The pretty 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. It's also a major outdoors centre. Hiking up the Brocken is the obvious attraction, but there are many other good hiking, rock climbing and biking routes in the area, and in winter first-class snowshoeing and cross-country skiing on a network of 70km of trails.
The best place for information on all these activities is the national-park visitor centre, Nationalparkhaus Schierke, Brockenstrasse 10 (039455/814 44), which has free brochures on hiking routes, including ones detailing two enjoyable shorter walks to two sets of jagged rock formations: the Feuersteinklippen are just thirty minutes' walk away, the Scharcherklippen ninety minutes. Another good source of information is DAV Basislager Brocken, Mühlenweg 1 (Tel:039455/515 46, Web: www.dav-basislager-brocken.de ), who rent equipment for all activities.
Schierke is connected by direct bus to Braunlage, and reachable from Quedlinburg with a couple of easy changes. Tourist information is available at the Kurverwaltung, Brockenstrasse 10 (Mon– Fri 9am– noon & 1–4pm, Sat 10am– noon & 2–4pm, Sun 10am– noon; Tel:039455/86 80), and, at the same address, the Nationalparkhaus in Schierke's upper town along the main road to the Brocken. Accommodation here and in the lower town is plentiful, particularly in private rooms, but often in short supply, so making advance reservations is worthwhile. The youth hostel, Brockenstrasse 48 (Tel:039455/510 66, Web: www.jugendherberge.de/jh/braunlage ; dorms from 19.50), is in the upper town. Other good options include the sparklingly clean Hotel König, Kirchberg 15 (Tel:039455/383, Web: www.harz-hotel-koenig.de ; Price: 61-80), where some rooms have a veranda, though not all are en suite. Fancier is the Waldschlösschen, Herman-Löns-Weg 1 (Tel:039455/86 70, Web: www.waldschloesschen-schierke.de ; Price: 81-100), which has particularly impressive views over to Braunlage from its good German restaurant – for maximum authenticity finish with the local schnapps, Schierker Feuerstein.