Saxon Switzerland is located in the German area of the Elbe Sandstone Mountains, while the part in the Czech Republic is called Bohemian Switzerland. As the name suggests, it is a low mountain range, mainly made of sandstone. The landscape is shaped by towering rocks and deeply cut valleys. Mighty table mountains and individual volcanic cones rise from the green forests. These rock formations along the Elbe offer visitors an amazing natural spectacle. Therefore, hiking, climbing and mountain biking are popular activities in the Saxon Switzerland National Park.
I don’t want to deprive you of this sight in Germany. Therefore, I present you in this blog post a great hike to the most beautiful rocks of Saxon Switzerland. It leads from Ostrau near Bad Schandau over the Falkenstein to the famous Schrammsteinen. The hiking path then continues over the Affensteine, the Carolafelsen and the Frienstein to the Lichtenhain waterfall. At the end you can expect a ride in the Kirnitzschtalbahn. I have marked the route and individual highlights on the map. You can find more information about the national park on my page of Saxon Switzerland. I am very pleased that you are stopping by my travel blog and I hope you enjoy reading my travelogue about Germany.
↑ 690 m ↓ 656 m
Parking lot Ostrau
Easily accessible, steep ladders, stairs
Ride with the Kirnitzschtalbahn
How to get to Saxon Switzerland
Getting there by car
By car we go from Bad Schandau, the tourist center of Saxon Switzerland, uphill to Ostrau. There are several parking spaces for hikers on the way there and in the village itself. We stayed overnight in Ostrau that time. The journey from Dresden to Bad Schandau takes 45 minutes.
By train to Saxon Switzerland
You can also easily reach Bad Schandau by train from Dresden, Pirna and the Czech Republic. You can find timetables on the website of Deutsche Bahn* From the train station buses go to Ostrau (line 252). You can get off at the stops Schrammsteinbaude, Ostrau Ortsanfang or Ostrau Zur Falkensteinklinik. These are marked on the map. You can find timetables and tickets on the Transport Association website. My tip: Use the cheap DB regional day tickets* (Sachsen-Ticket).
If you want to learn more about traveling by car or public transportation in Germany, check out my travel blog about Germany and Saxony.
Hotels and accommodation in Saxon Switzerland
Bad Schandau is the tourism hotspot in Saxon Switzerland. Accordingly, there are many hotels in the village, which is 5 kilometers from the Czech border. Here you are guaranteed to find suitable accommodation for your needs. In Bad Schandau there are also plenty of offers for tourists, as well as restaurants and shops. I advise you to book a hotel early, because at that time I had to go to the Ostrau district. There I stayed in the Ferienhaus Ostrauer Hof* and was completely satisfied. Ostrau is also a perfect starting point for hikes in Saxon Switzerland NP.
Hiking trail from Ostrau to Falkenstein
The start of our hike is the car park in Ostrau (N50 ° 55.203 ′, E014 ° 10.637 ′). From here we head east along the main road until we turn into Zschiehädelweg. From now on we follow the red route through dense forest straight ahead. We don’t meet people. It’s incredibly quiet. The soft forest floor dampens our steps. Moreover, the tall trees and rocks of Saxon Switzerland protect us from the cold wind. Without a word we enjoy the hike until we reach a great viewpoint with a view of the Falkenstein. This sight is an impressive free-standing rock that towers majestically over 100 meters in height. There used to be a castle watchman on the stone, but today the Falkenstein is mainly interesting for climbers. It’s end of December and we can even spot a bit of snow on the conifers. But it’s not enough for a snowball fight.
The Große Schrammtor and the Schrammsteine
We continue south along the green route. Occasionally we meet other hikers. Soon we see the west side of the legendary Schrammsteine. These rocks with over 100 meters high steep walls take our breath away. After an intersection you will reach the Great Schrammtor. This attraction is the start of a route through the middle of the steep rocks that leads us to the east side of the Schrammsteine.
The Wildschützensteig in Saxon Switzerland
After another 600 meters along the towering mountains, we come to the Wildschützensteig. A group of retirees is stopping here and wishing us good luck on the ascent. In fact, iron ladders and footbridges are used to climb steeply into the Saxon Switzerland. The short section reminds me of the hike in the Slovak Paradise. Only better secured. The handrail is so cold, however, that my hands almost freeze, even with gloves on. We feel the proximity of the rocks even without touching them. The sun shines from behind into the narrow passage and the wet rock walls shimmer in the light. Cold wind whistles the smell of damp earth and moss in our noses. The ascent is difficult, and our clouds of breath evaporate on the cold stones.
Once at the top, we soon reach several viewpoints on the Schrammsteine. Here we have an incredible view of the surrounding rocks, forests, and the Elbe River. We are lucky and caught a sunny day so that we can look far over Saxony. At the lookout point we meet many tourists for the first time. A photographer has set up his tripod and blocks the best vantage point for half an eternity. I know such situations and let him do it. However, I doubt that the pictures taken in the midday sun will be particularly good. So, we prefer to enjoy the view over Saxon Switzerland and look forward to this great experience at the sight Schrammsteinaussicht. Even if my face in the photo suggests the opposite.
Short Facts for your Trip
As Saxon Switzerland is a popular travel destination in Germany the national park is particularly crowded in the summer and holiday season. If you like it quieter, come in April/May or September/October. Especially in the golden autumn the landscape offers a wonderful blaze of colors. On the following website you will find climate tables for the whole year.
