Cascade d'Ars

Ariege, Midi-Pyrenees, France

Rating: 4     Difficulty: 3
Cascade d'Ars

TABLE OF CONTENTS



[Back to top]

INTRODUCTION

Cascade d'Ars (or the Ars Waterfall) was certainly one of the few waterfalls we had to physically work for in while in France. So was the effort worth it?

Well, this waterfall was both impressive and memorable mostly because of its unique shape where it plunged in a classic drop before fanning out and then converging once again as it cascaded its way towards the neighboring spa town of Aulus-Les-Baines. It was said to drop 246m in the three successive stages. Even though the height figure sounded generous, its figure might be more true than what we initially thought given that we kept looking up at it. As a testament to its size, we were able to see parts of it while driving the D32 towards the town of Aulus-Les-Baines (though we don't have a very good photo of this vantage point).

Aulus-Les-Baines resided in the Haut Couserans ranges within the department of Ariège in the Midi-Pyrénées region. Unlike Gavarnie and the Bridge of Spain, this part of the Pyrenees felt much quieter.

On the hiking trail with the Cascade d'Ars in the background Despite the fact that we could see it from far away from the road, this waterfall kind of teased us in that once we got to town, we couldn't be able to see it again until we got close enough to it on the trail. And speaking of trail, it was relentlessly uphill trail for the entire hike.

Along most of the path, we noticed a handful of signs with colored bears on them (I'm not sure what l'ars means, but could it have to do with bears? More on bears later on this page). These markers were keyed to a sign at a trailhead indicating how far along the trail we had gone. I suspected that the bears might have been spaced roughly 0.5km or so apart.

We only managed to notice the green, blue, yellow, and black bear. We somehow missed the rest. The black bear was at the inconspicuous lookout for the falls, which was how we were able to tell we were at the best spot to view the Cascade d'Ars. However, up until that point, it was difficult to get a clean look at the waterfall given that trees were generally in the way.

In any case, as the trail climbed for the first 40 minutes or so, it gradually flattened out somewhat passing by a pair of trail junctions. We stayed the course and proceeded to the waterfall so we can't say more about where those other trails went.

Fortunately, most of this section of trail was in the shade thanks to the trees. However, when the trail crossed the bridge traversing the stream responsible for the waterfall (about an hour into the hike), that was when the trail climbed relentlessly once again. This time, the switchbacks were even steeper and the trail was narrower! Needless to say, we got a pretty good workout from this hike and we could understand why there was a calorie counter on that same map sign at the trailhead with the colored bears keyed to it.

All things considered, it took Julie and I about 90 minutes (pretty much as the signage here predicted) to get up to the official view of Cascade d'Ars. I did continue to ascend up the trail for a few more minutes to get closer to the waterfall, but the views generally got worse the further I went. I ultimately turned back when I got to an informal spur trail that took me besides the stream where I could feel the mist from the wide part of the waterfall. Looking downhill from here, I was able to see the town of Aulus-Les-Baines looking quite tiny, which indicated just how far we walked to get here!

Given the network of trails here, I'm sure there were many possibilities to extend the hike and maybe even go above this waterfall or up to some mountain pass (or col). Nonetheless, we were pretty satisfied with the waterfall itself, and we enjoyed the all-downhill walk to get back to the car (which we managed to do in an hour thanks to gravity helping us).




[Back to top]

PHOTO JOURNAL

Another look at the unusually-shaped Cascade d'ArsAnother look at the unusually-shaped Cascade d'Ars
We began the day having been based in the town of St Savin for our excursions to Gavarnie and Pont d'Espagne before making the long drive out to Cascade d'Ars and ultimately CarcassonneWe began the day having been based in the town of St Savin for our excursions to Gavarnie and Pont d'Espagne before making the long drive out to Cascade d'Ars and ultimately Carcassonne
After we visited Cascade d'Ars, we spent the night at Carcassonne, which was a charming medieval city that harbored castlesAfter we visited Cascade d'Ars, we spent the night at Carcassonne, which was a charming medieval city that harbored castles
Carcassonne was a charming medieval town that felt like a Southern France Mont-St-Michel-like experience with its nearly timeless feelCarcassonne was a charming medieval town that felt like a Southern France Mont-St-Michel-like experience with its nearly timeless feel
the trailhead at the hairpin turn on the D8FThe trailhead at the hairpin turn on the D8F

The map sign at the trailhead keyed to the colored bears as well as a calorie burn chartThe map sign at the trailhead keyed to the colored bears as well as a calorie burn chart

