Saxon Switzerland National Park (Nationalpark Sächsische Schweiz)

Saxon Switzerland National Park


Location: Saxony Map

Open: 9am- 5pm Tue- Sun

Closed: Monday

Tel. +49 35022 50240

Area: 93.5 km2


Description of Saxon Switzerland National Park

Saxon Switzerland National Park is a nature preserve in Saxony region of Eastern Germany. Saxon Switzerland National Park covers an area of 93.5 km2 picturesque forest and beautiful eroded sandstone formations. They were formed over a course of 100 million years and locally known as the "city in stone". There is web of hiking trails with a total length of 400 km or 250 miles, 50 km (31 mi) of biking paths and 755 climbing locations with a total of over 12,600 climbing routes.


The Saxon Switzerland National Park is located - in two spatially separate areas - in the Saxon Switzerland-Eastern Ore Mountains district.

Western area
This area includes the Bastei area, the Lilienstein and the Polenztal. In the west the municipalities Stadt Wehlen and Lohmen, in the north the municipalities Lohmen and Hohnstein, in the east Hohnstein and Goßdorf and in the south the municipalities Bad Schandau, Rathen and Stadt Wehlen delimit this area. The municipality of Waitzdorf lies entirely in this area. Important mountains are the Lilienstein 415 m above sea level, the bastion 305 m above sea level, the Hockstein and the fire 317 m above sea level. The Grünbach flowing through the Amselgrund to the Elbe with the Amselsee and the Polenz are the only notable bodies of water.

Eastern area
The eastern part includes the area of ​​the Schrammsteine, the Großer Winterberg, the Großer Zschandes and the Upper Saxon Switzerland. In the west, the municipality of Bad Schandau and the district of Altendorf and in the north the Sebnitz districts of Altendorf, Ottendorf and Hinterhermsdorf limit this area. In the east and south this area borders on the Bohemian Switzerland National Park. From Schmilka to Bad Schandau, the Elbe is the southern border of this area. Important mountains are the Große Winterberg 556 m above sea level, the New Wildenstein with Felsentor cowshed 337 m above sea level. and the Raumberg 459 m above sea level. The Kirnitzsch is the only significant body of water.

The first efforts to place Saxon Switzerland under special protection began in the second half of the 19th century. Initially, only individual mountains, for example the tied rock in the Rathen area, were protected by conservation measures in 1850. The Polenz Valley was the first area to be protected in 1912. Two associations, the Landesverein Sächsischer Heimatschutz, founded in 1908 and the Association for the Protection of Saxon Switzerland, founded in 1910, campaigned for nature conservation until the Second World War. The idea of ​​protecting all of Saxon Switzerland emerged in the 1930s. The NSG Bastei (7.85 km²) was built in 1938 and the NSG Polenztal (0.91 km²) in 1940.

In 1953 efforts were made to proclaim a Saxon Switzerland National Park. In 1954, this idea was presented to experts and state authorities in Bad Schandau, but ultimately failed because of the GDR government, which did not include the national park category in the nature conservation law. A uniform landscape protection area of ​​Saxon Switzerland (368 km²) was created in 1956. From 1957 naturalists tried to set up an animal protection area with an area of ​​35 km². The NSG Großer Winterberg was created in 1961 within the landscape protection area. The NSG was expanded in 1966 to include the Großer Zschand (NSG Großer Winterberg and Zschand) and in 1986 to include the three sub-areas (Poblätzschwände, Pechofenhörner and Raumberg) on ​​10.92 km². The NSG Kirnitzschklamm (0.53 km²) was also proclaimed in 1961.

In addition to the nature reserves, total reserves have been established. These are areas that were not allowed to be entered. These areas were marked with red, vertical hatching on hiking maps and marked in nature by signs. When the NSG Kirnitzschklamm was founded, there was a total reserve with an area of ​​0.22 km². In 1979 the total reserve Böses Horn was established in the bear trap walls and in 1989 the total reserves Auerhahnsteig and Weberschlueche. There were no national parks in the GDR until 1990.

