Saxon Switzerland National Park: Your One Day Hiking Guide
Ever heard of Saxon Switzerland National Park? No I hadn’t either. But if you’re after THE best one day hiking adventure in Germany, this guide is for you.
If you thought this was a post about Switzerland, you were wrong. But don’t worry, you won’t be alone. Saxon Switzerland National Park is in the South East corner of Germany and could quite possibly be on of Europes best kept secrets.
A 3 hour drive from Berlin and only an hours drive from Dresden, this makes the Saxon Switzerland National Park crazy accessible. Driving to the National Park is easily done. There are plenty of parking places and good roads to have access to pretty much any part of the park you’d need.
If you’re new to travelling to Germany here are a few quick facts for you to get by.
Thank you: Danke
Please: Bitte (also polite to say after someone says Danke)
Goodbye: Auf Wiedersehen
Side of the road: Right
Capital City: Berlin
Best pastries: Weiner Croissant
What does this blog include?
In this Saxon Switzerland National Park Hiking Guide there are 3 walks that we did and that I want to share so that you too can see the beauty of this incredible place. One, however, is in Bohemian Switzerland which is the national park over the Czech Republic border. But for sake of ease, and for your benefit, we’ll include that in this guide too. It’ll make sense when you’re here as they’re all really close together and possible to do all 3 in one day, if you’re fit enough!
Saxon Switzerland boasts over 400km of hiking trails, nearly 50km of biking paths, and over 700 climbing locations. You could spend a week here and still not see a fraction of this truly magnificent park. With that said, here are the 3 best walks in the Saxon Switzerland park, possibly to do in one day, for your convenience.
HIKE ONE: The Swedish Holes and Bastei Bridge
Again, like earlier, think I was taking you to Sweden? You’d be wrong but not alone. I’ve no idea why they’re called Swedish holes (SchwedischLocher) but they’re right here in the Saxon Switzerland National Park.
The Bastei Bridge can be reached by another trail if you want to head to just see the famous bridge instead. But I strongly recommend that you take the 30 or so extra minutes to hike through the Swedish holes. It was one of the best hikes I’ve ever done and totally worth the extra time.
The town of Rathen is where the trail head starts for this hike. But unfortunately you cannot park in Rathen so you’ve got a couple of options. You can get here by boat or by car and small walk. We didn’t get the boat so we cannot fully advise, but access is via the River Elbe which is a long and winding river with many ferry points.
If you’re driving this is the closest car park you can get to and leaves you about 1KM outside of Rathen. It’s not all bad as the walk down to Rathen is beautiful and not all that bad. It cost us €5 to park for the entire day (Keep your ticket). Click here to get the exact location for the car park.
Once you’ve parked up, head out of the car park and down the road. You’ll see a small trail fork off the road and you’ll take this down. You’ll pass through some beautiful woodland and eventually see a field full of sheep with the Saxon Switzerland famous sandstone landscape behind it. Continue down until you come back on to the road and head right into the town of Rathen.
Rathen is absolutely beautiful and you’ll see for yourself how beautiful. Wander through the street and you’ll come to a t junction which will be sign posted for the Bastei and SchwedischeLocher. Follow this up the road and past those stunning buildings.
This is where you can make the decision to head straight for the bridge or to follow the river and continue to the Swedish holes. Like I previously said, head for the Swedish holes, you won’t regret it.
Now that you’ve listened to me, you’ll continue to follow this beautiful magical river. With it’s beautiful bird life, iconic rowing boats (that you can rent) and incredible views, take it all in. Once you’re around the corner and the trail passes over the river, don’t forget to look back and check out the iconic, Honigstein rock formation now peering out of the trees behind you. It was one of my favourite spots of the entire day.
Instead of passing over the river, stay your course and follow the trail up. You’ll soon reach a little fork in the road, cross the metal bridge and start up the steps. Here’s where the Swedish holes begin.
Around every corner there is an excitement of “whats next?”. It’s an enchanting and magical place that keeps you guessing all the way up. I’ll let some pictures do the talking through this bit, as it’s truly an indescribable journey through the thick, dense woodland.
