Explore Les Gorges d'Heric on foot
Les Gorges d'Heric
If you do the full walk, rather than just up the road to the café and back again like many tourists do, Les Gorges d'Heric is a 6 to 7 hour round walk. So allow plenty of time as it may take you longer if you stop for a picnic somewhere, or a drink at the buvette at Heric on your return. The owner at the buvette is nearly always there and happy to please, it makes a welcome break if you are beginning to flag on a hot day.
The walk is not for the faint-hearted, but it’s stunning, and well worth the effort. There are lots of stopping places where you can paddle, or swim. The water is cold even in the summer though, so take a deep breath before you plunge in!
Directions by Pam Smith
Although there are coloured markers on most of this walk, they change throughout the walk so take care to follow the directions carefully. This is a strenuous walk with two hours of ascent and the same in descent, it's not particularly difficult but the length of the walk, plus the climbing makes it one that I would only suggest to regular hill walkers.
The walk can either be started from Mons or the gorge car park. The car park is free during winter months and there is a charge in the summer, but this is the most convenient place to park and takes around 40 minutes off the walk duration. If starting from Mons follow the red/yellow markers down to the car park, this path takes you through some very pretty chestnut woods and you get to see the medieval village with its bread oven and tiny, narrow, arched streets.
For those who have opted to start the walk from the gorge car park follow the red/yellow markers up to pont des soupirs, which is a tiny bridge that crosses the gorge near the start of the gorge road. Turn right down the steps and cross the bridge, then take the footpath to your right marked with a red/yellow marker, there are also yellow markers here. This is a step and continuous path that zigzags up the side of the gorge on a rocky and often stepped path. The views of the gorge are wonderful as you wind your way up, but be careful not to take a turn off the main route as the others are all much steeper. It takes an hour to reach the Col de Bartouyre, by this time you will be ready for a short break.
Now you will see a red dot marker and the yellow one too. Make sure you follow the yellow one in an easterly direction along the flat path through the green oak woods to some large stone cairns. Go passed these and up the first zigzag to reach a signpost.
Here you leave all the lined coloured markers behind and just follow the red dot up to your left. This too is a rocky path and less maintained than the one that you have left. At first it travels through more small green oaks and then comes out in an area of rocky scenery, down into the Orb valley and across the valley.
Watch carefully here for the dots as they wind up to another col. From this col you can see back into the gorge once again and over to the Espinouse and the Jaur valley. Keep going up, it's a little trickier here but will soon come out on the flat plateau of the Caroux in a small wood of beech trees.
At the end of this path you will be greeted by a small building; Refuge de Font Salesse. It's a pleasant area for picnics and the hut can be used for shelter if needed. Now turn to your left and you will see a blue dotted route, this is the Rieutord route. I love this path, it's so very beautiful whatever time of year you take the walk. Walk through the trees to the first viewpoint and then continue on down on a tiny, rocky path with magnificent views towards the Roc de Caroux or the part of the Caroux that looks like Cebene's head. The route is divided by the Rieutord stream that continues over the rocks to form a waterfall. Cross the little stream on the rocks, it's only very small and head up to the path at the top. You leave the up here blue route just after the stream and continue to your right on a wider path. The views are divine up here, with far reaching views up through the upper gorge and across the Espinouse. To be honest you simply won't believe just how beautiful this place is, it's magical.
Now continue heading north and turn left when you see a stone cairn on your left. This will take you to a small promontory beside a tree. This place is called Jasse de l'Ermite. There are some rocks here too and you will want to stay here and take in the view, especially if the sun is lowering in the sky and the hues are turning to rose in the blue summer sky after a warm day. But I afraid you still have another couple of hours of walking to go, so it's time to leave the top and dip down into the valley below. The small path keeps you to the side of the woodland but not into it , then works its way down to the Col de l'Airole and the GR7, marked red/white.
Turn left here and work your way through the chestnut woods to reach Heric. This takes around an hour. There are a couple of tricky spots and tiny streams that cross your path but it's easy to follow and when you reach the small bridge you will know that you are almost in the hamlet. If you want to visit the buvette go right into the hamlet but otherwise keep going down the wide track that winds down through the beautiful gorge back to the car park. It's an easy route but will take you another hour from here.
Those heading back to Mons instead of the gorge car park need to follow the red/yellow markers that leave the road near the houses at Le Verdier Haut and walk through the woods once again.
If you decide to undertake this walk make sure that you have adequate clothing as it can be cooler on the plateau and the weather can quickly change. It's always a good idea to take waterproofs, a hat, a drink, some food, a torch and wear good footwear. I would carry a map too and a small first aid kit. My dog loves it up there but I keep her close to me in the woods as there are a lot of mouflons up there and dogs must be on a lead in the gorge itself.
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Pam is getting ready for one of her many charity treks for Macmillan Cancer Support. This time it’s coast to coast in Costa Rica. If you want to donate, please contact us for Pam's details.
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