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Le Caroux, South circuit, Saint-Martin-de-l’Arçon

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The last foothill of the Massif Central, the Caroux plateau, nicknamed the "Mountain of Light", forms a gigantic natural belvedere. This itinerary, starting from the small village of Sant-Martin-de-l'Arçon, combines several trails on the south face to reach the south-facing orientation table at the halfway point, offering a beautiful panorama of the Haut-Languedoc region. On the way up, you come across an impressive waterfall formed by the Albine stream, which, in good weather, can be covered in running water. On the way back, we pass the foot of the Lucet rock, a small rocky peak overlooking the valley. The route, which seems to be much less frequented than the Gorges d'Héric, is demanding, with a fairly steep ascent and descent for a short distance.

Technical summary

Type ✦ Hiking
Location ✦ Saint-Martin de l'Arçon
Region ✦ Hérault, Plateau du Haut-Languedoc
Country ✦ France
Orientation ✦ South
Max altitude ✦ 1060m
Distance ✦ 9.5km
Vertical drop ✦ 830m
Difficulty ✦ E2 / T2 / R1
Duration ✦ 4h to 5h
Interest ✦ ★

Access to the place

The site lies north-west of Bézier, in the upper part of the Orb valley. Get to Saint-Martin-de-l'Arçon on the D908 between Bédarieux and Saint-Pons-de-Thomières. Just before entering the village, after the church and cemetery, park in one of the 2 parking lots on the left.

Itinerary description

Hiking to the start 15'

From the parking lot, retrace your steps and, before the church, take the "chemin du Mas le plus haut", an asphalt road that climbs up the main street. Follow the 3 bends uphill and, at the 1st fork in the road, keep right to reach a small building (mini water tower?). Just before this, at the last bend, start the path to the Col de la Pomarède.

Course 3h à 4h

All trails are well marked, some signposted, others simply cairned. You need to be careful to branch off at the right moment, otherwise you risk lengthening the itinerary. While the ascent and descent are steep and therefore quite physical, there is also a very easy climb just after crossing the Albine waterfall.

Part 1: Cascade du ruisseau d'Albine

A short blue-marked path through the vegetation, then along a stone wall, obviously little used. It descends a little and then climbs a path with a low wall, a sort of rock staircase. Then it climbs steeply into the forest, still marked by blue markers and cairns. You pass the ruins of old buildings in the forest and finally reach the Col de la Pomarède, where you switch to the talweg formed by the Ruisseau d'Albine. Descend to reach the stream bed below the waterfall.
Part 2: The orientation table

On the other side, use your hands to climb out and steeply uphill before joining a large path from Colombières-sur-Orb: the sentier du Garel, marked in red and yellow (GRP). Here you'll find a series of rock staircases that wind their way up to the baraques de Caylus at 688m. This is the Saint Martin crossroads. Continue to the left (north-west) on the path, still marked yellow and red, and cross the Albine stream further up. As you pass a small shoulder, don't go back down and leave the GRP to climb due north, following the cairns. The climb continues due north, under the Sarrazine rock. We come out after a fern field on a flat area with a beautiful view of the valley on the south side.

Keep going until you come to a huge cairn with white-green markings. Turn left into a pine forest on a straight path heading due west towards the Font Salesse refuge. At a large fork in the forest, turn left, this time heading south, to cross the forest and descend slightly to reach the orientation table on a small rocky promontory, a natural balcony overlooking the Haut-Languedoc plain.
Part 3: Lucet rock and La Fumade

From the viewpoint, head north-west to the Font Salesse refuge (marked GR and yellow). From the refuge, head due south on an unmarked but well-marked path between the pines towards the Rocher de Lucet. You leave the forest on an esplanade that leads to a stony gully between 2 rocky bars. Rocher de Lucet on the right. Steeply wind down to the junction with the GRP from Col de Bartouyre, at the Saint-Martin crossroads. The village of Saint-Martin-de-l'Arçon is signposted at 1h.

Back

The return journey is tiring and the descent quite hard on the knees and quadriceps. At the crossroads, continue straight downhill, still heading south. What remains is a long, winding descent on stony paths, in places through undergrowth, to reach the top of the village of Saint-Martin-de-l'Arçon. Cross the village and take the main road back to the start parking lot.

Map & topo

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