I ventured out of Nimes the other day to buy some hiking boots and ended up leaving the store with more than I’d planned on. I used to work at an outdoor store and I still get a warm feeling when I visit one these days. An outdoor shop represents freedom, with all their travelling gadgets, fleecy jackets and, of course, maps.
This is a relief map of the Cévennes that has actual relief, instead of just colors and shading. I’m sure there’s a name for this sort of thing, so feel free to educate me. You can see the 3 distinct geographical areas of the mountains quite nicely here:
1. Starting in the northwest, with the causses, high limestone plateaux, bordered by deep gorges.
2. The 2 dark-brown lumps in the middle are the massifs of Mont Aigoual and Mont Lozère.
3. The southeastern area is the ‘real Cévennes’, most likely thus named by someone who lived there. This is closest to home for me and where I do most of my riding when I venture up there. Here’s a close-up.
You can count at least 6 rivers valleys cutting down in the same direction. All of these valleys are very sparsely populated and all of them have roads, as you can see if you squint. Even better, they are all connected to each other by roads that make you climb. For the right type of cyclist, this is paradise.
Here’s a zoomed-in shot of the causse area (and Mont Aigoual) to give you some idea of variety. Up here you find fewer roads (but still plenty) and bigger climbs and the contrast between the lush gorges and the dry, deserted plateaux is pretty stunning. It’s all wonderfully compact, too – the length of that middle causse (Méjean) is only about 50 km. When you’re allowed to come to France in the future, put this one on your list.