The most beautiful rocks in Saxon Switzerland – Affensteine, Carolafelsen and Wenzelwand
The descent takes place along the green marked route, which then continues over the Mittelwinkel, Vorderwinkel and Zeughausweg. We follow a route through dense green forest until we reach the Kleiner Dom via the Sandlochweg. Mighty rocks of Saxon Switzerland pile up again. We climb again over wooden stairs and footbridges. In the distance, the free-standing Falkenstein juts out of the forest. Several viewpoints offer a great view. At the summit we look at the Affenwand (monkey wall). The view here is breathtaking, so we take a longer break. However, we cannot spot monkeys here. But we would also be surprised to be honest.
If you prefer to travel in a group, there is a possibility to join a guided tour. You don’t have to worry about transportation, excursion planning, or food, but you can completely focus on the beauty of Saxon Switzerland. I recommend booking a tour through Viator portal, where countless activities around the world can be booked easily and safely.
Viewpoints of Saxon Switzerland
After our refreshment, we continue to follow the route marked in yellow until we take a junction to the Carolafelsen. We meet more people here again. But the detour is worth it, because here, too, there are incredibly beautiful views over Saxon Switzerland. We are standing on a rocky plateau. The sun shines on the cold stones, on which there is partly snow and ice. Tourists sit here on their jackets or scarves and enjoy the sunshine. After a short time, we trek back to the junction, from which a path then leads us to the Wenzelwand. Countless hikers cavort here on a rocky ledge and enjoy the view of the magical rock formations of the national park. One group even has a small grill with them. We stroll through the crowds, take a few photos, and wonder why we haven’t met all these people anywhere before.
If you need more details or are looking for further hikes in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains, then take a look at this book. I personally like this series of hiking guides very much. The book is small and handy, offers useful information about hiking and detailed descriptions of the hikes. It has already enabled me to discover great hikes that I would not have found without these books. The book is in German, but I think the hiking routes are understandable even without knowledge of German.
Hike to the Lichtenhain Waterfall
From the lookout point Wenzelwand we follow the signs to Frienstein at a junction. We cross a narrow alley. A look up and we become aware of our insignificance compared to mighty nature. Drops fall from the steep rock walls. The floor of the stony stairs is wet and slippery. Smell of damp moss. A cool breeze. Saxon Switzerland inspires. We leave this almost mystical alley and look at the high Frienstein. On top of this is the Idagrotte, which can only be reached via an unsecured narrow path near the abyss. We don’t climb this rock, however.
At the end of the green marked route, a 230-meter-long staircase with countless steps awaits us. Although our legs hurt after the descent, we are glad we didn’t have to climb uphill. The rest of the route runs through wooded areas and is not particularly spectacular. In fact, the high rocks of Saxon Switzerland are now behind us. After 2 kilometers we reach an asphalt road which after a short time leads us to the Lichtenhain waterfall. The waterfall is not very interesting in December as it hardly carries any water. Unfortunately, I don’t know whether the water level is higher at other times of the year. I cannot recommend this sight, unlike the old Kirnitzschtalbahn which runs here.
Ride with the Kirnitzschtalbahn from the Lichtenhain Waterfall to Bad Schandau
We hiked 12 kilometers from Ostrau to Lichtenhain. We don’t want to hike another 10 kilometers back to Ostrau. That’s why we decide to take the Kirnitzschtalbahn. This traditional tram has been carrying tourists and hikers through the national park since 1898. It runs every 70 minutes in winter and every 30 minutes in summer. We pay 5 euros directly on the train for the route from the Lichtenhain Waterfall to the botanical garden. The ride is bumpy. Again, and again the train must brake abruptly because it has to share the narrow street with oncoming cars. The conductors and train drivers wear traditional uniforms. The journey takes around 20 minutes. Further information and the timetable can be found on the website of the Transport Association. From the Botanischer Garten stop, we walk around one kilometer back uphill to Ostrau.
Conclusion and other hiking trails in Saxon Switzerland
In summary, it was a wonderful hike. It leads over many different viewpoints and never gets boring. Furthermore, it is suitable for everyone as there are no difficult climbs. Only the Wildschützensteig is strenuous, but it is well secured. The views from the Schrammsteine, Affensteine and Wenzelwand are breathtaking. Nowhere else will you be able to see the mighty and sometimes bizarre rock formations better. In addition, the viewpoints are much less visited than the famous sight Bastei, for example. Nevertheless, take a look at my post of our hike to the Bastei bridge. Despite the many tourists it is a magical place. Follow the link for all my experiences and hikes in the Saxon Switzerland National Park. What are your insider tips for the Elbe Sandstone Mountains? Let me know in the comments. I’m curious.
I hope you enjoyed my travelogue about Germany’s popular national park. On my Saxony Blog I show you other beautiful travel destinations in Saxony and share valuable tips and experiences for your trip to Saxony. Did you like my blog post? Was I able to help you? Then I would be happy if you recommend my travel blog, leave a comment, or follow me on Instagram. Thanks for reading and have fun on your vacation in Germany.
If you are looking for more destinations and places to see in Saxony or Germany, check out these books. These travel guides will show you the beauty of Germany and give you valuable information for your trip to this region of Germany.
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