12 Days Ardèche Tarn Tour
This is an 11 Night, 12 Day tour in which we canoe on the Gardon,
the Ceze, the Chassezac and the Ardèche in the Ardèche region and on
the Tarn in the Tarn region of south-east France. We explore the
Gorges and Mountains of both the Ardèche and the Cevennes regions
which are still relatively remote.
The rivers in the Ardèche flow eastwards towards the Rhone river which itself then flows south to the Mediterranean. The Chassezac is a tributary of the Ardèche. Each of these rivers in the Ardèche flow through deep and dramatic gorges in limestone country.
The Gardon, Cèze and Chassezac are calm rivers with easy paddling through beautiful scenery. The Ardèche provides a little more excitement with Class 2 and 3 rapids. These rapids are short however and the river provides plenty of easy water between them.
When we cross over to the Tarn we canoe in a river which flows westwards towards the Atlantic. The Tarn also flows through a dramatic limestone gorge and is famously known for its beautifully clear and green waters. The first two days on this river provide easy paddling whilst the third day provides more excitement with some rapids to contend with. A fourth day on the Tarn and Dourbies (a tributary) is also a possibility.
Between the canoeing days we shall hike on the parts of the long-distance trail known as the GR70 - the famous Robert Louis Stevenson Trail. The author walked this way more than 100 years ago to see for himself how the Hugenots (Protestants) survived in a largely Catholic country. The walk is renowned for the difficulty he experienced in dealing with his donkey 'Modestine'.
We shall also walk through the peculiar region called the 'Chaos of Montpelier', which has been eroded into many curious geological shapes.
Of course throughout we shall stay at remote and beautiful places and enjoy the regional cuisine and the local wines.
A highlight of the trip will be to visit the Chauvet-Pont-d'Arc Cave. It is a cave that contains the earliest known and best preserved figurative cave paintings in the world, as well as other evidence of Upper Paleolithic life. Discovered on December 18, 1994, it is considered one of the most significant prehistoric art sites and UNESCO granted it World Heritage status on June 22, 2014.
- Fully guided whilst on the river & trail
- Full minibus support throughout
- Includes all accommodations
- Includes breakfasts, lunches and evening meals
- Canoe on 5 or 6 different rivers
- Canoe through the Pont du Gard & the Pont D'Arc
- Hike along the route of the R.L.Stevenson Trai
- Paddle the beautifully clear Tarn river
- Visit the ancient cave paintings at the Chauvet Cave
Day 1. Arrival and first meeting & paddle on the Gardon
You will be met at the TGV station at Avignon sometime around
Alternative arrangements can be made for arrivals, such as at regional airports, by prior arrangement.
The drive to Collias takes about 40 minutes. We will stop here for a picnic lunch, get to know each other and go over the trip together. We will then do a 2 hour canoe on the Gardon River which will finish as we pass underneath the famous Pont du Gard, a UNESCO Heritage Roman Aqueduct which is almost 2000 years old. This is a relatively short and easy paddle through some pretty countryside. If water levels allow and we can make an early start - perhaps if our guests arrive in Avignon the night before we can do a longer paddle.
We will then have a 50 minute drive to our accomodation at Le Prieure d’Orniols in the charming tiny hamlet of La Bastide just outside Goudargues.
Day 2. A paddle on the Cèze
Today we will paddle the Cèze river from Montclus back to
We will have time to visit the walled village of Montclus first before starting our paddle downstream. The river passes by some beautiful cliffs as it meanders back towards the village which we will also have time to visit afterwards. The village was once a famous spa town and retains some interesting small canals.
If time allows we can visit the village of La Roque-sur-Cèze and the local Falls.
We remain at the Le Prieure d’Orniols tonight.
Day 3. Canoeing the Chassezac
We will canoe a stretch of the Chassezac River today starting at the
Iron Bridge and going onto Chaulet a trip of about 3 hours. The
river meanders wildly through a very deep gorge with some beautiful
beaches just ripe for a picnic lunch and some swimming.
Later in the day we will take a hike along the rim of the gorge and look down on where we were previously. This walk takes us through the Païolive forest with interesting overgrown hoodoos.
Tonight we will stay at the former convent at Le Carmel, Les Vans, just a very short drive away.
