Alps France Hiking Weekend Getaways

Hike and bivouac in the scenic Vercors Natural Park

October 5, 2020

The Vercors Regional Natural Park

The Vercors is a protected Regional Natural Park in France, located around 100 km near Lyon, close to the French Alps. It offers a wide diversity of landscapes, from plateau to middle mountains. It is particularly appreciated by nature lover, and people who enjoy very active holidays! Best visited by bike, it is also possible to visit with bike, snowshoes in winter, canyoning, via ferrata… Everything is available for outdoors lovers!

View over the Vercors

Did you know? During the second World War, the Maquis du Vercors was an important place of the French resistance against the Nazis. In 1944, after the operation Overlord in Normandy, 4000 French resistants fought against 10,000 germans. The battle of Vercors is the most famous stand of the French Resistance in World War II, and many resistants hide in this natural fortress. While you walk along the trail of the Vercors, you will find many rock cairns, incorporating shells dating from the World War

Cairns and leftover shells from World War II
Cairns and leftover shells from World War II

The animals of the Vercors

The Vercors is home to many animals, common in the French Alps. You will find livestocks (sheep) and their guardian dog (called Patou). You need to be careful of the Patou, the dogs grew up with their herd and they are extremely protective. Some of them may get aggressive if you go too close to their beloved sheep.

Beside livestock, the Vercors also has many mammals: the common squirrels, foxes, marmots (you will see plenty!), stag and deers. On top of that, a couple of more rare but scary animals: wolves and lynx. Wolves are extremely rare to meet in the French Alps, and usually not aggressive…

A Marmot casually posing in the Vercors
A Marmot casually posing in the Vercors

A couple days hike in the Vercors Haut Plateau

Our hike

As usual, we prefer to find and adjust (if necessary) an existing itinerary. We wanted to discover the high plateau, and have a quite physical walk and we settled on the “Tour of the cabins and the fountains of the high plateau” from Visorando.

It is a long and intense hike, going from cabins to cabins and passing by a few fountains with drinkable water. It is a great choice to see vary diverse landscapes of the Vercors: forest, plateau, mid-mountains…

Initially, we planed to extend the walk by climbing the highest point: the Grand Veymont and hike for 3 days. We cancelled it due to bad weather on our last day.

The gorgeous Hauts Plateaux of Vercors
The gorgeous Hauts Plateaux of Vercors

The map of the walk on the haut plateau of Vercors

Do not hesitate to download the Visorando app and download the offline map.

  • 🥾 28 KM according to Visorando – with camping, water-seeking and little detours, we walked 35 KM over 2 days.
  • 📈 1336m positive elevation, most of it on the first day.
  • 💧 There is water available along the walk. It is required to check before leaving that they are not dried out.
  • ⏰ About 13 hours of walk for us.
  • 📡 No mobile network in the haut-plateau, take a map or an offline GPS.

Our 2 days hike journal

View over the Grand and Petit Veymont

The first day of hike in the Vercors Regional Park

We decided to stay the night before the walk in a small hotel, La Chicholiere. We can only recommend (excellent food and very reasonable price). It is also located only 5 km away from the starting point. As we travelled from Italy, Turin, and had many valuable items with us, we asked the hotel if they could keep them for the night, which they kindly accepted!

We reached the parking by car after a very easy 10 minutes trip and we started the hike with our bags full.

The path leading to the Hauts Plateaux of Vercors
The path leading to the Hauts Plateaux of Vercors

The first part of the walk happens to be in the Forest, and the first few hundreds meters were very easy on a wide trail. Little did we know we were about to pay heavily our lack of training!

One kilometer later, the path becomes steep, and the walk until the start of the Haut Plateau will climb the first 900m of elevation on the first 5km. After the forest, we discover the Aiguilles (summits) of the Vercors, and the Grand Veymont (2341 metres), highest point of the Massif Du Vercors.

After an exhausting first 2 hours, we finally reach the Haut Plateau and the first shepherd’s cabin. Tired but happy to be done with the steep walk, we stop there for lunch and for our first water-refill at the fountain of the Pas des Bachassons.

From there on, the hike and the trail is much more flat, passing by shepherd’s cabin, near marmots on the plains, sheep and shepherd’s dog. The Vercors landscapes is beautiful, overlooking the Alps from time to time and notably the very beautiful Parcs des Ecrins.

We will continue on the road that day until reaching the point 14 and its nearby fountain, where we settled for camping near a few pine trees.

Walking in the Vercors at sunset
Walking in the Vercors at sunset

We settled our camp, prepared our delicious pesto-pasta and went straight to bed. The night will be agitated: windy and rainy, full of mysterious noises.

