Throwback Thursdays: Hiking the Hills of Hermitage Part I

I didn’t expect to find any trails in French wine country, but we did and I’m oh so glad.  While wandering through Tain l’Hermitage, likely in search of food, we noticed a staircase that appeared to climb to a hilltop with a view of the famed Hill of Hermitage. Once I see something that can be climbed, you cannot convince me not to climb it. I was like a broken record repeating “we have to find that staircase! we have to find that staircase!”. Luckily, with a little of my Google Maps wizardry, I found not only the staircase, but the hidden gem that is the Sentier des Tours trail.

On its own, the Sentier des Tours is lovely, but combined with an extra couple of kilometres to the Table d’Orientation en route to Pierre it is positively stunning.  Join me in re-living this trail that was so inspired that we hiked it twice.

Sentier des Tours + Table d’Orientation Viewpoint
Distance: 6ish km
Elevation: about 200 metres

The basic Sentiers des Tours trail is a short and incredibly sweet loop that climbs the hill behind the townsite of Tain l’Hermitage, passes by the Tour de la Vierge (Virgin’s Tower), before descending back into the townsite.  The trail is so fantastic that we did it twice, once on a cloudy day where we completed only the Sentier des Tours, and a second time in the sun where we discovered the trail to Pierre featuring the viewpoint.

We started both our adventures on the rue du Doux, where we quickly found a cobbled stone staircase up the side of the hill. Once atop the staircase, the trail quickly transformed into an easy, wide-grade path.

Smooth sailing on easy trail. Clearly this was from our cloudy day adventure.
Smooth sailing on easy trail. Clearly this was from our cloudy day adventure.

Once on the hillside there are nearly constant views over to the hermitage hill.  And, as you saw from yesterday’s post, there are few things I find more beautiful than the view of a hill littered with row upon row of perfectly placed vines.

First views. Not too shabby. That hill across the river? ALL GRAPES.
First views. Not too shabby. That hill across the river? ALL GRAPES.

But the real magic of this trail was the upper trail we explored our second time around, which I’m glad we discovered on our sunny day. There is a 2.7 km trail to the town of Pierre, but after about a kilometre we encountered the table d’orientation, a viewpoint overlooking the entire Rhone Valley. Climbing more steadily from the main trail, this path felt more like a hike. We wove through trees and along narrow-ish sections before finally popped out atop the hill to absolutely perfect views.

Imagine sweeping views of the winding Rhone river, carving it’s way through hill upon hill of some of France’s best vineyards, cutting it’s way through the brightly coloured homes of Tain l’hermitage. Imagine that sea of rooftops, interspersed with grand bell towers, chiming each hour’s arrival, echoing all the way to the hilltop where we stood. Yes, it was that magical.

Legit nature.
Legit nature.
Narrow(ish) trail. I found it amply wide but my boyfriend disagreed.
Narrow(ish) trail. I found it amply wide but my boyfriend disagreed. Also, THOSE GRAPES!
Look at this view from the top. Vineyards. River. Bridges. Bell towers. Quaint village. My heart swells.

It took considerable persuasion to drag me away from this view. In fact, it may have been the promise of revisiting the Cite du Chocolat. Fortunately, the remainder of the loop featured some decent views, including the Virgin’s Tower and some up-close-and-personal views of a vine or two.

Virgin's Tower, up close and personal.
Virgin’s Tower, up close and personal.
Looking back at the Virgin's Tower.
Looking back at the Virgin’s Tower.

All in all, this is maybe an hour’s worth of walking time, and that included a lot of stopping for pictures, so it’s well worth the investment should you happen to find yourself in French Syrah heaven. I highly suggest following this walk with a visit to La Terrasse for galettes before hopping over to the Chapoutier tasting room.  Trust me: wine and galettes are always the best post-hike rewards.


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