Passing by the green bearPassing by the green bear

Passing by the blue bearPassing by the blue bear

The yellow bear, so we're only at the 30-minute pointThe yellow bear, so we're only at the 30-minute point

One of a few trail junctionsOne of a few trail junctions

Finally starting to see Cascade d'Ars from the trailFinally starting to see Cascade d'Ars from the trail

Crossing the bridge starting the next series of switchbacksCrossing the bridge starting the next series of switchbacks

The trail got narrower and steeper beyond the bridgeThe trail got narrower and steeper beyond the bridge

Finally made it up to the official viewpoint as denoted by this black bearFinally made it up to the official viewpoint as denoted by this black bear

Closer look at Cascade d'ArsCloser look at Cascade d'Ars

Trying to continue on the trail to get closer to the waterfallTrying to continue on the trail to get closer to the waterfall

Looking back towards the town of Aulus-Les-BainesLooking back towards the town of Aulus-Les-Baines

As close to Cascade d'Ars as I would getAs close to Cascade d'Ars as I would get

Almost done with the hikeAlmost done with the hike

Looking down at Aulus-Les-Baines from near the trailheadLooking down at Aulus-Les-Baines from near the trailhead


[Back to top]

VIDEOS OF THE FALLS


Starting with trail context then zooming in on the falls


Right to left sweep starting with downstream view then panning over to the misty base


[Back to top]

DRIVING DIRECTIONS

To get to the trailhead for the falls, you first have to get to the town of Aulus-Les-Baines. We happened to drive here from the St-Savin or Lourdes area, which was about a solid 2.5 hours drive via a combination of the autoroute A64 and several local roads along the D117, D3, and D32 leading to Aulus-Les-Baines. Once in town, there were signs leading us across a bridge then uphill to the first hairpin bend of the D8F. That was where there were limited pullout spaces on both sides of the road around the hairpin.

Something worth mentioning was that as we drove around the Ariege area, we couldn't help but notice graffiti on the roads saying "NON OURS" practically everywhere we went. If my interpretation of the meaning of l'ars is correct, then perhaps all this is in reference to a push by the O.U.R.S. (which stands for Ordonnance Uniformisée de Randonnées de Santé [Uniform Ordinance of healthy hiking?], which also seemed to be the authority in charge of the upkeep of trails like the one we did for Cascade d'Ars) to reintroduce bears back into the Pyrenees. The native Pyrenean bear was originally hunted to extinction. We could be wrong, but we speculated that all OURS-related graffiti were from locals protesting this move as it probably threatens livestock.

For additional context, Aulus-Les-Baines was 133km (2 hours drive) south of Toulouse, 142km (2.5-3 hours drive) southwest of the historical walled city of Carcassonne, 456km (over 5 hours drive) west of Marseille, and 590km (over 6 hours drive) southwest of Lyon.




[Back to top]

ITINERARIES

For more information about our itineraries involving this waterfall, check out the following links.




[Back to top]

MAP OF THE FALLS



Click here for the full World of Waterfalls map





[Back to top]

TRIP REPORTS

For more information about our experiences with this waterfall, check out the following travel stories.




[Back to top]

TRIP PLANNING RESOURCES




[Back to top]

NEARBY WATERFALLS




[Back to top]

RELATED PAGES



Have You Been To This Waterfall?

Share your experience!

Click here to see visitor comments for this waterfall

Click here to see visitor comments for other waterfalls that we've visited in this region

Click here to go to the Comments Main Page

You can use the form below, but if you find our host's interface too troublesome to use (especially if you're trying to upload photos), then just send a text submission anyways using the form, but also let us know that you'd like to attach photos. If you've provided an email address via the form, then we can reply back acknowledging your request, and you can then reply to that email with your photo attachments. We're very sorry about this, but there's not much we can do about SBI's terrible interface.

What Other Visitors Have Said

Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page...

You have to go to the top! (Cascade d'Ars) 
My Mom grew up in this town. I hiked to the top when I was 15. This person went 2/3 of the way. The last part is steeper. I couldn't do it at 55, but …

Cascade de l'Ars and 'Non aux ours' 
Great hike,steepish but steady. The 'Non aux ours' / 'Non O ours' is nothing to do with the trail society (O.U.R.S.) - it is a protest against the reintroduction …

Click here to write your own.



[Back to top]

[Go to the France Waterfalls Page]

[Go to the Europe Page]


[Return from Cascade d'Ars to the World of Waterfalls Home Page]