A super fun hike up the side of a valley and back down through a fir forest, with views back over the town of Casteil and across the upper Têt Valley. My favorite hike in the area to date, although I have to admit, I was greatly biased by the warm sunshine on a sparkling spring afternoon.
The trail starts in the mountain village of Casteil, take D116 off of the N116 southwest of Prades. Park in the lot just before the village and after turning left out of the parking lot follow the yellow blazes up the main road towards “Domaine Saint-Martin”. After about 500 meters the entrance to the campground will be on the right. Take the pathway on the left that soon turns right and runs along a dry creek bed. The trail is sketchy along this section, with few yellow blazes and piles of debris from the ongoing construction just up the hill cluttering the trail.
If you continue straight up the ravine (cross over the dirt roads and wires that block the way) you will intersect a well-defined trail marked with yellow blazes, not more than 200-300 meters from where you turned off the road. Turn left. From here the trail is easy to follow and climbs steeply winding along the valley wall through the forest but with frequent openings offering fabulous views of the valley below.
Shortly after starting the descent back down the trail becomes precarious enough that they’ve anchored cables into the rock to help you down the cliff face. Later on you’ll find a guard rail along a narrow stretch with a particularly punishing drop off. Truly overkill for the generally good condition of the trail making one wonder what horrible accident prompted such attention.
About halfway down is the restored Abbey of Saint Martin, open by appointment only. Still, it’s a pretty setting with a shaded garden.
The trail continues by the side of the abbey down steep steps to the river and eventually hits a road leading back to Casteil and the parking lot on the other side of the village. 6 kilometers with a 774 meter change in elevation.
From Les Pyrénées-Orientales– balade et randonnée à pied, #15 Saint-Martin du Canigó
May 15, 2012
For links to all the posts in this series see the French Pyrenees page.