© Ottmar Vetter, Elbsandsteingebirge Verlag

Hohnstein – Brand rock – Gautsch grotto

At a glance

  • Start: Hohnstein market square
  • Destination: Hohnstein market square
  • Easy
  • 10,90 km
  • 2 hours 45 minutes
  • 300 m
  • 359 m
  • 237 m

The tour leads from the castle town Hohnstein along the Brandstraße street to the Brand rock lookout point, afterwards along the Malerweg trail to the Gautsch grotto and finally back to Hohnstein.

Starting point of the hike is the market square in Hohnstein. Rather then being an open and even, the terrain and atmosphere of the market is part of the castle mountain. Market visitors will find some small, friendly shops which underline the cozy atmosphere. Above the market stands the medieval castle, which was probably built around 1200 and had a very checkered history. In the Middle Ages the castle was temporarily owned by Bohemian nobleman and later after a couple of trades it became property of Saxony. Over the centuries it was used as an administrative headquarter, jurisdiction, prison or youth hostel. Unfortunately in 1933 it became a concentrations camp and after the start of WW2 a prison camp. Since 1949 the castle was used as the largest youth hostel in the GDR. In 1997 its usage changed to what it is now, a place for nature-loving people. At the lower part of the market square, the state road 165 crosses the town center. Here is also located the city church, which was built according to plans by George Bahr. We leave the market square into east direction along the yellow line waymark. On the Rathausstraße we see some lovingly restored buildings of the old town. Within a few minutes we reach the Brandstraße street. After a short ascent we see on our left side the former railway station of Hohnstein. Until 1951 it was final station of the railway in Schwarzenbach. Due to this narrow-gauge railway line, Hohnstein and the station Kohlmühle (Goßdorf) were connected to the rail network of the German Reichsbahn. At this point we recommend the round trip from Altendorf through the valley Schwarzbachtal. At the nursing home, the Brandstraße street ends in a mixed forest. After about 300 meters to the left on a slope-shaped clearing we find an official fire place. Hikers are allowed (except during forest fire warning levels) to make a campfire. The fire place consists of circular arranged seating areas and a fire bowl. The firewood must be brought individualley and it is forbidden to take the wood from the surrounding forests. After 300 meters we recognize a circular arrangement of street trees. On the right side of the path is located the "Waldborn", an old water pump which still gives spring water. This pump is named "Brandpumpe" because ​​since 1855, it ensured the water supply for the buildings at the Brand rock for many years. Continueing the hike we see on the left wayside at the junction to the forest gorge a so-called "Forstbergsäule" (old signpost pillar, just a remake), standing in memory of the horrible death of a clergyman in the year 1795. It is said that this man probably had tasted too much of the altar wine before he went from Bad Schandau over the Brandwände rock formation to Hohnstein and then fatally crashed. Since we are still reminded of the accident, indicates that probably very few hikers in this mountain region have suffered the same tragedy. The following parts of the trail confirm our thinking, because the path is well developed and with almost no altitude differences. Noteworthy are the numerous very old beech trees at the wayside. The route to the Brand rock is nice for mothers with prams or nature loving but disabled people. After about 300 meters we can go left to take a short detour to the lookout point view from the Forstgrabenwand (transl. forest gorge wall). Finally we arrive at the Brand rock with the restaurant and an excellent view from the visitor’s terrace. The panoramic 180-degree view includes from left (southeast) the Schrammsteine ​​rock formation, followed by the Table Mountains left from river Elbe until the area of the Bastei rock formation near Rathen (northwest). Fortunately this lookout point, as also the one at the Bastei, can be accessed throughout the whole year. In close proximity in south direction is located a special climbing rock which attracts alot of attention. It is called "Brandscheibe" and offers climbing routes up to the level of difficulty VIIIc. In dry weather conditions spectators can watch very adventurous climbers on weekends. Especially the observation deck with installed binoculars is great for following the action. The tables in the