Getting ready to spend the night in the Vercors
Getting ready to spend the night in the Vercors

Second day of hike in the Vercor Regional Park

Alexandra - morning of the second day of hike
Alexandra – morning of the second day of hike

After a restful and deserved night, we woke up in the humid small clearing. Indeed, it rained most of the night, and stopped only at about 6am. Luckily, as we get out of the tent, the sky is now clear and everything dry.

With the stove, we enjoy some coffee and apple compote, and cheerfully start to pack to get on with our second day of hike!

The second day is mostly a long walk along the plateau, and the gorgeous Plaine de la Queyrie! The weather is cloudy and fresh, and the marmots are out playing!

View of the Plaine de la Queyrie

A final little climb (+200m), and we are back up to the highest point of the walk. We stopped for lunch at the nearby fountain, and meet with the new climbers of the day on their way to the plaine as the weather is getting worse every minute.

François cooking rice and corned beef with the stove
François cooking rice and corned beef with the stove

We then proceed to the final descent.

Near the end of the final descent - before rain.
Near the end of the final descent – before rain.

On the way down, the path is very steep and slippery and we are glad to have brought our walking sticks to help with our balance! We will suffer for a few days this hard descent in our knees and ankles. On top of that, the rain begins, and will not stop until the end of our hike.

Eventually, at the end of the afternoon, we finally see our car waiting for us on the parking… Exhausted and happy, we drive back to Paris, full of memories, cramps and wet. Next time – we will train more before attempting walk with that much elevation!

François hiking the Vercors!
François hiking the Vercors!

What to bring for a couple days hike in the Vercors (summer)

  • 💧 2L of water per person. Water management is complicated as the sources are shared between human and animals, and are often dried out. You can check the status of the sources in the parc website (0: not water, 3: lot of water).
  • 🥗 Easy-to-carry food. We love to buy pasta and a bottle of Pesto for our hikes and already cooked rice with corned beefs.
  • 🏕 A good tent for trekking. It is often raining in the Vercors, make sure to get a water-proof one and check the weather before leaving
  • 🛌 Inflatable mattresses, pillows and sleeping bags. Pillows are optional (so is mattress we guess) but we love our little comfort!
  • 🗺 A Map of the Vercors. In France, hiking map are called IGP map. It is also possible to download them on your phone, for example with Visorando app or others
  • 💡 A torchlight. A small one will do if like us, you do go to bed early when hiking.
  • 🔪 A Swiss knife, always.
  • 🔥 A camping stove if you want to eat hot-food
  • 🔆 Sun-protection
  • 🥖 Walking sticks

For more preparation, you can read this excellent article about what to pack for a Trek and adjust it for a 2 days hike.

It is also possible to hike in the Vercors in winter with snowshoe or ski… And we definitely plan to try this winter!

François hiking in the Vercors

What’s next for us? We are dreaming to hike the Dolomites in Italy…. Let’s see if the virus travel restrictions will allow us to do so. What about you? What was your favourite hike ?

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  • Reply
    Following the Rivera
    October 9, 2020 at 2:21 pm

    What a gorgeous hike guys! I’ve also never heard of Vercors Natural Park before so it was great to read about a new destination in France.

    • Reply
      Alexandra
      October 26, 2020 at 1:45 pm

      Thank you for your comment. It was definitely gorgeous! We cannot wait to go back there at wintertime!

  • Reply
    Kevin | Cocktails and Carry-Ons
    October 9, 2020 at 3:16 pm

    Wow such an incredible hike! Looks like you two had a great one. I would LOVE to do this one someday. By looking at the map, I was close to this area on a road trip and it’s amazing I missed this area when heading south from Lyon. I need to explore the French mountains more!

    • Reply
      Alexandra
      October 26, 2020 at 1:46 pm

      We went to Lyon many before we really started to explore the area, but indeed, around Lyon there is a lot to see! Thank you for your comment!

  • Reply
    John Quinn
    October 10, 2020 at 1:15 am

    Looks amazing. Very challenging though. Even though I’ve hiked a lot this year, I’m not sure I’m ready for a multi day hike like this. I’m sure your fitness is a lot better than you imply.

    • Reply
      Alexandra
      October 26, 2020 at 1:47 pm

      It was challenging indeed. We hope what you are saying is true because it will be much harder when we will come back during winter haha. Thank you for your comment John!

  • Reply
    Pip
    October 19, 2020 at 12:11 pm

    Absolutely beautiful experience. I’d love to see all those wild animals.

    • Reply
      François
      October 22, 2020 at 10:27 am

      It’s gorgeous!
      Would love to come back again and see some of the more rare one! Like wolves…

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