Part of the Haut-Languedoc regional park and the southwestern tip of Massif Central, Montagne Noire is a mountain range that overlaps four French departments: Tarn, Hérault, Haute-Garonne and Aude. It is called the Black Mountain because of the dense forest that covers its entire northern slope, an extreme contrast with its typically Mediterranean southern slope, capped in scrubland and olive trees.
Montagne Noire culminates at 3,969 feet (1,210 meters) high with Pic de Nore, from which visitors can admire the splendid panorama that extends all the way to the Mediterranean Sea and the Pyrenees on clear days.
The mountain is home to several sites of archaeological interest, starting with Grotte de Limousis, the most impressive developed cave in the department. The cave is made up of eight chambers (one of which contains an exceptional formation of aragonite crystal in the shape of a 13-foot-high (4-meter-high) chandelier) and a series of five stalagmite barriers. This cave has been in use since the Prehistoric Age, while close by on the mountain is the Gouffre de Cabrespine, one of the largest natural caves in the world open to the public. Lastly, the Oppidum de Berniquaut is an archaeological site with history that goes back 30,000 years. A trekking site allows visitors to explore the remains and learn more about life as it was from the Neolithic era to the 13th century.
Grotte de Limousis is open every day between March and November and can be visited for €7.60 per adult and €5.10 for children. It can be reached in 30 minutes from Carcassonne via the D118, D201, D111 and D511. Gouffre de Cabrespine is also 30 minutes from Carcassonne, but via the D6113, the D118, the D620 and the D112, and costs adults €9.90 and children €6.20 to visit. It is closed from mid-December to February. Self-guided visits are possible in February, March, November and December, while there are guided tours every day at every 45 minutes from April to October. Oppidum de Berniquaut is located on the other end of Montagne noire, about 1.5 hours northwest of Carcassonne via D6113, D629, D4 and D45. Visiting the site is free of charge.