Quedlinburg, which are on the low, relatively flat land north of the actual mountains.

I would definitely recommend staying in the mountains. There are buses from Braunlage to many of the surrounding mountain towns. I visited Clausthal-Zellerfeld, St. Andreasberg, and Schierke by bus and rode the narrow gauge steam railroad from Schierke up to the top of the Brocken. I also took the bus from Braunlage down to Bad Harzburg one day and took the train to Wernigerode, where visited the castle. There are a lot of hiking trails all over the mountains. There is (was) a service that arranged for a week of hiking from town to town, with overnight accommodations arranged as well as transport of your luggage between towns.

Posted by
7287 posts

Note that Quedlinburg is a bit out of the way, but is a lovely town of historic buildings, and it has an exceptional medieval church treasury, recovered from the American GI who took some of it back to Texas. Fall may be too late, but it happened to be Pifferling (Chanterelle) Season when we were in Quedlinburg, and the restaurants were featuring menus that even included mushrooms in dessert.

Posted by
671 posts

Thank you all for the information. The more I read, the better the Harz Mountains sound.

Posted by
139 posts

Quedlinburg is absolutely gorgeous. Wernigerode is slightly less attractive (although still very nice) but a better choice if you are interested in the Harz narrow-gauge railways.