Up for getting back to nature in one of the most spectacular outdoor settings in all of Germany? If you’ve already explored the bustling streets of Hamburg and want to find yourself on misty peaks, travelling on a train through the forest, or enjoying some adrenaline-fueled action, consider a road trip to the Harz National Park.
With a drive time of just under three hours from Hamburg, hop in your hire car, pack your walking gear and get ready.
What’s so good about the Harz National Park?
Situated around 158 miles (254km) from Hamburg, the Harz National Park covers an area of 153 square miles (247 square kilometres), with around 95% of it being spruce and beech forest. It’s wild rugged and ready to be explored.
In 2006, it became the first national park in the country to cover two federal states and stretches from a low mountain range near Herzberg in the southern part of Harz Mountains, across the Harz massif to the northern areas of the park close to Bad Harzburg and Ilsenburg.
The ecology is unique, the flora and fauna diverse, and the views spectacular. There is also plenty to see and explore outside the park in the local towns and villages of the Harz Mountains.
Things to see and do in the Harz National Park
Pack your hiking boots, some trusty waterproofs and don’t forget your camera. Why not fill your time in the Harz National Park with the following?
Test your mettle and climb a mountain
Ready to start big? If you really love a challenge, kick off your Harz adventure by tackling the highest peak in the Harz Mountains and all of northern Germany. The Brocken is 1,141 metres high and promises breath-taking views from the top. When it isn’t foggy that is.
There are several routes leading to the summit, which is covered in mist for around 300 days of the year. Your shadow on the fog might just play a few tricks with your mind, but that’s just part of the national park’s magic.
Try something a little gentler by walking a hiking trail
The Harz region promises nearly 5,000 miles (8,000km) of walking trails made up of deep valleys, lush meadows and thick forests.
Popular walks include the Harz Witches Trail, the Okertalsperre (Oker Dam) that runs between Altenau and Goslar, as well as past the intriguing structures of the Oberharzer Wasserwirtschaft (Upper Harz Water Management), which is a system of dams and reservoirs.
Add a sense of adventure and achievement to your walking expeditions in the Harz National Park by signing up for the Harz Walking Badge (Harzer Wandernadel). You’ll find stamping points along the walking routes in the region. By filling up your hiking pass you’ll be in for a reward with a Harz hiking badge – from gold to bronze for the adults and Hiking Princess or Hiking Prince for the kids.
Take a ride on a scenic train journey
Rest your weary limbs, take a load off, but don’t let yourself miss any of the spectacular scenery. The Harz Narrow Gauge Railway has 25 steam engines with historic coaches and carriages operating in the national park and around the Harz Mountains.
Hop on board, journey through the breath-taking scenery and enjoy an alternative route to get the top of the Brocken.
Keep your eyes peeled for magic and mystery
Dark forests, isolated wilderness, cold nights and frosty mornings. Of course there’s magic in the Harz Mountains. Read up on tales of witches, warlocks and ghouls before delving deep into the forest to see what you can find.
While talk of the forest’s folklore will be fun for the kid’s during your time in the park, to really get into the “spirit” of things, a journey to this corner of the world on April 30 will be a true eye-opener.
The end of April sees Walpurgisnacht (“Walpurgis Night”); a festival featuring traditional pagan celebrations and rituals. Legend has it that witches used to fly on their broomsticks to the peak of the Brocken on this night every year.
Tackle the terrain on two wheels
As you’d expect, the Harz Mountains offer a multitude of trails for mountain bike enthusiasts, with around 1,370 miles (2,200km) of mountain biking trails in the surrounding region. Strap your bike to your hire car, or rent a bike during cycling season, and take on the best of what Harz has to offer.
Tough trails include those for the experts around the Brocken, while there are lower more scenic routes for intermediates.
Be at one with nature
The Harz National Park is home to a diverse mix of animals. Keep quiet, get your binoculars at the ready and wait in anticipation for what you might just see.
The likes of red deer, wild boars, peregrine falcons and lynxes call the forest home. During rutting season, the National Park Rangers will accompany you to see the wild stags fighting. Truly a sight to behold.
Discover the towns and villages of the Harz Mountains
While the park itself might be 95% forest, the Harz Mountains are packed with picturesque towns and villages, fairy-tale castles and settlements from the Middle Ages.
Jump in your hire car to explore the likes of Wernigerode, Quedlinburg’s Old Town, and Goslar Old Town, before making a visit to the intriguing former site of the Iron Curtain.
Getting to the Harz National Park
Sold on a road trip from Hamburg to visit the dramatic Harz National Park?
Leave the city heading south and make your way to the A255, following the signs for the B4/B75. After just under 10 minutes of driving on the A255, take the A7 to Lonauer Straße/Osteroder Straße in Herzberg am Harz. This part of the journey should take you just over two and a half hours, before you continue for 10 minutes on Lonauer Straße to the national park.
Searching for more road trip inspiration in Germany? Why not travel along the country’s famous Romantic Route or explore the 12 museums in Frankfurt’s Museumsufer?