Hiking in the Fairy-Tale ‘Narnia’ Hills of the Czech Republic

Stepping out above the treeline to the eagle’s nest lookout behind Pravčická brána, the sweeping, 360-degree views include the soaring Elbe Sandstone Mountains that make up the border between the Czech Republic and the German state of Saxony. Its crowning jewel is the Pravčická brána rock bridge, the largest in Europe and one of the Czech Republic’s most impressive, and yet lesser-known, natural attractions.

This is the Bohemian Switzerland National Park, almost 30 square miles of hills and enchanted forests where the Narnia movies were fittingly filmed. And while an estimated 250,000 people (mostly Czechs and Germans) visit Pravčická brána each year, few venture beyond the site and delve into the dense network of hiking trails that traverse the protected landscape.

Most people access Pravčická brána from the busy tourist village of Hřensko, but Mezní Louka, the next hamlet over, is thankfully little more than a bus stop next to a handful of modest pensions and wooden cabins. Several trails intersect here, and the red trail heads toward Pravčická brána.

This 4-mile stretch of densely forested switchbacks is increasingly sandy underfoot — thanks to its origins millions of years ago as the Cretaceous Sea — and shaded by the towering sandstone cliff faces, which provide ample natural seating for a picnic. The rock formations were sculpted from the former seabed by volcanoes during the Tertiary period, and this trail was first waymarked in 1870.

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