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Hike – Along the Côtes de Moron

    A beautiful hike through a very quiet part of the Jura right up on the French border.

    Yes that is the ‘moron cliffs’ (or ‘cliffs of moron ‘ or something like that) and lake. There is a Moron everything in the Jura: mountain, lake, cliffs, forest, tower, and best of all the ‘Moron village’. I have never been able to figure out where the name comes from (maybe a family who used to rule the area or a very dated word). Whatever the historic reason it is still amusing as an English speaker.

    Key Information:

    Route: Les Brenets (train) – Vauladray –  Les Roches-de-Moron – Les Planchettes – La Grébille – La Chaux-de-Fonds (train).

    Length: 14.75 km, +590m, -470m.
    Estimated time: 4 hours.

    Date: 2022-October-29.

    Another of the Jura Reds knocked off the list. I am missing one close to home (ironically the closest of all of them to me) but otherwise it is long and slow journeys with multiple changes to tick off most of the rest.

    This is actually my first time going to this little corner of the country. Going to Le Saut-du-Doubs and along past the Lac du Moron has been on my list for 5 years at least, but I suffer from a severe case of saving things for the perfect weather conditions and time of year (hence I am still saving the Saut for spring/summer). 


    Practical Information

    Arrival: Trains at the start and end points. Les Brenets is a bit of a pain to get to given that it is in an obscure corner of the country and down its own slightly absurd train line, probably requiring a few changes with long-ish waits between connections.

    Supplies: Shops and restaurants at the start and end. A few restaurants (Roches de Moron, Les Planchettes, La Grébille) along the 2nd half of the route.

    Alternate routes/shortcuts: There are (infrequent) buses between Les Planchettes and La Chaux-de-Fond. You could take the bus directly to Les Planchettes to have an easy walk to the Roches de Moron and get the views of the lake without much effort.

    Was it worth a red? Yes. The path is narrow and has a very steep and long drop the whole way along. I would not attempt this if there is any chance of snow on the path.

    Most of the time the majority of my view was actually of France which is only just across the river (at one point only 200m away). My phone signal had the same outlook, with the network switching to France on arrival in Les Brenets and staying French until I crossed over the ridge at the end. If you don’t have roaming then download anything you need ahead of time.

    A perfect golden autumn day. A bit too late for the best of the autumn colours, but surprisingly warm with t-shirt and shorts being enough the whole day.

    Despite being such a warm and sunny day the paths were almost empty. I hardly saw any other people until I got close to La Chaux-de-Fonds.


    Notes along the route

    I took the train up via Neuchâtel and down via Biel. This makes a beautiful round tour on days like today: climbing above the fog out of Neuchâtel with views of the Alps, then coming down the beautiful Vallon de Saint Imier with the sun high enough to light the whole place.

    The section from Le Locle to Les Brenets is on a tiny train that is more like a tram. It has a very curious design which is more like a bus with the driver sitting at the front in a little cabin. This is possibly the only train in the country where you can just stand at the very nose of the train and watch what is coming towards you whilst the driver is just sat behind a chest high barrier.

    The tiny train that runs on the short line from Le Locle to Les Brenets.
    View from Les Brenets looking up the Doubs valley.

    Dropped down through Les Brenets itself (quite a nice village by the standards of the Jura), initially heading towards Le Saut-du-Doubs before following the sign for the Roches de Moron up the beautiful little Combe a l’Ours (valley of the bears). Then slowly climbing up through meadows and forest with scattered Jura farmhouses.

    The initial view of the gorge is really impressive with this route. It just appears out of nowhere and looks like a whole chunk of the mountain has just been scooped out. The lake itself is a dam rather than a natural lake, but it does look good for a dam.

    First view of the lake.
    Looking back from the end of the cliff section.

    After the first of the two Belvédère viewpoints (one at each end of the red section). The red section starts and follows through the steep cliffs above the lake. The path is in theory very easy; It is very smooth with only some gentle up and down flow – but it is also very narrow at times with a clear feeling that if you flip you will be sliding a long way down. There were a pair of mountain bikers on the trail ahead of me – it would be very technically simple flow trail most of the time, but any error and your bike might be bouncing 400m down to the river.

    I have also walked along the lake at ground level, which whilst somewhat safer is rather less impressive.

    A typical view on the red section along the cliffs.

    After the leaving the cliffs the path passes through the little village Les Planchettes which is only a church and a few houses but it was a very nice spot to rest. It also has (very limited) buses to La Chaux-de-Fonds.

    I had planned to take the more direct from Les Planchettes heading due south, but either missed a sign or their signage wasn’t very good (not sure which) and kept heading east instead to La Grébille. This wasn’t a big diversion and it did offer more views looking north over the Doubs valley and off into France, but was on paved (but very quiet) road rather than footpaths through fields.

    La Chaux-de-Fonds is a bit of a strange place. In the right weather and in the right part of town it seems very handsome and nice, on a grim day in other parts of town it looks like an industrial nightmare. This route goes through the nicer part of town.

    Typical rural Jura sight.
    Les Planchettes.

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