The trail pretty much stays its course right the way to the top. Once you’re done with the steps, caves, tunnels, bridges and mossy green walls of the Swedish Holes the hike to the Bastei bridge is straight forward. Follow the signs for the Bastei bridge, although you’ll probably be able to follow the crowds of people heading for the same spot.
The Bastei bridge was built especially for tourism and it’s clear to see why it’s an attraction. It’s impressive bridge splits through the incredible rock formations and leads you high above the river Elbe. Follow the bridge over and you’ll have an opportunity to pay €2 for access to the old middle aged castle that once stood on these rock formations.
If you decide not to head into the old castle, follow the path down and back towards the signs for Rathen. A short woodland hike down will see you back where you chose to follow the signs for the Swedish holes. Follow the road back and signs towards Waltersdorf, that’s where you left your car.
That’s your first hike in Saxon Switzerland done and I hope you saved some memory on your phone for photos of the next two hikes as they’re equally as impressive as what you’ve just experienced.
HIKE TWO: The Schrammstein, Saxon Switzerland National Park.
A short drive from where you parked your car at Rathen and you’ll be gawping out the window at yet more incredible views whilst driving down the river elbe. If you put this car park into your sat nav it’ll take you through the town of Bad Schandau with its wonderful church dead centre. Follow the road up and you’ll come onto the road with the cable car attached. The Kirnitzschtalbahn shares the road with you, so look out for oncoming traffic!
Remember that parking ticket I told you to keep? The one that cost you €5? Well, if my eyes didn’t deceive me it’s the EXACT ticket you’ll get out of the machine at this car park. We tried it and it worked, so it might save you €5.
I think there are a few different trail heads for the Schrammstein but this is the one we took and enjoyed.
Click here to use the car park we used. It’ll make you turn into the car park and ask you to carry on the bike path, I don’t advise that you do…
From the car park follow the cycle route up and through the thick forest. You’ll then have the choice to take a trail instead of following the road, at this junction. This will bring you out at a T junction, head over it, take the next left where it’s sign posted and then you’ll head up some stairs and into the ladder section of this hike.
You can carry on the hike and head up more rocks, stairs and ladders and come to The Schrammsteine. If it’s windy don’t forget to hold on to your hat, I nearly lost mine!
HIKE THREE: Bohemian Switzerland and The Falcons Nest
This hike will require you to cross into the Czech border. Whilst we travelled through Czech we needed a vignette sticker displayed in the windscreen, so you might need to get one on the way through too. That and drive with your dipped beam on, it’s a necessity when driving here.
The hike itself is about 45 minutes to the top and will give you incredible views of the famous archway and the impressive Falcons Nest Inn. A 50 roomed hotel with a view!
You’ll know you’re in the right place when you start to see lots of FREE stores (I presumed tax free) and lots of odd garden oddities shops. At the river turn up and follow it all the way along. Take your time driving through here as A) It’s absolutely beautiful and B) It’s quite narrow!
If you park here, it will cost you a couple of euros, but worth it as the trailhead is only 1.6km away. Follow the hill up along the path alongside the road and you’ll come to a fork in the road and a bus stop. This is where the trail begins and this is where the 45 minutes is recommended.
As you walk up through the beautiful dense woodland on a cobblestoned path, you’ll reach your first switchback. From here the path gets easier and is mainly switchbacks all the way. When you’re a little higher, the rock formations come out to play. Huge, gigantic rocks hug the trail itself and form some pretty awesome formations. With trees growing anywhere and everywhere you can tell why Narnia was filmed here.
Once you’ve made it high enough you’ll see the archway up above you, this will be the second hardest bit of the hike and a few more minutes and you would have made it to the top, go you! It costs another couple of Euro if you want to head through the Nest and to the archway, but if I’m totally honest the views are not that impressive once you’re through.
That’s that. Three awesome hikes in the Saxon Switzerland National Park. I hope you’ve got tired legs, happy memories and a full memory card.
If you used this article and found it useful, I’d love it if you could share it so others like us can see the beautiful Saxon Switzerland for themselves.
Thanks for reading and being awesome.