Explore the south of France in the Cévennes

Cevennes-hero

Expand your camping horizons in France and walk back through the Middle Ages.

The Cévennes is home to a sprawling landscape of mountains, forest and cave complexes – it’s the perfect getaway for intrepid hikers and weekend explorers alike.

If the tourist routes are not for you and you don’t fancy stopping off in Paris for a stroll along the Seine, you can visit the Montagne de Reims Wildlife Park as you drive south from Calais. There’s plenty to explore in a day here, with 250km of hiking paths through the park’s four unique terrains. Roughly halfway along your journey, you can discover the Great Lakes of the Forêt d’Orient, and spend an afternoon fishing in the Lac du Temple, sailing on the Lac d’Orient or swimming at Port Dienville.

Admire the beautiful scenery of Cévennes
Admire the beautiful scenery of Cévennes.

From here, it’s plain sailing through Dijon and down to Lyon, before beginning your drive through Lozère state and into the lush landscape of the Cévennes.

There are more than 60 campsites across the park to choose from, so pitch your tent and plan your first route. If it’s scenic trails through dramatic gorges you’re after, you won’t be disappointed. And if the Alps or Pyrenees are a little ambitious for you, the hilltops of the Cévennes feature a range of hiking trails and cycle paths to suit every ability.

An explorer’s dream

Hiking route: GR70 Stevenson trail
How long is it: 225 km from Le-Puy-en-Velay to Le Monastier-sur-Gazeille

The famous GR70 Stevenson trail provides the setting for the 1879 book Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes and is named for the Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson. If you’re bold enough to follow in some of Stevenson’s footsteps, take the Cévennes trail uphill through the woods to 1308 metres, and you’ll emerge into the peaceful meadows and scrubland of Le Moure de la Gardille. Keep rising further up with the mountain and you’ll find yourself at the 1702 metre peak of Mont Lozère, the jewel of the Cévennes, while an unmissable view across bas-Languedoc opens up before you.

Explore the countryside along the Mont Lozère hiking trail
Explore the countryside along the Mont Lozère hiking trail.

If you’re looking for a slightly less strenuous way to see the area, you can rent a canoe in the lovely Medieval castle town of Florac. Your picturesque paddle through the River Tarn’s gorges in the north-west of the park will be mapped out by buildings rising straight up from the water, as the river snakes through the breath-taking clifftop town and alongside hidden hamlets and dramatic cliffs. But don’t be fooled into thinking it’s all easy going in this canyon: there’s still plenty of opportunity to get your adrenaline pumping, with kayaking, caving and climbing just some of the activities on offer.

On the history trail

Rich in history, the Cévennes is home to several Medieval villages, all easily reached by its hiking trails. Officially one of France’s most beautiful villages, La Garde-Guérin is on an isolated, rocky plateau above the Gorges de Chassezac in the north of the park, which has been home to the fortified village since the 12th century. Its little cobbled streets are perfect for walking tours, just like the granite-scattered riverbeds of Le Pont-de-Montvert, around a 25km journey south-west of La Garde-Guérin. This town – one of the stops Stevenson made with his donkey guide – is a little livelier, with souvenir shops and cafés to help get you going again, before your four-and-a-half-hour trek west along D998 to Florac.

The architecture of Le Pont-de-Montvert is classically French
The architecture of Le Pont-de-Montvert is classically French.

To the north of the park is the town of Mende. It’s the perfect place for a daytrip, where you can while away the hours touring its 16th century cathedral, impressive monuments and Medieval houses. North of the old town, even the Notre-Dame bridge dates to the 13th century, while parts can be traced back to 200BC. Take a two-hour drive south and you’ll find Belmont-sur-Rance, a scenic Medieval village perched on a hilltop with beautiful views of the Monts de Lacaune. It’s surrounded by natural beauty and perfect for exploring on bike. Continue south and find yourself at the mouth of the Haut-Languedoc Regional Natural Park, home to lakes, mountains and breath-taking views of the Mediterranean Sea – well worth the 25-minute drive to Lacaune.

Gorgeous gorges and heady heights

There’s plenty to keep all the geography and geology buffs among you happy, too. The gorges of Cévennes are cut westwards by the Loire and Allier valleys and east and south-eastwards by the Ardèche, Chassezac and Cèze rivers, leaving beautifully characteristic channels in the limestone that lies beneath the hills. If you venture further out, you can visit the Grotte des Demoiselles at the southern edge of the park. This cave complex in the Hérault valley was once known as the ‘Grotte des Fées’, named for the fairies that were said to live there. It’s easy to feel the magic flowing between the stalactites and stalagmites, especially inside the 120-metre-long and 52-metre-high Cathedral Cavern. There are open underground railway tours of the caves that are available throughout the year and are operated locally.

Discover the beautiful rock formations in Les Grottes des Demoiselles
Discover the beautiful rock formations in Les Grottes des Demoiselles.

If all this talk of walking is a little too low-energy for you, maybe some winter fun is more your speed. Mont Aigoual in the south-west is the Cévennes’ highest peak, and while spring and summer explorers get to work on the 4,000 steps to the top, winter visitors are more interested in navigating their way down 9km of slopes when the Prat Peyrot ski resort wakes the mountain up from late-December to mid-March. With 12 runs ranging from beginner to advanced, there really is something for everyone.

Plan your next holiday in the stunning Cévennes and enjoy a family adventure with thrills, culture and endless of scenic beauty. Just remember to book your tickets with us early to take advantage of the best fares.