Saxon Switzerland National Park is located in the eastern part of Germany near the Czech Republic border in the Free State of Saxony. The park covers an area of 36.1 square miles (93.5 sq km).
The Elebe Sandstone Mountains transcend the border and are protected Saxon Switzerland National Park on the Germany side and Bohemian Switzerland National Park on the Czech Republic side. The larger collective Saxon Switzerland expands across 274 square miles (710 sq km).
Although almost entirely covered in forest, the national park is comprised of fissured and rocky canyon landscapes. The tallest point reaches a height of only 1,814 feet ( 556 m), however, the neighboring Elbe river is at a lower elevation ranging from 360 to 390 feet (110 to 120 m).
The national park features an array of habitats that include steep ravines, flowered and grassy meadows, moors, plateau mountaintops, and an abundance of forests.
One thing that is unique to the national park as compared to much of Europe is areas of the forest that is void of human interaction. The city in stone is part of the highlights of the park. These sandstone cliffs, mesas, gorges, and spires create a “city” of stone.
There are currently 250 miles (400 km) of hiking paths and another 31 miles (49.9 km of paths for bikes. The climbing options are almost endless.
Wildlife is limited; however, it is present. Otter, lynx, deer, are some of the more popular species. The peregrine falcon and horned owls make for great animal sightings as well.
Saxon Switzerland National Park is renowned for the Bastei bridge which is a beautiful scene itself. It also affords visitors with one of the best lookout points overlooking the Saxon Switzerland area. For the climber, the park is extraordinary because there are countless climbing locations with over ten thousand different climbing routes.
The rock bridge reaches a height of 636.4 feet (194 m) above the Elbe River below with the surrounding rock formations reaching heights of 1,000.6 feet (305 m). This city of stone is the pinnacle landmark of the national park.
The bridge is actually an integration between the architectural efforts of mankind combined with the naturally occurring rock formations. This has been an iconic tourist destination in Germany for over 200 years.
There is a 487 step staircase that ascends out of the valley up into the rocks. Neurathen Castle may be reached by crossing the Bastei Bridge.
This is the largest rock castle in Saxon Switzerland, Germany. There are only remnants of the castle remaining which include a cistern, timber rebates, rooms carved into the rocks, and similar ruins. Although in ruins, the Neurathen Castle remnants add to the intrigue of the Bastei Bridge.
Saxon Switzerland National Park Trails
The monoliths are the pinnacle attraction but the discovery and exploration don't stop there. Hiking in the national park will take you through forests, around lakes, over and along rivers, past waterfalls, along canyons, and into caves. This park really provides you with an opportunity to engage nature with over 620 miles (998 km) of trails.
This trail engages a metal staircase to get you up above the cliff with a stunning panoramic view of the lush forests, rolling hills, and monoliths. The trail travels 4.5 miles (7.2 km) and takes about two hours. It is rated as moderate.
Bastei Bridge & Swedish Holes Loop
This is a 3.9-mile (6.2 km) loop that is quite possibly the most popular trail in the park because it takes visitors to the iconic Bastei Bridge with various views of it. The Swedish Holes is a narrow canyon with a small waterfall that adds to the aesthetics of the area.
This is a full-day hike covering 8.7 miles (14.0 km). The trail meanders through slot canyons and along the edges of cliffs that give way to exquisite views of the valley. You will come along a few waterfalls with a staircase to finish out at the summit. Kuhstall is the park's largest cave and this trail gives you access to discover and explore the cave. Make sure you are in good physical condition, this trail is challenging and rated difficult.
If you really want an adventure, this is a multi-day (7-8 days) trek over 70 miles (112.7 km) of a moderate to difficult rated trail. This is a hiker's adventure and provides those who embark on the endeavor a chance to really get an understanding of all the park has to offer.
Saxon Switzerland Highlights
- Bastei rock formation and bridge
- Schrammsteine rocks
- Peregrine falcons and horned owls
- Endless climbing options
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- Germany Travel, Saxon Switzerland National Park, https://www.germany.travel/en/leisure-and-recreation/natural-landscapes/national-parks/saxon-switzerland-national-park.html, retrieved August 2019.
- Lonely Planet, Saxon Switzerland, https://www.lonelyplanet.com/germany/saxon-switzerland, retrieved August 2019.
- Matador Network, Saxon Switzerland is a Stunning National Park that is Actually in Germany, https://matadornetwork.com/read/saxon-switzerland-national-park/, retrieved June 2020.
- National Geographic, Saxon Switzerland National Park, https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/parks/saxon-switzerland-germany/, retrieved August 2019.
- Sachsisch-Bohmische Schweiz, National Park Saxon Switzerland Experience, https://www.saechsische-schweiz.de/en/region/national-park.html, retrieved July 2019.
- Wikipedia, Bastei, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bastei, retrieved June 2020.