©Charline Poullian

Tested out for you already!

A wonderful immersion into the wild canyon of the Gorges de l’Ardèche National Nature Reserve. In this jigsaw puzzle of limestone, earth and water, the expression ‘back to nature’ takes on its full meaning during a two-day hike with camping at Gournier with Sébastien Gayet.

The conditions were just right at the start of May for a feast for the eyes… and a treat for the calves! The river Ardèche was not too high for crossing the two fords, the wind was light and the sun shone brightly. We chose to start from Saint-Martin-d’Ardèche (hamlet of Sauze) because the downstream part of the Gorges de l’Ardèche is described as being more ‘technical’. We thought we might as well get straight down to business on the first day!

Despite our best efforts to keep extras to a minimum, the weight of our rucksack remained stuck at 10 kg. Fortunately, thanks to the equipment hire option offered by the Tourist Office and the Syndicat de Gestion des Gorges de l’Ardèche (SGGA), our tents and sleeping mats were waiting for us at the campsite.

As this was a first for us, we chose to hire a mid-range mountain guide. Benjamin Midéna from Sport Nature Ardèche had arranged to meet us at 8.30 am in Sauze. After a few pointers and tips, we set off to complete 22 km (12 on day 1 and 10 on day 2).

We took advantage of the rather easy first section up to the Ranc Pointu to gently warm up our muscles on the large limestone slabs (be careful, they can be very slippery in wet weather).

Guided by Benjamin, we negotiated the first difficult sections, made safe by handrails and ladders, without a hitch. Even passing through the narrow chimney in ‘reptile’ mode went smoothly!

The first day continued, punctuated by mythical names which captured our imagination, such as the Dona Vierna or Castelviel rocks, the Templars, the Cirque de la Madeleine and the Cathedral, etc. Despite the cool temperature of the river (17-18°C), we even dared to go for a swim!

We arrived at the campsite in Gournier at around 5.00 pm, tired, but filled with wonder and intoxicated by the wild beauty of the gorge.

Sébastien dans les Gorges de l'Ardèche - Rando 2 jours avec bivouac © Charline Poullain (6)
©Charline Poullian

Crossing the fords without a slip!

After a restorative night in our tents, we were ready for our second day in the upper reaches of the Gorges. There was also a wonderful concert at sunrise by the Gorges de l’Ardèche ‘bird orchestra’!

Batiste Leriche, SGGA’s educational coordinator, took over from Benjamin for the second day. The morning began with crossing the Guitard ford. Crossing the Ardèche to get to the right bank went…without a slip! The binoculars we borrowed from Batiste allowed us to watch black kites and the impressive griffon vultures. The Bonelli’s eagle (the emblem of the Nature Reserve) is very shy. The hike was complemented by the instructive ‘flora and fauna’ information which Batiste so enthusiastically shared with us. It was a real treat!

The Gorges are quiet at this time of year, and the only people we came across along the way were a few canoeists and hikers.

After the second crossing of the Ardèche at the Charmassonnet ford, we took advantage of the last hour of the walk to capture as many images as possible of this enchanting natural and wild location.

2-day hike with convenient camping facilities

  • Start at Vallon-Pont-d’Arc (from Chames at the Pont du Tiourre) / Finish at Saint-Martin-d’Ardèche (Plage de Sauze) or vice versa, starting from Saint-Martin-d’Ardèche.
  • 22 km in 2 days (yellow and white markers). A ‘1 day’ version is possible, but really quite challenging!
  • Overnight in a tent (preferably in Gournier, halfway along the route), the only form of accommodation in the Gorges de l’Ardèche.
  • Level: challenging for experienced walkers.
  • Challenges on the route: partly stony, handrails, 2 fords (river crossing – bring water shoes), passage through a natural chimney (you will have to crawl a few metres to reach the exit).
  • This is a linear path (not a loop). You will therefore need to arrange for a vehicle on arrival or organise your return by shuttle. Option of taking the buses of 2 canoe hire companies departing in the morning or arriving in the evening in Saint-Martin.
  • The upstream section (Vallon-Gournier) is not accessible all year round because of the two river crossings.

Call +33 (0)4 75 88 00 41 for more information.



To book your camping pitch and organise your return transfer

Phone : +33(0)4 75 88 00 41


Hiking in The Gorges

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