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Hiking in Saxon Switzerland National Park - Kirnitzschtal

The "Obere Schleuse" track: A hiking description for one of the most beautiful hiking tracks in the Saxon Switzerland: the core zone of the National Park. The track leads you to the biggest tourist attractions during the GDR time: the "Obere Schleuse" (upper watergate): use the romantic rowing boats to get through the "Kirnitzsch Gorge" (Kirnitzschklamm) or just go on foot, continue your way by following one of the cleanest rivers in whole of Germany: the "Kirnitzsch" along the German and Czech border. Listen carefully when you are in the mountains and no other tourist is around! Complete silence! You do not know the word silence yet, if you do not travel much to lonely spots. This is such a place! It is just amazing, but also frustrating to see how much we are used to car noises. Even the animals here seem to hold their breath. It is a bit like beeing blind on your ears. Impressive!

Day trip to Saxon Switzerland

Obere Schleuse in Saxon Switzerland or the border of Germany and Czech Republic
Here you can see the "Obere Schleuse", not soo much water during winter, but still wonderful. What we find romantic was just used to transport tons of wood from the village in the mountains (Hinterhermsdorf) all the way down towards the City of Dresden for many hundred years. Very hard work and tributes to the Saxon Electors!

"Obere Schleuse"

I just discovered this area of the National Park last year. You can get there any time of the year, but I found it most beautiful during the last summer days. Just yesterday me and my friends wanted to visit it another time to try out some other routes than last year. The morning brought the first real snow to Dresden and its surroundings, so seeing the National Park covered in snow was especially romantic for us.

You guys start at "Hinterhermsdorf", a very picturesque former woodcutter and weaving village. You can still see plenty of so called "Umgebindehäuser", traditional houses of this area. You can find 71 "Umgebindehäuser" in total in Hinterhermsdorf.

Umgebindehaus in Hinterhermsdorf
"Umgebindehaus" in the restored village of Hinterhermsdorf

From here you follow the "blue route sign" towards the "Obere Schleuse Bootsstation". This way is super easy, just watch out for the signs or the markings on trees.

blue pill or red pill?
Blue Pill or Red Pill?

Continue your way through the core zone of the National Park, by using a few stairs down until you reach the "Dachshöhle" (badger cave).

way down to the "Dachshöhle"- a small cave along the trail

Beautiful but slithery.


After one hour, you reach the "Kirnitzsch Gorge"! You can either get on the boat tour now (I recommend a one way tour during summer time - it is a fun and relaxing thing to do, not too long (20 minutes on about 700 meters, open April to October from 9:30am to 4pm) and you can bring a beer from the shop there into the boat - the boat man even takes your bottle at the end of the boat tour, so that you do not have to carry it) or walk next to the river (downstream) until the "Obere Schleuse" (watergate), which exists here since the year 1580. This route marks a part of the border of Czech Republic and Germany. It exists here since 1451 and the middle of the "Kirnitzsch"- stream is border. Follow the short track or long track description from now on (see below).

Packcraft- man versus commercial boat

The water from the "Kirnitzsch" is very low during winter time. Since the commercial boats are not running during this time of the year, we tried to use our packraft, which is a super-light 2-men boat. But unfortunately the water level was too low (normaly it is up to 7 meters), so we just walked along the river instead.

official rules in the National Park:

- It is very important to not leave the trails. You will destroy protected plants and disturb animals otherwise.

- Please avoid bringing your loud speakers and do not make noise.

- Take your trash back home, do not leave it in the National Park (even tissue paper!)

- Do not make fire (avoid smoking) and do not camp here.

A so called border stone, out of many along the river, which marks the Czech- German border

how to get there:

From Lollis Homestay Hostel it is about 10 minutes walk to the train (at "Bischofsweg" or "Neustadt Station" train stop) or bus station (at Albertplatz) to get to the National Park.

You can get the S-Bahn S1 direction "Schöna" or "Bad Schandau" (every 30 min.) from the "Main Station", Neustadt Station" or "Haltepunkt Bischofsweg". Hopp off at the town "Bad Schandau", take the bus no. 241 (directly next to the train station) towards "Kirnitzschtal Hinterhermsdorf" to the final station "Hinterhermsdorf Erbgericht" (this alone will take you about 1,5 hours). Make sure you get the last bus from "Hinterhermsdorf" back to "Bad Schandau". Getting back to Dresden from "Bad Schandau" will not be a big problem, but if you miss the last bus in "Hinterhermsdorf", you have to use a (expensive) taxi service.

