Florac 130 km (on horseback)
A version of the “Florac 160 km”. The route is identical until Le Fraïsse on the Causse Méjean; from there, you make your way directly downhill to Ispagnac, without going via the Causse de Sauveterre.
22 points of interest
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.
Box is a symbol of immortality because it is evergreen. In the Middle Ages, it was a part of the peasants' materia medica. Its essence, wood and leaves all have the same characteristics. Dried in the shade with frequent turning, its leaves were a remarkable antipyretic and diuretic with sudorific properties. They were also used to treat chronic skin diseases, gout, rheumatism and baldness. Branches were used as litter in sheepfolds. During the summer grazing period, the shepherds turned its wood into staffs with sculpted knobs and other objects.
Quézac mineral water
Quézac mineral water emerges naturally from the Diva spring, near the entrance to the village, in exceptional surroundings which have been naturally protected for centuries. This pleasant-tasting water is rich in mineral salts and trace elements and is also well-known to be beneficial for the stomach. The spring's water actually comes from Mont Aigoual. According to scientific studies, it takes 30 to 40 years for it to re-emerge in Quézac, after first settling in aquifers, where it acquires its effervescence naturally (rare in France).
This bridge crossing the river Tarn gives access to the village of Quézac, located on the left bank. Around 1350, Pope Urban V decided to fund its construction to facilitate pilgrims' access to the collegiate church of Notre-Dame de Quézac. It was finished in the 15th century. Its history is punctuated by partial destruction in floods, and by more or less solid rebuilding. It became a listed monument on 27 August 1931.
The vintners of IspagnacIn 2003, Sylvain Gachet, from Savoy, reintroduced grapevines to Ispagnac and Florac, planting six hectares of terraced land. On soils of clay/limestone and schist, he attempted to breathe new life into the Domaine de Gabalie. In 2006, Elisabeth Boyé and Bertrand Servières set up as vintners in the Tarn gorge, also under the stimulus package bringing vineyards back to the valley. They cleared the land of the bartas (brambles) which had invaded almost all the parcels, and rebuilt the dry-stone walls before planting almond trees, vine peaches and five hectares of grapevines: the Domaine des Cabridelles was born. The winemakers share a cooperative cellar in Ispagnac, which is also a sales outlet. Why not make a short stop to try the wines (the cellar is next to the car park by the state school (école publique).
From Ispagnac, follow the same route as the “Florac 160 km”. The trails diverge at Le Fraïsse on the Causse Méjean: at Le Fraïsse, continue straight ahead to join up with the D 16. At that road, turn right towards Chanet airfield, and go alongside it on the inside. At the crossroads of the D 16 with the D 63, take the track on the left to join up with the road. Stay on the road for a few metres before turning right onto the track signposted "Costecalde - La Garde". Before you arrive at La Citerne, take the left-hand track to reach the Cambolairo gully. In the gully, take the path on the right (yellow-and-red waymarks) to the D 68. Turn left onto this road, then turn right onto La Condamine track. Continue straight ahead on this track until you reach Tomple. As you leave Tomple, turn left, then left again (watch out for the cattle grid – go through the gate) and go downhill on the forestry track that leads to Les Taillades and then to Quézac. As you leave Quézac, cross the bridge before forking right to go along the river and back up into Ispagnac.
- Departure : Ispagnac
- Arrival : Ispagnac
- Towns crossed : Ispagnac, Gorges du Tarn Causses, Florac Trois Rivières, Cans et Cévennes, Barre-des-Cévennes, Cassagnas, Vebron, Rousses, Bassurels, Saint-André-de-Valborgne, Val-d'Aigoual, Meyrueis, Saint-Sauveur-Camprieu, Lanuéjols, Hures-la-Parade, and Mas-Saint-Chély
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
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, take the N 106 main road to Ispagnac
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