The steep climb up the narrow valley of the Hoëgne is one of the most attractive hiking trails in the Ardennes.
The route begins in a car park reached by driving across a ford in the river at Jalhay-Sart. The starting point is marked by a rustic wooden arch put up in 1899 when Queen Marie-Henriette opened the walk to the public.
The trail follows the river upstream across several narrow bridges and wooden walkways. There are shady spots where children can play in the water and modest waterfalls named after Léopold II and his wife Marie-Henriette.
The woods become wilder and more deserted as you climb up the valley until all you can hear is the sound of the river splashing on the mossy rocks. It takes about 90 minutes to reach the rustic bridge known as the Passerelle du Centenaire at the upper end of the valley.
You can continue to the village of Hockai, where there are several cafés and restaurants, and return along the abandoned railway line that once ran from Spa to Trois-Ponts.
Derek Blyth’s hidden secret of the day: Derek Blyth is the author of the bestselling “The 500 Hidden Secrets of Belgium”. He picks out one of his favourite hidden secrets for The Brussels Times every day.