“Easy cliff-edge-hugging trail with outstanding views of Piton de la Fournaise and the lava flows from the 2018 eruption.”
— Karl W
This is an easy, relatively flat trail with incredible views to Piton de la Fournaise. Just mind the cliffs!
This route follows the western and southern edges Piton de la Fournaise's primary ramparts. The first stretch doesn't offer great views of Piton de la Fournaise, but does present the hiker with an other-worldly trip through volcanic rocks and views of red colored Piton Chisny. After about 1.25 miles, the trail follows the edge of the cliffs and offers clear views to Piton de la Fournaise almost the entire way. You can go all the way to the ocean if you fancy, but Piton de Bert offers a nice 8-mile round trip viewpoint to turn around at.
Need to Know
There is no shade along this route, like almost everywhere near Piton de la Fournaise.
There is a very large dirt parking area just off the primary road to Piton de la Fournaise that you cannot miss. Try to remember where you parked within the lot because almost every car will look almost exactly the same (small white hatchback rentals). The trail begins at the southeastern corner of the lot and is clearly signed. There is a dirt service road that parallels the trail (and sometimes is the trail) that many people take, but you should follow the actual foot trail. You'll be starting off on the trans-Reunion trekking trail GRR2
, called Sentier du Tremblet here. It is very clearly blazed through the open rocky areas with red and white horizontal blazes.
Head straight south across a mix of cool volcanic rock formations and flat gravel stretches. You'll pass a small cavern-like ledge with a shrine built into it. The trail will cross the road a few times, and occasionally follow the road. For the most part it is parallel on one side or another and never too far from it. Just keep an eye on the blazes. The trail is a little rocky, but very easy going, so there isn't a big advantage to taking the road, but there also isn't much/any traffic on the road.
Finally after about 1.25 miles, the trail will approach the edge of the crater and offer incredible views of the other-worldly landscape far below. Darker rock signifies more recent lava flows from small eruptions. The area is also dotted with small craters and spatter cones. You'll have to head further south to get a view of the 2018 eruption though.
Keep following the trail and enjoying the numerous lookouts. When in doubt of if you're on the trail or not after the first 1.25 miles, just hang to the left/east; the trail stays closer to the crater than the road and offers better views. At about 2.5 miles, you should be able to see the 2018 spatter cone near the southern base of Piton de la Fournaise, but it might be hard to tell apart from all the other cones near it. You should also be able to make out the fresh burn marks up the rampart caused by the eruption's lava flow, but this evidence will also fade with time.
At the 3-mile mark, you'll arrive at Foc Foc, an intersection that is clearly marked. Hang to the left to continue along the rampart's edge towards Nez Coupe du Tremblet. You'll pass right by the burn area which should offer some cool views. In only another mile of easy trail, you'll come to another well-marked intersection called Piton de Bert. It will be quite obvious that you're not actually on the peak—it's just south of you. A few informal trails lead to the top. These informal trails are the only part of this entire route that are not flat and easy, but the short and steep climb is worth it.
Retrace your steps back to the parking area. You're actually about 600 feet lower than when you started but this elevation change is so gradual you likely didn't realize you were headed downhill the whole time. It shouldn't be an issue going back, but it is something to keep in mind while doing this hike!
History & Background
Piton de la Fournaise, meaning "Peak of the Furnace", is a very active shield volcano that has formed about a third of the island of Reunion. It most recently erupted in 2018 (writing as of 2018).
Piton de la Fournaise has been part of the Reunion UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2010.