You can also take the bus No. 261 direction "Sebnitz" from "Albertplatz" (also for the way back if you like from the village of "Hinterhermsdorf until "Erbgericht" station). This is not the fastest possebility and also not as beautiful, but convinient if you do not want to change from train to bus and also when it gets dark and you are on your way back to Dresden. You can leave this bus at the Neustadt (Albertplatz at New Town) or at the Dresden Altstadt (Main Station at Old Town).

how much does it cost?

- nothing- the entrance to the National Park is free

- transport costs though- if you are one person, take a "VVO- Verbundraum- day- ticket" for 13,50 €, if you are two persons, take the VVO- Verbundraum- family- day ticket for 19 € and if you are 3 up to 5 persons, take a VVO- Verbundraum- group- ticket for 28 €. It gets cheaper with more people and it is also more fun. Those tickets are valid for all kind of buses, trams inside Dresden, ferrys and slow trains like the S- Bahn all day long.

- a one way boat trip through the Kirnitzsch Gorge costs 5 € (but you can also save money by walking)

Sandstone rock with Green Lichen: An indicator for extremly clean air. Cars and other kinds of air pollution destroys this beautiful plant. So have a deep breath here- it is healthy!

how long does it take?

that depends on your walking speed and on the tour you choose. But I always plan to be on a full day tour when I go for a hike in the National Park. I do not like to rush, you need time to rest from once in a while (picnic time :) and most important: enjoy the stunning views and beautiful nature. This area is full of nice flowers, caves, old trees and crazy rock formations and magical mushrooms (not magic mushrooms though, sorry ;).

Amazing view down to the Kirnitzsch- Gorge.

From the "Obere Schleuse" (upper watergate) you can choose:

the long walk: (by just continuing the trail along the "Kirnitzsch River". Always follow the river by walking on the right hand side of the river (downstream, you never cross it!). The walk is easy from here, because it will always go downhill. But you need to hurry a bit, the trail is quite long (about 5 hours, but extremely beautiful) until you reach the main road again, which you've already passed with bus line 241 a few hours before. Wait here for the bus to get back to "Bad Schandau". You can see the bus sign right at the main road (station "Zum Thorwald").

or the short walk: back to the village "Hinterhermsdorf" by using the "Hermannseck" trail by always following the "red route sign" from the "Obere Schleuse" watergate now (about 3 hours). Up to the sand stone rocks towards "Hermannseck" you need to choose either the easy way up or the difficult way up. You can also choose the very long walk of 28km in total (from the watergate back to the train in Bad Schandau), all the way back to the town "Bad Schandau" which should take you about 8 hours. I have not done this yet, but this is something to try out in the future. Get up very early in the morning if you wanna do that, you really have to walk all day long!

easy way up to "Hermannseck"
The easy way and the difficult way up to "Hermannseck" brings you through a nice cave.
difficult way up to "Hermannseck"

Difficult way up to "Hermannseck"- an amazing so called chimney - but not much space for big backpacks

what you should bring:

- good hiking shoes (especially during winter time) / during summer: normal sport shoes or hiking sandals

- water

- food for picnic

- if available: a hiking map for the area (to change routes spontaniously, if you find a more interesting track you wanna try)

- backpack

- flashlight (only for emergencys, whenever you do not make it back to civilisation before it gets dark)

Insider Tip:

1. If you choose the short walk by using the "Hermannseck" route (doesn't matter, if it is the easy or the difficult track), you will pass the Kings Seat- "Königssitz", which will be a highlight on your tour. Make sure you do not miss it, the view point is a few hundred meters from your main track. Sit down, have a picnic and enjoy one of the most beautiful views of the National Park!

2. Listen carefully when you are in the mountains and no other tourist is around! Complete silence! You do not know the word silence yet, if you do not travel much to lonely spots. This is such a place! It is just amazing, but also frustrating to see how much we are used to car noises. Even the animals here seem to hold their breath. It is a bit like beeing blind on your ears. Impressive!

The Kings- Seat (Königssitz, 437 meters high) on the Iron Peak (Eiserne Spitze). Sounds like Game of Thrones? Cut out of the Sandstone, even the Wettin- Saxon King Friedrich August II used to sit here (about 200 years ago) to enjoy the magical view towards the mountains of Bohemian Switzerland and Saxon Switzerland. No streets, no cars, no houses, no noises.

05.02.2018, 15:04 @ jule
Categories: surroundings // Tags: National Park near Dresden, Saxon Switzerland National Park, Hiking in Germany, Best Hiking routes in Germany, Beautiful National Parks in Germany, things you must do in Germany, Kirnitzsch River, Kirnitzsch Gorge, trekking in Germany, Surroundings of Dresden, what to do in Dresden, places to visit near Dresden, places you must see in Dresden