The large village of SCHIERKE gathers at the foot of the Brocken (1142m), the Harz’s highest peak, 15km west of Rübeland, and is the last stop for the narrow-gauge Brockenbahn. Hiking up the Brocken is the obvious attraction, but there are many other good rock-climbing, biking and hiking routes in the area, including two enjoyable shorter walks to jagged rock formations: the Feuersteinklippen are just thirty minutes’ walk away, the Scharcherklippen ninety minutes. Pick up free maps at the tourist office. In winter there’s first-class snowshoeing and cross-country skiing on a 70km-long trail network.
Given its mystical reputation (see “Walpurgisnacht”), and as the highest peak in the Harz, the ascent of the Brocken is for many a vital part of a Harz itinerary. So if you’re after peace look elsewhere. Options to ascend it include the Brockenbahn railway (€18 one-way), horse-drawn wagon – or sleigh in winter (both around €20 return; contact tourist office in Schierke) – or on foot. From Schierke, the sealed but traffic-free Brockenstrasse makes for a straightforward 12km hike, but is probably a better descent, taking the more interesting and scenic 7km route via Eckerloch up. The Brockenmuseum by the railway terminus near the summit has exhibits about geology and the mountain’s mythology, but says little about the GDR era, when the Brocken was a military no-go area for Germans. The easy 2.5km path around the summit offers good views over the blanket of trees that covers the Harz and some of the settlements in the foothills.