Hiking in the Cévennes, France

Cévennes National Park, in the South of France, lies about 25 miles north of Montpellier and about 20 miles northwest of Nîmes.  Honestly, I don’t know much about the area, but having found so little on the internet about actual hiking trails and maps I thought I’d put down what I found out one afternoon exploring a small portion of the area.

We first stopped in Alès, listed in Lonely Planet as the gateway town to the park. You can skip this town. There are much cuter and more useful towns. The personnel in the tourist office were nice and tried to be helpful, giving us pamphlets on the area listing activities and agencies, including information on the famous Robert Louis Stevenson trail. He rode from le Puy en Velay to St. Jean du Gard on a donkey and wrote Travel with a Donkey in the Cévennes. Unfortunately, they had no actual hiking maps or books. She suggested we go to Anduze or the Maison de la Randonnée in Thoiras, off of D907 between Anduze and St. Jean du Gard.

In Anduze, a quaint if not touristy mountain town – now this looks like a gateway town to a National park – the tourist office sells topo-maps of the area and a packet of affiches (single-sheet write-ups) on 17 hikes around Anduze. I’m sure there are better hikes in the park, but we were really just on the fringe, and for a first trip we were just looking for a little exercise.

We chose the10K Lacan Hiking Path with two stars, indicating that there was a steep climb involved. We found the parking area with no difficulty, just outside La Madeleine, (700 meters from the Madeleine crossroads on D907 towards Anduze), with signs to Lacan and the Tornac Castle. The write-up is translated into English and it shows. With mix-ups in prepositions, vocabulary and a lack of time or distances between individual directions, it would be difficult to follow on its own, but the trail is well marked with yellow blazes and yellow Xs telling you where not to go. All you really need is the starting point and then follow the yellow blazes.

As Americans who haven’t hiked a lot in France, we found the trail quite fun – scavenger hunt meets hike up the mountain. The trail first takes you through fields, farms, and backyards, mostly on paths but sometimes along old roads. The write-up is actually out of date and the directions don’t always match up with the blazes. No matter, just keep following the yellow blazes.  You eventually reach a forested area and start to climb. This part feels more like a typical mountain trail. At the top is Mt. Lacan with great views of the surrounding valley’s vineyards and stone towns. Way off in the distance you can faintly see Mt. Ventoux.  Well worth the climb up the steep rocky section.  With an antenna and other structures requiring maintenance on top I’m sure there is an easier way up. Past the peak the trail continues on the other side, winding back down through scrubby dry forest back to the main road and parking area. Tornac Castle is a short distance above this main road.

Top of Mt. Lacan

View from Mt. Lacan

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