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The Chief is located close to the lovely town of Squamish in the Stawamus Chief Provincial Park. It is one of the largest granite monoliths in the world with a hight of 702 m more than 2300 feet.

The Chief hike is one of the most popular trails in British Columbia and also famous for climbing with just an hour drive from Vancouver. The hiking season starts in late March and lasts until the end of October. Best hiking conditions are during summer, but this is the peak season as well. August is the worst month due to the Canadian School Holidays. September is a lovely month. Continue reading to figure out all details for this breathtaking hike.

Stawamus Chief from behind and Garibaldi Mountain in the back
Stawamus Chief from Sea to Sky Gondola - Mt. Garibaldi in the back

Avoiding Crowds

This excellent trail is pretty busy during the weekends and in the summer; July and August. Spring and fall are less crowded. We hiked on a Friday morning to the peaks, and it was still busy in the afternoon. Plenty of hikers came to walk to the top of the first peak. If you like to climb this track with fewer people give the first peak a miss; it' the most frequented one. Fewer hikers continue to the second peak of the Chief and the third in the north is even less busy. The view from the first peak is already spectacular and gets even better from the second. If possible hike mid-week in spring or fall. The summer season is super busy, and campgrounds are fully booked. From the first of September onwards camping is more fun and there are plenty of campsites to choose from. 

Stawamus Chief hike always up through the forest
The Stawamus Chief Hike always up

Hiking Season

Usually, you can hike from spring in March until late fall at the end of October. The Chief gets snow during winter. Anyhow, if it’s wet, the granite rocks are quite slippery. There are also slippery parts at dry weather where many hikers climbed up and down on the same route.

Climbing up on the granite monolith Stawamus Chief close to Squamish

Parking the Car

The parking at Darrell Bay is limited in space. There are two parking lots for hikers and climbers, and it fills up soon in the morning. These two parking lots are for free. The parking for the sea to sky gondola nearby is limited for three hours. Tip: You can also start hiking from the nearby Shannon Falls if the two parking lots at Darrell Bay are full.

Weather

Squamish gets a high amount of precipitation throughout the year with its peak from October/November to February/March. Summer is the driest season of the year, but rain can occur so be prepared while hiking. From May to September the temps are pleasant, in summer around 20 °C / 68°F but can be hot as well with temps over 30 °C / 86 °F. Nights are cool even during summer with a maximum of 10 to 13 °C / 50 to 55 °F. Due to the location at Howe sound only freezing temps during the winter. There is often rainfall in Squamish while it is snowing on the Sea to Sky summit.

Stawamus Chief Hike a strenuous hike uphill

Where to Stay or Camp

Camping in Squamish; There are several opportunities for camping. These are our favorites:

  • We enjoyed camping in the Alice Lake Provincial Park walk-in site for $ 23. There are 108 campsites, hot showers, swimming in the lake is cold but awesome, the Four Lakes Trail starts at the campground. Gets a bit windy though in the evening. Look where you pitch your tent. It’s quite popular during summer and reservations are advisable. Number 97-108 are walk-in sites. Campground Map of Alice Lake
  • The Stawamus Chief campground with 47 sites, 10 $ p.p., pit toilet, and water,  located close to HW 99.
  • Hotels: We love the low budget Squamish Hotel during colder night temps. It's clean, quiet, washing and ice for free, and the most attentive staff.
Hiking
CA Canada
5

Douglas Apsley National Park declared a National Park in 1989 after public protest against clearing local forests for the paper manufacture.

This hike through the gorge can be done at low water level only. After heavy rainfall, the Apsley River is flooded. Check the weather forecast first. Don't hike through the gorge if there is much rain forecasted. Even roads can get flooded. One day after our hike in November 16 we experienced flooded roads, closed trails, and landslides. A couple of trails got destroyed.

Flooded Apsley River after heavy rainfall close to Bicheno

Crowds

The Apsley River waterhole is popular for swimming in the summer. We saw several people having a look to the waterhole, but none of them hiked the trail through the gorge. It’s still a hidden gem compared to Freycinet.

Climate Bicheno

Pleasant temps around 20° C in the summer from December to March. Nights can be cold. More precipitation in summer. Warmest month on average is January. Winter with mild temps on average around 5-13° C. Frost is not common. In general, the eastern part of Tasmania is much drier than the western. Bear in mind it’s Tasmania rain can always occur.