restaurant at the Brand rock are placed directly on the railing and offer a great view. Thus it is a popular place to take a rest and enjoy this panorama. On a clear day you could stay here for hours. Therefore, the restaurateurs organize holidays and regular cultural events outdoors. Nearby the Brand rock lookout point is also located a lookout point over the "Hafersäcke" (transl. "oat sacks") rock formation. The route is signposted and leads along a nearby goat stall, towards the opposite side of the ledge, facing northeast. The sandstone rock formations in the north actually look like petrified and slumped bags. We now go back on the Brandstraße street, on a particular section which is also part of the Malerweg trail. Following the Malerweg trail we then turn left and follow the green line waymark. Passing by the pond Sauteich we soon reach the path towards Rathen (via descending on the Neuweg trail into the Polenztal valley to the Waltersdorf mill). On the right wayside we pass by the meadow Große Räumichtwiese. Here the Räumichtweg trail marks the border between community spaces and the National Park (left). This is also reflected in the care and management of the forest. On the Brandstraße street to Hohnstein the Malerweg trail is also an educational trail. Boards explain the systematic and long-term reconstruction of the forest on the flat edges of Hohnstein. Near the Große Räumichtwiese meadow pictures of the forest show the transformation of unstable, species-poor conifer monocultures into stable, structured and species-rich mixed forests. We continue downhill on the Steinbruchweg trail until arriving at a junction with a sharp right turn. At this point a short detour to the left on a mountaineer path (black arrow waymark) to a small barn is possible and definitely worthwhile. If we turn right and follow the Malerweg trail, we will soon arrive at another educational board, which explains the existance of a former quarry and the resulting soil layer cave "Diebshöhle". Again this short detour is recommended. We continue on a serpentine path and pass by numerous rock reefs. After another right turn we arrive below the climbing rock "Kleiner Halben" at the gorge "Kaltes Loch". If we follow the sign towards the narrow rock section, we will arrive at the Gautsch grotto. Formerly this grotto was called "das kalte Loch", but due to its uniqueness this changed in 1881, as the "Mountain Club for the Saxon Switzerland" installed a plaque in honor of the lawyer and local historian Carl Friedrich Constantin Gautsch. Today only the term Gautsch grotto is familiar. The Gautsch grotto is located 110 meters above the streamside meadow of the gorge "Kaltes Loch". It is sheltered by a 40 meters wide rock overhang. In the rear part is located a bowl-shaped deepening, probably a pot-hole from the Ice Age" (Quote of the trail board no. 41). ---> Link to spherical panorama Before putting the cave under nature protection, it was a fantastic place for bivouacking. Today this is prohibited in this location. Nevertheless, from time to time occasional remains of a small campfire can be found. Especially during frosty winter days an impressive natural spectacle could be seen in the grotto: The spring water from the upper cave wall freezes during very prolonged periods of frost to a huge icicle, which even reaches the cave floor. This pillar of ice was already climbed by the Saxon climber Bernd Arnold. Back on the trail we pass by the rocky ridge to the summit "Großer Halben". At the turn below the rock is located a very nice restaurant, also offering a further lookout point for us. In this area the Polenztal valley is very narrow and deep... the river Polenz is not visible from our current position. In spring the loockout point at the Hockstein can be barely seen through the tree branches. The last part of our tour will continue to the Bärengarten (transl. bears garden) at the Schindergraben valley, where we can still find ruins of the former bear enclosure. From 17th to 18th century bears were kept here for hunts by the Saxon court. At this point the Malerweg trail turns left into the Polenztal valley. Opposite the ruins of the Bärengarten the Castle Hohnstein stands on an elevated rocky massif. From our position it appears impregnable for medieval sieges. The castle was actually able to withstand the Swedish siege in 1639. Below the castle is located the old-urban center of Hohnstein and after about 100 meters we arrive at the Town Hall. From here it is only a few more steps to the trailhead - the market square


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