Pravčická brána National Nature Monument

The Pravčická brána Arch NNM is the symbol of the České Švýcarsko (Czech Switzerland) National Park and one of the most attractive sights in the park. The sandstone arch has been protected since 1963 on an area of 23 000m² nd lies around 2km north-west of the hamlet of Mezní Louka (in the parish of Hřensko).
 
The main subject of the protection is the rock arch which formed in Mesozoic (Cretaceous) sandstones and which is a perfect example of the modelling of the relief in this area. The nearby rock massifs, ridges and pillars which are used as vantage points over the surrounding landscape are also protected. The surface of these rocks are marked by karren and other typical forms which can be found here are rocky ledges, narrow overhangs, small pitted surfaces on the rock walls and larger rock cavities.
 
The Pravčická brána Arch lies at 447 metres above sea level and forms an elongated rocky ridge, running in a north-east to south-west direction and perpendicular to the rock plateau. As with most of the rock formations in the area the Pravčická brána Arch was formed by erosive processes from the original sandstone block massif. A narrow, rocky spur developed gradually in the sandstone and this was then perforated by lateral erosion. This opening gradually expanded until it reaches the current dimensions. The arch, which is now 16 metres high and 26.5 metres wide, is the largest sandstone arch in Europe.
 
This imposing sandstone arch has been the subject for many artists and featured in many paintings since the 18th century. To serve the many visitors the Sokolí hnízdo (Falcon’s Nest) Hotel was built by the arch in 1881 and still serves as a restaurant.
 
Until the early 1980s visitors were allowed to walk across the sandstone arch but this has been forbidden due to the excessive erosion of the arch which was caused by the tourists.
 
The vegetation in the Pravčická brána NNM is relatively poor. The summits of the rocks are covered with relict pinewoods formed of Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris), silver birch (Betula pendula) and a poor herb layer, where we can find bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus), cowberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea), wavy hair-grass (Avenella flexuosa) and heather (Calluna vulgaris). These natural communities are endangered by the presence of invasive species such as the Weymouth pine (Pinus strobus) and the slowly spreading sweet chestnuts (Castanea sativa), which were planted here to “beautify” the forests around the arch. The edible dormouse (Glis glis) is regularly recorded on the territory of the monument, while the garden dormouse (Eliomys quercinus) is a very rare visitor to the territory. The presence of the critically endangered stag beetle Ceruchus chrysomelinus has been recorded in the vicinity of the arch.
 
A red tourist trail leads from the “Tři prameny” crossing of paths to the Pravčická brána Arch. The trail continues as the “Gabriela Trail” along the Křídelné stěny cliffs to Mezní Louka.