On the 10th day of train strikes in France, I decided to take a chance and attempt a trip to Lièpvre. It’s located in a valley called the Val d’Argent or Silver Valley. It only takes 40 minutes from Strasbourg: take the TER train to Séléstat and then take a TER bus that runs along the Val d’Argent, stopping in all the small towns.
Note: I had, until the trip to Lièpvre, avoided taking the TER bus connections for some unclear reason. They’re great! And it’s just like the train, but you get to the small towns without train access.
Lièpvre to Sainte-Croix-aux-Mines
Elevation gain: 800m
Difficulty level: Hard – mostly due to the steep ascent and descent
I thought that it would be best to start my hike as early as possible to avoid the heat of the day and also the predicted afternoon showers.The bus dropped me off in Lièpvre at 7:40 am. The first 5k was on forestry roads through the forest at a rather steep pitch. Also the blazes were confusing, which meant that finding my way with crisscrossing roads was a challenge. I eventually got to the Rotzel shelter where the road ended in a massive sort of parking.
The shelter was pretty basic with an old picnic table…though the surroundings weren’t so great for a picnic – gravel and a parking lot. Up to this point I was feeling a bit discouraged. I had been walking on a road wide enough for two cars and stumbled on a parking lot. Just my luck! But behind the shelter was a “Tranquility Zone” sign. It means that there are no cars and no hunting allowed in the area. Nature was finally left to her own devices…
An actual trail started through the forest just behind the Rotzel shelter. It had obviously not been used much lately. You start seeing the amazing granite rock formations after about 20 minutes of hard walking. Some of the rocks look like they’ve been carved and knocked down like dominoes. There were several remarkable formations with names like “Les Trois Petites Tables” or “Rocher des Géants” or “Rocher des Réptiles”. They take on shapes like table tops, lunar craters or giants’ footprints or heads of reptiles. They sit on the plateau-ish part of the mountain called le massif Taennchel. This is what I was hoping for.
The descent was a challenge. I descended about 700m in less than a hour. There were no switchbacks , only a ditch with all the rubble left over from the winter snow melt. I had 3 “controlled” falls because of the sliding rocks, dirt and branches mucking up the ditch.
However, there was a reward for the effort. Just before going under a bridge to rejoin Sainte-Croix-aux-Mines, where I caught the bus back to Séléstat, I happened upon the most beautiful cherry tree. The fruit was ripe and hanging low. How could anyone resist tart, sweet, tree-ripened cherries?
To be honest, this isn’t a hike that I would recommend to anyone unless they have a car – that way you can skip the slog up on a gravel road and the murderous slog down. Even with a car I would recommend taking a loop up to Taennchel and back down. That being said, if you really want to train hard for trail running this may be the way to go. It’s steep and you could really work on your technical descent.