The third stage of the Malerweg trail leads from the castle town Hohnstein through the Brand rock area. The lookout point on the Brand rock provides an excellent wide view over the region. We continue to the village Waitzdorf and through the climbing area Ochelwände. After arriving at the station Kohlmühle we descend into the Sebnitztal valley. Then we shortly follow the river Sebnitz and finally ascend to the village Alterndorf.
The starting point is the medieval marketplace in Hohnstein. The square is dominated by the castle of Hohnstein and the town church, built by George Bähr. Left from the road is the historical town hall and on our way downhill we pass by some very nice timbered houses, which are typical for the region. At the right side rises the huge rock on which the castle is standing. During the Middle Ages the castle was a serious military facility which even withstood the Swedish siege in 1639. At the next turn to the left direction we recognize along the rocks the wall remnants of the bear garden. During the 17th and 18th centuries wild bears were locked here for later hunts by the Dresden court nobility.
The path now turns to the right into the Schindergraben gorge. From this point the Malerweg trail leads to the health resort Rathen. However we follow the Malerweg trail to the left direction and pass the rock ridge to the climbing-summit "Großer Halben". At the next turn we find an educational board and the entry to the well-known grotto "Gautschgrotte". Formerly the grotto was called "das kalte Loch" (cold hole), but due to its uniqueness in 1881 the "Mountain Club of the Saxon Switzerland" placed there a plaque in honor of the lawyer and local historian Carl Friedrich Constantin Gautsch. Today only the term Gautschgrotte is used. The grotto is located 110 meters above the floodplain of the gorge "Kaltes Loch" and is vaulted by a 40 meter wide overhanging rock. In the back section is a bowl-shaped depression, probably a pot-hole from the Ice Age. (quote from the trail table no. 41) ,---> Link to the spherical panorama
Before the cave was placed under nature protection, it was a spectacular place for bivouacking. Today outdoor sleeping in this location is prohibited. Nevertheless, from time to time traces of small campfires are visible. Especially during frosty winter days in the grotto can be experienced an impressive spectacle of nature: The spring water flowing from the upper cave wall freezes during very long-lasting periods of frost into a giant icicle, which even touches the cave floor. This pillar of ice was already climbed by the Saxon climber Bernd Arnold.
Back on the trail we continue below the climbing-rock "Kleiner Halben" and the Brand rock into the quarry area ("Steinbruchgebiet"). We soon arrive at an educational board that tells us about the former quarry and the resulting soil layer cave "Diebshöhle" (thief cave). At a sharp left turn in front of a high rock wall, a climbing path (waymark black triangle) goes off to the right. Here a short detour to the rock gate "Kleiner Kuhstall" ("Little cowshed") is well worth it. Back on the Malerweg trail we walk uphill to a plain through mixed forest. In the section from Hohnstein to the Brandstraße road the Malerweg trail is part of an educational trail. On the tables is described the systematic and long-term conversion of the forest on the edge of the plain at Hohnstein. Nearby the great Räumichtwiese meadow (Große Räumichtwiese) are shown forest pictures, which illustrate the conversion of unstable species-poor conifer monocultures into a stable, structured and species-rich mixed forest.
We soon cross the descending Neuweg trail, which leads down to the river Polenz and the Waltersdorf mill. Then our path continues past the biotope pond Sauteich until finally reaching the Brandstraße road. The Brandstraße road is a paved forest path, which can even be used by a stroller and for carriage rides. The road runs without any detours directly toward Hohnstein and the lookout point of the Brand rock. Finally we arrive at the Brand rock with the restaurant and excellent view from the visitor terrace. The 180-degree view includes from left (southeast) the Schrammsteine rock formation, all table mountains left from river Elbe until the Bastei area at Rathen (northwest). The uniqueness of this panoramic lookout point is due to its accessibility during any weather condition and every season. Nearby our current position a special climbing-rock in southern direction attracts our attention. It is the so-called "Brandscheibe" ("fire wheel") with climbing routes up to the level of difficulty VIIIc. During dry weather on weekends, visitors can often watch here very adventurous climbers on this rock. It is even more fun to follow the action through the binoculars, which are installed on the visitor terrace. The tables in the Brand restaurant are directly placed at the railing and invite for a rest to enjoy the panoramic view. On a clear day you can probably spend hours here. Therefore, the owners of the gastronomy organize regularly cultural outdoor-events during the holidays. Moreover on the terrace is another National Park Information Point.
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. Only the gorge "Tiefer Grund" (deep gorge) separates us from the Waitzdorfer rock wall. After having descended we will then ascend again to the village Waitzdorf on the well recognizable Dorfgrund path. The next section of the path leads us over the serpentine-shaped Brand steps down to the Schandauer road in the Tiefen Grund ravine (transl. deep ravine). Unfortunately we now have to follow the road for 300 meters uphill until arriving at the junction to the Dorfgrund-path (red line waymark). The ascent to Waitzdorf is the first of our hike and thus very welcome. Waitzdorf is a small district of Hohnstein and fortunately has a guest house, a tavern with a beer garden. In this place there is no disturbing traffic noise and the only attraction are the Galloway cattle on the surrounding meadows. Shortly after the tavern we turn to the right direction.
At the Waitzdorfer rock wall are located two very nice lookout points, from where we can also clearly see Brand rock lookout point. The Malerweg trail now runs quite unspectacularly on the Mühlweg path. We descend and after a nearly 180 degree junction then dive into the darkness of the Kohlichtgraben ravine. Soon the trail becomes brighter again and we reach the local connection road. Nearby the first recognizable houses are standing information boards, which point out their Swiss building style and the former usage as a residence for the workers of the paper- and later linoleum-factory. Moreover we see some (unfortunately abandoned) holiday homes, which remind us that this remote village with all its wide meadows was in former times a popular tourist destination.After passing by this village, the trail continues along the National park railway line. We cross two railway bridges (the now closed-down Schwarzenbach railway line and the still in use National park railway line) and hike uphill toward the village Altendorf. The third stage of the Malerweg trail ends at the former market garden Berger.
The village Altendorf is located in a nice spot. From the Adam mountain in Altendorf visitors have an excellent view over the Saxon Switzerland Hinterland, the Affensteine rock formation, the valley Kleiner Zschand and last but not least all table mountains until the Bastei rock formation.