While staying in Vienne we took the opportunity to do a day trip to the Pilat Regional Natural Park. While there is some form of public transportation available, it is best to drive around this area to truly appreciate it. The roads are quite winding passing through very picturesque towns with murals and flowers. You might want to stop for lunch or to taste the wine grown in this region of France.
Pilat Regional Natural Park
Crêt de l’Oeillon (1370m) and Crêt de la Perdrix (1432m) are the two highest peaks of the Pilat Regional Natural Park (Parc Naturel Régional du Pilat). Both peaks form a circular trail of 7.2 kilometers located in the Loire Valley. The name Mont Pilat may have a latin origin, originating from Mons Pileatus. Another legend says that Pontius Pilate was buried here. Remember the same legend exists about the Roman Pyramid in Vienne. However, the name probably means broad mountain dating from the time of the Celtic people. This park received its designation in 1974 covering an area of 65,000 hectares (160,000 acres).
Dogs are allowed on this trail in the Pilat Regional Natural Park so I took Isis, my little dog. But she got tired after the first part where we parked and walked up to the antenas. From the top of the Crêt de l’Oeillon there is a television transmitter tower for France Info. It has barb wire and fencing prohibiting anybody from going inside. We parked our car close to this trail and walked like 15 minutes to the summit.
Most people use the trail for hiking during April to October. The morning we went it was very foggy, making it hard to appreciate the panoramic view. There are rocks on the sides of the mountains and plenty of vegetation including many wildflowers.
Because of the heavy winter snow, altitude and winds, there are no trees growing in this area, only bushes. At the peak there is a circular disk that points directions to other areas of France and around the world. We stayed there for a while as we saw that the fog was clearing, until we finally got lucky and could appreciate the beautiful views of the Rhône Valley.
After we drove to another parking lot quite close to go down a steep flight of stairs into the second hiking trail of Crêt de la Perdrix. This one was more challenging so I had to put my dog in a special doggy backpack. The trail is moderate, not too complicated, but it does have some boulders that you will have to cross. This trail has more vegetation than the first. We stopped and had a picnic lunch with all the delicious French treats my friend had brought in his backpack.
During our day trip we passed by a town called Mellval in the Loire region of the Rhône-Alpes. It is located 27 kilometers from Vienne and 54 kilometers from Lyon. This medieval town is part of the Pilat Regional Natural Park where we had previously gone hiking. The castle in this village dates back to as early as 1157, while the village itself was created at the end of the 13th century. Its purpose was to control the road from the Rhône valley to Le Forez and the Auvergne.
The history of this town revolves around the de Forez family. Renaud de Forez was to become a priest, but in 1324 he married Marguerite of Savoy and became rich. He bought the parishes of Chavanay and Pélussin. This was the golden age of the town, but it did not last long since they had no children and he was taken prisoner. During the wars of religion, at the end of the 16th century the Baron de Bressieu destroyed the village and expelled its residents. After this the town had to be rebuilt.
You can walk around this town and see evidence of its thriving past. It currently has around 600 inhabitants. Some buildings are in excellent condition such as the salt loft, the little castle, the old church and the hangman’s house. Buildings are made of rock with green lichen growing on the sides and wooden windows. There is only one road that winds through the village.
Just before reaching Malleval there is a lookout point in a hill that overlooks an old cemetery with a cross. This area is famous for growing wine, especially the famous AOC Saint-Joseph and Condrieu wines. It is possible to buy both of these wines in cellars or try them in one of the restaurants in the village. You will see grapes growing everywhere on the side of the road as you drive. Other villages to see nearby are Pelussin and Lupé, but we did not go to either.