You’re going to love this place. It’s one of the prettiest river valleys in Belgium


I have enjoyed walking along many river valleys in the Belgian Ardennes, but I have to admit that the Valley of the Hoëgne is the prettiest I have found so far.

I know that we’re simply talking about a load of rainwater falling onto the High Fens at 660 metres above altitude, finding its way into the River Hoëgne, and then dropping 280 metres in height over a distance of a few kilometres. But this is a river with a difference!

So what makes it so interesting?

In the way are some obstacles. Thousands of them.

Rocks

Big ones, little ones. Vertical ones, horizontal ones. Formed up in parallel, arranged in series. Put there as if by some giant who was determined to stop the river in its tracks.

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But you know what’s going to win when water faces rock. The Hoëgne has no intention of being stopped. It goes over the boulders and under them. It bores holes through them. It neatly sidesteps them, leaving them dry and untouched. And has the audacity to laugh out loud as it heads downstream.

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All of this creates a lot of something else.

Noise

This is no silent valley. You won’t hear the high-pitched squeals of shrews in the undergrowth. This is not the place to listen to the dainty melody of the willow warbler, or the sweet-nothings of your partner.

You hear it from a distance, it pulls you towards it like a magnet, and then it assails you on all sides and won’t let you go. The noise of litres and litres of water falling, splashing, plopping, splattering, spraying, sploshing and gurgling.

hoegne noise

There’s something else that makes this valley so magical.

Vegetation

Everywhere you look, there’s lots of green: moss, lichens, ferns, grass, flowers …

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At some points, the leaves of the trees are bending and touching the water.

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In other places, the trees seem to be growing out of the river itself.

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All of this creates a green and verdant valley; the Garden of Eden in Wallonia.

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And there’s still more.

The human touch

Thankfully, the Valley of the Hoëgne has been well tended over the years. Léonard Legras, who lived at Sart, was one of the first promoters of the trail through the valley in the early 19th century. Look carefully and you’ll find a plaque in his memory.

Amazingly, the human touch adds to the beauty of the place. A dozen or so delightful and aesthetically pleasing wooden bridges criss-cross the river.

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Wooden footpaths help you keep your footing on the slippy bits.

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Handrails, smoothly sanded by the hands of millions of visitors, keep you and your children safe. A picnic area with a shelter and benches is provided about two-thirds along the route.

So what are you waiting for?

Cancel that trip to Paris. Postpone that shopping excursion. Turn a blind eye to those garden weeds. Put that clear-out of the attic on hold.

Go to the Valley of the Hoëgne. Go there. Now. Today. Next week. Next month.

But go there!

How to reach the Hoëgne?

It’s not easily accessible by public transport. (Although see the comments below for some bus info). Enter “Roquez 49, 4845 Jalhay-Sart” into your car’s GPS. The starting point is Pont de Belleheid. You’ll have to park your car in the car park that’s reached by driving over the river. Yes, you literally drive through it – fording it, not passing over a bridge. When I was there it was very shallow, so hopefully it will be when you visit. The route starts at the far end of the car park: Hoegne Valley start

You can’t get lost. Simply follow the abundant blue cross markers upstream.

At the end of the trail you will come out into an open expanse (another good picnic area!) and see the Bridge of Centenaire, which was built in 1930 to mark Belgium’s 100th birthday:

Hoegne Valley end

It’s then time to go back, but you don’t simply retrace your steps. You turn left on a wooden path, and follow the blue cross signs which will take you up the side of the valley, looking down onto the river below. There is a small lookout point with a shelter, from where you can get splendid views of the valley.

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Finally, the path meanders down the valley and back to the river, and you retrace your steps to the car park. Altogether it’s 10 km.

Thanks to the handrails and the moderate distance, I recommend it for older children (e.g. 7+).

Hoegne river

To download the route, go to my RouteYou space.

