The Gorges du Gardon are of such impressive beauty that UNESCO classified them as a Biosphere Reserve. This 29 kilometres long canyon was sculpted in limestone rocks six million years ago and finds itself between the village of Dions in the west and the Pont du Gard in the east. Besides the stunning scenery, it is also the habitat of a wide variety of flora and fauna. You will find endless hiking, mountain biking and even climbing and horseback trails, especially near Collias where the Alzon and Gardon rivers meet. Time to put on your hiking shoes and start exploring!
The weather in the South of France can be amazing in autumn. And when I find myself in such a unique environment as the Gorges du Gardon, I simply have to go on a hike. The family and I have been to Collias before, to kayak on and swim in the Gardon river, and I remembered there were a few hikes there too. So, during our last stay in the Gard department, we returned to Collias and found a great trail on the Visorando app. As it wasn’t really well indicated from the starting point in Collias, I was happy to follow the interactive Visorando map. From the Place du Marché parking lot, we went left and crossed the lovely village. And from here on, we followed the yellow signs that quickly brought us to a garrigue landscape via a gently ascending gravel path.
Walking on top of the gorge was easy, with vistas as far as the eye could reach. At one point, we could see Collias and its recognizable bridge. Distance-wise, we walked the first half of the 11.3km trail on top of the canyon. So, we had to go down to the Gardon river to start the return leg of the hike. However, not before marvelling at the panorama that unfolded in front of us. The meandering Gardon river was of such a bright bluish colour and stood out from the greens of the forest along the canyon below us. Breathtaking! Going downhill was a bit tricky. But when we saw the dog of the couple just behind us race by, we knew we could do it. We took our time though, as I preferred coming down safe and sound.
Chéri and the boys looked for a picnic spot, while Daughter-dear and I walked a bit further as we were looking for a water mill. And there it was, the spectacle of the water mill and the towering cliffs reflecting in the clear water of the Gardon. Although, when we looked closer, we saw two water mills. The round one, called the ‘Moulin de la Barque renversée’, was built looking like a reversed boat (‘barque renversée’). That way, the water could submerge it in case of floods. As we didn’t want to leave the boys alone for too long, we didn’t go to the Grotte de la Baume nor the chapel-in-rocks Saint Vérédème. Bring a torch if you want to visit the pitch-dark cave. Also, keep in mind that it is home to various bat species, so you can’t go in during the hibernation and reproduction periods.
Going back to the boys, we had a lovely lunch along the banks of the river overlooking the wild nature of La Baume on the other side. To return to Collias, we followed the bank of the river. Even this time, we went the wrong way though, as we thought we had to go left. A yellow cross marked the banks, and arrows directed us onto a path in the woods. But looking at our interactive Visorando map, we quickly saw that we had gone wrong and corrected our direction. Apparently, the yellow cross was meant for hikers coming the other way. Back on track, we relaxedly walked along the river, absorbing some more beautiful views. Just before coming back to Collias, we saw a big wave-shaped cliff where people climbed the Via Ferrata. The Gorges du Gardon has everything for great outdoor activities!