Stage 01: From Puy-en-Velay to St Privat d’Allier on GR65 path

A good warm up


Many pilgrims and hikers start the Road to Santiago in Le Puy-en-Velay. The first step is not a healthy walk. We might wonder why novice walkers should have to face such a difficult task from the start?

The road heads southwest out of Le Puy, from the Loire River Basin to the Allier River. We are on Le Devès Mountain plateau, in Le Velay, where the edges are deeply cut by the River Loire in the east and by the Allier in the west. A few valleys carve horizontal lines in the landscape. The whole step is situated in Haute-Loire. We are already in landscapes typical of the Massif Central, with their little wooded mountains but also with gorges likely to be deep. Nature is pretty rugged here.

Agriculture, particularly livestock, is everywhere. Fields and meadows of modest size succeed one another. This agricultural landscape leaves little space to the forest, although many small groves crisscross the area. Wheat, rye, barley, rapeseed and lentils share open landscapes. Green lentils are the symbol of Puy. Farms are often marked with hedgerows of hazel and ash trees. The peasants have removed the troublesome blocks of stone to favor plowing, making small walls, which decorate the countryside. The plateau was formed by the piling up of successive large basaltic volcanic flows. Small volcanic hills sometimes rise above the plateau. They are called here « guards », covered with fertile ground with, at the top, pines or moors. Due to the presence of many volcanic craters, peat bogs have been created in Devès. Lake de l’Oeuf, where the GR65 goes, is a striking example.

The villages are relatively compact, articulated around a church or a castle, organized around a place known here as « couderc », actually a public space marked by the presence of a bread oven, washing facilities, fountains, and crafts to shoe oxen. For the houses, the choice was volcanic stones, largely available in the region. The dark and dull stones give the villages an austere touch.

In this stage, slope variations are relatively large, but the slope is gradual and fairly bearable (+649 meters / -389 meters). Today we climb up to Le Devès Mountain. From up there, you can catch sight of Margeride, and still further Aubrac. Don’t you think it is a pretty good start on the Road to Santiago? A 23.5-km hike and a 600-meter ascent up to Le Devès Mountain. Then the slope, not always a smooth one, leads the walker down to St-Privat d’Allier.

Throughout this step, you walk more on pathways than on paved roads, which is not always the case on the Road to Santiago:

Paved road: 9.5 km
Pathways: 13.7 km

We divided the course into several sections to make it easier to see. For each section, the maps show the course, the slopes found on the course, and the state of the roads.

It is very difficult to specify with certainty the incline of the slopes, whatever the system you use. GPS watches, whether measuring barometric pressure or altimetry, are hardly more convincing than estimates based on mapped profiles.

There are very few sites on the Internet that can be used to estimate slopes from maps (up to 3). Since these programs are based on an approximation and an average around the desired point, there can be large variations from one software to another, depending on the state of the art or the variation between two points (for example a hole followed by a bump very close). Do you want an example? On the GR36 along the coast of Brittany, the altitude is rarely more than 50 meters above the sea. But the path only goes up and down. For a course of about twenty kilometres, a software will give you 800 meters of elevation gain, another 300 meters. Who says true? For having made the course several times, the legs say that the difference in altitude is closer to 800 meters! So how to proceed? We can rely on software, but, we must be careful, ignore slopes given, but only use altitudes. From there, it is only elementary mathematics to deduce the incline, considering the altitude and the distance travelled between two points whose altitude is known. It is this way of doing things that has been used in this site. Moreover, in retrospect, when one makes « in real » the course estimated on cartography, one notes that this way of doing is quite close to the truth of the ground. When one walks often, one has quite quickly the degree of slope in the eye.

In the text, lodging on the course is mentioned, without great details. You’ll find details about housing at the end of the course. The courses were drawn on the « Wikilocs » platform. Today, it is no longer necessary to walk around with detailed maps in your pocket or bag. If you have a mobile phone or tablet, you can easily follow routes live. For this stage, here is the link:


Click here to start the stage on the first section. Avant

If you are not interested in the course, and you only require details information about lodging, you get enter this item.

Click here for details of lodgings. Avant