With the ordinance of September 12, 1990, Saxon Switzerland was converted into a national park, as a result of which a uniform, internationally common and comparable protected area was created.


The core zones (natural dynamic zones) in the national park enjoy special protection. In them nature is left to itself; there are no more forestry interventions except

Limiting the mass reproduction of forest insects
Promotion of single silver firs
Repulsion of alien, particularly expansive tree species (such as white pine)
Preservation of particularly striking visual relationships (viewpoints)
Removal and use of trees for path maintenance in hard-to-reach areas
In the western area of ​​the national park, the core zone includes the bastion, the Polenz valley and the fire area. In the eastern area there are the Großer Winterberg, Großer Zschand and the Kirnitzschklamm. The definition of natural dynamic zones is a prerequisite for the national park to be recognized by the IUCN (World Conservation Union) as a national park (protected area of ​​category II according to the IUCN system). According to the guidelines, at least 75% of the area must be designated as a natural dynamic zone (core zone). There are 4 types of zoning

Core zone (23% of the area of ​​the national park)
Nature zone A (37% of the area of ​​the national park), also known as a rest area or quiet zone. There is no directing or utilizing intervention in nature to secure natural processes. The natural zone A includes the core zone.
Natural zone B (58% of the area of ​​the national park), also known as the development zone. There are only steering interventions in nature.
Maintenance zone (5% of the area of ​​the national park) There is permanent maintenance of the zone.
The core zone and nature zone A form the basis as a category II protected area.

Natura 2000 ecological network
The national park is part of the European ecological network Natura 2000. As a European bird sanctuary and FFH area, the Saxon Switzerland National Park has been reported to the EU Commission and legally secured with basic protection regulations.

The following are important subjects of protection:

Habitat types
Silicate rocks with crevice vegetation
Lichen-pine forests
Grove and woodruff beech forests
Mixed ravine and hillside forests
Running waters with underwater vegetation
Animal and plant species

Magnificent thin fern
Atlantic salmon, west group
Great mouse-eared bat, pug bat, lesser horseshoe bat
Peregrine falcon, eagle owl, pygmy owl, rough-owl, red-backed killer, black woodpecker, black stork

The climate in the national park shows extremes, which can be explained by the strong structure of the landscape. The deep, canyon-like gorges have a cool, humid basement climate. The reason for this is the low solar radiation and the weak wind movement. On the other hand, the rock reefs, some of which are free from vegetation, are exposed to strong temperature fluctuations in the summer months, up to 60 degrees between day and night, and strong wind movements in the autumn and winter months. The average temperature is 7 ° C and is higher in the Elbe Valley than in the Upper Saxon Switzerland area. The annual amount of precipitation is 700–900 mm and is lowest in the Elbe Valley. Due to the drought, there were 15 forest fires in Saxon Switzerland in the hot summer of 2018.

Without forestry use, the area of ​​the national park would today largely consist of oak and hornbeam forests. For about 200 years, this natural forest has been replaced by spruce forest and is now slowly being converted back into a natural deciduous forest. The strong structure of the landscape and geological disturbances in the sandstone lead to special features in the flora. Areas with previous volcanic activity are characterized by a beech population. Typical for this is the area around the Großer Winterberg, Raumberg and the armory exit from Goldstein to Hinterhermsdorf. On the free-standing rock reefs, the reef pine forests are dominant, some of which are similar to those on the coast due to the action of wind. In the gorges there is an inversion of the forest levels due to the cellar climate. Occasional silver firs can be found on the slopes.

In the Kirnitzschtal between the upper and lower lock and between the Neumannmühle and Bad Schandau, small meadows have formed. The ground vegetation, if any, consists of heather, ferns and bilberry. As further plants in the ground area, the swamp porst and the Fuchs's ragwort should be mentioned. On moist rock surfaces (layer joints, mouth hole areas of caves), luminous moss, well adapted to the lowest light availability and acidic water, grows all year round.