Day 4. Hiking the Robert Louis Stevenson Trail
In the morning we will have an hours drive to Le Blemard where we
will start our hike on the GR70 (Robert Louis Stevenson Trail) over
Mont Lozere to the Pont de Montvert; about 12 miles. The walk will
offer us splendid views over this remote region of France called the
Cevennes. An alternative is to hike the GR7 trail over the Signal de
Ventalon and continue all the way on foot to our lodgings at Le
Afterwards its a 45 minute drive to where we stay at a remote farmhouse in the Cevennes at Le Cauvel.
Day 5. Another day of hiking on the Stevenson Trail
After breakfast we will drive down to St Germain-de-Calberte and
walk out onto the GR70. We'll hike a loop out on Les Rocs des Galta
side-trail and return on the Robert Louis Stevenson trail (GR70). If
we have the energy then our afternoon hike will take us along the
Corniche de Cevennes which looks down the Gorge of the Tarnon River.
Both of these hikes offer exceptional views over the Cevennes
mountains and we will pass ancient Sepulcres, Dolmens and Standing
Tonight we will stay at Le Cauvel again.
Day 6. The first day in the Tarn Gorge
After a 45 minute drive to Montbrun we will begin our first day on
the beautiful Tarn river. We will paddle all the way to
Saint-Chély-du-Tarn, making sure that we stop for a look around the
lovely village of St. Enimie. This is an absolutely stunning river
to paddle. The river is crystal clear and runs in a fabulously deep
gorge in remote country-side with a couple of ruined castles to see
along the way.
Tonight we will stay in the Auberge de la Cascade in the outstandingly beautiful village of Saint-Chély-du-Tarn. We will be able to walk up from the river beach to our hotel.
Day 7. The Second Day on the Tarn
After a leisurely breakfast we stroll down to the beach underneath
the bridge in the village and prepare for another beautiful days
canoeing on the Tarn. This section is just as beautiful as yesterday
and we will pass some lovely spots including the village of
Hauterives, an isolated village only reachable by river and then
later delightful village of La Malene. The river squeezes through
the famous Detroits (narrows) on our way to Les Baumes Basse where
we finish for the day.
We are again staying at the Auberge de la Cascade.
Day 8. The Final Day on the Tarn
A short drive will take us down-river to where we will begin our
final day on the Tarn. We will canoe from Les Vignes to
Rivière-sur-Tarn along a section of river which is just as dramatic
visually as the first two days but a little more bumpy. We will have
to concentrate as we ride the Class 2 and 3 rapids as we admire the
gorge scenery around us.
Once again we will be able to walk to our hotel which is the Domaine de la Cardabelle.
Day 9. A Hike on the Causse
A 35 minute drive we see us arrive at the small village of La Roque
St. Marguerite where we will begin our hike up to the Chaos de
Montpelier a truly strange outcrop of rocks which have been eroded
into exotic shapes. In the USA these shapes are known as Hoodoos. We
will spend several hours wandering numerous trails around this area
and experience the fabulous views over the plateau and the gorge.
An alternative is to hike from Cardabelle up to the ruined Château de Peyrelade and later to hike on the Causse Noir to the Ermitage Saint Michel above Le Rozier and La Jonte river.
A rather longer drive, of about 90 minutes, will take us across the bleak Cause Noir plateau landscape back to the Cevennes and the farmhouse at Le Cauvel.
Day 10. First Day on the Ardèche River
After a 2 hour drive to Balazuc on the section of the Ardèche called
the Defiles we will prepare ourselves for our introduction to the
exciting Ardèche river. On this first part we will canoe through
some small Class 2 rapids and riffles and pass some exotic cliffs
and pretty villages. Like the day before yesterday we will have to
be on our toes as we negotiate some boulder fields in-between some
calmer stretches of the river.
If we are not sated by that section then, after a short drive downstream to Vallon Pont D'Arc, we can paddle a short but interesting section of the river which takes us to a beach near our hotel. This section begins at the head of the famous Gorge de L'Ardèche and takes us canoeing through the legendary Pont D'Arc, a natural stone arch through which the river flows. This section will give us an idea for the spills and thrills to come on our next day on the Ardèche.
Alternatively we can add this section to our paddle tomorrow and instead visit the Chauvet Caves close to Pont D'Arc. This is a replica site (in the manner of Lascaux) which opened in 2015. The actual cave was only discovered as recently as 1994 and contains the oldest cave paintings in France. Our schedule for today will be arranged around whichever time-slot we can organise for the Chauvet visit. It may not be possible to fit in the paddle through the Defiles and it also depends on whether we wont an extra long days paddling on the Ardèche tomorrow.
