Stormchasing in La Cité des Pierres – Montpellier-le-Vieux

While we didn’t have an exact itinerary for our roadtrip through France last September, there were of course a few places that we had in mind as a direction. The area around the Gorges du Tarn and the Gorges de la Jonte was one of those places.

After a little – but not bad at all – delay in the Ardeche because of the heat, we finally made it to that area, and more specifically Le Rozier. Le Rozier is an ideal location to discover both the Tarn and the Jonte canyon, as it’s situated at the confluence. We put up our tent on the campground of Camping La Muse, with a beautiful view on the Tarn river.

We were eager to explore the Gorges du Tarn by bike, but with the combination of the afternoon heat and the steep climb up that didn’t seem like a good plan to start with. So we bumped that activity to the next morning and found ourselves heading for another sight in the area; La Cité des Pierres.

La Cité des Pierres or Chaos de Montpellier-le-Vieux (I honestly haven’t figured out what the official name is yet) is a large blockfield at the Causse Noir in the Grands Causses Regional Natural Park. Nature, rocks and panoramas? Count me in!

There are all kinds of activities – a lot for kids as well – on this site, but we were mostly interested in the six walking routes through the rock formations. But this also comes with a price tag. The entrance fee to the park is 15,80 euros per car (the Via Ferrata and Ziplines of course have an extra fee), but it’s definitely worth the money!

Upon arrival we had received a map of the area with all the paths and most iconic formations marked. Full of energy we started with the panoramic ridge route, but soon enough we heard the skies rumbling in the distance. Uh-oh. Seems like the heat would get washed away – literally. And it wouldn’t take long for it to arrive either!

We found ourselves on the top of the ridge, overlooking the beautiful canyons and formations as we saw the dark clouds coming in. Nature at its most violent. Instead of running away to find shelter – as many, probably a little bit smarter, people seemed to do -, we decided to wait it out. Witness the power of nature in such a beautiful environment.

In the distance the rain was falling down and thunder was roaring, but even after half an hour of waiting, we remained dry. High on the viewing platform and surrounded by the threatening clouds. To say we were a little bit disappointed would be an understatement. In such a heat, a shower of rain wasn’t really such a bad prospect. Bummer. Fortunately the view hadn’t been bad at all, so it wasn’t all lost time.

But there was still so much more to discover in this nature reserve and closing time was at 5:30pm, so reluctantly we continued our path through this jungle of rocks and majestic panoramas.

But then of course, only a few minutes after leaving our viewing point, the rain came pelting down on us. And now that we had accepted that we would remain dry, getting wet wasn’t really up our alley anymore. Unable to follow the map in this weather, we just rushed over the paths, trying to find some sort of shelter to wait out the worst of it.

In between downpours we moved through the blockfield and ended up taking a “wrong” route. But it was beautiful nonetheless. I don’t think you can end up on a trail that’s not worth your time in this place. Sure, we might have missed a lot of the “must-see” formations, but all I remember is having fun running through the rain, cursing at our own idiocy of wanting to see the rain at first and then moaning cause we were stuck in it. Typical.

Soaked, but satisfied, we arrived back at the – now almost empty – parking lot. La Cité des Pierres was a really pleasant discovery for us. I had never heard of it before, but it was definitely one to remember. Even with the rain, or maybe because of it, this place gave off a really majestic vibe. A must visit in the area, no matter the weather, that’s for sure!

♡ Ellen

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