Grunewald, Teufelsberg, und Die Sandgrube - Berlin, Germany
Berlin, Germany is full of relics from the Cold War woven into the fabric of the city. It is most famously known for the Berlin Wall that portions of it can still be seen throughout the city. If you have not been, I encourage you to visit the Berlin Wall Memorial, to see what it originally looked like and learn more about its history. There is even a well known 100 mile race whose track follows the original boundary of the wall! It’s on my to-do list to run the entire wall, at least in three separate 50ks, but haven’t been able to fit that in my schedule yet. However, there is another place in Berlin that I like to make part of my longer training runs, the Grunewald Forest. And, within the Grunewald there are two especially cool sites to visit that you can use to make for a more difficult run, Teufelsberg (The Devil’s Mountain) and the Sandgrube (sand pit). I find Berlin to be a great place to keep up my training while preparing for my next Ultrarunning Destination trip.
The Grunewald Forest is full of trails you can use to piece together almost any length run. Despite most of Berlin being flat, there is also a surprising amount of rolling hills you can use to get some elevation gain in on your run. Besides the paths on the interior of the forest, there are also trails that follow along the Havel River, including Kuhhorn Beach where you can dip your toes, that makes for fun running its many curves. My favorite trail map for the area is the Outdoors map in Gaia GPS.
Within the Grunewald Forest are the two cool sites I mentioned, Teufelsberg and the Sandgrube.
Teufelsberg was the site of a listening post that monitored electronic signals in East Germany. The reason they located it here, and what makes Teufelsberg unique, is the mountain’s elevation since they built it upon an incredible pile of rubble. After World War II, all the material from the destroyed buildings had to be located somewhere. These large mountains of rubble can also be seen in other German cities and are not unique to Berlin. While Teufelsberg is better known, just to the northeast of it is another mountain made of rubble, Drachenberg (Dragon Mountain) that has nice running tracks up and around it. Today they make for a great location to get in some elevation training (394 feet / 120m of elevation at Teufelsberg) in Berlin since it is so flat and enjoy some interesting history along the way.
What makes Teufelsberg incredibly cool is that the listening post can be toured since it is also a place for art exhibitions. I could even climb all the way to the top of the main radar dome that’s painted with artwork on its interior (although it's been closed since I went). Along the climb to the top, you can enjoy fantastic views of Berlin. Back on the ground, you can also walk around and explore the old buildings. There is even a small outdoor cafe so you can enjoy a mid-run beer and bratwurst! You can approach the top of the mountain in at least two ways. One via trails that go through the forest and the other up a paved curvy road to the top. If you run on the road, look out for bikes and cars going in both directions.
When piecing together a long run in this area, there is also one other interesting place fundamental in the rebuilding of Berlin, The Sandgrube. It’s best described as the largest beach you’ll ever find within a forest. The beach / sand pit is made up of a giant hill of sand used for the reconstruction of the city well into the 1980s. You can get to the top of the sand hill by running around the trails or attempting to run straight up the sand hill, it is quite the workout.
Berlin is full of many other great areas to run that I’ll share in later posts. But, if you find yourself in Berlin and want a great long run, including some elevation gain, I highly recommend the Grunewald Forest where you can just enjoy the forested trails or check out a couple super interesting sites at Teufelsberg or Sandgrube. You can either run there directly from Mitte or take a train to the Grunewald Station (or take Uber or MyTaxi as I did) if you want to focus more on trails rather than the streets. Be sure to check the opening hours of Teufelsberg so you can also take a break and explore the art and towers!
Distance : 13.1 miles / 21k
Elevation Gain : 1100 feet / 335m