Florac 160 km (on horseback)
This trail takes you from the Cévenol valleys to the forested Aigoual massif, and from the arid plateau of the Causse Méjean and the vertiginous paths of the Gorges du Tarn to the granite solitude of Mont Lozère. Come and discover the route of the epic horse race, the Florac 160 km – your turn to follow in the traces of the legendary stallion Persik!
25 points of interest
Ispagnac churchSt-Peter’s Church in Ispagnac is one of the finest examples of Romanesque architecture in Gévaudan. Built in the 12th century, it is dedicated to Saint Peter and Saint Paul. The understated facade of this bulky-looking building has a simple gate with three semi-circular arches topped by a rose window that lets light into the nave. Once inside, you discover a simple and airy architecture. A sound-and-light show helps you to explore. To get the fullest impression of the architecture, you need to leave the building and walk around it to see the apse and its décor.
The iron-rich water of Salce
After a small detour from the hamlet of
Salièges to the river Tarn, you will come across a spring of ferruginous water. For a long time, the ability to prevent (or cure) alcoholism was attributed to this water rich in Fe2+ ions, and made famous by a sketch by the stand-up comedian Bourvil. It supposedly supplies the iron that would normally come from regularly drinking alcohol. A small construction indicates the Salce spring (the path from Salièges is way-marked), as does the red tinting from iron oxide, which you find in many contact zones between schist and limestone.
Ash trees, like the ones that border the path, like cool and damp environments. They were planted alongside paths by locals because ash branches, cut towards the end of summer, provided additional fodder for livestock.
A beautiful view onto Mont Aigoual (1,567 m) – a mountain of winds, fog, snow and rain. Banks of clouds coming from the Mediterranean rub against its slopes and can cause violent precipitation (also called Cévenol episodes). This temperamental mountain is home to the last mountain weather-station in France.
The Margeride draille (drovers’ road)
The draille follows the ridge and crosses the Can de l'Hospitalet plateau. This transhumant trail enables the sheep flocks of the plains (of the southern Cévennes and the Crau) to move up to northern Gévaudan (Aubrac, Margeride, Mont Lozère). This draille is only one branch of a larger network along which transhumant livestock still travel.
Col SalidèsThe bare ridge that rises opposite is the watershed between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. Rain that falls on the Sexte valley flows into the Tarnon below (on the left) and ends up in the ocean. On your right, the Mediterranean side offers extraordinary views onto the foothills of the can de l’Hospitalet plateau and the entirety of the Cévenol mountains. On some days, the Alps and Mont Ventoux can be seen in the distance …
Aire de CôteAire-de-Côte farm was purchased by the French State in 1862, during the period of reforestation. Before the farm became a stopover gîte, it was for a long time the residence of the local forester and his family. In the first half of the 20th century, Aire-de-Côte was very different. To the north, behind the house, was the draille (drovers’ road), lined by upright stones and 40 to 50 metres wide. Thousands of transhumant animals passed every year on their way to or from summer pastures. The transhumant animals stopped there at lunchtime, then continued on towards Mont Aigoual.
A Resistance refugeIn early 1943, the first Resistance group of the Cévennes was formed. The refuge of the Aire-de-côte group was one of the wooden shacks used for forestry works, whose roof was camouflaged using branches. On 10 July 1943, a message warned the post office in Rousses that a German attack was imminent. The Resistance was informed – but a storm delayed the group’s departure. The Germans arrived… The forester was arrested as an accomplice, accused of being in radio contact with London. Indeed, the Aire-de-côte Resistance listened to a crystal radio set built by the two Jews who were hiding there.
Le CouletAt Le Coulet (meaning little pass), views open up onto the Mediterranean side, towards Valleraugue. The viewpoint lies on the watershed. Up to this point, the route followed the valley of the Bédil, a brook with a gentle, non-torrential gradient, whose waters flow into the Atlantic. Here, you discover the valley of the Clarou (a tributary of the Hérault), with its typically Mediterranean, i.e. more abrupt, profile. To the south, schist outcrops break through the slopes; to the north, the slopes are entirely wooded.
