The Sandstone Mountains

Elbsandstein sandstone mountains near Dresden, Germany

Last week we were in Claudia’s hometown of Dresden, Germany, visiting her family there and seeing the sights of this beautiful city. One day Claudia’s father Gundolf and brother Ferdinand took us to the nearby Elbsandstein Mountains, aka the “Saxonian Switzerland”. I was surprised and impressed by these mountains, which are among the more unique mountains I’ve seen. Large sandstone towers jut out of the surrounding forests and hills like a surreal combination of Utah canyonlands and the Pacific Northwest. Gundolf led us on a fantastic day hike that wound through narrow gorges, foggy forests, high ridges, and also included several climbing routes and via ferrata scrambles along the way.

Schmilka village, Germany

We started our hike from the quaint little village of Schmilka, along the Elba River.

climbing in the Elbsandstein, Germany

Pretty soon we were roped up in our climbing harnesses and Gundolf guided us up a fun climb up a sandstone tower and through a few chimney cracks between the rocks.

Foggy forest in Elbsandstein mountains, Germany

These mountains are a photography paradise, and the misty weather added to the mysterious feeling of this place. Unfortunately, somehow I managed to forget my camera in Freiburg, so I had to take all the photos with my camera phone. D’oh! I could easily spend a whole week photographing these mountains. Next time…

Elbsandstein mountains, Germany

Interesting sandstone formations everywhere.

Hiking in the Elbsandstein mountains, Germany

And super fun trails with big ledges and vistas.

Via Ferrata in the Elbsandstein mountains, Germany

Even some via ferrate! This one climbed up a large gap between towers, via a series of ladders and iron steps. I forgot how much fun via ferrate are… It’s been seven years since I spent a month climbing via ferrata routes in the Dolomites in Italy.

Elbsandstein sandstone mountains near Dresden, Germany

Such gorgeous and unique mountains! In my mind, this is how I imagine parts of China.

Hiking in Elbsandstein sandstone mountains, Germany

Thank you Gundolf for guiding us on such a great trail through these amazing mountains! And thank you to all of Claudia’s family for your hospitality and generosity! I hope to come back soon.

13 thoughts on “The Sandstone Mountains

  1. Uuh, I am so excited to see some familiar terrain. How nice that you got to visit Dresden and this lovely and unique mountain region in Germany. Good job with the camera phone.

    1. Hi Silke! Yeah, if it weren’t for Claudia and her family I probably would have never had the opportunity to see these mountains, but wow what a great surprise! Next time I return there I will not forget my real camera gear!

  2. I’ve got a picture very like your next-to-last shot from Huangshan, China, so you are indeed correct. If I could attach it, you would see the relationship between this Germany area and at least one place in China. Too bad you did not even have the GF-1 for these shots. Am enjoying your winter trip.

    1. Yes I was kicking myself all day long for not having a real camera with me. Such a photogenic place! But if I did have my camera it probably would have taken us twice the time to do the hike because I’d be so focused on the photography.

  3. The terrain is very much like parts of Australia such as the Blue Mountains and Wollemi. Not something I expected from germany.

  4. What a unique place…definitely looks like an odd blend of different ecosystems/geography, if that makes sense. I really love the tree shot (#4).

  5. Hi Jack –
    You don’t know me, but I came across your site when searching for beautiful places in the Freiburg area (found your post about Autumn in Freiburg). I decided to poke around and found this post – I was wondering if you could share with me how to get to this location for hiking. I’m going to be in Freiburg for a few days in mid-September and am trying to find unique places to see (just like this mountain range you visited). Thanks so much!
    -Michelle

  6. Oops..just did a little more research and realized that Schmilka is about 7 hours drive from Freiburg! I’d still love to know where you started your hike (how to get where you guys were) but I know I won’t make it during my trip in Freiburg. Any recommendations for hikes there? It would be much appreciated.
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Michelle, yes you’re right, the Sandstone Mtns are near Dresden – about a 6 hour train ride from Freiburg. But, there are a lot of nice hikes right out of Freiburg in the Black Forest. Some of them go up to old castle ruins, others to nice lookout points, and/or to a beer garden. That area is especially nice in the autumn, with the colorful forest. There are a ton of trails there, which all interconnect to some degree, so I don’t know the specifics. I’m sure you could find a good trail map in town, then you’ll be set!

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