Germany's Elbe river is featured with a cyclotouring track on all its length (from the source in Czech Rep to the firth in Hambourg). The most photogenic portion is perhaps the section from Pötzscha to Bad Schandau, in the heart of the region named the Saxon Switzerland, where it crosses the Sudetes to make its way north, between impressive sandstone cliffs.
Amongst them the famous viewpoint of Bastei with its suspended bridge, where cliffs overlook the river over 300m of height. We rode a portion of about 20km with the baby-trail, a perfect ride with such gear.
To add to the spice, it is necessary to cross from one side to another. Ferry boats operate, for a very modic sum, and it makes more fun to the trip.
The ballet of the Steamboats and colorful villages give a certain taste to this region of ex-DDR, which totally finished to erase the scars of the past to get back its coquetry of before.
The path seems extremely popular given the amount of cyclers, and I was really impressed by the infrastructures for biking (marking, accomodations all long, real bike-oriented tourism).
Dresden Picasa Album), however the portion before Pirna is not located in the mentionned gorges of the Elbe.
From Pötscha we ride in the direction of Rathen. On the opposite shore of the Elbe river we can admire the impressive cliffs of Bastei which overlook the river from 300m of height. There is a ferry to Bastei but we don't need it for our cycle ride. Just note that there is also a ferry from Pötscha to Stadt Welhen, which allows those willing to visit Bastei to do this portion of the tour on the opposite shore too. But from Rathen we can ride only the south shore.
After Rathen, the Elbe heads South in the direction of Königstein. We cross a railway and pass the village of Strand, with beautiful houses. Königstein appears, with its fortress perched on a rocky hill. One can visit it, but it involves a severe climb by bike out of the bike path.
In Königstein the trail switches to the opposite shore, and unless one is willing to follow the narrow main road with lots of cars, it is necessary to wait some 15mn that the ferry transports you and your bike to the opposite side. I think it costed around 2 or 3€, with return, which is more than affordable. In the high season and sunny week ends the boats are packed with tourists and the time all people get in, out, pay, park and unpark the bikes, is actually much longer than the time it takes to cross the river.
From Königstein the trail finished its wide S, and heads East again. There is a long portion under the forest, then we cross the village of Prossen. We finally reach the town of Bad Schandau, which, as it names tells, is a spa. Beautiful houses and villas. The promenade on the Elbe shore is gorgeous and very popular, but don't forget to have a look to the old centre and the park behind.
We turned back in Bad Schandau since we didn't go very fast with the baby trail. But during a day ride, one can reasonnably make it much further. After Bad Schandau, the Elbe gorges are continuing, still overlooked by impressive sandstone cliffs. Schmilka comes some kilometers further, and as the Elbe heads South we reach the Czech border. Just after the border is located Hřensko (Herrnskretschen in German), which is the trailhead to a very famous natural monument, the natural rocky bridge of Pravčická Brána (Prebischtor in German). One can ride up the road till the start of the forest path and lock the bike there, as many people do. A much better option than for those who get there by car, since the road is closed to cars.
Continuing south still, one can make it to Děčín, beautiful town, or, assuming the cycler doesn't have to make the way back, perhaps till Ústí nad Labem, the south end of the Elbe gorges.
The part of the Elbe Radweg located into the Elbe gorges starts at Pirna, however one can even start from Dresden (or even Hamburg !)
The ride is also possible (and very popular as well) from Czech Republic. From Prague, one must drive to Děčín, which is the other end of the gorges of the Elbe river ("Labe" in Czech)
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View Larger Map
When to Bike
All year, except when there is snow, or when the Elbe is overflooding (some parts of the trail are just at the shore level, and can be in the water after heavy rains. Some ferries might not operate also)