There is something magical about hiking in the fall. Crunching leaves underfoot, changing leaves, crisp air. Or maybe I’m just terrified of the coming winter days and being cooped up in a house with two wild children?
Wandern, the German word for hiking, perfectly summarizes my feelings towards walking in nature. Get out, get lost, wander until you find something beautiful.
Walking and Hiking are a huge part of German culture. Es gibt kein schlechtes wetter, nur schlechte kleidung, a common phrase among Germans, roughly translates to there is no such thing as bad weather, only improper clothing. Drive on a rural road in the middle of winter on a Sunday and you will see couples and small groups bundled up walking in the snow.
Think having a baby is excuse to stay in your cozy house? They make these incredible sleeping bags for your strollers so the babies feel nice and cozy! Besides, hiking is one of the most grounding activities. My children are calmer amongst the trees (or I just don’t notice their crazy as much. . . it’s hard to say for sure).
The Saxony Switzerland National Park is a wonderful place to stretch your legs and embrace the German wandern culture. Bonus part of wandern versus traditional hiking? There is almost always somewhere along the path serving beer, pretzels, and apfel schorle. In Germany, one is never far from refreshments.
Saxony Switzerland National Park is located less than an hour outside of Dresden. You can easily get there via public transit (see below) for a day trip or if you have extra time take a sightseeing cruise along the Elbe River and spend the night in nearby picturesque Pirna.
The rock formations here “Bastei” were carved out of the Sandstone mountains by water millions of years ago. The Bastei Bridge connects several of these formation and is itself a a stunning site. The adjacent Neurathen Castle ruins are mostly gone but provides a platform for viewing the park and a glimpse of what life in this strategic site would have been like.
The Bastei are stunning in their natural state, but the sandstone found in these mountains was also used to create many German treasures like the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin and many of the building in nearby Dresden.
Getting to the Bridge and Bastei Viewpoints
The bridge is located at the top of the mountain, so depending on where you choose to start your hike you will either see it at the beginning or in the middle of your hike. We chose to park near the bridge and then hike down to the town of Rathen for a late breakfast before returning to the top. If you’re coming from Dresden it is easiest to take the train into Rathen, cross the river via Ferry and then hike up to the bridge.
We spent the night in Pirna, so we chose to drive to the park and see the bridge first thing in the morning. A few tour buses do find their way out of the city so it is best to arrive early to avoid crowds. Midday can get quite busy on the bridge.
- Saxony Switzerland National Park – https://www.saechsische-schweiz.de/en/region/national-park.html
- Entrance Fee – No entrance fee, the park is free to visit
- Hours – No hours, you can visit anytime
- Parking at Park – although driving into the park is discouraged to protect the natural landscape, there are 2 parking lots which charge a small fee and the lot closest to the park fills up quickly.
- Dogs allowed
- Facilities- Toilets, biergarten, and restaurant available in park village near the bridge
- Visitor Center – Located in Bad Schandau
- Facilities – Public toilets available near the ferry dock
- Lunch and breakfast options in Rathen
- Hiking from Rathen: If you’re coming from Dresden, the easiest route is via the S-Bahn Train which will you drop you in Niederrathen about 200 m from the Ferry. Take the ferry from Niederrathen (East Bank) to Oberrathen (West Bank) and then hike up.
- Steamboat Tours (available from Rathen) – https://www.saechsische-dampfschiffahrt.de/