Hemp is the host plant of the endoparasitic mushroom Uredo kriegeriana, which has so far only been found in Saxon Switzerland. Alien plants are the glandular balsam and the white pine.


Due to the large closed forest area in the eastern part of the national park and the adjacent area in the Bohemian Switzerland National Park, which are almost uninhabited, a large number of rare animal species have found a retreat here and populations that have already died have been successfully resettled.

Birds: owls, hawks, black stork, kingfisher, all woodpecker species
Mammals: 16 of 18 bat species native to Germany, wild boar, red deer, martens, lynxes
Reptiles: adder, grass snake, fire salamander
Fish: trout, salmon
Successful resettlements
The peregrine falcon disappeared completely in the 1970s and has been reintroduced since the early 1990s. There is currently a stable population. For their successful expansion, nest protection zones are set up during the breeding and rearing season (March to August). The wild boar was exterminated at the beginning of the 19th century, but has been resettling without human intervention since the 1950s and today represents a strong, harmful population. Chamois were released from 1907 to 1911 and 1937 to 1939, and their descendants are still a stable population today form. The same applies to the naturalization of mouflons since the 1930s. Despite several proposals to reintroduce the capercaillie, which has not been detected since the 1970s, a population of this bird is still missing in the national park. The last lynx was hunted in 1743. The lynx stone in the Lindengründel is a reminder of this. There are still no confirmed sightings of a lynx in the wild; it is suspected on the basis of faeces, tracks and torn game that a small lynx population has settled again in the meantime.

The development of the road network in today's national park took place in the first half of the 19th century and was completed at the beginning of the 20th century. It is shown in full in historical route guides (e.g. Meinhold's route guide). As early as the 1980s, the first closures (Gratweg Thorwalder walls) and the designation of total reservations that were no longer allowed to be entered. Today the national park has a marked network of 400 km of trails, numerous mountain restaurants and a network of 50 km of cycle paths. Roads are compulsory in the National Park. Outside the core zone, all paths may be used, inside the core zone only marked paths. The marking is carried out according to the following gradation.

Main hiking trails - well-developed hiking trails: white square with a colored line or circle with the following color meaning
blue - national route
red - regional route
green and yellow - local way
Mountain path - paths that are only minimally developed and require surefootedness and, in some cases, a head for heights: gray rectangle with green triangle, the tip of which points in the direction of the path.
Mountaineering access - only to be used by mountaineers as access to climbing peaks: White circle with black triangle, the tip of which points in the direction of the path, and black circumference
Closed path: white circle with black cross and black perimeter around the cross

There are also the following special markings.
Educational trails (e.g. Flößersteig): white square with green diagonal line
European long-distance hiking trail E3: white square with blue E3
Malerweg - historical hiking trail: white square with a stylized M
The International Mountain Hiking Trail of Friendship Eisenach-Budapest (EB) is now integrated into the European hiking trail E3.

Path concept
Almost all the climbing facilities were preserved until the beginning of the 1990s and enabled hikes on the historical network of trails. In 2000 a path commission was formed, which consisted of representatives from the following institutions.

National Park Administration
Saxon Switzerland Tourism Association
Saxon Mountaineering Association
Parishes in National Park
Conservation associations
Saxon State Ministry for Energy, Climate Protection, Environment and Agriculture (SMUL)

The result of the meetings in 2000 was the draft of a route concept, which was published on February 29, 2001 by the SMUL as an announcement. This meant that some historical and, in some cases, monument protection paths were no longer part of the official network of paths.
Foreign path or border path between the Gr. Winterberg and the Prebischtor (formerly the classic crossing of Saxon-Bohemian Switzerland)
upper part of the hiking trail through the Gr. Zschand to Rainwiese (Mezní Louka) from the Hickelschl Bäumen junction
Hiking trail from the Weber grotto through the Partschenhörner to the connection to the Gabrielensteig on the Bohemian side
Hiking trail from the Altarstein through the Ziegengrund to Hinterdittersbach
Meandering path in the Großer Winterberg area - Pascherweg (state border) below the Silberwand (Stříbrné stěny) - Heuweg to Hřensko (Herrnskretschen)
Entenpfützenweg between Großer Zschand and Fremdweg


