Zlatý vrch National Nature Monument

The Zlatý vrch – Golden Hill NNM rises up to a height of 658 metres above sea level and is a geological locality of Europe-wide importance. The protected area lies in the east of the Ústecký kraj – Ústí nad Labem Region and within the Lužické hory PLA. Quarrying works on the southern and south-eastern slopes uncovered the internal structure of this neovolcanic body with vertical columnar jointing of the basalt rocks. The geological structure of Zlatý vrch hill is rather complicated and various experts have varying explanations for the volcano’s structure. The actual basalt body of the volcano consists of several sections, which probably formed separately. The perfectly-formed columns of the main body are up to 27 metres long and tell us that the lava must have cooled and solidified very slowly and evenly in a relatively homogenous temperature field. The upper section of the volcanic body has broken up into irregular columns.
 
The exceptional character of this locality has been known since the turn of the 20th century, when basalt quarrying began here and these exceptionally long and perfectly-formed columns were exposed. The basalt columns which were quarried at Zlatý vrch were exported to the Netherlands, where they were used as an ideal building material for the construction of sea defences. Zlatý vrch, together with the neighbouring Stříbrný vrch – Silver Hill, were first protected in 1940 under the Third Reich laws on nature protection. However the basalt quarrying resumed after the war and continued until the mid 1960s. Zlatý vrch was designated a protected natural formation by the Děčín County Administration in 1964, and it was later re-declared as a national nature monument. However, the neighbouring Stříbrný vrch hill was not included in this declaration and quarrying continued here for several years after it was stopped on Zlatý vrch. The basalt columns on Zlatý vrch hill are two-and-a-half times longer than those on the more popular Panská skála NNM (Organ Pipe Rocks) near Kamenický Šenov.
 
The peak is covered by dwarf beechwoods with the dominant hairy small-reed (Calamagrostis villosa) in the undergrowth, which are characteristic for exposed summit areas. Herb-rich beechwoods and talus and ravine forests are represented on the less-exposed north-eastern fringe of the protected area. Pioneer vegetation communities with silver birch (Betula pendula) and goat willow (Salix caprea) are represented on the quarry walls and the spoil heaps on the quarry floor. Chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra) can occasionally be seen at Zlatý vrch.
 
Zlatý vrch NNM is one of the stops on the Okolí Studence themed nature trail.