A hike up Pic Saint-Loup, a short drive from Montpellier

A hike up Pic Saint-Loup was expected to be a highlight of our trip to Montpellier. We decided to make the ascent last Friday, when decent weather was forecast and while we still had the rental car. As far as I could tell, it’s not at all easy to get to by public transportation.

As has been the case with most of our road trips outside Montpellier, getting out of the city was half the battle. There are a lot more tram lines now than when I lived here back in 2003, and there are also a lot more pedestrian zones. As a result, cars are being squeezed onto fewer streets. There also is no such thing as a right angle in the layout of the city streets, which has taken place organically over the centuries. It’s easy to get lost. A navigation system is great tool, if it works. The one in the rental car, which was almost brand new, didn’t seem to recognize certain city streets as being closed to traffic. However, we did eventually make it to the trailhead, about 45 minutes after we left, just outside a village called Cazevielle, about 30 km north of Montpellier.

Kathryn and I had consulted different online sources about the difficulty of the Pic Saint-Loup trail. Her source said it was difficult. My source said it was easy. When we arrived at the trailhead, the informational sign said it was intermediate, so I guess it depends on whom you ask. From my perspective, the first three-quarters of the trail were on the easy side of intermediate. It was somewhat steep, but the only technical challenge was the rockiness of the trail. For the remainder of the trail, it got a lot steeper and required a small amount of scrambling, but nothing I’d consider terribly difficult. That said, Kathryn and I both had made the decision to pack hiking shoes for this trip in spite of the extra bulk in our luggage, and we were glad we wore them.

A fairly useless sign at the trailhead if you’re looking for Pic Saint-Loup. It tells you how to get to everywhere, except the summit. I had installed a French hiking app on my phone, so I used it to get us started. It turns out we just needed to follow the yellow markers.
An example of the kind of rocky trail to expect for the first three-quarters of the hike up Pic Saint-Loup. We were glad we wore sturdy hiking shoes, although we saw plenty of hikers managing the trail in sneakers.
Yellow bars mark the way up Pic Saint-Loup, although they are often far between one another. It seemed like we saw one every time we thought we might have wandered off the trail, so perhaps there are just enough of them.
Most of the yellow trail markers for the Pic Saint-Loup trail are on trees, but occasionally they’re on rocks. This one indicated the trail was about to make a sharp turn to the right.
Well before arriving at the summit Pic Saint-Loup, we were already rewarded with gorgeous views of villages and vineyards. The trail is on the south side of the mountain, and in spite of the hazy weather, we were able to make out the shores of the Mediterranean Sea in the distance.
About three-quarters of the way up the Pic Saint-Loup trail, there’s an intersection with a through trail, and then the climb becomes much steeper. This section is where we needed to do a little bit of scrambling. Note the red and white cross on the rock, indicating the through trail, marked with red and white horizontal bars in France, does not climb from here.
Thanks to the complicated relationship between France and the Catholic Church, an iron cross is a prominent feature of the summit of Pic Saint-Loup. There is a chapel near the summit as well. I never quite figured out what was dangling from the tree in this photo. From a distance I thought it was a pair of panties, but when I got closer it clearly was not.
The view we climbed Pic Saint-Loup for. To the north and east, we saw exposed cliffs, vineyards, and castle. To the south and west, we saw villages, cities, and the Mediterranean Sea. As one of the highest peaks in the area, one could see in every direction from the various vantage points at the summit.

It took us about an hour and ten minutes to make the climb up Pic Saint-Loup, which got us to the top in a nice sweat. We relaxed for about a half-hour at the top, had a small lunch, and took a bunch of photos, including the selfie of Kathryn and me I posted on Instagram a few days ago. It then took us about the same amount of time to get back to the trailhead. The descent was much easier on the heart rate, but significantly harder on the knees.

It was a good thing we hiked Pic Saint-Loup when we did. Shortly after we started driving back to Montpellier, a strong mistral wind picked up, and it really didn’t let up until Monday.

34270 Cazevieille, France

4 thoughts on “A hike up Pic Saint-Loup, a short drive from Montpellier”

  1. Looks like a great hike guys! Beautiful views and geology. I thought the garment was underwear too. Vegas has some hellish windstorms frequently too. Gusts to 60 are common.

    1. Pic Saint-Loup was definitely worth the trip. Vegas is no fun in high winds. We were on the Strip during a haboob last August, and we had to take cover immediately. It made for some good video, though!

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