For you Pinteresting folk, here’s a pin:

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73 comments on “The Valley of the Hoëgne

  1. We went there once. Some 40 years ago in secondary school.

  2. Another great post about the wonders of Belgium. I want to grab my camera and hit this valley.

  3. Now this is a river with character! Very cool and rambunctious. 🙂

  4. I ruined my car’s electronics, Denzil, after crossing the ford backwards as my friend hadn’t managed to get a good picture of me crossing; cost me 500 € 😉

  5. Looks lovely.

    “It’s not accessible by public transport.”

    Defeatism! Google Maps reckons it’s a mere two and a half hours from Brussels Midi by train (to Verviers) and bus, including a fifteen minute walk at the end.

    On that topic, do you have any recommendations for wilderness walks that are a bit more easily accessible by public transport?

    • Good point, I should have said “not easily accessible by public transport.” As for your question, I heartily recommend the GR 571 long-distance footpath in the Ardennes: https://discoveringbelgium.com/2016/03/05/gr-571-comblain-au-pont-to-aywaille/ I have done the first half of it down to Gouvy, and used public transport for all of it. It’s all near the Liege-Gouvy rail line. Unfortunately after Gouvy, the path goes away from the railway line and then you are at the mercy of TEC buses, which don’t run at the weekends in that area.

  6. This looks wonderful! Very inviting photos. Just the kind of place I like. And it really strikes me, how remarkably similar the woods, streams, and little bridges look, to the Catskills. Beeches, oaks, etc. I like your watery prose: “falling, splashing, plopping, splattering, spraying, sploshing and gurgling” although since this is only happening in litres, which we don’t have in the U.S., I guess the streams would be silent here!

    • Thanks for your comment as always Robert. It’s always good to hear your insightful and affirming remarks. The Catskills – are they near you? Have you blogged about them?

      • I love the Catskills, but have never written about them. They’re in the southern part of New York State, west of the Hudson. Years ago, they were best known for kids’ camps and enormous resort hotels, where people escaped the hot NYC summers. The terrain really does seem very much like the woods you’ve shown here.
        I’m glad you don’t object to my nonsensical comments! 🙂

  7. How great is the beauty of our planet! On this Earth Day 2017, let us strive to preserve and conserve what Mother Earth provides for us.

  8. I thought the Hoegne was going to be a hobbit or some kind of woodland creature, Denzil. Instead it’s a habitat for one. 🙂 🙂 And no sleeping with all that noise going on! Super walk and descriptions. Thanks a lot!

  9. A beautiful stream of tumbling water. I love waterfalls and the sound of moving water – so soothing. Great photos, Denzil, many places here in New England look like this. Balm for the soul!

  10. Denzil. I have fallen in love with Belgium and especially with the Hoegne – such a wonderful place. Your descriptions do it poetic justice. This is my kind of landscape, only lightly and respectfully touched by man. Until I found your blog, I wouldn’t have put Belgium near the top of my hope-to-visit-one-day list, but it’s there now.

    • I hope you will be able to visit Belgium one day then Sharon. Do you travel much, even to Europe sometimes?

      • Sadly, no, we hardly ever travel. Just not on the budgetary horizon at the moment. Which I why I love your blog – I get to travel with you. You’re a great guide.

        But who knows? Maybe someday, I’ll book flights to Belgium.

  11. This looks like a wonderful walk and I was pleased to read it’s a circuit. I like being able to walk right around instead of repeating my steps. We’ll definitely have to return to Belgium one day just to visit all these beautiful places you write about.

  12. such a fabulous walk – thank you so much for sharing it with us, almost felt I was walking there with your wonderful photographs and descriptions

  13. What a pretty place. I love being around nature, streams, trees and valleys. I think I would like it here very much 😍

  14. Gosh this looks & sounds absolutely stunning. Wonderful photos again Denzil. You’ve really sold it to me.

  15. Such gorgeous pictures! Looks like a beautiful area.

  16. This looks so beautiful! Belgium has never failed to surprise me but this is an area I’m yet to discover 🙂

    • The country never fails to surprise me either, which is good as that is all I write about!

