The Plateau des Gras is a limestone plateau crossed by rivers, situated between the Bois de Païolive woods in the southwest and the slopes of the Coiron in the northeast. The northwestern edge of the plateau overlooks a depression extending from Aubenas to Les Vans. The footpaths along this edge of the plateau offer unspoilt views of the Monts d'Ardèche hills at the eastern edge of the Massif Central. The walk also takes you along beautiful paths amid oak trees and to a viewpoint overlooking the village of Balazuc.
Calculated time is computed with the distance, the height difference, and an average speed of 2.2 mph. For an intermediate walker, this time includes small breaks.
Start out from the road leading to the hamlet of Audon. There are some lay-bys between the bridge and the first bend, where you can park.
(D/A) Take the road towards Audon (northwest) and then at the first bend, turn right onto the footpath leading up alongside the right bank of a small stream (dry most of the time), ignoring the path off to the right shortly after.
(1) At the end of the climb, do not to take the path with white and yellow waymarks to the left, but instead carry straight on almost opposite you until you reach a terrace with poplar trees, which is a discharge area for a former geological drilling site.
On the left of the terrace, there is a track heading straight down (northwest) to the road (D308) below. Even if we you can't see the track, you can simply make your own path down to the road, which is easy enough through the the low undergrowth.
When you reach the road, turn right, go past the campsite and then take the D294 to the left at the crossroads. Just before the lefthand bend, where the road goes downhill, turn right onto a wide footpath which partly takes you over some rocky outcrops. If you like fossils, keep a look out for some here.
(2) After going under the power lines, leave the main path and take the path to the left which first bears west and then turns north along the ridge.
Keep following the ridge, and the path will take you over three successive hills. Ignore any paths off to left or right. At the fourth hill (3), ignore the wide path off to the right heading downwards and continue left on the narrow path along the north face.
(4) Just as you go under the power lines, you will reach a wide path heading up from the road. Turn right onto this path. In the next section of the walk, unlike at point (1), there are a large number of trails in all directions – the remains of motocross tracks. The main path heads towards a model aircraft field, which can be recognized by its white portacabin with a windsock on the top. Walk alongside the field keeping it on the right.
(5) After 50m, at the crossing, turn right onto the path leading south. The path takes you through a fairly barren landscape. At the first crossing, turn right, then at the following crossing bear left and then immediately left again onto a larger path that takes you past the imposing Largelas farm.
(6) After crossing the stream, you will reach a path with white and yellow waymarks that you will need to take to the right. Ignore a path on the right leading to a house and then at the signpost (7), turn right towards Balazuc (Vieil Audon). The path, which is still waymarked in white and yellow, takes you as far as the road (D294).
Before you reach the road, it is well worth taking a detour to the Tour de la Reine Jeanne (or the Tour de Toussaint according to the IGN map) where you will have beautiful views of the village of Balazuc and the Ardèche. A signpost (8) indicates the path on the left.
Unfortunately the waymarks are barely visible or non-existant, but you can see the tower in the distance. Note that after about a hundred metres (9), the most visible footpath climbs up to the left. This is not the path to the tower. To get to the tower, carry on horizontally towards some rocks, where the trail becomes visible again.
On your way back, as you reach point (9) again, you can take a return journey along the path that you didn't take on your way. It disappears a little among the undergrowth and rocks, but leads to the clifftop where the views are even better.
Once back at point (8), turn left to reach the road (D294), which you then take to the right. After 100m, turn left to get back to the bridge and the road to Audon (D/A).
D/A : mi 0 - alt. 705ft
1 : mi 0.52 - alt. 833ft - Ignore the path with white and yellow waymarks
2 : mi 1.27 - alt. 794ft - After the power lines, turn left
3 : mi 2.57 - alt. 1004ft - At the 4th hill, take the lefthand path
4 : mi 2.76 - alt. 928ft - Turn right onto the wide path
5 : mi 3.03 - alt. 909ft - Crossing, turn right (south)
6 : mi 4.13 - alt. 768ft - Path with white and yellow waymarks, bear right
7 : mi 4.38 - alt. 725ft - Signpost, bear right
8 : mi 5.16 - alt. 656ft - Return trip to the tower
9 : mi 5.44 - alt. 627ft - For the tower, do not turn left
D/A : mi 5.9 - alt. 696ft
N.B. There is no water source during the walk and very little shade, so you will need to equip yourselves accordingly in the summertime.
There are white and yellow waymarks along part of the journey.
Part of the walk is off the footpath, but is not difficult.
Visorando and this author cannot be held responsible in the case of accidents or problems occuring on this walk.
The village of Balazuc, classed as one of the most beautiful villages in France.
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The GPS track and description are the property of the author.