Thursday 6 December 2012

Graz Leechwald Running Route

Click here for route map
Length up to 21.3 km (13.2 miles), terrain hilly, with a gain of more than 500 meters

Graz Routes List:
Leechwald half-marathon hill trail  
Graz old-town loop

For more running routes, see the Route List

Here is a great run if you want to do some trail running in the woods while you're in Graz. The Leechwald trail follows a wooded ridge-line east of the city center, providing beautiful vistas along the way.
Along the Leechwald trail
It is basically an out-and-back run, heading northeastwards, with a 6-km loop at the end, before heading back on the same trail. It goes uphill at the beginning, then rises only gradually the rest of the way until the halfway point, although the loop goes downhill, then uphill before it connects back to the return trail.

The run has been laid out as a half-marathon. I only ran the first half of the route, so I can't describe the rest, but it's well-marked, so run as far as you please. Just follow the "Leechwald" signs with the picture of the running shoe.
Just follow the Leechwald signs
Here's a link to the sponsor's description of the route, in German: Leechwald Run.

You can run the entire route or turn around any time you want. There are quite a few runners out on the trail any time of the day. The way is well marked: every half-kilometer there is a distance marker. You basically follow the main ridge-top trail the whole time.

The first five kilometers of the route, till Mariatrost, is dirt, and the rest is paved. The dirt section is also lit by streetlights at night.

You can easily reach the starting place by taking the number 1 tram line towards Mariatrost, getting out at the Hilmteich/Botanischer Garten stop. The trail-head is directly across the street from the tram stop, at the Hilmteich pond.

The pond occupies the center of a little park, and is full of rental rowboats in the summer.
Hilmteich in winter
Begin the run by turning your back on the pond, at the "Start Leechwald" sign, next to an arial map of the route. Run southwards with the woods to your left side, parallel to Hilmteichstraße. After just 100 meters, you'll see a small path going uphill to the left, at the "Waldschule" sign.

In 50 meters, you will hit the main path, where you turn left again and run northeastwards, continuing uphill.

Follow the path uphill as it winds through the woods. The trail is well-kept, made of hard-packed clay and gravel. This first part of the trail is also marked with "Menschenrechts Weg" signs for the first kilometers.

You will pass a white villa and then an animal refuge ("Wildtiere im Not").

Then, before the first half-kilometer marker, you'll pass a tall brick tower. You have now reached the top of the ridge, and the trail flattens out as you run with a fence to the left side.
The tower
Now just follow the trail. Sometimes you'll feel like you're in wilderness, other times you'll pass by houses that have been built up the hillside.
Along the ridgeline
After the two-kilometer marker, the dirt trail turns to the right, becoming a paved street called Roseggerweg, going through a small neighborhood. You will now get the first views of surrounding hills and the Mariatrost basilica.
View of Mariatrost from the trail
After another half-kilometer, Roseggerweg leaves the houses and goes back into woods.

After 5 km, you come to Mariatrost, a huge pilgrimage church and monastery complex built on the Purberg. Its yellow, double-towered baroque facade is visible from a long away. The trail, Roseggerweg, leaves the woods, and joins a paved street. If you went straight downhill for 100 meters, you would head towards the basilica. But, instead of continuing down the hill to the church, turn to the right at the modern wooden houses and continue running northeast through the woods.
Mariatrost from below
The trail turns into a paved road here. There are cars traveling this section, sometimes few, sometimes a lot. So if you don't want to run on the street, turn around here.

The road goes by some big farm fields, then back into the woods. I turned around there, at the 6-km marker, so the rest of the description is just what I could see from the map.
Abandoned farmhouse along the way
When the trail comes back out into open fields again, it will come to another crossing, shortly before the 7-km marker. You will now go straight along Schaftalberg. The trail will then follow a 7-km loop to the south and return to this point.

So now, run straight, and follow the road until it ends at a farmhouse on a cross-road, Reindlwaldweg, at about 8.8 kilometers. There you turn right and run south.
View from the Leechwald trail
This road ends just above a village, Edelsbach, on a big road called Schillingsdorfer Straße. Turn right on Schaftalweg and head back northwards and uphill to the crossroads where the loop began.

At the cross-roads, at about 13.5 km, turn left and head back on the same way as you came.

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