  17. noellekelly

    I could do some amazing writing there 😁

  18. josypheen

    This looks lovely!
    I love all the moss and I can imagine the sound of the river crashing over all those rocks.

  19. This lovely river reminds me of some of the rivers in Maine with all the rocks and a few waterfalls added. Looks like a lovely walk.

  20. The sound of rushing water in a forest is something I love to hear. It has such a soothing effect on me. Looks a wonderful place and something us humans should be very proud about. Let’s hope some of us don’t go spoiling it. You certainly captured everything very nicely with your photography.

    • Thank you Hugh for your appreciative comments. I think there is a good chance it will remained unspoilt. Let’s hope so.

  21. I don’t think I ever met a rock, moss, or running water that I wasn’t in love with so I really liked this walk post. 🙂

  22. Mary Dolley

    Beautiful photos, inspiring descriptions….. Puts me in mind of some of the lovely walks to be had on the fringes of Dartmoor – Lustleigh Cleave, Becky Falls, Steps Bridge and so on.

    • You seem to have plenty of similar river walks in Devon Mary. Thanks for your positive comment. Best wishes to you.

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  24. Thank you for this post! Very insipiring! Is there a way to park the car anywhere else nearby on “this side” of the river? The thought of driving through the river with a rather low car scares me a little. And if yes, how can one then cross the river – walking through it or is there a bridge? Thanks so much!

    • Hi Kristi, glad you are inspired to go there. Firstly, I may have over-emphasized the drive through the river. It’s not actually the Hoegne you drive through, but a small tributary. I think from now until the autumn it will be absolutely fine, unless you go after a huge storm. However, there are alternatives. If the cafe is open you can park there, or you can park at the top of the road (the junction between the N640 and Roquez) and then walk down Roquez. And yes, it’s possible to cross by foot.

  25. Hi Denzil, we have discovered your blog whilst researching hiking in Belgium, we are keen walkers with two children both younger than two. Do you know of any walks that would be suitable for two parents, pushing two buggies? We are struggling to find anything suitable. Any recommendations are welcome.
    Many thanks.
    Marlaan.

    • Thanks for the question Marlaan, I will certainly get back to you with some suggestions, but would like a bit more info. Where in Belgium are thinking of hiking? Which region? What distance would be your maximum? Are you town or city based and reliant on public transport or do you have a car? Let me know and I’ll come up with some suggestions.

  26. Jon Denai

    Making the location even better, there is the chance of some snacks nearby. There is a little restaurant across the river from the parking lot (or was about 2 years ago) with plenty of tables. Not a great restaurant, but servicable (and we had kids and no picnic packed, so we were happy for anything to compensate for poor planning).

    • Thanks Jon, I was hoping someone would mention that restaurant, which was closed when I visited. Good to hear that it’s worth visiting, especially when you haven’t packed the sandwiches!

  27. Beautiful scenery! I love the quiet and atmosphere of a forest walk. Very nice pictures!

  28. Haven’t bumped into you in a bit, so thought I’d stop by and say, “hello!” Hope all is well! 😀

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  30. A special place on earth… 😉 absolutely beautiful… I wish I was there right now 😀

  31. Such a beautiful Sanctuary I felt the peace of the place.

  32. Dear Denzil,

    i am friends with your daughter Suzanna and she told me all about this blog. I find it very useful and helpful.

    We did the valley tour on Sunday and it was beautiful and relaxing and just what we needed.

    Thank you in any case and please keep up with the good ideas as there are people that follow them diligently.

    Best regards,

    Morana

    • Hi Morana, nice to “meet” you! Thanks so much for taking the time to write so positively. I am delighted you enjoyed your walk in the Hoegne Valley, and I hope you will find many other interesting places to visit on the blog. Best wishes. Denzil

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