The Gorges d'Ardèche are the most popular canoe trip in France, maybe even in Europe. Under the season the canoe trip through the canyon is done by far more enthusiasts than the river is able to carry. Sometimes you may feel like Jesus, you can just walk over the water from one canoe to the other.... I did the Ardèche twice, in the Summers of 1986 and 2001. 1986 it was perfect. Many people but still good to really enjoy the trip. And the water was crystal clear, it made the impression that you could even drink it.
In 2001 the enthusiasts have multiplied, at the few a little more "difficult" passages it was so crowded that it really was heavily unpleasant, collisions as frequent as in the fun Autodromes in Luna Parks. And the water was visibly dirty, full of quite disgusting algae. See for that my Warning entry.
To complete the impressions of the Gorges d'Ardèche one should drive the very scenic road which accompanies the Canyon at its left (northern) side between Vallon and Saint Martin. Of course everyone who is doing the Canoe trip with a hired canoe will be brought to the start along this road .
2 Reviews and Opinions
Good for: Families
Lieu-dit Mas de Boule, Vallon-Pont-d'Arc, 07150, France
Good for: Couples
Hameau de Chames, Vallon-Pont-d'Arc, 07150, France
Good for: Business
If you have an android phone, there is an app on vallon pont d'arc :-). unbelievable ! :-).
That's a GPS guide, it allowed me to discover places a nice valley and around. I am a mountain biker, I enjoyed the bike paths that were indicated.
What to buy: Useful and not expensive.
The only thing which really requires a warning is the water. There are plenty of tourists and the villages at both ends of the Gorges earn plenty of money from them. So they should easily be able to spend at least a tiny fraction of it for an up-to-date sewage water treatment. The technology is available to bring the waste water back to a good quality. The problem is that the Ardèche does not carry much water, at least apart from periods of heavy rain. And looking at the small amount of running water it is easily imagineable that virtually all of it has passed the bodies of tourists and locals and the laundry machines in Vallon-Pont-d'Arc - obviously without having been subjected to a due recycling process....
It is one of the many cases where on the long term tourism will be going to kill itself if nothing is done to prevent it.
I know what I am speaking about - I have done the Ardèche in 1986 and 2001 and noticed the change under those 15 years. An other 6 years later it became even worse.
The Chauvet Cave, founded by local teens in the 1990's, is the world's oldest cave with petroglyphs that date back 30,000 - 35,000 years. Since, its discovery, the French governmnet has locked the cave up to the outside world and are in the process of creating a 'faux grotte' (false cave) with replica paintings of things you would not see otherwise.
I ask myself, "why would anyone visit a museum that shows fake paintings?"
The popular part of the Gorges trail starts immediately above the famous natural arch. Its whole lenght is 32 km which looks less than it really is because the water is on most of these kilometers very slow which means quite an intense paddling. On both ends are plenty of canoes for rent. When you hire one at he lower end you will be brought with your canoe up to the Arch in the morning, otherwise you will be transported back to the upper end in the evening. It is all well organized. Since you need the full day for an enjoyable tour it is the problem that almost all start at almost the same time in the morning so it is quite crowded all the way. You can avoid this when doing the trip in two days starting later the first day, camping somewhere in the Gorges and start at the starting time of the big crowds your second day half way further downstream which means that you do not see so many others.
Technically is the Ardèche very easy, no problem even for beginners, at the only one a little difficult passage (not very far from the start) are numerous photographers waiting to make a pic of you and trying to sell it to you for a rather steep price when you arrive at the end of the trip in the evening. If you see the crowds of photographers you may stop, walk until to the "tricky" passage, observe the other canoes to see what they are doing wrong when they get slight troubles (funny to watch sometimes), do it better yourself or just carry your canoe the few meters around this passage (which I consider is not the fair sportive way).
Equipment: There are canoes for hire in abundance on both ends of the Gorges. You can not miss them.