The Oberer Berggrabenweg trail starts at Amtshaus in Ilmenau (496 m a.s.l.) and ends in Stützerbach after 18 km. You walk on easy forest roads or shady paths and can enjoy beautiful views into the valleys and into Manebach from numerous benches set up on the way.
The trail runs through the historic town of Ilmenau to Sturmheide and through the Ilmenau mining district – passing the Old Miner's Chapel (Bergmannskapelle; 510 m a.s.l.) and the Pit House (Zechenhaus; 525 m a.s.l.). Passing Mittlerer Berggrabenweg, you reach Ravené hut (588 m a.s.l.), a small shelter. Slightly further up, the actual Oberer Berggrabenweg starts, with a slight rise of only 13 m until Freibach valley over a length of 12 km.
In about 3.5 km from Amtshaus, you reach the quarry Ratssteinbruch (599 m a.s.l.), opening a stunning view into the valley and onto the opposite mountains. Now the trail leads above Manebach to the crossing with the Goethe Trail (595 m a.s.l.) and to the Warrior Memorial (600 m a.s.l.). After a total of about 17 km, you reach the Stützerbach outdoor swimming pool (587 m a.s.l.) – now you can continue until the Goethe House (625 m a.s.l.) or opt to return to Ilmenau.
Oberer Berggraben is part of a network of ponds and trenches set up as water supplies for the Ilmenau mines to operate the stamp mills and smelteries. Silver and copper mining has been documented since 1444. One of the main problems from the very beginning were the water inlets into the mines. The facilities to elevate the water were at first operated with horse power. But already in medieval times, this animal workforce was replaced by water power. For this, water was dammed up in the mountains and channeled to the shafts. A first Berggraben, a trench, is documented in Ilmenau in 1475 already. The Oberer Berggraben was set up between 1688 and 1691 under Berghauptmann von Utterodt. It leads the water from Stützerbach at the Mittlerer Freibachteich pond in huge arcs through the Meyersgrund, Hirschgrund, Moosbachtal, Harzhüttengrund and Steingründchen valleys at about 600 m a.s.l. with a decline of about 10 cm over a distance of 100m.
After 12 km, the water was lead through a 240 m shaft running underneath the Sturmheide ridge to the side of the mountain which is today's Ilmenau-Roda. There it ran into the Pfaffenteiche ponds. The water brought up via Oberer Berggraben was used as driving water for the facilities in the shafts ”Vertrau auf Gott" (Trust in God), ”Segen Gottes" (God's Blessing) and ”Gott segne beständig" (God bless forever) at the Kupferberg mountain in Roda and for operating the smeltery. Oberer Berggraben decayed after the works in Roda were closed down in 1715, with parts of it being now used as walking trails. Over a distance of 2,700 m, the trench is still recognisable.
Please use the bus connections for one way of the trail www.rennsteigbus.de