Stage 03: From Saugues to Le Sauvage on GR65 path

Beware of the beast of Gevaudan

by Didier Heumann nand Milena della Piazza

Today you’ll be crossing a large part of Gevaudan, a world apart where the forest meets granite rocks, where the landscape opens and sometimes closes near remote hamlets, in the midst of forests and pastures ranged behind stone walls and barbed wire, the trademark of Margeride and Aubrac.

GR65 path heads almost full South behind Allier basin. The stage is a transition route towards Aubrac plateau.

The region we are passing through is easily distinguishable from Haut-Allier and Devès areas that we have just crossed. Here, the relief originates from the decomposition of the granite of the Massif Central. It is a low mountain region, rounded and drained by the tributaries of Allier and Truyère Rivers. You’ll be walking in arid lands, covered with fairly dense fir trees, pines and beeches (fayards, small beeches) and brooms. The pine is the dominant species, in the middle of blueberry and broom heaths. Here transitions are soft between open spaces and forests. On the slopes, erosion has exposed veins and small blocks of granite.

As granite is the normative stone of the region, the constructions are derived from it. The village surroundings occupy small spaces in the most accessible areas of the valley. The plots are often separated by ash trees, stone walls or barbed wire hung on small blocks of granite. Here, the ground is poor and acidic, because of the granitic base of the region. As a result, pasture is the primary resource. Silviculture and picking of mushrooms and lichens complete the peasant’s panoply.

There is some confusion between Gevaudan, Margeride and Lozère. In fact, all this is quite synonymous, at least in terms of landscape. Formerly, there was a large province here: the Gevaudan which included Margeride, Aubrac, part of the Cevennes to the south and Cantal to the north. Modern land-surveyors have recast this vast territory to create a department, that of Lozère. Consequently, Gevaudan is just a little larger, because it also includes part of the south of the Haute-Loire, that region we are walking through today. In any case, the monster of Gevaudan knew perfectly the cartography, having used his sharp claws on this vast territory.

The stage is thus today entirely in Haute-Loire. Nature is less tortured today. In the first part of the day, the landscape is pastoral with meadows punctuated with granite piles and houses. In the second part, the landscape changes to sink into thick forests, mostly spruce and pine, before reaching the majestic site of Le Sauvage (“The Savage”) at the end of the stage.

The stage is short, 20 km, with continuous, yet moderate sloping (+512 meters/-204 meters). It is worth remembering that the inexperienced walker must « buy » the trip and shorten the steps at the beginning of the track. By the way, if the journey is short, it is also because many pilgrims want to spend the night at Le Sauvage (“The Savage”) at any cost. However, be careful, the site can only accommodate 41 people. As a result, many walkers continue farther to Lajo or St Alban-sur-Limagnole. The day begins with an easy climb through the countryside to the Le Pinet hamlet before reaching La Clauze, a village dominated by a tower located on top of a granite block. Then ups and downs follow each other to cross Virlange brook. From Chazeaux, you enter the mysterious forests of Gevaudan, a Margeride region long haunted by “the Beast of Gevaudan”.

Throughout this stage, passages on the paved road and pathways are roughly equivalent:

Paved road: 6.4 km

Pathways: 12.8 km

Sometimes, for reasons of logistics or housing possibilities, these stages mix routes operated on different days, having passed several times on Via Podiensis. From then on, the skies, the rain, or the seasons can vary. But, generally this is not the case, and in fact this does not change the description of the course.

To help you recognize trees, refer to the Botanical Summary in the general introduction to the track (in the menu in French, to be developed in English).

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.

We divided the course into sections to make it easier to follow. For each section, the maps give the route, the slopes found on the path and the state of the GR track. 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