Porschdorf TRAIN STOP – Brand 2.5 – Hohnstein, parking lot 5.5 – castle (views from the castle complex) 6.5 – Polenztal 8 – Hockstein 9 - Švédské Díry (Swedish Craters) 14 – Bastei 16 – Rathen, ferry - Rathen TRAIN STOP 17 km
A beautiful hike to the most beautiful views of Saxon Switzerland.
Longer variant: Follow the blue route from the Porschdorf stop to the road, through continuing forests along the road in Tiefer Grund Valley, then ascend a long passage of steps through a steep ravine to a summit plateau (beech forest) and to the edge of the Brand cliff dropoff (railing) with a mountain lodge and accommodations. This site is called the Saxon Switzerland Balcony for its excellent view of the panorama of table mountains, into Bohemia (Růžák Hill, Děčínksý Sněžník), and to Dresden. There is also a view into the abyss of the Polenz Creek Valley (you cannot see the actual creek).
The blue route continues north along the wide Brandstrasse trail to the village of Hohnstein, with half-timbered houses and a castle on a high sandstone cliff. There is no tour guide for tours of the castle complex, and there is an admission fee (in the winter months, admission is free to the outdoor portions of the castle, and there are views into Polenz Gorge from the edges of the cliffs).
Continuing on the green route: We descend along a trail between rock formations (the promontory with the castle remains high on our right hand side) to Polenzthal Valley--during the descent there is a detour to the left for a nature trail to the Gautschgrotte rock overhang (in the winter, it features the highest ice-fall in the Elbe sandstone formations).
In the Polenz Creek Valley, we pass a lodging house with a restaurant. The marked route immediately climbs the opposite slope. There is a long ascent along sharp bends, then a climb along steps and ladders through the Wolfsschlucht (Vlčí Rokle/Wolf's Ravine) rock fissure to the rocky promontory, Hockstein. Here you will find views across the depths of the Polenzthal Ravine of the high-elevation village of Hohnstein with its castle.
The green route leads through forests along good trails, and after about two kilometres, turns via several sharp bends between the rock formations to the valley of Amselgrund (Kosí Důl/Blackbird Basin). To the left, the valley would take us past the artificial lake, Amselsee (Blackbird Lake), to the Kurort Rathen resort in about 15 minutes.
However, we head through the valley to the right (upstream), toward Schwedenlöcher – Bastei. Soon, another long ascent to the left takes us out of the valley (now to the final destination of the blue route), along metal and wooden steps of the aforementioned Švédský Díry (Swedish Craters) through a steep rocky ravine, all the way to a forested plain. Through the forest, and later past a parking lot, we come to an asphalt road.
We take this road a few hundred metres for a short while to the Bastei hotel complex, the most-visited location of Saxon Switzerland. The main road leads around the hotels to the edge of Bastei (Bastion) cliffs. The flat crown of the rock tower lies 190 m above the Elbe canyon. Bastei has been a tourist destination since the end of the 18th century, and on sunny summer days, large crowds are to be expected. The views of the Elbe, the village of Rathen on the riverbanks, the Lilienstein and Königstein table mountains, as well as the distant ridges of the Krušné Mountains are some of the best landscape sceneries in all of Central Europe.
A trail descends from the lookout along steps to a stone bridge built back in 1851 solely for tourist purposes. The bridge links the rocky promontories and allows for views into the abyss between the cliffs. You can even see the Elbe between the cliffs. After the bridge, there is an option of visiting the cliff side castle, Neurathen (paid admission).
This is followed by a descent along a busy road past the Ferdinandstein and Tiedgestein lookout towers. Continue initially between rock formations, then through a forest (a turnoff to the left to the Rathen cliff side theatre, incidentally the most beautiful open-air theatre in Germany) downward into a narrow valley among the houses and lodging houses of the Kurort Rathen resort. The small road takes us to the Elbe riverbanks, where we can rest on the benches provided. There is a beautiful view of the Elbe and of Lilienstein.
By ferry (notice: the intervals between running times can be long, and Labe-Elbe tickets are not valid here!) we embark to the left riverbank, and come to the train stop on the main line of Prague – Dresden. We take the S1 commuter train (30-minute intervals) to Bad Schandau, where there are connections to either Děčín or Rumburk (National Park Railway).
From Brand, we head directly to Rathen along the red route. At first, we continue along Brandstrasse road, then the marked route heads left and descends through the Schulzengrund sandstone ravine to the base of Polenzthal Canyon. We follow the valley for a short while past the Walterdorfer Mühle former mill, and then the red route climbs to the left to the road (a small parking lot, views of Gamrig cliffs and toward Bastei), and again downward along a forest trail to Kurort Rathen. Take the well-known road among lodging houses to the ferry – see longer variant.
This route can be completed in 3 hours (without stops).
Places of interest on the route:
Tiefer Grund Valley
Brand lookout – Saxon Switzerland Balcony
Hohnstein – city
Hockstein lookout tower
Bastei – lookout, rocky bridge
Neurathen cliff side castle
Felsenbühne Rathen – cliff side theatre
Kurort Rathen resort
Main route - Porschdorf TRAIN STOP – Brand 2.5 – Hohnstein, parking lot 5.5 – castle (views from the castle complex) 6.5 – Polenztal 8 – Hockstein 9 - Švédské Díry (Swedish Craters) 14 – Bastei 16 – Rathen, ferry - Rathen TRAIN STOP 17 km
Variant 1 - Porschdorf TRAIN STOP – Brand – Walterdorfer Mühle – Rathen, ferry - Rathen TRAIN STOP 8 km
- On foot
- Medium difficulty