Sentier Karstique des Malrochers

Sentier Karstique Besain

Useful Information

Location: D4, 39800 Molain.
Between Poligny and Champagnole, leave N5 at the turnoff onto D4 towards Besain, parking after a few hundred meters on the left. From Besain D4 north, after 2 km small car park on the right.
(46.802360, 5.798938)
Open: no restrictions.
Fee: free.
Classification: TopicSentier Karstique KarstKarst SpeleologyKarst Cave KarstLimestone Pavements
Light: bring torch.
Dimension: L=6,000 m.
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.



The Sentier Karstique des Malrochers is named after the forest of Malrocher, but it is also known as Sentier Karstique Besain, after the nearby village. This is a rather long trail, with a total length of six kilometers, and it takes about four hours to walk the trail and visit all the sights. You should plan at least half a day. However, for the lazy there is a road cutting through the trail which offers a shortcut for the way back. Starting at the car park at the D4 near Besain, the trail is marked with a cartoon of a Neolithic man and red stripes on the rocks.

The first stop after ten minutes is a cave, Le Fountaine à Coupot. It may be entered on a path with a handrail. The next part of the trail is somewhat weird, as 70 strange faces were painted on unusual rocks along the way. The Gouffre Pédagogique (Teaching Pit), is a spectacular entrance into a cave system which is used for training purposes by the local caving club. It is not possible to visit this vertical pit, as this is far too dangerous without appropriate climbing gear. The cave is fenced.

The Gouffre des Arcades (Pit of the Arches) is horizontal, despite the name, and safe to enter and explore. It is named after several magnificent limestone arches. The Gouffre Pédagogique (Learning Pit) is a daylight shaft which is used to teach cavers the abseiling and single-rope ascent in shafts. The next cave, La Loge à Maillet is a through cave. It is longer than the caves before and a lamp is necessary. This cave is definitely fun for children, who may get a first taste of real caving.

The path now crosses the D4, which allows to go back to the car park, about 400 m along the comfortable road. The rest of the trail follows on the other side of the road.

The Lapiaz de Besain is a typical karren field. The patchwork of limestone cliffs forms a confusing labyrinth of ridges, and it is easy to confuse the way. Just follow the caveman signs sternly. After two more caves, a huge one which is unsigned and Le Grotte de St Bilba, with a trail with handrail, the next karren field follows. Les Tables de Lapiaz are not covered by soil and vegetation, this is a piece of bare karst. Here the path often uses narrow gorges between the limestone plates, and a little climbing may be necessary. After the end of this limestone pavement, the path soon reaches the car park.