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near Hambach, Nordrhein-Westfalen (Deutschland)
This walk takes you onto the Sophienhöhe, the largest man-made hill in the world. The hill was created by surface mining the open cast lignite (Braunkohle) mine Tagebau Hambach. The mine is still being exploited and the hill is still growing south-eastward. Large parts of the hill are now covered with forests and lakes, but more open areas are also present, mostly close to the Tagebau. A large network of partly marked paths and dirt roads covers the hill, and you can find orientation markers with a map at numerous locations.
You start at a parking lot. There used to be a café (Sophienhöhe) there, but it had been completely demolished when I showed up. During the walk you will not find another place to buy food or drink.
You zigzag slowly from about 100 m to 240 m, where the route goes east towards the Tagebau. It is forbidden to approach the mine, and you need binoculars to see a little bit of the mine. You pass by a radar tower and go to the tree circle, where various species of trees have recently been planted. From here you turn west to an older part of the hill and approach the northern side of the Sophienhöhe, where you will find two panoramic spots (see waypoints) to view northeast of the Sophienhöhe and also get a better view of part of the mine and the large equipment that is being used to mine the lignite and dig away the earth. You then turn back southwest and climb the Höller Horn, a sandy hill at 294 m with a beacon on top. From here you go to the Römer Turm (Roman tower) at the highest point of the Sophienhöhe at 302 m. You then go back to the parking lot via the Inselsee. On the way, you will find a large cross (see waypoint), and the 'Mammutwald' (see waypoint).
I was inspired by the first walk described in the Rother Wanderführer Eifel (Bergverlag Rother). The track described here deviates strongly from that walk, among others because the hill has grown further in the mean time.
This cross marks the former summit from where you had a view across the mine. Now only a photo reminds of that period.
The Höller horn is a sandy hill with a beacon on top.
Here you find a picknick spot with a view of a lake.
A smaller path takes you to the Mammutwald, a forest with "Mammut" trees, larger conifer trees which have grown relatively fast.
Here you have a little better view of the Tagebau, and the countryside northeast of the Sophienhöhe, including the large lignite power stations near the other former lignite mines near Bergheim and Niederaussem.
Here you have a little better view of the countryside northeast of the Sophienhöhe, including the large lignite power stations near the other former lignite mines near Bergheim and Niederaussem.
The Römer turm is a panoramic point at 302 meters, the highest point of the Sophienhöhe. A small tower takes you to a panoramic platform.
A circle with newly planted trees (various species) can be found here.
This tower cannot be climbed. Close-by is the 'stein-compass', where you can see the letters RWE of the power company, and a mining signal in stone (you can see it on Google Earth). You are close to the part of the hill that is not accessible because it is close to the mine.