This is my Harz Route Guide: a 5-days travel guide through German woods and mountains with lots of sightseeing. Day No. 2 was all about climbing the Brocken.
The Brocken – Germany’s second highest mountain
„The mountain somehow appears so Germanically stoical, so understanding, so tolerant, just because it affords a view so high and wide and clear. And should such mountain open its giant eyes, it may well see more than we, who like dwarfs just trample on it, staring from stupid eyes.“
The Brocken is with 1141 m (3743 ft) the highest peak of the Harz and Northern Germany. It’s peak is covered in snow from September to May – and up to 300 days of the year there’s fog and mist. With an annual temperature of only 2,9 C (37,2 F) the Brocken has extreme weather conditions, which shouldn’t be underestimated. The climate up there can be compared to the alpine location or even Iceland’s 1600-2200 m.
The first climb that was documented was in 1572. The German physician and botanist Johannes Thal made it to the top describing the flora. The Brocken is much more than just a mountain in the woods. It’s a magical place. Even our famous poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe used the Brocken as a location for his legendary play of „Faust“. It’s a place of witches, devils and mysteries.
So if you’re visiting the Harz you MUST climb the Brocken. It’s worth it! It’s one hell of a hike!
The different routes
There are several routes up to the Brocken. You can climb the mountain from all four directions. If your base is in Bad Harzburg you should consider one of the following three routes:
The Goethe Path
The path starts at the Torfhaus (a 20 minutes bus ride from Bad Harzburg away / Bus line 820). You’ll be climbing the Brocken from South West. The length of this path is 9 km / 5,5 miles and it’s the easiest route to the Brocken as you don’t have much gradient on your way up. It’s the perfect route for beginners – and those moors are so beautiful. The symbol for this path is a green witch.
The Heinrich Heine Path
The path starts in Ilsenburg (a 10 minutes train ride away from Bad Harzburg). You’ll be climbing the Brocken from North. The length of this path is 16 km / 9,9 miles. It’s medium difficult and it’s known as one of the most sceneristic routes. The symbol on the signs for this path is a green rectangle.
The Devil’s Path
The path starts in Bad Harzburg at The House of Nature. You’ll be climbing the Brocken from North West. The length of this path is 13 km / 9,0 miles. It’s the most difficult path of these three routes and of all the routes up to the Brocken. The last 4 km up have a gradient of almost 25%, so it should only be done by professional hikers. The symbol on the signs for this path is a little green devil.
My choice: The Devil’s Path
I decided to hike The Devil’s Path (not knowing about the difficulty of this route). I left for my hike on October 2nd of 2018 at 7am in the morning, sunrise time. There are several mentionable stations along the way.
You start at the House of Nature. The first kilometers you literally spend in the woods. Just you and beautiful nature.
The first stop is the „Molkenhaus“ (Whey House), where you can eat and drink. I arrived there so early that they were still closed.
After about an hour of hiking you reach the „Ecker Talsperre“ (Ecker Dam) and for me it was one of the most beautiful spots of this path. I was the only person walking there this early in the morning and it was beyond peaceful.
After about 9 km you pass the „Rangerstation“ (Ranger Station), which is your last chance to rest before the final summit climb. What’s next is the reason why this path is called „The Devil’s Path“. The “Hirtenstieg” is a 4 km road with 25% gradient straight up to the top. You’ll reach the 1000 meters mark. You’re probably notice how the air around you gets icy and snow starts swirling around you. The flora is changing, too. Everything becomes foggy. It feels like entering another world – while your body is reaching its limits… or not. You’ll pass by the „Bismarck Klippen“ (Bismarck Cliff) and the „Kleiner Brocken“ (Small Brocken), but as the view is most of the times very foggy you might just walk by without noticing like I did.
At 11:39 am that day I summited the Brocken, feeling exhausted and crazy as happy at once.
If you’re all for the views the Brocken isn’t your mountain, because up there it’s as foggy as it gets. It was -1 C / 30 F cold and I was hit by 72 km/h of wind mixed with snow. It’s rough on that mountain of the Northerners. That’s why it’s so lovely that the Germans built a „Brockenhaus“ (Brocken House) up there, so you can warm up, have a meal at „Cafeteria Hexenflug“ (Cafe Witch Flight), visit a museum and rest a little bit, before you decide for your way of getting down the mountain.
The way down
So how are you gonna get down that mountain? There are actually two choices: by foot or by Schmalspurbahn. By what? Yes, Germany’s second highest mountain has a railway station at the top on 1125 meters / 3691 feet. It’s amazing and you should do it just for the experience – and for your knees!
I decided to hike back down, but I chose the Goethe Path this time. It’s with 9 km and less gradient than “The Devil’s Path“ the less exhausting way home, even though the weather on that route is just as tough as on every other route down. For me that meant two hours of pouring rain. Be prepared: the mountain makes its own weather!
When you arrive at the Torfhaus, you can drive back to Bad Harzburg with the bus line 820.
When you get back at your B&B you take a hot shower and REST, because today you climbed a mountain. A small but tough mountain! The Brocken!
My Budget Plan
Stay tuned for Day No. 3 – I’ll try to spot some lynxes for you…