Ardèche volcanoes

Hiking distance : 15 km ; Hiking time : 5:00
Mount Gerbier de Jonc, well known site near Rieutord

The high plateau in the Ardèche department, north of the upper Ardèche valley is full of examples of ancient volcanic activity. In this case, ancient is relative. These volcanoes are believed to have ceased activity relatively recently on the geological timescale – near the end of the last ice age about 10 to 12,000 years ago. Accordingly, natural erosion has had less time to erase the visible signs of volcanic activity. Interesting geological phenomena are visible in many locations and recognising the substantial interest of this area, UNESCO recently accorded the label of Geopark (see this link in french) to the regional park.

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A hikers guide to the Ardèche Geopark

Topoguide : Balades et Randonnées, Monts d'Ardèche
Topoguide : Balades et Randonnées, Monts d’Ardèche
In the French “massif central”, between Clermont-Ferrand and the summits of the Haut-Languedoc, there is much evidence of ancient volcanic activity. While still ancient, the most recent volcanic activity took place in the the Ardèche Mountains, now a Regional Nature Park. This park, created in 2001, extends roughly from the market town of Les Vans in the south to St Agrève in the north. In 2014, the area was granted UNESCO Geopark status recognizing the remarkable landscapes and sites of geological interest resulting from volcanic activity. Geologists have determined that some of this volcanic activite may have been as recent as 10 000 years ago so it is common to see this area referred to as the “young” volcanos of the Ardèche.

The Geopark is magnificently suited to wandering, walking and long distance hiking with many marked trails providing access to well known sites (such as Mount Gerbier de Jonc – the source of the Loire River) and to less well-known ones throughout the area.
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The tower of Brison

Hiking distance : 17.7 km ; Hiking time : 05:30
the tower of Brison

In september of 2016, our club hike took us to the upper Beaume river valley and the mountain village of Laboule. We stayed in the area 2 days to hike a couple circuits on the Tanargue. The Tanargue is both a peak and a ridge-line oriented roughly west to east in the southern Ardèche – about 2 hours from the croix-de-Gattigues. The average altitude of this ridge-line is around 1200 m, but one section, called the Cham de Cros reaches an altitude of around 1400 m. This “Cham” (cham is an old french word usually used to name a small plateau surrounded by deep ravines) is visible from a long way off. From a variety of lookouts near the croix-de-Gattigues the distinctive skyline of this plateau is easy to identify. When we reached the top of the Cham, we could see, to the south, a prominent but lower peak with a tower and a beacon. No one could identify the site that day. So we had to find out. Continue reading “The tower of Brison”