Hiking
AU Australia
4

The Dachstein is located in the Salzkammergut in Austria. It’s a great destination for hiking, climbing, and caving.

The cave is open daily from late April to late October at 9.20 a.m. and closing at 3.30 p.m. in 2017 from 29.04. until 10. June and 11.9. until 29.10. In summer from 11.06 until 10.9. the cave is open until 4 p.m.

The cave is located on 1.455-meter above sea level. Therefore, you are dependent on the cable car operating hours from Obertraun on 609-meter above sea level to Schönbergalm section I. The season for the cable car starts end of April and last until late October. The last mountain ascent is at 3 p.m. and in summer at 3.30 p.m. The last valley descent is shortly after 5 p.m. At poor weather conditions, the cable car might not run. 
Check the opening hours first

Crowds:
A cave visit is a great option if the weather turns bad but expect more visitors having the same idea. It’s less crowded during nice weather when people think of outdoor activities.

Special events:
Every year in August unique concerts are held in the Parsifal Dome.
Schedule about the offered concerts and booking. 

Cave
AT Austria
4

There are 111 hiking trails in Saarland and Rhineland-Palatinate which are called "Traumschleifen"; that means a dream of loop trails.

It is a year round hiking trail but not recommended with snow and ice in winter time. After rainfall, some parts of the trail are muddy and slippery. Best time for hiking from April until October.

Hiking
DE Germany
5

The river Elbe gave the Elbe Sandstone Mountains their shape; carved the rocky landscape, deep valleys, and gorges millions of years ago.

Located in Saxon Switzerland National Park are the famous Elbe Sandstone Mountains. Here you visit breathtaking sights like the Bastei Bridge, hike stunning trails and even climb gorgeous rock formations.  The region got already developed for tourism at the end of the 18th century. Many visitors come here simply to visit the main attraction the Bastei Bridge, and the remained ruins of the Neurathen Castle. We spent more than a week here, because there is so much more to explore.

We wrote this guide for everyone: Sightseeing only visitors, as well as hikers and climbers. We even provide the best accommodation tips as well as personal tips for cruise tours from Dresden. Read our complete guide below, including weather details and tips for the Bastei Bridge or jump directly to 9 Must-Do Sights and Hikes in Saxon Switzerland National Park with many insider tips!
 

Avoiding the Crowds in Saxon Switzerland

Crowds at the Bastei at midday

It is the most popular place in Saxon Switzerland, with around 1.5 million visitors each year. To enjoy this beautiful place; the Bastei without crowds, you should visit this fascinating sight in spring, autumn or winter either very early in the morning or late evening. We visited this magic sandstone bridge several times in May. We enjoyed most our visit at 6.30 on a Sunday morning. We shared this incredible impressive Bastei Bridge and the surroundings with very few people. Avoid midday when the bridge and the castle ruin are overrun.

Opening Hours Bastei and Fortress Königstein
  • The reproduction of the Neurathen Castle is accessible 24/7. From 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. the entrance fee of 2 € has to be paid at a cash desk and afterwards, you are asked to put the payment into a metal box. This is a fabulous opportunity to enjoy this magical place at sunrise or sunset with a few people and photographers only. If you like to watch the sunset or sunrise in the summertime, it is best to stay next to the Bastei in the Berghotel Bastei.

    View to Bastei from Neurathen castle ruins
     
  • The Fortress Königstein is utterly overrun nearly the entire day because of the many tour buses. The crowds start to thin out after 3 pm and the last hour is the quietest of the day. Open from 9 am – closes at 6 pm from April to October and 5 pm from November to March. Last admission one hour before closure. The Historical Christmas Market, every weekend in the Advent, is a highlight not to be missed in December. These weekends are pretty popular. Book your hotel in advance.

    Castle Koenigstein - view to river Elbe and Friedrichsburg
     
Tips for Photographers

To get the perfect shot of the Bastei Bridge come here early morning. To experience the sunrise at the Bastei is a must but pretty early during summer. We had chosen the Berghotel Bastei next to the bridge and enjoyed our breakfast afterwards. 

