Saint-Claude, France, and a magical hike to the Trou de l’Abîme

I had to share a quick post about the charmingly pipe-happy town of Saint-Claude, France, and the nearby Trou de l’Abîme, an enchanting hiking spot in the Jura region of France. With the June weather getting a little too hot for us in the village of Thoiry where were spending a couple of weeks house-and cat-sitting, we were off for a day in the low Jura mountains searching for somewhere cool. The pipe-happy town of Saint-Claude and the nearby Trou de l’Abîme riverside hike were the perfect finds.

The Saint-Claude Cathedral (with a pipe plant sculpture)
Saint-Claude and the Musée Pipes et Diamants

Saint-Claude bills itself as the pipe-making capital of the world and sports a giant puffing pipe, pipe plant art and pipe-shaped trash cans throughout town to honor its claim. We were really planning on hiking, but of course, we had to check out Saint-Claude. The old town perches atop high walls looming above a valley river. We visited the cathedral (always a promising place for a little break from the heat) and then were lured in by the quirky Saint-Claude Pipe and Diamond Museum. I’m so glad we were! We loved the collection of elaborately carved pipes including “pipe portraits” of famous figures and the personal portrait pipes of members of the local Brotherhood of Master Pipers club. We learned about the town’s history of pipe making, read directions on how to properly smoke a pipe, and watched a video of the robed brotherhood doing their thing. Oh yes, and there is a smaller area with diamond exhibits, too, but we’ve seen lots of diamonds and passed through that area quickly after the pipes. After a short break for cold beers and lunch, we were ready to move on to the Trou de l’Abîme (hole of the abyss).

The easy hike starts just off the road beyond an old mill covered in bright green overgrowth and looking like something from a fairy tale. Soon, we were walking along a pathway in the cool shade of moss-covered trees along a small, rushing river. Metal and wood stairs and catwalks took the path upward along the side of a narrow gorge carved by the river. The river opened into three “marmites de géant” (giant’s cauldrons), deep holes carved in the river by swirling water carrying small stones and grit. The air around us carried a wonderful, fresh-smelling chill, Nature’s own air conditioning!

Les Marmites de Géant

The hike continued past the marmites and upwards through more moss-covered forest until we reached the Trou de l’Abîme, the entrance to a vast underwater river that reaches a depth of 45 meters and surfaces and retreats underground for a total of 667 meters, 345 of which are subterranean.

Trou de l’Abîme

So there you have it. No famous sights, but a quaint town and unique natural beauty made for a fun and interesting (and cool!) day.

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