The trail commission meets once a year on issues related to hiking tourism in the national park. The path concept has not led to a sufficient overall reduction in hiking tourism, but to a sewer system for hiking tourism. The national park administration tries to enforce the closures by patrols with national park rangers and making impassable paths (targeted tree felling) that are no longer part of the official hiking network.

The problem of the border route is currently unsolved. The Grenzweg is a hiking trail between Grosser Winterberg and Grosser Zschand along the German-Czech border, which is partly identical to the tourist trail. So far, no agreement has been found between the Bohemian and Saxon National Park administrations, not even about parts of the route. Even if the border may be crossed at any point after the accession of the Czech Republic to the Schengen Agreement, this is not permitted in the area of ​​the eastern core zone.

The technical development began in the second half of the 19th century and continues to this day in terms of new climbing routes. There are 1,147 climbing peaks with over 15,000 climbing routes in the national park area. Various climbing peaks are subject to temporary closures for nature conservation reasons (breeding season). You can only climb according to the Saxon climbing rules.

A good 50 kilometers of path network are officially designated for bicycle traffic. They connect the national Elbe cycle path and the Bohemian cycle path network. Most of the paths are not asphalted and are used by hikers who have priority throughout the national park. Various bicycle buses bring you directly to the starting points. The national park administration strongly advises against cycling at dusk, as the wild animals living here are particularly sensitive to interference at this time.

An evaluation completed in April 2012 as part of the overall evaluation of the German National Parks came to a critical conclusion with regard to compliance with the quality criteria and standards for German national parks in the Saxon Switzerland National Park.

In particular, the following problems were named:
The 75% wilderness goal (the achievement of which is also a prerequisite for international recognition of the national park) is only to be achieved 43 years after it was founded in 2033.
The actual process protection area, on which no human intervention takes place, is very much fragmented. As a result of forest roads, hiking trails, mountain paths and access routes to climbing rocks, these areas show an extraordinarily high degree of fragmentation with a corresponding potential for impairment by visitors. In addition, there is strong (over) tourist use. In addition, game was hunted almost across the board, so that a “strict nature zone without management” according to international standards practically does not exist. So far there is no concept for further reducing the extraordinarily high density of roads.
High proportion of spruce forests that are not appropriate to the location with an overall still below average degree of closeness to nature.
Too little rangers lead to inadequate visitor information and area control.
In addition, the national park has been suffering from bark beetle infestations for several years. The national park administration is not actively taking action against this, which means that the forest can be converted into natural mixed forest in the long term.

UNESCO World Natural Heritage
On May 10, 2004, the district council of the Saxon Switzerland district decided to nominate parts of Saxon Switzerland as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The cities and municipalities concerned subsequently decided to support the nomination. Since the Elbe Sandstone Mountains cross borders, decisions were also made on the Czech side to nominate Bohemian Switzerland as a World Heritage Site. On June 30, 2005, the mayor of Děčín, the district administrator of the Saxon Switzerland district and the Saxon Switzerland tourism association signed a cooperation agreement.

On behalf of the district, the Freiberg company GEOmontan prepared a potential analysis that characterizes Saxon-Bohemian Switzerland as a unique example of geological changes. The study was presented to invited guests on February 22nd, 2006 at the Pirna-Copitz vocational school center.

This endeavor is currently little noticed by the public. The event about the loss of the title of the nearby world cultural heritage Dresden Elbe Valley due to the construction of the Waldschlößchenbrücke superimposed the efforts of the Saxon Switzerland-Eastern Ore Mountains and Děčín districts.