Starting from an old retreat which has been visited since the 11th century, this hike allows you to explore the Gorges de Franchard and the surrounding areas. Winding through rocks and several rock shelters such as the well-known Antre des Druides.
N.B. The difference in altitude is probably higher than stated: roughly 100 metres and a 2 hour walk.
Calculated time is computed with the distance, the height difference, and an average speed of 2.2 mph. For an intermediate walker, this time includes small breaks.
Start: Ermitage à Franchard car park.
Access: The car park is located a few metres away from a crossing with a cross on the D301, called "Route Ronde" (signpost). The crossing itself is close to a crossing between "Route Ronde" and the D409, linking Arbonne-la-Forêt and Fontainebleau (when arriving from this crossing, turn right).
(S) At the other end of the car park (west), take the lane towards "l'Ermitage" (sign). Go past the "Promenade de Franchard" signpost. You'll get to a "Arbor&sens" signpost: leave the lane finding "la Fontaine de l'Ermite" (fenced up).
Blue Waymarks + Blue markers using letters
(1) Take "Sud le Sentier Denecourt-Colinet n°7" to the south: head on a path that weaves between the rocks, leaving the fountain to the right-hand side and the signpost to the left-hand side. After winding through the pine forest, you'll reach a blossoming rock bearing a Blue star ("Le Sphinx des Druides", see photo). The waymarked trail soon divides into two branches, take the one leading to "Franchard par l'Antre des Druides" (signpost): when in front of the stared side of the rock, steer right (east, waymark a little further on a tree).
Near a small rock to the right that looks like a helmet, turn left. Reach the top of a mass of rocks giving a view point towards the north. Go back to the left (south). After what looks like a large step, head right going past a rock shelter marked with an L then past the rock marked K. Cross a rock maze, pass under a rock then through a narrow passageway. Head along the left-hand side rock shelters G, F and E. Go through another narrow passage, leaving rock D to the right-hand side and once out, locate the D marking on the left-hand side. Cross a maze and another narrow passage, C. Once out, continue opposite then turn right. Head down a few minor bends reaching a path (Route Raymond, forest plot n°762).
(2) Follow the path on the left (south). At the next crossing, turn right onto a large path (Route des Gorges de Franchard, Red and White waymarks). After around 50 metres, leave the path, heading right up towards a mound. At the top (rock marked with a Blue star), go left (west) across a flat landscape. A bit further, head left again leaving rock V to the right-hand side. After a flat area, perform a dogleg right, then a dogleg left onto a narrow passageway. Once you get to exit U, turn right. Go past shelter T reaching " l'Antre des Druides", a vast rock shelter (on the left).
Keep heading west climbing a few sandstone steps then head down slightly. After a flat area you'll reach viewpoint P. Keep heading west (don't try to go through the "holes" on the right), then turn left (south) downhill reaching Route des Gorges de Franchard. There, turn right onto a large path. At a crossing after roughly 150 m, turn off to the right (north-west) onto Route du Carnage which heads off behind a tree bearing a sign (ignore the footpath - which isn't on the map - at the foot of the tree heading off at a right-angle to the right). The path is windy and loses in altitude.
(3) At the crossing, turn left onto Route Amédée, leaving the Blue waymarked path head uphill, opposite. Move through the gorges, within a pine forest filled with beautiful fern undergrowth ignoring faint trailheads to either side. At a fork, steer right onto Route des Buttes de Fontainebleau leading to the GR11 (sign). Head down slightly, due north, ignoring trailheads on both sides, reaching Route du Renardeau (old forest car park, now sealed off).
Red and White Waymarks
(4) Take a right-angle turn onto Route du Renardeau on the right and follow the GR11. At Renardeau crossing, turn right onto Route de l'Ermitage (ignore the 1st footpath heading up).
At the next crossing, take the first path to the left, Route du Carnage, which starts with a climb up a wooden staircase. At the top of the staircase, climb another few metres then take a sharp turn right (don't follow the path heading north uphill). You'll come across another wooden staircase and reach a pass (signpost "Promenade de Franchard").
Yellow "Hikers" Plaques
(5) Turn right towards the viewpoint. Zigzag between the trees and the rocks keeping to a western direction. Next, turn right (north) reaching the top of a large rock "terrace" giving you a huge panoramic view to the north. Then backtrack (the plaques are there for both directions).
