Saxon Switzerland is the best-kept secret in Germany. Yes, even though the name has Switzerland, it is in Germany and it is not present along the border of Switzerland. In fact, located on the East side of Germany, along with the border of Poland and the Czech Republic, it is popular hiking place with about 1000 peaks to climb and to admire amazing views for there. Some of these hikes are easy to moderate level difficult. Such routes are mainly popular among the beginner hikers and families with grown-up kids (age above 5 years).
In this article, I am going to share a list of 5 kids-friendly hikes and information on the surrounding area to explore. One can cover these places in 3 to 4 days.
How to arrive
Germany has extensive public transport facilities. One can travel to almost each and every place in Germany with one or other public transport. The places I have listed below are also reachable by train or bus but it is time-consuming. I suggest taking a car to easily explore this area. Especially, when you are going to hike (that too with kids), you need to conserve energy and therefore taking car will be the wise decision.
What to pack
Saxony Switzerland is a hilly region surrounded by dense forest national parks. In winter it will be freezing cold and in summer, it can be windy and chilling at the top. The hike involves some steep hills which become slippery after rain.
Note: I won’t recommend this hike for beginners and kids during winter.
To protect from adverse weather conditions should be a top priority while packing your luggage. Take the weatherproof jacket, sturdy shoes, and sun protection cap. Sunscreen, first aid kit with insect repellent sprays will always come in handy.
If you have walking sticks, these will help you ease your hike. We just made it from fallen tree branches and these served for the function.
Before you start, get enough water and some food with you. After reaching the top, some refreshment will be needed. There are one or two restaurants at each place listed here but still to carry some snacks, in case needed, is advisable.
Where to go
Following is the list of places suitable to hike with kids in Saxony Switzerland.
Rakotzbrucke (Devil’s bridge)
This is an artistic half-circle bridge made in the mid-19th century and it soon became popular for its reflection in the water below making a complete circle. There is a car parking adjacent to this Devil’s bridge. One can easily reach this bridge in about 2 min walk from car parking.
Don’t just return from this bridge. This bridge is located in an English garden of Rhododendrons. The rhododendrons are beautiful flowers. Walk around this garden also. This area has many small lakes and gardens around it. Enjoy this scenic landscape wandering around with kids.
Gablenz is the nearest city to Devil’s bridge. There are good bed and breakfast options which are the best places to experience the warmth of their hospitality and to taste some local delicacies.
The next place to visit from Devil’s bridge is the Bastei or Bastion. It is about 1.5 hours from Gablenz. If you take a route via B156, it will be little slower but you will travel through a beautiful landscape.
Bastei means rock and it is named after the typical rock formation in Saxony region. Bastei has a complex of a medieval castle, observation deck, and wooden bridge. One has to hike considerably steep hills to reach these monuments. The Devil’s bridge and its garden, discussed above, are spread around flat lands but Bastei is on the hilltops.
Once on the top, explore the mesmerizing views overlooking the Lilienstein and Koenigstein (other such peaks on the opposite side), visit an open-air museum of Neurathen Castle, cross the Bastei bridge and reach the observation deck.
There are several paths to hike around in this area which lead to different towns. In those surrounding towns, information boards and maps of hiking routes are displayed. Check out each route for its difficulty and length and then choose as per your interest. For the families with small kids, I suggest start from Rathen, hike up to the Bastei and then walk further to Hohenstein or down to Wehlen village or return back to Rathen. During our visit, we stayed at Rathen and made a return hike to the Bastei top. It took us around 4 hours for this route. For regular hikers, it will be much quicker.
One can visit Bastei as a day trip from Dresden but I recommend staying in this region. The river Elbe flows along the foothills of Bastei and there are many small beautiful villages on either side of it. Enjoy your night stay in wooden cottages or homely pensions on the river banks overlooking the natural wonders and relishing on local delicacies. The region is famous for some specialty foods like fresh salads, fish, rabbit meat etc. Some towns are perfect to pamper yourself in the Spas.
We stayed in Rathen at Rosengarten pension. Rathen is a popular spa town which has a thermal spa opposite the River Elbe. We stayed on the Bastei side of the village in a spacious room with river view. There are some good restaurants, souvenir shops in this area. Different easy to moderately difficult hiking routes start from here.
Note– On this side of the town Rathen, cars are not allowed. If you have a hotel booking in this region and hotel has its own private parking available for you, then only you can bring a car. Check with your hotel first.
On the postcard photo of Bastei bridge, this Lilienstein (German site) can be seen in the background. From the top, one can get an almost 360-degree view overlooking the Koenigstein, It represents the National park of Saxony Switzerland.
There is a car parking at the base of this steeping high table top mountain. There are two routes to climb up. The Southern route is shorter but difficult as compared to a Northern route which is comparatively newly developed. The southern route is a popular one. The easiness of the hike between these two routes is just a comparative, Lilienstein demands a moderate level hike.
Once you reach the top, walk along all the sides for the beautiful views over the national park and over to the Czech Republic. The Elbe taking 180 degrees turn around this mountain and the Koenigstein castle on the opposite side of the river – everything looks stunning from Lilienstein.
There is one restaurant on the top which offers warm foods and different drinks. We spent about 4 hours to climb up, see around and to return to the car parking.
Lilienstein is only about 5 minutes from Rathen by car. You don’t need to change the hotel.
Kuhstall and Lichtenhainer waterfall
The direct translation of Kuhstall is ‘Cowshed’. This hiking place is located far east from that of Bastei, near Czech Republic border. The surrounding area is amidst nature with dense forest, Kirnitzsch gorge, and waterfalls. This is a perfect destination for nature lovers and hikers.
The Cowshed – we are discussing here – is the second largest rock door or window which opens to a panoramic view over the Saxony Switzerland. The spa town, Bad Schandau is the nearest big settlement. An old style Kirnitzschtalbahn (Kirnitzsch Valley train) starts from this town and runs along the beautiful water stream through a deep valley and reaches up to Lichtenhainer waterfall. If you are coming here by car, there is car parking next to the train station. Park your car here to visit the waterfall and the Kuhstall.
Walk only about 100 mt from the car park or train station, to see a small cute Lichtenhainer waterfall. Enjoy the sight for a while, grab a coffee and start walking uphill towards Kuhstall. In about 30 – 40 min hike, you will reach the Kuhstall. Admire the views over unending forests landscape from the top.
There is a steep narrow staircase which takes you above the Kuhstall where there was a castle in old days. There are some ruins and viewpoints around the Kuhstall. You can get some warm food and basic facilities at the only restaurant up there. Walking around this hill exploring wide landscape views is a fun experience for kids.
Bad Schandau is a big town with a lot of hotel options even suitable for families with kids. The town is popular for Spa and ferry tours. You can choose to stay here for a couple of nights to explore the surrounding Saxony Switzerland National park.
If you do not want to change the hotel in Rathen, then also no big deal. Bad Schandau and Kuhstall are only about half an hour from there.
For experienced hikers and for those looking for long walks spread over several days, there is a planned route called as ‘Malerweg’. This route passes through various popular destinations including above listed. If you are interested, check their site for more details.
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