ReforestationIn 1875, the French State initiated a reforestation policy. It bought up existing beech forests and bare parcels. This was the case of Aire-de-Côte and the land belonging to it. To settle poor soils, foresters planted a pioneering species: the dwarf mountain or bog pine. On more fertile soils, nobler species were planted: fir, spruce and larch. Commercial exploitation began in 1938, when the local mines bought the first harvests to shore up mine tunnels. The original reforested areas were thinned out and firs planted beneath the pines. It is said that in a bedroom at Aire-de-Côte, there was a heap of coniferous tree seeds at least one metre high. They were sown onto the snow, which dragged them into the soil as it melted.
The evolution of plant lifeAt the pass stands a schist menhir (standing stone). To the north, in Trépaloup ravine, hewn flint implements bear witness to a human presence in the region since prehistoric times. Palynological analyses (studies of pollen fossilised in peatbogs) have allowed scientists to piece together the plant life on Mont Aigoual from 8,000 to 5,000 BC. Pine predominated, accompanied by birch and hazelnut. Then pine populations gradually diminished. The damp climate warmed up, favouring the spread of oak and hazelnut. Finally, the increased damp and cloud cover at altitude allowed fir and beech to develop. From the end of the first century BC, the substantial percentage of grasses shows that forest had receded in favour of pasture and prairies. This was the start of the great deforestation.
Short-grass prairies and heath on the summit of Mont AigoualHere, only species with a short reproductive cycle can settle due to the frequently glacial climate. The heath has been invaded by heather and mountain pine. This zone is barely wooded due to the violent winds and is comparable to subalpine vegetation, consisting of short-grass prairies and heather and blueberry moor. It is sometimes called pseudo-alpine.
The meteorological observatoryInaugurated in 1824, the meteorological observatory was built on the initiative of Georges Fabre, one of the pioneers of the reforestation of Mont Aigoual. His work with the botanist Charles Flahault enabled the creation of the arboretum of L’Hort de Dieu. The first meteorological data were gathered by agents from the French National Water and Forestry Commission. Since 1943, the observatory has been managed by the National Meteorological Office. It is France’s last mountain weather station that is inhabited year-round.
Summit of Mont Aigoual
At an altitude of 1,565 m, the climate is harsh: weather conditions are the same as they would be at 2,000 m elsewhere, with only four “frost-free” months a year. Winds of above 60 kph blow on 265 days a year, and the average annual temperature is 4.8°C. Trees do not have enough time to complete their life cycle. Local plant formations are those of the montane zone: subalpine short-grass prairies.
Notre-Dame-du BonheurThis Romanesque monastery was built in the 11th and 12th centuries by the rich Lord of Roquefeuil and Mandagout, with the noble intention of turning it into a “hospital for the poor”. He allowed the monks to reap the fruits and revenue of the land. In return, the villagers paid him sheep, pigs, poultry, wine and cheese. He also charged the transhumant herds on his vast estate pasture fees. The path that passed through this peatbog linked Languedoc to the Gévaudan. A snowstorm bell weighing 200 kg would ring in fog or blizzards to help merchants, peddlers, itinerant workers, farmers etc. find their way to safety. The monastery had six canons, the last of whom was forced to leave during the French Revolution. An association dedicated to preserving the Abbey of Notre-Dame du Bonheur is working to restore it.
Pierre plantée (Pierre plantée)Since ancient times, stones have stood along the Camin Ferrat: directional markers indicating a crossroads. Above all, they marked the boundaries of two parishes. Since the creation of Departments in 1790, they have outlined the border between Gard and Lozère.
Forest managementThe Mont Aigoual forest.
