The Harz mountains are one of the most northerly outposts of low mountains in Germany. Wind and rain do their worst here before passing over summits like Wurmberg, the largest mountain in Lower Saxony at 971 metres. The harsh climate has created a unique, species-rich mountain wilderness, protected by its status as Harz National Park – one of Germany’s largest forest national parks.
The national park is covered almost completely by forest. Expansive beech forests and ancient spruce forests in the higher altitudes characterise its look. The high humidity levels mean that the forest floor is covered with a thick blanket of moss, while many tree trunks are encrusted with bizarre lichen. Even higher, rock formations, stone pits, clear mountain streams and moorland create a wild mountain landscape, before the ancient mountain spruce forests are limited by the treeless mountain heath of the Brocken. The Harz mountains are the only German low mountain range to reach a natural tree line.
Many areas of forest in the national park are simply left to their own devices; only on rare occasion do humans intervene to encourage the natural cycle. These “wild forests” are home to a rich variety of flora and fauna, some of which is endangered.
For some years now, a large predator has been prowling the area once more: the lynx is back in the Harz mountains! Your best chance of catching a glimpse of this shy animal is in the lynx viewing enclosure near Bad Harzburg. Another enclosure provides a look at another of the Harz mountains’ iconic animals, the proud grouse.
Alongside the other national park buildings, the TorfHaus visitor centre with its interactive exhibits and tourist information is the perfect place to gain an extensive insight into the flora and fauna of the Harz mountains, and an ideal starting point for discovering what the national park has to offer. Here you can also find information on the many options for hiking in the region. The popular Harzer-Hexen-Stieg, for example, leads right across the national park. Snowshoe hikes are a fun option in winter. Those less keen to explore the Harz mountains on foot will find challenging terrain for mountain biking.
Whatever activity you choose in the Harz National Park, the fascinating mountain wilderness is sure to enchant you.