After visiting the Pays Basque in South West France, we continued our travel within France and headed to the Cévennes National Park in South of France, near Montpellier. The Cévennes National Park is one of the 10 National Park in France, located in the Massif Central, France largest mountain. It is one of the less populated area of France and one of the more preserved one, offering beautiful nature.
The Cévennes National Park is also the second French dark sky reserve after the Pic du Midi. The purpose of a dark sky reserve is to promote astronomy in an environment protected from sources of artificial lights. It is therefore one of the best place in France to observe the stars.
Where to stay near the Cévennes National Park
As we were staying with our family, we looked for a gîte in the Cévennes and we decided to stay at les Hauts Du Marquet, which just recently opened in July. It was managed by Mélanie and her husband Guillaume, who were able to give us plenty of advice and recommendations about the area. As their gîte just opened this year, everything was brand new and the house was extremely pleasant and beautiful. We enjoyed a brand new building, with an amazing infinity pool, comfortable queen beds and an outside large cuisine. We definitely recommend their place for a luxurious family stay, and Mélanie and Guillaume for their outstanding hospitality.
The gîte is located in Saint-Jean-du-Pin, near Alès which is one of the biggest city in the Cévennes. Alès has a train station but we do recommend to visit the Cévennes by car: public transports are complicated and not flexible in that area.
If you are interested to book their place, you can do it directly on their website: https://les-hauts-du-marquet.com.
What to do in les Cévennes
Kayak day on the Hérault
You will find several kayak itinerary in various area of the Cévennes. Eventually, we decided to visit the Gorge of the Hérault which were a bit far away from Saint-Jean-Du-Pin (about 45 minutes). We selected Kayak Hérault to organize our trip as they offered a “sporty” kayaking trip, including the main rapids on the Hérault.
Located on the upper part of the river, there was indeed quite a bit of rapids but nothing overly difficult. Having some experience kayaking before is probably better but definitely not required and it is not too physical either. Although, you should not be scared of getting overturned as this happened to a couple of people of our group.
We had a very fun time kayaking in the Hérault. It is not the most beautiful set-up to kayak, but the water is warm and the river filled with many perfect spots for a river swim.
💵 We paid 21 euros per person for this activity
⏰ The kayak trip lasted 3 hours
🏊♂️ You need to know how to swim to do this activity and not to be afraid to fall in the water…
Visit the Bambouseraie in Anduze
Ranked as one of France most beautiful garden, La Bambouseraie en Cévennes is a unique botanic garden in South of France, dedicated to Bambou and many other exotic flowers.
The Bambouseraie has over 1000 species of plants to discover, in a magnificent garden. It is a great stop to make, notably if you are travelling with children as it is quite educational as well, with many explanations about the different type of bambou and flowers. They also have a “Aerial Adventure”: a path among tree where you walk on nets, which is very fun.
We enjoyed our visit to La Bambouseraie, but in early August, the place was absolutely crowded. We also had to wear a mask all along. While we have nothing against wearing masks, this all made the visit less enjoyable, especially with the heat, but we still had a nice time there!
Where to hike in les Cévennes near Alès
The Cévennes being of the French National Park, it is a perfect place for hiking and every outdoors activities. As we were there only one week in a family holidays, we did not have much time to travel around as we wished. The selection of hikes below is what we had time to do during our short time there.
Corbès and the Valaurie Cave
The first walk we hiked in the Cévennes was a 3 hours short and easy walk, near Corbès. It is a panoramic little trail, going up the hills and offering view points around the cretes of the Cévennes. The Valaurie Cave was close when we passed by. You can also explore it as part of a cave hike, if you like speleology.
After the hike, you should definitly make a stop by the Moulin de Corbès for a small break, and enjoy a swim in the river to cool down if you are hiking in summer!
Hike in Saint-Étienne-Vallée-Française
For our second hike, we headed to Saint Etienne Vallée Française. The hike was quite easy as well, about 10KM and 3 hours 30 minutes. It offered a beautiful view over the Vallée. At the end of the hike, you will find a beautiful cascade where it is again possible to swim.
At the end, this was not our favourite walk, as about 30 minutes of the walk is on concrete but the end is beautiful. Nonetheless, it is probably a good idea to visit this area of the Cévennes just for the Cascade and the river to swim. If you just want to swim, the river is accessible with a 5 minutes walk from the road.
Hike around Mialet
We found our last hike on Visorando, a loop from the Museum of the desert through Mialet. The hike was harder than the other too, but still relatively short (3 hours and 10km).
We hiked during a heatwave and the hike was lacking a bit shade, but it was still a great experience. At the end of this walk, once again, we reached a beautiful river. Mialet has been our favourite river swimming spot in the Cévennes! Be careful though, we were supposed to pass by some rivers and waterfalls, all dried up during August!
The Cévennes National Park is one of France 11 National Parks. Located in South of France, it is pretty warm and a perfect place to enjoy hiking in spring or autumn. There is actually much more to do in the Cévennes, so do not hesitate to leave any suggestions that we could try next time we visit there if you know the area!