The wood harvested here comes from a forest that was reforested from the late 19th century onwards, after a period of overgrazing. This forest begins, grows and dies like all living beings. The job of foresters is to manage and support its development while respecting the laws of nature. They harvest trees before they die to make room for young trees. These tree trunks supply an entire economic sector, from the lumberjack to the skidder operator, the saw operator and the carpenter or cabinetmaker. Wood also accompanies you throughout your lives, from your cradle, furniture, woodwork and the wooden frame of your house to your coffin.
The village of MeyrueisThe geographical location of Meyrueis is remarkable, nestled between the Aigoual massif, the causse Noir and the causse Méjean. Here the Camin Ferrat crosses the Jonte river. Pilgrims and transhumant flocks of sheep stopped in the village before continuing their journey. Many merchants came to its large fairs. Stroll through the lanes and relive the flourishing past of the belle époque. From the prosperous bourgeois residences to the marketplaces, everything still speaks of the past! Sheep’s wool from the plateaux was woven here, silk was spun. There was intense economic activity. In the 17th century, Meyrueis became a centre for hat-making. By 1860, 17 milliners were busy making hats for Languedoc and Provence, beautiful and exceptionally high-quality hats made from felted wool and silk bourette. Discontinued as of about 1920, this activity left room for tourism, which today animates the village.
The church of HuresThe church was founded in the 11th century by the Benedictine monks of Sainte-Enimie to expand their arable land. It was built in four stages:
- The choir in the early and the nave in the late 12th century,
- the right-hand chapel in the 14th century,
- the left-hand chapel in the 18th century.
Each enlargement of the building corresponded to an increase in the Causse population. The nave has a beautiful window. To the right of the entrance is a funereal recess, which probably belonged to a local dignitary and in which were deposited a number of bones removed from the buried body.
Did the menhir-builders move in the same landscape that we see today? Current archaeological knowledge does not allow us to reproduce with great accuracy what the landscape of Mont Lozère’s slopes would have looked like in the late Neolithic. Yet the birth of agriculture and livestock rearing in the Neolithic without doubt opened a new chapter in the relationship between humans and nature. For the first time in their history, populations designed the landscape by dotting it with monuments, but more importantly by developing agricultural and pastoral activities. Today – 5,000 years later – human interventions are carried out based on Natura 2000 measures, which focus notably on keeping open spaces intact and maintaining agro-pastoral activities.
The village of Les Combettes is built in a natural depression, as its name indicates (combette = little valley). The exhibition on display in the communal oven building emphasises how late Mont Lozère was first settled. By the Upper Neolithic (around 3500 BC), the region of the Grands Causses was widely settled, following a population increase. The first agro-pastoral communities formed, creating farms and villages and clearing land to grow cereals and breed livestock, whilst still hunting and gathering. These groups are behind local megalithism. The age of metals put an end to the practice of erecting menhirs, but dolmens were in use for a while longer.
The Manoir d'Issenges
This fortified house, built from 1624 onwards, is an example of a type of rural seigneurial estate inherited from the Middle Ages. The complex consists of three buildings: the main building with its almost square ground plan, and two long and low wings of farm buildings, which together enclose a courtyard open to the gardens to the east. The entrance is via an archway located at the southern corner of the main building. This building must have had four corner turrets, a projecting tower in the centre that contained the spiral staircase, and an entrance topped by a pediment. This fortified look was reinforced by musket slits and a parapet, or at least a brattice over the entrance gates. The turrets have been demolished and the central tower reduced in height. The mullioned windows have been preserved. A stone shows the date of 1624.
The draille de la Margeride
The ascent to Issenges is on the draille de la Margeride. A draille is a path used by herds of goats during the transhumance: moving up to the mountain pastures in June and coming back down again in September.
“I moved my sheep to summer pastures all the way in the Margeride. I'm from up there myself. When I was a kid, there were many of us in the family, and whenever we saw a transhumant [seasonally migrating] shepherd pass by, my dad would say: one day you'll have to go off with a shepherd... I left and became a transhumant shepherd. My first stopover was Bonperrier. Then we'd eat at L'Hospitalet, and go down to Florac for the night. I moved pastures with 4,000 sheep.”
