A circular basin deep in the rugged Gorges de la Vis, with a picturesque hamlet centered on a low hill and a beautiful river meandering through.
The Gorges de la Vis is a deep, steep-sided canyon at the southern part of France's Massif Central mountain range, at the edge of the Causse du Larzac. The "cirque" is a deep circular basin that was carved out by the meandering Vis river that created an oxbow at that spot. The oxbow eroded through at the neck to create an oxbow lake. When the lake dried up, what remained was the circular basin with arable land around a small center hill.
The hamlet of Navacelles is perched on the northern end of the central hill and along the river that runs through the gorge there. Navacelles hamlet belongs to the commune of Saint Maurice-de-Navacelles, the village 5 km south of the top rim of the cirque (and 9 km by road from the hamlet at the bottom).
There are magnificent views of the cirque, from the south rim and from the north rim. The cirque is truly lovely, with the green swath of fields curving around the central hill, the picturesque buildings of Navacelles hamlet, and the imposing canyon walls.
Inside the cirque, a beautiful river flows beneath overhanging trees. At one point, the river flows down over a wide waterfall, with isolated stone building sitting in the woods on the far side. The small road crosses the river on a humpbacked stone bridge.
The roads that climb between canyon rim and the bottom are narrow, often 1-car wide only, adding some to the adventure of the visit. The south-side road, at least, is in very good condition and with good visibility for most of the length, so actual danger is minimal.
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• GPS: 43.879631, 3.509237
IGN (1/25,000) #2642 ET "St-Guilhem-le-Desert; Cirque de Navacelles"
The GR 7 (Grande Randonnée) hiking trail runs about 10 km between Navacelles hamlet (330 m) and the village of Saint Maurice-de-Navacelles to the south, at the top of the gorge (585 m).
North from Navacelles hamlet, the GR 7 trail crosses over the arched stone bridge and climbs up to the top of the canyon (612 m), then crosses to the village of Blandas, a total of 5 km of trail.
Another trail goes west from Navacelles hamlet, along the south bank of the the Vis river, as the GR de Pays, Tour du Larzac Méridoinal. It's about 5 km of trail west to the Résurgance de la Vis, where a side trial goes northeast up the canyon side to join the road on the north side of the gorge.
From the "Résurgance" junction (356 m), the main trail continues north and west along the river another 4 km to the village of Vissec (464 m). Near the western end, the trail does climb up the south side of the canyon before following the road back down to Vissec.