Blue Waymarks + Yellow "Hikers" Plaques
"Here, the Yellow waymarks are on one side only, arrows pointing in the opposite direction".
(5) Back at the pass, cross Route du Carnage, regaining Denecourt-Colinet n°7 trail and head due east through a pine forest. Go past a viewpoint over the south and remain at the edge of the mound (right-hand side).
From here, it's no longer possible to give a precise description: the route is tortuous and faint footpaths sway within direct passages on the rock. Basically, keeping to an eastern direction, shift between passages on the southern edge of the mound and left-right hooks which take you further from the edge. Follow the waymarks and keep to an overall flat landscape.
After about a kilometre, you'll start to see Franchard observation tower above the forest. You'll quickly come across a sandy crossing ("La Roche qui Pleure" information signpost).
(6) Turn right in order to get a glimpse of the nearby rock shelters. Backtrack.
(6) Keep heading east along some sandstone steps. Cross a flat area, then a lawn with trees leading to "l'ermitage" already in sight. Turn right leaving l'ermitage to the left-hand side and reach Fontaine de l'Ermite.
(1) Keep heading east, follow the lane from the beginning and regain the car park (S/F).
D/A : km 0 - alt. 138m
1 : km 0.16 - alt. 134m - Fontaine des Ermites
2 : km 0.96 - alt. 113m - Route Raymond - Antre des Druides
3 : km 1.95 - alt. 107m - Route du Carnage x Route Amédée
4 : km 2.82 - alt. 94m - Route du Renardeau
5 : km 3.63 - alt. 124m - Pass on Route du Carnage
6 : km 5.23 - alt. 132m - La Roche qui Pleure
D/A : km 5.7 - alt. 138m
Landscape and difficulty:
Rock climbing aside, you'll be walking directly on the rocks for a greater part of Denecourt-Colinet trail (Blue waymarks). Therefore, wear shoes with good grip and avoid the hike during wet weather.
Despite its modest mileage, this hike has been rated Moderate due to the nature of the terrain, the tricky aspects of certain sections and the fact you need to edge your way between rocks.
Parking alternatives and possible combinations:
- On sunny days, Franchard gets quite busy: arriving earlier is a good idea. There is another car park located at Carrefour de la Plaine de Macherin (to the east of the trek). From the D409 which links Arbonne-la-Forêt and Fontainebleau: take the trail with "Sites Isatis et Cuisnière" signposts. From this car park, head east on Route de l'Isatis. At the next crossing, take the GR11 on the left and after a bend to the right, you'll reach Route du Renardeau (4).
- You can combine this hike with another posted on Hikideas "Le Rocher du Long Boyau and Gorges du Houx". They both start at the same place. You'll need about 6 to 7 hours walk all out and rank the whole trek as "Difficult".
No water sources spotted along the way. Rock shelters between (1;; and)2::.
Waymarks and direction:
- From time to time, between points (3) and (5), you'll encounter an Orange waymark: ignore it, it's a rock climbing waymark called "Circuit Montagne de Franchard".
- A wide variety of props are used for the Blue waymarks: high trees, eye-level and ground-level rocks, ... though substantial, remain vigilant so as not to lose sight of the waymarks.
- The path names are generally located on signs up on the trees at each crossing.
- Despite the waymarks and signage, a 1/25000 scale map is essential (at least the one with this description). A compass can be very handy.
Visorando and this author cannot be held responsible in the case of accidents or problems occuring on this walk.
Franchard, between (S/F) and (1) :
- Ancien ermitage de Franchard, the presence of hermits has been certified since the 11th century.
- Puits de Franchard (early 19th century).
- Fontaine des Ermites (12th).
Along the way:
- Spectacular boulders, especially Sphinx des Druides after (1).
- Rock shelters, caves, including the Antre des Druides between (2) and (3).
- View points, "la Cuisnière" among others after (5).
- Very nice trek in the Gorges de Franchard between (3) and (4).
From the Ermitage de Franchard, this is a very varied hike which will take you past old sandstone quarries, the Gorges du Houx and the charming Mare aux Pigeons. On the route are several vast viewing points, numerous spectacular rocks and the curious Grotte du Serment cave.
N.B. The elevation and the time shown appear to be under-estimated: count on about 250 meters and 4 hours of walking.
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N.B. The drop is probably underestimated: expect something more in the order of 300 metres.
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The GPS track and description are the property of the author.