Walking the Fagnes
A particular attraction for short walks in the Fagnes are the boardwalk sections, allowing you to observe the boggy environment without causing damage or sinking into it.
One such section starts around 500m east of Baraque Michel: cross the road and follow the treeline (past two Belgo-Prussian stone border-pillars) then veer northeast (diagonally left) after 300m. The boardwalks are missing for the first 200m (which can get boggy if wet) but continue thereafter.
For a longer walk take the well-signed Fagne de la Polleûr loop, a mostly boardwalked 4km circuit with useful interpretive panels (in French/Dutch/German) introducing relevant wildlife and plants. There's also an interesting weather station. Access is from the fire-charred ruins of the former Mt Rigi restaurant, 1.5km southeast of Baraque Michel.
For most other hikes, a rambler’s first purchase should be the 1:25,000 Hautes Fagnes Carte des Promenades map, which shows dozens of other routes and restricted zones.
The 40-sq-km reserve is a haven for wild boar, roe deer, hen harriers and black grouse, though you’re far from certain to see any. Indeed, some trails close during the grouse's nesting period (April to July). Hard to spot botanical curiosities include Drosera rotundifolia (a carnivorous sundew plant) and Trientales europaea (Wintergreen Chickweed), a rare seven-petalled flowering plant.
The restaurant at Baraque Michel has 13 fairly simple rooms. Otherwise the handiest accommodation is in Ovifat, with further choice in Robertville and plenty more a few kilometres south in Malmédy.
The Fagnes are essentially open fens with minimal habitation but there are lonely traditional auberge-style eateries at the Signal de Botrange and especially at Baraque Michel, whose attractive brasserie also bakes fresh bread. The contrastingly contemporary Peak Beer brewery serves a range of meals as well as its own beers.