(this is a guest post by Nirvick who runs the Leipzig Hiking Group. More info below)
While Leipzig has some great walking trails in close vicinity (Neuseenland) there’s a lot more to explore if you’re willing to go the extra mile (literally). Within easy distance of Leipzig there are two national parks with fantastic hiking possibilities: Sächsische Schweiz and Nationalpark Harz
Sächsische Schweiz / Saxon Switzerland
Location: South-east Saxony
Closest major towns: Dresden
The National Park of Saxon Switzerland overlaps with the Elbe Sandstone Mountains and is a world renowned climbing area. Along these jagged rock formations lie various hiking trails that are popular in the summer mostly with Germans but also Czech tourists from across the border.
The Malerweg ‘Painter’s way’ is the main path (126 km) that covers most of the trails in the region. It circles the river Elbe between Pirna and Schmilka (on the Czech border), has 8 stages and offers picturesque views of the Elbe Sandstone Mountains.
Some of the most visited sections within the Malerweg kreis are:
(image courtesy: Reise Karhu)
- Kurort Rathen to Bastei: The most popular trail for tourists. It’s an uphill walk from the town of Kurort Rathen to the Bastei Brücke – a towering stone bridge built across the giant rocks and which is the landmark of the national park (1-1.5 hrs)
- Stadt Welhen – Rauenstein – Kurort Rathen: After a bit of an uphill walk from Stadt Wehlen (Bhf), you walk along the railed ridge which provides spectacular views of the Bastei Brücke, the Elbe and the forest around (3-4 hrs.). Can be combined with no. 1 for a good days hike
- Königstein: A fortress on a table mountain. The hike uphill begins from the town of Königstein (Bhf). It is also accessible by road; it also offers an open air museum and was used as a prison during the Second World War (1-2 hrs.)
- Lilienstein: A table mountain about 1.5 hours walk from Kurort Rathen (Bhf), Lilienstein is directly across the river from the Königstein fortress. The hike is mostly flat along the river and then turns steep as you walk uphill to the table top (3 -4 hrs.)
(image courtesy: Hotel Ostrov)
How to get there:
From April to September: Direct train; Saxonia Express from Leipzig at 8 am; return train 4 pm. Also, Regional trains/ICE from Leipzig to Dresden and then S1 towards Schona.
Location: West of Leipzig in Saxony-Anhalt
Closest major towns: Thale
The Harz National Park overlaps with the Harz Mountain range in north-central Germany with Mount Brocken (1,141m) its highest summit. This is the focal point for most hiking trails. Two of the most popular trails that lead up to Brocken are:.
- 1. Via Torfhaus: Torfhaus is a small town in Lower Saxony that is connected by Bus 820 from Bad Harzburg (Bhf)
(image courtesy: NDR.de)
- 2. Via Schierke: Schierke is a village at the base of Brocken in Saxony Anhalt about 30 minutes from Wernigerode (Bhf) by Bus 257
Apart from Brocken, there are other trails around Goslar and Thale that are worth exploring. The most popular of these is the Harzer-Hexen-Stieg (Harz Witches Trail) a 100 km trail that runs between Thale (Saxony Anhalt) and Osterode (Lower Saxony). The highest point on this trail is the Brocken and it covers some extremely picturesque gorges in the beginning stage close to Thale (Bode Valley).
(image courtesy: hexenstieg.de)
How to get there:
Direct trains from Halle to Thale and to Golsar (2h) via Wernigerode (1.5h). The Sachsen-Ticket can be used in Saxony-Anhalt and is valid until Illsenburg (two stops before Goslar). There is an old steam locomotive “BrockenBahn” running between Wernigerode and Harz summit.
Where to stay:
Goslar and Wernigerode are two prime tourist spots and both offer a wide range of sleeping options. There’s also a lot more sightseeing opportunities near these towns apart from hiking. The Brocken Hotel sits on the summit and offers double occupancy rooms starting at 60€ with breakfast
Wear appropriate clothing for hiking in Harz. The temperature on Mount Brocken is always about 5 degrees cooler than surrounding areas. The hiking route via Shierke is steep, rocky and uneven and requires good hiking gear. Take plenty of water.
**Nirvick heads up the Leipzig Hiking Group, a Meetup group based out of Leipzig that organizes day hikes over weekends in the Saxony – Saxony Anhalt – Thuringia region. Members can also suggest and organize hikes they are familiar with. If you’re new in town this is an excellent way to connect with fellow English-speaking ex-pats. Sign-up to the Meetup (no obligation, can use your Facebook account etc.) and see photos and details of recent hikes.