Hiking in Germany is a passion and Germans are passionate hikers. Not surprisingly, the country has trails galore and Wandern (hiking) happens on a network of routes which covers almost 125,000 miles. Saxony’s share includes some of the country’s most popular trails which will make many a hiker’s heart beat faster.
The region’s stand-out hiking USP is probably the diversity of trails to explore. This not only applies to the types of routes on offer, from leisurely hikes for the gentle hikers amongst us to challenging long-distance options, but more importantly to the sheer range of beautiful scenery and sights to delight in while out and about.
Wide meadows, dense forests, rolling hills, steep climbs and most of all those all-important rewarding views – it’s all there and more. Many of the trails take in castles, palaces, and picturesque town so that a nice little dose of history and culture is always part of the hiking package. So, lace up those hiking boots – here are five of our top Saxon choices for the best of hiking in Germany.
The Vogtland region in Saxony’s southwest is hiking country par excellence, featuring five routes that carry a special German quality label given only to trails that fulfil certain criteria for top hiking experiences.
Vogtland’s green hills and forest are perfect for a ramble and the Vogtland Panorama Trail offers a kind of “best of” on a good 140-mile loop which starts and ends at the “Göltzschtalbrücke”, the world’s largest brick-built bridge (get your cameras out!).
The trail’s 12 legs cover between 7.5 miles and 15 miles per day and, depending on your individual “hiking mode”, hikers can easily pick and choose and create shorter tours.
Best: There are “hiking without luggage” packages available which make exploring the Vogtland Panorama Trail very manageable.
On the way, hikers can not only enjoy beautiful scenery and gorgeous views but also dip into the region’s unique traditions, from lace making in Plauen to instrument making in Markneukirchen.
Or how about trying a traditional mud spa treatment in Bad Elster, one of Saxony’s oldest spa towns? Your joints will thank you for it.
In Upper Lusatia, at Saxony’s south-easternmost tip, the region meets Poland and the Czech Republic. Here, the Upper Lusatian Mountain Trail winds its way on a good 66 miles through a landscape which mixes mountain moments with forests and meadows.
Hikers can expect a vivid low mountain range landscape with granite ridges, volcanic hilltops, striking sandstone mountains and picturesque valleys at an altitude of 200 to 800 metres. Highlights of the tour, quite literally, are the peaks of a number of mountains, including Valtenberg (587m), Bieleboh (499m), Kottmar (583m), or Lausche (792m).
From the summits, you’ll have magnificent views of the surrounding landscape all the way across to the Czech Republic’s Bohemian Highlands, Jizera Mountains and Giant Mountains.
Apart from the great panoramas and secluded places to linger, hiking here comes with insights into another Saxon speciality: The region’s idyllic villages feature beautiful Umgebindehäuser, a unique style of half-timbered house which make for great photo opportunities.
Let’s forget about the active side of hiking in Germany for a moment. Because isn’t hiking above all about slowing down, reconnecting with our surroundings and finding those increasingly rare moments of inner tranquillity in tune with the natural world around us?
We think so and would therefore very much recommend the Ore Mountains-Vogtland Ridgeway. Here you'll find whispering fir trees, murmuring creeks, rare rock formations, blossoming mountain meadows, shady woods and wonderful moments of being far away from the daily grind.
It’s another long-distance hiking trail (180 miles) that can be done in its entirety or by picking some of the altogether 17 stages for a couple of days hiking. The route crosses the Ore Mountains and Vogtland and introduces hikers to Saxony’s mining heritage as well as its unique wooden arts and crafts.
Germany’s highest town, Oberwiesenthal on 914 metres, is also en route as is (just in case of interest) the Saxon Brewery Museum. The last leg in particular is a delightful ramble through nature at its best, leading through an area that is almost completely untouched by human interference and thus home to rare animals and plants.
Lovers of romantic art among you might know, “The Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog”, by Caspar David Friedrich. Some consider it the painters best work – and it was created on a hike on what is today known as the Painters’ Way.
Set in the fairy-tale like landscape of Saxon Switzerland, the trail’s natural beauty makes it a particular favourite within the hiking community. Its eight one-day legs with an average length of about 10 miles make it very accessible and every hiker irrespective of age or experience can enjoy the route.
You can start the hike wherever you like along the route. One popular option is the small village of Pirna where the trail starts its climb into the dramatic Elbe Sandstone Mountains of Saxon Switzerland, with its tabletop hill settings, plunging ravines and mighty rock pillars.
The breath-taking vistas and sensational scenery of this part of Saxony has become quite popular in Hollywood, with "The Chronicles of Narnia", "Cloud Atlas" and "The Grand Budapest Hotel" all having found shooting locations in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains.
The Painters' Way also has its adventurous moments, for example when climbing up some iron ladders to get to the viewing platform on the Schrammsteine rocks. Throw in a waterfall, the mighty Königstein Fortress or Pirna’s very picturesque old town and the Painters’ Way surely doesn’t disappoint even the most discerning hiker.
Read our guide to the best things to do in Germany and explore more hiking options from another regions of this country.
Last but definitely not least on the list is the Saxon Wine Trail as a great way of combining activity with purpose, the latter in this case, getting educated on one of Germany’s smallest wine growing regions. Which requires the odd wine tasting, obviously.
On about 56 miles, it leads from Pirna via Dresden, Radebeul, Coswig, Weinböhla, Niederau and Meissen to Seusslitz Castle. You will come across many wine estates on the way, representing 850 years of winegrowing in the Elbe Valley and introducing visitors to regional specialties such as the Goldriesling which is only grown along the Elbe.
The scenery is delightful, with many palaces and stately houses along the way, some of them – not surprisingly – also vineyards, such as Wackerbarth Castle, the most famous among them.
The Saxon Wine Trail is great for leisurely hikers who are as interested in culinary delights (lots of great traditional vine taverns on the way!) as in the physical activity, which we think is absolutely justified.
The trails’ six legs equal about 5 to 6 hours of walking per day, so all very doable – and a very good option to integrate a day of hiking when on a Dresden city break.
Inspired? Discover more Saxony hiking ideas
This article is brought to you in partnership with Visit Saxony.