Length 4.1 km (2.5 miles), terrain: small hills, 77 meters rise
Connects into the 8-km Spiegelthalerloipe for more distance
It got wintery in Germany again, so instead of risking my neck sliding along the streets in my running shoes, I switched sports and headed out to the cross-country skiing trails in the nearby Harz Mountains. Everyone who has tried cross-country knows that it's the perfect winter sport for every trail runner: out in nature with no lift-lines or big crowds, just you and the white hills stretching out to every horizon.
|Frosty bushes along the trail|
So I headed to the old mining town of Clausthal-Zellerfeld with two other runners looking for winter trails. We found it in the wonderful, prepared cross-country tracks heading out from town. The snow was deep and in perfect condition, the sky was blue and the town was charming: it was heaven!
|Sonnenloipe trail sign|
Unusual for Germany, the Harz towns were built of wood, and Clausthal-Zellerfeld's wooden houses give it a feel of being in another country. The town's mines once made it rich, as you can see from the two huge churches, but the mines are now history, and the town has fallen into a Snow-White sleep, kept alive by a bit of tourism and a small technical university.
Immediately after turning into the driveway for the supermarkets, you'll see a smaller way branch off it to the right, and then head parallel to the parking lot up the hill. In just 200 meters, you're at the trailhead. The Sonnenloipe trail is well-marked. It's a fairly easy trail, so it's marked in blue signs (medium trails are in red, and hard trails are marked in black). Usually there is one direction which is the right way around, so there aren't too many encounters underway.
|At the top of the first downhill|
|On the trail|
|Another downhill spot|
The Sonnenloipe trail continues with a few zi-zags between the fields. Just after the 3-kilometer-mark, you'll come to a wooden farm-shed. This is where the 8-kilometer Spiegelthal trail takes off for a lot more adventure (it's a red trail), heading off to the right.
|Runners at the shed|
Head up the tracks to the hill next to the houses, then it's all downhill from there to the starting place. Now there's a substitute for running that doesn't feel second-class to the real thing!
|Successful end of a cross-country day in the Harz!|