Get ready for spectacular vistas when doing the hike at the Gorges de Colombières. These gorges might be less well known than nearby big brother the Gorges d’Héric, but their varied landscapes are equally beautiful. The challenging 13 kilometre trail will take you through the mountainous Haut Languedoc, with its impressive rocks, rushing waters and chestnut forests. This wilderness has every reason to be nicknamed ‘a part of Corsica lost in the Languedoc’.
Les Gorges de Colombières offer a great diversity in activities. Nature lovers as well as hikers, climbers and swimmers will all find something to their liking. This time, I finally managed to convince my family to walk the big hike, as autumn seemed the perfect season to do so. Because we had walked the shorter track ‘Les Balcons d’Arles’ before, we already knew that the best parking spot was behind the Mairie. From here, the hike’s starting point was easy to find. And we started off well with steep, rocky stairs, which set the tone for what was about to come.
I had read somewhere that the trail’s signposting was a bit complicated. However, we had no problems whatsoever following the yellow markings of our hike. We didn’t even get lost once, which was a first according to our loving children. Maybe it was because Chéri and I had prepared well for our expedition. Or perhaps the trail wasn’t complicated after all, as basically we followed the gorges one way, made a U-turn and returned on the other side. Chestnut forests alternated with rocky landscapes, leading us to the Hameau Lafage. This little hamlet, now a gîte, has a gorgeous view of the River Arles flowing through the Gorges de Colombières. Quite a special place to spend a night or two!
Via the- renovated and still working- water mill Moulin de Lafage, our family slowly walked up further on an easy path. In total, the Gorges de Colombières hike has a difference in height of 660 metres. However, because the ascent is spread out over 4 kilometres, with 400 metres in the first part, we didn’t really notice that we had climbed a fair amount. Also, collecting chestnuts distracted us from our fatigue. After making the turn to start our 9 kilometre descent, we entered the climbers’ paradise of Rocher de Lafage and des Estrets. About halfway, we all agreed that we had earned lunch. So, we picked a beautiful spot with sweeping panoramas of the gorges below us to refuel for the second part of our hike.
Golden autumn forests glittered in the impressive landscape, so we continued our chestnut hunt. Until this moment, there was no complaining on the part of the kids. Mainly because I had redeemed my birthday vouchers, good for one naggless hike. And they worked! Best birthday gift ever… The descent brought us to a zigzaggy, ancient Roman road with large stone slabs. This road proves that there has been human circulation going on between the valley and the plateau for more than 2,000 years.
In 5 hours, the Gorges de Colombières trail led us through some amazing landscapes, covered in colourful fall foliage. The Roman road eventually joined with the, also paved, Chemin des Fleysses. Although we were going downhill, the path was a bit difficult due to its steepness and the fallen leaves, in particular the last stairs after having crossed the hamlet of Seilhols. Our sore muscles reminded us of these stairs the whole week… Nevertheless, it was a great hike that merits a place in my favourites list, especially now we’re in another lockdown. Hopefully we can go out hiking again soon!