The European beaver (Castor fiber)
The calm deep stretches of the Tarn are good areas to settle for the European beaver, which lives in a lodge dug into the river bank. An essentially vegetarian animal, it bases its diet on cellulose. It eats young shoots, bark, aquatic plants, and foliage that is abundant in the riparian forest. It is thus useful in regulating the woody vegetation of river banks, facilitating the development of riverside fauna and flora. Through its activities, it prevents the potentially dangerous accumulation of dead wood during floods. It does not build dams.
From Ispagnac, go through the village towards Florac. As you leave Ispagnac, take the D 907 bis to the first fork on your right. Take this lane and cross the river Tarn. Continue on the lane until you reach Biessette, Biesses, Fayet, Salièges and then Florac. From the former train station in Florac, take the former road below the N 106 towards Le Pont Neuf (where you can also go into Florac). Cross that bridge, then turn left towards St Jean du Gard. Cross the Barre bridge on your left and take the GR70 to Balazuègnes. Head up the small Briançon valley towards the Col de l'Oumenet pass. Go through Le Bouquet and continue to Barre des Cévennes. From there, head towards the Col des Faisses and then Col de Solpérière passes (GR7). Use an old local track to reach L'Hospitalet, and then take the former draille or drovers' road (GR7), the Col de Salidès pass to reach Aire de Côte. From Aire de Côte, head uphill to the summit of Mont Aigoual (GR66). From the summit, make for Prat Peyrot and then for La Serreyrède on the GR60. From La Serreyrède, go downhill to Le Devois (Camprieu), then uphill to La Croix de Fer; continue to Meyrueis via Bout de Côte (GR6). From Meyrueis, climb onto the Causse Méjean and continue to La Croix de la Croisette and then to La Tombe du Géant (GR6). Take the road for 2 km towards Drigas, and continue on a track on the right. At the centre of Drigas, take the fork towards Hures and then Le Fraisse. Go through Mas de Val and then downhill to Sainte-Enimie on the so-called “Camin Ferrat” track. Climb onto the Causse de Sauveterre using the former track, heading to Le Bac and then Champerboux (GR60). From Champerboux, go to Sauveterre and continue on to the Col de Montmirat pass via La Baraque de l'Estrade (GR44). Cross the N 106, ride along the D 35 and take a track going downhill to Les Combettes. From Les Combettes, go uphill again to Faux (GR 68), then fork off towards Les Laubies/Les Badieux to reach the buttes in Les Bondons before joining up again with the GR 68 heading downhill to Florac to the bridge over the Tarn.
- Departure : Ispagnac
- Arrival : Ispagnac
- Towns crossed : Saint-Sauveur-Camprieu, Meyrueis, Lanuéjols, Hures-la-Parade, Mas-Saint-Chély, Gorges du Tarn Causses, Ispagnac, Saint-Étienne-du-Valdonnez, Les Bondons, Bédouès-Cocurès, Florac Trois Rivières, Cans et Cévennes, Barre-des-Cévennes, Cassagnas, Vebron, Rousses, Bassurels, Saint-André-de-Valborgne, Val-d'Aigoual
This trail goes through several sheep pens: please shut gates behind yourself. Keep dogs on a leash. The trail is way-marked in one direction only (clockwise). For overnight gites that accept horses, please contact the tourist offices in Florac and Meyrueis.
Tourism'house and national Parc at Florac
Place de l'ancienne gare, N106, 48400 Florac-trois-rivières
04 66 45 01 14
This office is part of the National Park's associated tourist-information network, whose mission is to provide information on, and raise awareness of, the sites and events as well as the rules that must be observed in the National Park's central zone.
On site: exhibitions, video projections, events and shop Open year-round
Access and parking
From Mende or Alès on the N 106 to Ispagnac
Report a problem or an error
If you have found an error on this page or if you have noticed any problems during your hike, please report them to us here: