The Vercors – An Active Holiday Guide
Activities and Adventurous Holidays in the Vercors Massif
The Vercors National Regional Park is an expanse of forested mountains in Southeastern France, extending between the Isere Valley to the North and the Diois to the South. Limestone cliffs with spectacular views of the Alps sit to the East, with dramatic river gorges snaking their way through. Ancient roads wind through the cliffs, carved into the limestone around 100 years ago showcasing impressive views with sheer drops.
The small towns of Saint-Jean-en-Royans and Pont-en-Royans, sit on the lower Western side of the region and make a perfect base to start your adventure. Staying here gives you access to the relatively flat cycling routes of the Isere Valley and the tougher routes of the higher Vercors. This stunning park benefits from a huge range of terrain including craggy limestone cliffs, lush forests, rolling mountain passes, grassy plateaus and raging river valleys. A trip to this park is an adventure lover’s dream, offering 22 cols, 17,000 metres of climbing and some of the most dizzying mountain roads in the world to explore.
Organise Your Active Holiday in The Vercors
We’ve teamed up with the best outdoor activity and adventure holiday companies to help you organise an unforgettable trip to the Vercors:
Vercors Summer Activities
A big wall climb at Presles in the Vercors Massif | © Flickr – Tadej Debevec
With climbing areas abound, the Vercors is a haven for rock climbers of all level. Some popular spots are Presles, Gerbier (2109m), Les Trois Pucelle (1456m), Mont Aiguille (2086m) and some smaller crags like Correncon, Furon at Lans-en-Vercors, Combeauvieux and many more.
Try out one of the climbing schools at Lans-en-Vercors, Correncon or Villard-de-Lans to help hone your skills. After initial instruction you can climb a varied amount of sites depending on your ability. If you have a little more time, you can take on a five day climbing trip between Vercors and Diois. You will climb over stunning red limestone in Ombieze and two sites of Provencal Drome. In between the climbs you can take walks around the beautiful Saou Forest and relax at a lodge for dinner.
Canyoning in the Vercors Massif | Go >
Big abseil at Canyon des Ecouges in the Vercors Massif | © canyoning-vercors.com
Beginner or experienced canyoning enthusiasts alike, will love the varied routes available in the Vercors. Due to its wild, karstic nature, canyoning in the Vercors will never be dull and a diverse range of waterfalls, jumps, recalls and slides can be found. Recommended spots are the Canyon du Furon, Canyon des Ecouges and the challenging Le Ruzand with its 150m waterfall abseil.
Ecouges canyon is one of France’s best known canyons and for good reason. It’s a spectacular and difficult descent but the route is split into two halves. The top section is more difficult and aimed at experienced canyoning enthusiasts. The bottom section is easier and accessible to all. In the Ecouges you’ll get to do a little bit of everything – there’s jumps, abseils down waterfalls, natural water slides and even zip-lines.
The Vercors is home to a labyrinth of underground caves formed by lakes and water running underground. Choose from a half day caving in the Gules Vertes, Ture, Cave of the Spider, Cave to Gour or Cave Rock and if you have a day try out the Le Gournier and Cuvees de Sassenage.
For an extra challenge, try out vertical caving in the sites of the Goule Verte, the Thur, the Gournier and the Grottes-Roches. Admire stalactites, stalagmites and columns while lowering yourself down into cave openings.
Climbing high on the Via ferrata de la Grande Fistoire | © Alpes de Haute-Provence
Challenge every muscle in your body traversing steel cables, monkey bridges, zip lines and ladders in one of the Vercors epic Via Ferratas. Beginners or family groups will love the easy route of the Via Ferrata of Claps. Divided into two sections it should take you around three hours. Another easy level Via Ferrata is the Via Corda de Choranche, where you can enjoy the cliffs of Preles and descend down a 40m spider wire.
The Via Ferrata de Chironne is a more varied, challenging course allowing you to choose several routes. More experienced climbers should take on the section of the Cant! The Balconies of the Mer de Glace is a high mountain route than can be explored over two days.
Climbing high on the Via ferrata de la Grande Fistoire | © Marco Klüber
Located 58km South of Grenoble, Mont Aiguille sits at a towering 2,085m (6,841ft) high. Surrounded by steep limestone cliffs, particularly on the Northwest side this mountain is popular with mountaineering enthusiasts. To take on the ultimate summit head to the Grand Veymont in the district of Gresse-en-Vercors. Peaking at a head-spinning 2341 metres, it’s the highest in the Massif du Vercors but not the whole park. The Rocher Rond gets the award for highest peak standing at an impressive 2453 metres high.
