The train jaune or yellow train, called the canary by the locals, is a tourist train that serves the upper Têt valley in the Catalan Pyrenees.
It begins at Villefranche, one of the official most beautiful villages (les plus beaux villages) in France, and ends at Latour-de Carol near the Spanish border. This 63 kilometer route is part of the French SNCF rail network and as such easily connects to other French destinations, making it a very popular route for the 60+ crowd on a pretty Thursday morning in mid-June.
For those who want just a taste of what the yellow train has to offer and have a desire to explore the area on foot, the 10.5 kilometer section between Fontpédrouse and Cabanasse, out by train and return by trail, offers a bit of everything – bridges, tunnels, mountain vistas, and cool streams.
Before heading out be sure to check the train schedule. Note that not all trains run outside of the summer season.
Park at the Fontpédrouse train station, off the N116 about 20 miles southwest of Prades. From here take the train that climbs (monter) to Cabanasse/Mont-Louis, about 30 minutes, traversing the mountains through a tunnel, and over a suspension bridge.
Leave the Cabanasse train station and take a right following the yellow blazes towards the town of Cabanasse. Then take a right past the cemetery and continue on to the start of the randonnée du Train Jaune. The trail back to Fontepédrouse continues to be well marked with yellow blazes and signs “randonnée du Train Jaune”.
Although the first part of the trail outside of town is rather unattractive, once you pass under the viaduct it opens up and follows the valley wall with views of the surrounding mountains and the suspension bridge before descending sharply down to the Têt river (a cool spot for a picnic).
Past the river the trail climbs the other side of the valley with more views of the mountains the suspension bridge.
Leaving the forest the trail passes through the Saint-Thomas thermal station. Find the trail that climbs up the hill on the right side of the parking lot. Past here more open trail with mountain vistas and the first views of Fontpédrouse.
Descending into Fontpédrouse follow rue de Saint Thomas through town to the N116 and back to the train station. 10.5 kilometers with a 240 meter total ascent.
From Les Pyrénées-Orientales – balade et randonnée à pied, #19 Le Train Jaune.
June 14, 2012
For links to all the posts in this series see the French Pyrenees page.