Weather and Hiking Conditions

Heilige Stiege down to Schmilka

Usually, best-hiking conditions for Saxon Switzerland and the Bohemian Swiss are from April to October. Trails are slippery when wet, especially the iron stairs and stone steps. Leave the mountains during thunderstorms, don't walk on the iron stairs. Winter is awesome as well when the hills are covered in snow, but the weather is more unpredictable. During summer it's pleasant warm around 20°C at daytime, but it can get hot while hiking without any shadow in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains. Expect minus degrees at day and night on top of the mountains during winter. It is several degrees warmer at the foot of the mountains. Rain (snow in winter) occurs throughout the year, occasionally heavy thunderstorms during summer. We experienced a thunderstorm and hail at the end of May. 

Best Accommodations Nearby
  • The Berghotel Bastei in the heart of the National Park and next to the famous Bastei Bridge is the best choice if you are limited in time. You couldn't wish for a better location. The balconies have spectacular views. The breakfast buffet offers a huge variety, and the panorama restaurant is perfect for bringing the day to a close with an excellent dinner. Lots of hikes can be done from here as well.

    Bastei Berghotel next to the famous Bastei Bridge
     
  • Bad Schandau is small town ideally located in the middle of the National Park close to all attractions and hiking trails the Saxonian Switzerland has to offer. Bookmark the link, check out the many hotels and get the best prices for Bad Schandau.
  • We like the little village Schmilka with an exceptional organic bakery the "Schmicksche Mühle" and the organic boutique brewery most. They also offer delicious food which you can enjoy in the beer garden of the old school "Zur alten Schule". Moreover belongs the Hotel Zur Mühle Boutique & Spa to the bakery and brewery.

    Hotel zur Muehle in Schmilka

    Directly behind the hotel starts the "Painters Way" a gorgeous hike up to the most famous rocks. The bus for hikers departs 200 meters away. Schmilka is located next to the German-Czech border and one of our favourite hikes to the "Prebischtor". More about the different hiking trails in the description.
     
Getting to the Bastei from Dresden (Tips & Tours)

Cruise on River Elbe with amazing views to the Elbe Sandstone Mountains
Click the image to see our favorite tours in Saxon Switzerland (not only from Dresden)

For those who are limited in time, you can either take a train from Dresden to Rathen or book a guided tour. The train (S-Bahn) from Dresden Central Station to Rathen operates at least twice each hour. From here you can take a ferry boat to cross the river Elbe. You can't miss the ferry; signs are leading to the jetty. After the short ferry ride, it’s a steep trail up along many steps through the forest to the Bastei Bridge. However, consider that there is much more to explore than this picturesque and famous bridge. To discover this excellent hiking region, you can book a guided trip from Dresden to the Elbe Sandstone Mountains as well:  From Dresden: Hike Through Saxon Switzerland incl. Transfers. This is a wonderful hiking tour with extremely friendly and very knowledgeable guides.
 

Historic Site
DE Germany
5

Mount Kota Kinabalu is 4.095 meters high and is a solitary mountain. It's not only the highest point of Borneo but also the highest point between the Himalayas and Papua New Guinea.

Weather

Sabah can be traveled throughout the year, but June to September can be hot. Climbing Mount Kota Kinabalu is best during the dry season in March and April with a higher chance for clear views. Anyhow, rain can also occur at this time of the year. October to January is the North-East Monsoon that brings heavy and frequent rain. It is worst in November and December. Dry periods can occur, but the monsoon can spoil the whole trip.

Sunrise on the famous Mount Kinabalu in the Sabah region

Nowadays it's a very popular hike; early booking is essential minimum 6 months in advance! Climbing is limited to 135 people per day since the earthquake in 2015 where people and even children died. 

Top Tip

If you want to explore a less busy part of the mountain; at Panar Laban Rock Face on 3.300 m elevation starts the world highest via ferrata. It was opened in 2007 with different routes and difficulties. More information about climbing activities.

Where to Stay 

If you like to climb Mount Kota Kinabalu you should book an exceptional lodge before. It'll be pretty strenuous. If you want to explore Mount Kinabalu National Park without climbing to the summit choose a lodge which is not too far located. The very best location already inside the Kinabalu Park offers the Sutera Sanctuary Lodges At Kinabalu Park. An alternative but not as comfortable is the Happy Garden Resort close to the Kinabalu Park Entrance.

Hiking
MY Malaysia