Der Karstwanderweg am Südharz

Karst Trail Southern Harz

Useful Information

Location: Between Bad Grund and Pölsfeld.
Open: No restrictions.
Fee: free.
Classification: KarstKarst Trail
Light: bring torch
Dimension: L=200 km
Guided tours: self guided. Various guided walks are also available.
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography: Kreisverwaltung Sangerhausen (1996): Der Karstwanderweg im Landkreis Sangerhausen, 64 S., Sangerhausen
Landratsamt Nordhausen (1997): Der Karstwanderweg im Landkreis Nordhausen, 72 S., Nordhausen
Südharz-Information (1998): Karstwandern! Natur & Kultur erleben!, Faltbl. mit 6 Wanderrouten von F. VLADI auf dem Karstwanderweg und in Bad Grund, Osterode
Firouz Vladi (1995): Gipskarstlandschaft - Karstwanderweg, Faltbl., 4 S., Südharz-Information, Osterode
Firouz Vladi (1998): Karstwanderweg Südharz, NNA-Ber. 11(3):21-30, Schneverdingen, zugl. Laufener Seminarbeitr. 7/98:21-30, Laufen/Salzach (Bayer. Akad. Natursch. Landschaftspfl.)
Address: KVHS Osterode, Neustädter Tor 1-3,37520 Osterode am Harz, Tel: +49-5522-960-453, Fax: +49-5522-960-444.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.



Along the southern edge of the Harz Mountains stretches a karst landscape with escarpments. Unlike other rocks, gypsum is water-soluble, and in humid areas it is dissolved quite fast by the frequent rains. Most geologic earth movements are slower than the solution, so gypsum is typically dissolved underground before it reaches the surface. There are very few geological processes which result in gypsum on the surface. In this case it was the uplift of the Harz and the erosion of escarpments in the overlying sedimentary rocks. The existence of this landscape in the southern Harz region is thus quite exceptional. That's the reason why gypsum karst is extremely rare in central Europe.

The gypsum karst shows the same forms that we know from the limestone karst: caves, sinkholes, swallow holes, karst springs and dry valleys. Many of these unique objects have now been made accessible by the Karstwanderweg (Karst Hiking Trail). With over 200 km of marked trails, the hiking trail offers enough for a whole week in this scenic area. It leads to the well-known and developed as tourist sights, such as the Rhume spring. But you can also see unique features which are not accessible by car.

The karst hiking trail was built by the initiators, among other things, to show locals and tourists the beauty and conservation value of the area. Unfortunately, the gypsum industry already has a mining permit for large areas. Now they are trying to use the last remaining areas for gypsum mining.

The reason for this strategy is clear: open-cast mining with modern machines is unbearably cheap, with costs in the range of 1 EUR per tonne. Future backfilling and renaturation are already taken into account. With figures like these, it becomes clear why natural landscapes are being irretrievably destroyed while at the same time gypsum of excellent quality from flue gas desulphurisation plants is being dumped. This makes it all the more important to protect the remaining areas against massive commercial interests.