Downhill mountain biking in Villard-de-Lans | © hytte
Riding trails on your mountain bike doesn’t get more rewarding than in the beautiful Vercors National Park. Practice endurance and freeriding down the numerous tracks surrounded by wild and mountainous terrain. You can even take a shuttle or chair lift back up to the top of the runs.
Villard de Lans is home to the first ever bike resort, offering services for beginners looking to be supervised and courses for more experienced riders. Spend the day or even a week to road test your cycling skills in challenging, fun and stunning surroundings. Experienced riders can take on the Traversee du Vercors which takes you from North to South of the park and will be a ride of a lifetime.
Hiking the Crêtes du Vercors | © Flickr – Akuna Matata
Trekking enthusiasts should take on the Crêtes du Vercors which covers four days of hiking in the Vercors Nord. Participants will be substantially rewarded with outstanding views of the Alps. As you walk along the ridges you can marvel at the Ecrins, Oisans, Belledonne and Mont Blanc mountain ranges. The GR91 trek is 91 km long starting at St-Nizier-du-Moucherotte (Isère) and ending at Miscon (Drôme). Starting in Provence you head North over Mont Ventoux and on to the Vercors plateau. The mountain views are breathtaking with white rocky outcrops, fields, forests and picture postcard vistas in every direction.
Due to its spectacular sights, the Vercors is a great place to take to the skies and paraglide your way around. Alongside the unbelievable views, you will experience the rush of flying through the air and feeling like a bird. If you’re new to paragliding head to one of the schools in Isere or Villard-de-Lans, where qualified instructors will teach you everything and jump with you in tandem flight.
If you fall in love with the experience, stay on a little longer and take on a course. Experienced paragliders can take themselves to the top of the Cote 2000 gondola lift and take to the sky with their skis on!
Vercors Winter Activities
If you think the Vercors is at its most popular in the summer months, you will be surprised at how busy it gets during the winter when snow lovers flock to ride the powdery slopes. The village resorts of Autrans, Correncon en Vercors, Lans en Vercors, Les Coulmes, Meaudre, Saint Nizier du Moucherotte and Villiard de Lans all offer tracks for varying levels of expertise.
This area is a paradise for Nordic skiers due to the extensive amount of gentle terrain and tracks out of sight. Lans en Vercors is a popular mountain resort for cross alpine skiing and has its own snow park and toboggan mats for some family fun. The traditional village enjoys a relaxed, natural setting, a rich and diverse fauna and friendly locals to complete your experience.
Only 30 minutes from Grenoble and 75 minutes from Lyon, it doesn’t take long to reach this beautiful place, but still feel like you’re a world away.
What Time Of Year To Visit The Vercors
Being a haven for adventurers and nature lovers, the Vercors has an all year round draw for people of all ages. The Summer lasts from June to August with mild and pleasant temperatures ranging from 10-22 degrees Celsius. The Autumn months September and October see temperatures ranging from 6-18 degrees Celsius. Winter season takes over from November when ski season officially begins, with temperatures around -3-7 Celsius. Spring is another popular time in the Vercors lasting from March to May.
How to Get to the Vercors
Six airports are conveniently within three hours of the Vercors national park. These include; Annecy (1 hour), Chambery (1 hour), Geneva (2 hours), Grenoble (1 hour), Lyon Bron (1.5 hours), Lyon St-Exupery (1.5 hours) and Marseille Provence (3 hours). Alternatively you can get a train to nearby Valence and hire a car or taxi to get you the rest of the way. Buses 5100 and 5110 link Grenoble with Lans-en-Vercors and Villard-de-Lans and take around an hour. The trip loops through the impressive Gorges du Furon which is a stunning vision to behold.
A sprawling mass of mountains and forested plateaus, the Vercors National Regional Park is one of Frances most beautiful natural gems. You can go there to hike, cave, climb, ski, bike, paraglide or simply drive around its endless stretches of twisting roads and charming villages.
Spending time in the Vercors will re-energise your senses and help you to shake off the stresses of city life. The terrain will challenge you, locals charm you and mother nature will teach you to respect her. Whether you visit in winter or summer there’s a myriad of fun and exciting activities for you to get your teeth into.
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Please leave a comment below if you need specific advice for your trip to the Vercors, or if you have any recommendations to help us improve this guide. Happy holidays!