One legendary walk in the Hérault department is the Chemin des Légendes et le Sentier des mille Marches. It brings you to the ‘Saut de Vésoles’ along a steep climb of 1,000 steps (‘mille marches’) and past numerous waterfalls and impressive canyons. According to a legend, the devil himself created this gorge around the Bureau stream. More likely, the erosion of the gentle Bureau stream formed this rocky passageway.
Last Mother’s Day, going on the Chemin des Légendes hike was my (forced) gift from the children. As I prefer to receive experiences instead of gifts, I started a week in advance to prepare them for this hike marked as difficult. So, after being spoiled with breakfast in bed, the family and I rather smoothly drove off to the starting point. It was easy to find the parking lot at the hamlet of Langlade near Riols. My print from the Visorando website showed that the trail was 11 kilometres and would take about 5 hours with an ascent and descent of almost 600 metres. To my surprise, the two signs at the start of the hike said something different. One mentioned 13 kilometres in 5.5 hours, and the one next to it said it would be 12 kilometres in 4 hours with an ascent of 700 metres.
Gorges de Bureau
Either way, we started following the yellow signs that directed us via Langlade to an upward path through a chestnut wood. Soon enough, we crossed the Bureau stream for the first time, followed by the first of the 1,000 steps. After this steep warm-up, we reached a flat, narrow path called ‘Les Gardes’, stuck to a rocky slope on one side. The other side gave a panoramic view of the gorges de Bureau.
Saut de Vésoles
And then the fun began. Climbing some more steps, we arrived at the bottom of the Saut de Vésoles. This is where the trail of the 1,000 steps begins. Little did we know that these steps would lead us to the top of this dramatic landscape of waterfalls that seemed to reach for the sky. It was quite a climb, and we crossed the stream several times. But the many extraordinary vistas on the way up definitely made up for the sweat spilt. Keep in mind that the gentle-looking stream can turn into a violent torrent in times of heavy rain and flooding.
The legend of the Saut de Vésoles tells the story of the small Bureau stream that wanted to flow to the ocean. On its way, the little creek met Wind, Fog and the devil. They were in the middle of a meeting to decide whether Wind or Fog would reign over the Somail plateau. The devil wanted to tease the Bureau by taking it in the opposite direction from the ocean. He created a passageway, using a magic formula to form a massive breach in the Espinouse mountain ridge. To his joy, this would force the Bureau stream to make a big leap (‘saut’). The devil’s strong claw pushed the stream into the deep. However, because the Bureau was terrified of the void, it clung to the devil’s coat and dragged him into the waterfall.
After reaching the top of the Saut de Vésoles, we arrived at the Vésoles lake. You can prolong the hike by walking around the lake. We already had done that trail (which you can read here), so we continued our way on the Chemin des Légendes. It was a beautiful part of the hike, walking on the plateau in the middle of blooming broom. At the belvedere, we soaked up the magnificent view one more time. The way back to Langlade, mainly through a forest, was easy compared to the big climb of the Saut de Vésoles. According to my step counter, it took us 4 hours to walk 12.5 kilometres, excluding lunch break and including several breaks. We didn’t count the steps of the Sentier des Mille Marches, though, so I cannot tell you if there actually are 1,000. But it sure felt like it! Especially the day(s) after…