Worth a Trip: Rivière des Remparts
If you really want to get away from it all, check out the Rivière des Remparts, an easily overlooked splendour immediately north of St-Joseph. This valley – one of the wildest in the south – is accessible on foot (or by 4WD). The classic hike is along the river, up to the hamlet of Roche-Plate, about 18km to the north, and on to Nez de Bœuf on the road that leads to Piton de la Fournaise. Allow about four hours to reach Roche-Plate from St-Joseph, and another four hours to Nez de Bœuf.
You can break up your journey in Roche-Plate. Both the Gîte de la Rivière des Remparts – Morel Jacqueline and the Gîte Le Mahavel feature well-scrubbed dorms. Both are closed during the rainy season. Bookings are essential.
Note that 4WD transfers from St-Joseph can be arranged by the gîtes (return €150, up to 12 people), but the best way to get a feel for the valley is to explore it on foot.