Every year in fall we spend a week with friends in the Ardennes. For that we rent a cottage with whirlpool, sauna and fireplace, bring a beamer and canvas and make ourselves comfortable with good food. We spend most of our time indoors, which is often a better idea considering the season. Nevertheless, Manuel, Lando and I are always drawn to the forest for little getaways. This year we went hiking in the Ardennes twice: a short tour around the castle Reinhardstein and a hike at the waterfall of the Bayehon.
Why does it get dark so early in fall?
For our first hike in the valley of the river Warche we needed two attempts, because we simply dawdled far too long in the first try. When we started it was already almost 4 pm and therefore only about one hour before sunset. Therefore we spontaneously changed our plans and only walked about three kilometers. One day later – in the second attempt – we hiked the planned about nine kilometers. Due to the different distances we walked, we can also tell you about many alternatives in this article. But more about that in the following!
From the parking lot at the Robertville dam, you get directly onto a small path through a spruce forest. At the edge of the forest there are large beech trees, whose foliage is now beginning to cover the trail. This creates a cosy fall atmosphere even in the coniferous forest. At the same time the forest floor softly bounces back our steps. We caught a dry afternoon in a week filled with rain and the low sun bathes the forest in a warm light. The dark clouds provide a great contrast to this. Pretty much at the beginning the view opens into the valley and you have a good view to the castle Reinhardstein on the opposite side.
The Reinhardstein Castle
The castle was built in the 14th century, passed through the hands of many owners and eventually fell into disrepair. In 1965 the ruins were discovered and rebuilt. Today various events take place here. If you are interested in the castle, take a look at the calendar of events or visit the museum during opening hours: www.reinhardstein.net
Napoleon’s nose is a highlight of this tour in the Ardennes
We follow the signs to Nez Napoleon, a rocky ledge with a great view into the steeply sloping valley. It is noticeable that the Belgians do a lot of clear-cutting in their forestry. From up here the forest seems to be divided into individual sections. In one of them larches grow in rows, on the next one there are some older spruces. Everything is bordered by a completely cleared area. In another place a farsighted forest farmer has also replanted Douglas firs. These may be able to withstand the climate change, which has damaged the here existing spruce monoculture, better. In a few decades, it should be possible to check whether this really is a tree for the future within this region.
Note: not at every crossing there is a bridge over the river
Crossing the river La Warche
On our route there are several possibilities to cross the river in the valley and walk back on the other side. On the first day we take the second bridge and on the way back we notice that the first bridge is no longer passable. It is closed and already half collapsed. However, one can walk right next to it through the small stream, because there are some big stones piled up. The second bridge is in good shape and can be used. At the third crossing shown on the map we only find a ford, but no sign of a bridge. Those who want to avoid this crossing can walk further to the next bridge, there you can cross the river without any problems.
We take the third chance to cross the river and are surprised that at this point there is no bridge but only a ford leading to the other side of the river. Before we wade through the water we take off our shoes and socks and roll up our pants. It is quite cold, the stones are pretty slippery and the water reaches about half of our shins. On the other side we find a resting place with a bench and a table. We take a short break before we hurry back, as the afternoon is ending again and it will be dark soon. In record speed we walk the wide and flat path to the waterfall “Cascade de Reinhardstein”. Due to the wet weather of the past days it carries a lot of water and looks impressive framed by the autumnal forest.
Second recommendation for hiking in the Ardennes: visit the Bayehon waterfall
Those who have time and energy can also make a side trip to the neighboring valley starting from this tour or take a second hike there. Another waterfall and great trails along the Bayehon are waiting to be discovered. However, when it rains, these paths themselves turn into little creeks we have experienced!
We head straight back to the car this afternoon. However, a few days later we come back and have a look at the neighboring valley! There we keep walking along small rivers and streams, sometimes through the forest and in other places over the high moorland of the High Venn. The trails are mostly small and flooded due to the heavy rainfall. On this round trip we also find Douglas firs among the spruces several times. A special highlight is the waterfall of the Bayehon, which carries a lot of water and falls down several meters with great roar. You should definitely not miss this hike!