Vieil Armand or Hartmannswillerkopf

One of Alsace's World
War One Memorials

Well preserved German World War One trenches at Vieil Armand in Alsace

One of the lesser known World War One memorials is...

Hartmannswillerkopf also known as "Vieil Armand" and "HWK" or "HK"

It was a World War One battlefield in Alsace...

It's unique because it's one of the very few World War One memorials and battlefields in the mountains...

Which means most of the trenches were either built out of stone or carved directly into the rock.

So you can actually see and...

Walk around in the very well preserved World War One trenches.

We spent almost an entire day walking around in the World War One trenches there and...

I doubt we saw them all.

That's just how much is still there!


What Happened at Hartmannswillerkopf?



At Hartmannswillerkopf (or Vieil Armand) there is a pretty good view of Alsace and the surrounding area...

So after war broke out...

The French set themselves up at Hartmannswillerkopf so that they could keep track of what the Germans were up to...

Remember that Alsace at the time was part of Germany so the Vosges mountain range was the France-Germany border then.

Well the Germans wanted to see what the French were up to as well so...

They set themselves up at Hartmannswillerkopf too.

That's when it turned into a fight for the summit on December 30, 1914.

For most of 1915 the French and the Germans attempted to take over the mountain...

And they both succeeded...

Except that when the French managed to push the Germans back, the Germans would then somehow manage to push the French back to where they were before...

And vice versa...

And this continued throughout 1915...

January 8, 1916 was the last major attempt to take the summit of Hartmannswillerkopf.

After that, the battle front in Alsace didn't move much...

Both sides continued to attack the other side but only with grenades, shells, and machine guns...

There were no more men charging into no man's land for the next three years which is one of the reasons these first world war trenches are in such good shape...

The battle front didn't move for three years and...

People were living in the trenches for three years.

Approximately 30,000 men are estimated to have died at Hartmannswillerkopf.


Hiking around Hartmannswillerkopf


This is one of the few World War one memorials in the mountains, so wear your hiking shoes and wear clothing that will cover your legs.

Especially in the summer...

They do cut back some of the plants growing naturally around the trenches but it just grows back.

The memorial building itself is open from April to the beginning of November.

Technically the rest of the memorial site is open year round but...

It is in the mountains...

So I wouldn't go up there until April or later because it's likely that there will be snow and ice.

Personally, I think the spring is a great time to go hiking at Vieil Armand because you can see the trenches better (less plants growing around them) and there are fewer people...

Also there is a little restaurant next to the World War One memorial if you want to sit down and have some hot food or...

You can do what a lot of people do and...

Bring a packed lunch with you and eat it wherever you want and whenever you want.

The summit (where the really big white cross is...) is a nice area to have a picnic.


How do I Get to Hartmannswillerkopf
or Vieil Armand?

The entrance to Vieil Armand or Hartmannswillerkopf World War One memorial in Alsace

The best thing to do is use a GPS and go to Uffholtz...

In Uffholtz, you'll see signs pointing the way to Vieil Armand or Hartmannswillerkopf...

And if you don't have a GPS, you'll find detailed directions below.

In winter sometimes the road is closed because of snow and ice...

Which is just another good reason to wait until spring to enjoy Vieil Armand...


Here's a map of the surrounding area...

If you prefer a paper map, you can get one here...




View Larger Map


Coming from Basel, Mulhouse, Germany

If you are coming from Basel, Mulhouse, Germany or anywhere east of highway A36...

If you're coming from Basel, Germany or anywhere else, go towards Mulhouse...

Take the Lutterbach exit (#15) going towards "Thann" in Mulhouse.

Later you're going to have the choice of going towards "Colmar", take that exit...

Right after you take that exit...

You will start to see exits for the actual village of Cernay...

Look for a brown sign that says "Vieil Armand suivre Uffholtz"

That means take the "Uffholtz" exit to go to Hartmannswillerkopf...

The actual exit name is "Cernay Nord"...

Follow the signs towards Uffholtz...

Once you get to Uffholtz, you will see signs pointing you towards "Vieil Armand" or "Hartmannswillerkopf".

Follow those signs...

It's relatively easy to do...

Alsace marks the way to most of its major tourist attractions (including its World War One memorials) very well.

To get to Vieil Armand or Hartmannswillerkopf, you're going to have to go up into the Vosges mountains. It's not in the foothills, it's very near the summit of this particular mountain peak (which makes sense from a military strategy point of view)...

So just keep following the main road until you see signs for it (and you will be able to see it from the road anyway really).



Coming from Paris or Lyon

If you're coming from Paris, Lyon, or anywhere from the west on highway A36...

Start by going in the direction of Mulhouse.

Take exit 14 "Guebwiller-Thann" in the Mulhouse area...

Later you're going to have the choice of going towards "Colmar", take that exit...

You will start to see exits for Cernay...

Look for a sign that says "Vieil Armand suivre Uffholtz"

That means take the "Uffholtz" exit to go to Hartmannswillerkopf...

The actual exit name is "Cernay Nord"...

Follow the signs towards Uffholtz...

Once you get to Uffholtz, you will see signs pointing you towards "Vieil Armand" or "Hartmannswillerkopf".

Follow those signs...

It's relatively easy to do...

Alsace marks the way to most of its major tourist attractions (including its World War One memorials) very well.

To get to Vieil Armand or Hartmannswillerkopf, you're going to have to go up into the Vosges mountains. It's not in the foothills, it's very near the summit of this particular mountain peak (which makes sense from a military strategy point of view)...

So just keep following the main road until you see signs for it (and you will be able to see it from the road anyway really).



Coming from Colmar or Strasbourg

If you are coming from Colmar, Strasbourg or anywhere north of Mulhouse on highway A35...

Start by going in the direction of Mulhouse.

Take the "Ensisheim" exit and then go towards "Cernay"...

When you start to see exits for Cernay...

Take the "Cernay Centre" exit...

And then follow the signs towards Uffholtz...

Once you get to Uffholtz, you will see signs pointing you towards "Vieil Armand" or "Hartmannswillerkopf".

Follow those signs...

It's relatively easy to do...

Alsace marks the way to most of its major tourist attractions (including its World War One memorials) very well.

Alsace marks the way to most of its major tourist attractions (including its World War One memorials) very well.

To get to Vieil Armand or Hartmannswillerkopf, you're going to have to go up into the Vosges mountains. It's not in the foothills, it's very near the summit of this particular mountain peak (which makes sense from a military strategy point of view)...

So just keep following the main road until you see signs for it (and you will be able to see it from the road anyway really).


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