This hike starts in Liaucous just downstream from the end of the famous Tarn gorge. Why here ? Because its a good spot to start a loop taking in the Sauveterre Causse and a part of the right bank of the Tarn gorge including a visit to two semi-troglodyte villages stuck high up on the gorge cliffs. There are a couple different ways to attack this circuit.
Counter-clockwise : Start from Liaucous, head east along the Tarn Valley slopes and loop north into the gorge itself. This direction brings you to the semi troglodyte villages before turning left and climbing to the Sauveterre Causse plateau. From there, itùs an easy walk back along the Causse until you get to the Liaucous cliffs overlooking the village. There are a couple paths down through these cliffs. The westernmost one that runs near the “via ferrata” is hard on the knees with a lot of steep drops. The second option, not easy to find from the Causse since it is not waymarked, stays further east before coming down an easier but longer trail through the cliffs.
Clockwise : Start from Liaucous and climb through the cliffs preferring the eastern most route. On reaching the Causse plateau, navigate more or less due north through the scrubby forest and grassland until reaching a wide gravel track. From there follow the way markings to and past Vors (take a short detour to get a view of the Millau Viaduct), past a fresh water spring, a (not very mysterious) grotto and on to the lip of the Tarn gorge. From there follow the way markings downhill from ~ alt 900 m to a trail at ~ alt 600 running along the gorge wall and leading to the 2 semi troglodyte villages. This last section of the trail was recently rerouted due to erosion on the older sections.
Either way works. Choice of the trail through the Liaucous cliffs is the most important decision – the eastern most trail being the best choice – up or down.
On this occasion, in the spring of 2017, we choose clockwise and the easternmost route through the cliffs from Liaucous.
Liaucous is not an official “commune” but just a village hamlet, part of a larger town called Mostuéjouls. Take note in case your GPS can’t find it. Leaving Liaucous, there are some fine views including the the Peyrelade fortress (ruined) in the distance, the Tarn river below (which is suddenly a real valley, not a gorge), the Liaucous cliffs above and the church in Liaucous. All pictured below.
On the Causse
Not much to see unless you are into botany and limestone plateau biotopes. However, it is worth a short detour to the (apparently) abandoned Causse farmstead at Vors with a good view to the famous Millau bridge about 20 km distant. After some monotony there is a fresh water spring and an ugly grotto under overhanging rocks. The Causse plateau, for all its “flatness” harbours some surprisingly large monoliths here and there.
The edge of the Gorge.
Soon after the monolith, the views start to open up on the Tarn Gorge. A number of superb outlooks are cause to stop before heading down a cliff-side path leading to the semi-troglodyte villages.
Saint-Marcellin and Eglazines
These 2 villages are built into and under overhanging rocks. There are remnants of gardens, cottage flowerbeds, orchards, courtyards and, all importantly, there are fresh water springs near each village. Although this is a steep cliff side location, there are still a few flat spots adequate for some gardening and remnants or man-made hillside terraces. But nobody lives here full time any more – the villages were abandoned sometime during the 20th century. On a good day, you might meet a someone who is fixing up an abandoned house. Presumably these houses still belong to the descendants of the last inhabitants and historical or family interest is bringing some of these people back to renovate (but not to live). There are no modern services here and hiking to your car in the river canyon below just to go for daily supplies is not a sustainable life-plan.
Springtime flora is interesting and abundant. There are a number of wild orchids and, on the Causse, large areas covered by a variety of wild blueberry.
Back to base
Not long after the second cliff-side village, you exit the gorge, turn right and head downhill back to Liaucous which soon comes into view.