I am Julien and I belong to the Ardennes in heart and spirit. I share my adventures on my blog, Sentiers du Phoenix. Today, I am taking you to the region of Houffalize. Just a few kilometres away from Houffalize, there are several streams that flow through concealed and hidden valleys. Often overlooked in favour of their big sister, the Ourthe, they have nothing to envy her. Along the Martin-Moulin, the Belle-Meuse and the ridges, this 14 km hike will take you to discover a small valley that is both surprising and wild.
Departing from the Chouffe Brewery
This hike begins and ends at the Chouffe brewery in… Achouffe. Isn’t life beautiful? As you can imagine, you will get an excellent reward after a day of hiking in the Ardennes in the snow. But before that, the 14 km that I have planned will not leave you indifferent. Indeed, with 400m of D+, this hike in the High Ardennes is not limited to following the course of rivers but also to contemplate them from above.
Over the water
To enjoy the beautiful light, my girlfriend and I start in the early morning. After a few hundred meters, we are already in the middle of the forest. Soothed by the sound of the river, the magic of the Ardennes forests comes to life to enjoy a moment in nature. Then the path runs along the left bank on the tumultuous course of the Martin-Moulin, in the shade of fir trees. Even if all traces of snow have almost disappeared, the cold piercing wind reminds us of the harshness of winter in the Ardennes.
After 500m, you will have to switch to the right bank. A small bridge (very slippery) allows you to cross over the river. Be careful on this small stretch. The snow has made it extremely slippery and, since it is on a slope, it can get quickly precarious. We also paid the price, missing our steps several times. Be careful!
Over mountains and valleys
As we reach the first climb of the hike, the sun appears and literally transforms the valley. That’s what I like about hiking in the Ardennes: the many different atmospheres offered. In a few minutes, we went from a Gothic valley to a romantic view. After several dark days, we are very happy to contemplate again this landscape bathed in sunlight.
As we arrive at the top of this « heart pumping » hill, I can assure you that I am no longer cold, just enough to enjoy the view in the shade of fir trees without fear of catching a cold. The weather has already changed and a fine hail starts to fall. On the other hand, with the bare trees in winter, we can contemplate landscapes that are usually hidden by leaves. This is one of the benefits of hiking in winter in the Ardennes: new landscapes for our eyes!
And when the sun reappears, we enjoy a game of lights and shades over the landscape that is absolutely amazing! I know this region by heart and I’ll never grow tired of it. Every day, every hour offers so many different atmospheres that this hike from Achouffe is different at every moment. Still, winter and autumn are clearly my favourite time for this hike from Achouffe.
The junction: a tough choice
After playing on the « summits », we reach the streams of Belle-Meuse and then the Martin-Moulin again until its confluence with the Ourthe. This is where you will have to make a tough choice. Indeed, we can either walk along the eastern Ourthe and climb to a unique panorama or avoid the Ourthe and head to the brewery… I told you that it wouldn’t be an easy choice! If you hesitate, I suggest that you take a break and grab a bite. It’s always better to make this kind of decision with a full belly.
Personally, I must admit that I quickly cracked… Yes! The call of the forest is stronger. I vote for the panorama! This will give me even more good reasons to drink a nice Chouffe on arrival. Up there, the view is pretty amazing. Unfortunately, we were against the light, so I could not make any decent photos! I’ll have to go back to show you the view (in case you do not believe me).
Back to the heights
Did you make the loop? Did you think you were done with climbing? Well, you are not! Like me, you saw the beautiful flat path along the Martin-Moulin back to the start… You can forget it. We are taking this beautiful path that climbs in the fir, do you see it? Well, let’s take it together. Your thighs begin to burn and you start running out of breath! Hang in there, we are almost done (I promise!). Once at the top, a change of scenery, the snow has transformed the landscape. I told you that you’d see many different moods! It’s just magic. I take time to take some pictures before going down to Achouffe.
Finally, you deserve a beer!
After a few last precautions during the final descent, we reach the parking lot in front of the brewery. Unfortunately, we do not have time to stop and drink a Chouffe, but I urge you to do so. Indeed, in winter, the hearth in the centre of the room in the coffee shop/brewery is lit, offering a nice warmth. With your coffee or beer, you will be able to think about the adventure that you just experienced with your eyes lost in the flames… I told you that you wouldn’t be disappointed. Admit it, this is one of the most beautiful hikes in Belgium, don’t you think?
And what if we prolong our adventure in the Ardennes?
After a day enjoying the fresh air and a nice tasting, why not prolong the experience by staying nearby? I found you a holiday home with a Scandinavian atmosphere. With its Nordic bath, sauna and a balcony overlooking the forest, you can continue to enjoy this peaceful haven and recharge your batteries after this lovely sporty hike in the Ardennes.