Destination Run: Les Vosges Adventurous Run
In the north-eastern part of France, there is a small hilly section in the Alsace region called Les Vosges. About 4 hours east of Paris, 1 hour west of Strasbourg, and 30 minutes south of the German border, you can find a serene and natural outdoor playground. In the northern Vosges region, specifically in Parc Naturel Regional des Vosges du Nord which is next to the quaint village of La Petite Pierre, one can hike, trail run, mountain bike, explore and be adventurous.
Why is les Vosges du Nord special?
Les Vosges has several protected forests and parks in a small mountainous area where the Parc Naturel Regional des Vosges du Nord has access to several magnificent trails and sandstones (rocher in French) that have formed since the beginning of the second era (between 250 and 230 million years) during the time of the first dinosaurs. These rock formations developed over time from the agglomeration of sand grains and pebbles under strong pressures of mother nature. Their pink colors come from iron oxide which resides in the rock. Over centuries the trails have been formed connecting hundreds of cliffs and rocky bars, through movements of earth and erosion, which millions of visitors have had the capability to walk over what is now called Les Vosges du Nord.
What to see in Les Vosges du Nord:
The most popular natural terrain to see is the impressive sandstone rock formations and their amazing forms and colors. In Les Vosges du Nord there are said to be more than 300 sandstones recorded within the territory, each bearing names to various themes including:
– Animal names of which they resemble, for example, the rock of the frog (Rocher de la Grenouille).
– Part of the village in which they reside such as the Hirschfels, examples: Rocher du Cerf and Rocher du Corbeau.
– Relating to their appearance like the white rock (rocher Blanc).
– Linked to local folklore legends such as the rock of the pagans (rocher des Paiens). The legend of where the Celtics celebrated their ceremonies or the Hundsprung, the rock of the jumping dog (rocher du Saut du Chien), for which it is said that a dog who was trying to be caught by his owner, made a great escape by jumping over the rock.
– Or also names of plants, monumental events, or even people. The list goes on and on.
What else is les Vosges du Nord known for:
The National Hunting and Wildlife Reserve was created in 1952 initially to control the deer population. Today it is a place for the study of red deer, dogs and wild boars and analyzing the interactions of large wildlife within the forest. Only trails marked by the Vosgien Club and the Loosthal Forest Trail allow for daily discovery of this vast and sensitive nature. Otherwise, the rest of the forest is heavily regulated.
The Saving Wildlife Center (Le Centre de Sauvegarde de la Faune Sauvage) is situated in the village of Loosthal. It offers a discovery trail, as well as hosting a center for the National Office of Hunting and Wildlife to provide information and advice on what should be done if you have discovered a wounded, wild animal while on the trails.
The Loosthal Forest Trail: Covers a distance of 4km for a friendly discovery trail of Les Vosges du Nord that will take you on a dirt path through a brief part of the forest. It offers several panoramas on the National Hunting and Wildlife Reserve and of the village of La Petite Pierre.
What trails can you run:
Circuit 1: Covers a distance of 10km with an elevation of 200m and is rated average in difficulty.
Begin at the trail of the Vosgien Club, as marked by its brand of the green square with a lizard, at the entrance located to the left of the playground by the parking lot. Take the cement path, directed by a red rectangle, that progressively climbs and eventually leads to the rock of Corbeau (rocher du Corbeau). Take in the view for a few minutes and then follow the descending path until you reach the road D 178. Follow along the right side of the road, still marked with the red rectangle, for 400m until you reach a bifurcation and take the right. A pond will be on your right and follow to the end, continue straight on the forest path of Sternthal marked by a red X.
After a small climb, the path joins a tagged trail with a red diamond. Take a hairpin turn left on this path and follow it to the rock of the pagans (rocher des Paiens). Right after, you will climb the rock by the tagged trail with a yellow cross. At the crossroads, near the oak tree (Grand Chene) go right and continue on a tagged path with a white line through a yellow rectangle, towards the white rock (rocher Blanc). Once you reach the top of the rock, you will have beautiful views of the castle and parts of the old town of La Petite Pierre.
Just right to the rock, you will descend to a crossing with a yellow rectangle and sign to go back to La Petite Pierre. Follow this back to a cement path which will take you through the new town and eventually lead you back to the parking lot in front of the old town of La Petite Pierre.
Circuit 2: Covers a distance of 11km with an elevation of 270m and is rated average in difficulty.
Walk down to the center of the new town of La Petite Pierre. Just after the post office on street rue of Ingwiller, take the path that goes down on the right towards Imsthal tagged by a yellow diamond. In passing, you will get a view of the house of pagans. Pass by the Imsthal Hostel (l’Auberge d’Imsthal) and find the forest trail of Breitschloss. Take for 250m to a bifurcation and go left.
From there, follow in the direction of the tagged trail of the yellow circle to the rock of the jumping dog (rocher du Saut du Chien in Hundsprung). Retrace your steps and follow the yellow circle until you get to a place called Lach. Then join the path in the direction to Loosthal by passing through Hirschfels and the Loosthal rock (rocher du Loosthal) by taking the tagged trail with a white circle inside a yellow circle. Here you will find beautiful panoramic views of the National Hunting and Wildlife Reserve, the Hunebourg castle and the village of Johannisthal.
At Loosthal, cross the road D 134 and follow the trail with the blue rectangle in a direction towards Ingwiller. At the parking lot, continue in the direction towards La Petite Pierre marked by the red triangle. Cross the road D 7 and climb the rock of the frog (Rocher de la Grenouille) and continue to La Petite Pierre by the red circle. Go down the street rue du Kirchberg and then go back up towards the main street towards the old town of La Petite Pierre to reach the parking lot.