A short walk (or drive) will take us to our lodgings at the Hotel Belved which is also in the Gorge.
Day 11. Canoeing the Gorge L'Ardèche
Today is the big day when we canoe through the fabulous Gorge
L'Ardèche. The Gorge is deep, the river is remote, and the rapids
are exciting. Between the rapids you can admire the fantastic
scenery before the Class 2 and Class 3 rapids grab your attention.
Most of them are short and sweet and several of them can easily be
run several times if you are in the mood.
This really is a wonderful stretch of river and we will take all day to enjoy it with a sumptious beach picnic half-way through the long day.
When we are finished we will go for a beer or an ice-cream in the beautiful village of Aigueze which overlooks the final stretch of our days paddling.
It is then a short drive back to Le Prieure d’Orniols where it all began.
Day 12. Departure and Farewells
When we are ready we will drive for an hour to the TGV station at
Avignon for our return to Paris and beyond.
If time allows, if say the train departure is after midday, then we can visit the old monastery at Chartreuse de Valbonne or the waterfalls at La Roque-sur-Cèze.
Extra Day. Another Day on the Tarn
Today we will drive up the Tarn tributary called the Dourbies and
paddle downstream to the confluence of the Tarn at Millau. We will
then continue downstream on the Tarn itself, perhaps going through
the artificial rapids on the left of an island, before passing
underneath the famous Millau Viaduct which soars 200m above us,
before we finish at the village of Peyres.
We'll fit this in after Day 9.
For the first two nights, and for our last night, we are at the Le
Prieure d'Orniols just outside the village of Goudargues. Situated
besides a small castle it is a beautiful small stone chambre d'hote.
Short walks are available either down to the river or up the lane towards the causse. Or a five minute drive will take us to the small town of Goudargues.
- In the the village La Bastide close to Goudargues
- Has a small swimming-pool overlooked by a castle
- Can walk down to the river for a wild swim
- Spring orchids are in flower down the lane
- Friendly welcome by our hosts
- Indoor or outdoor dining
On the third night we are at the Le Carmel near the centre of the
small town of Les Vans. The hotel is a former 19th Century Convent.
The hotel has a small swimming pool and we shall be dining in the pretty restaurant.
If you are in the mood for an early morning walk then the town is well worth a stroll around.
- Lovely welcome from Raymond and his staff
- It has an attractive swimming-pool
- Lovely small town to wander around
- A stylish restaurant for breakfast and dinner
On our fourth and fifth nights we are at Le Cauvel, which is a
converted farm-house in the heart of the Cevennes not far from
Barres-des-Cevennes. The place is run by Ambroise & Julia on green
and organic principles. We also return here on our 9th night.
The hotel sits in a setting of beautiful gardens and flowers with a terrace overlooking the valley. You can visit the smallholding which produces the vegetables for the kitchen.
We can access the Robert Louis Stevenson Trail directly from the farmstead and possibly visit the farm next door to visit the horses.
- Big friendly welcome from our hosts Ambroise & Julia
- Family run Chambre D'hôte in a farmhouse Chateau
- Direct access to the Robert Louis Stevenson trail
- Fantasic evenings with home-cooking and local specialities
- Chance to meet other hikers and perhaps donkeys too
- Beautiful location with fabulous views across the Cevennes
For our sixth and seventh nights we are at the Auberge de la Cascade
in Saint-Chély-du-Tarn. The hotel is almost the whole of this tiny
village which sits besides the Tarn over a single-lane bridge, on a
bend in the river under huge cliffs.
The village has a church and a remarkable tiny chapel snuggled underneath a cave in the cliff.
The hotel has a small pool for our use and we shall dine in its lovely restaurant overlooking the square.
- In a tiny secluded village all by itself
- Right on the river, with a swimming beach
- Access to the gorge rim hiking trails
- Visit a fascinating shop selling local hand-made jewellery
- See a tributary stream flowing into the Tarn via a waterfall
- Spectacularly picturesque in its gorge setting
For our eighth night we stay at the Chambre D'Hotes de Domaine de la
Cardabelle in Rivière sur Tarn. This lovely place is a short walk
from the river and nestles in the gorge with steeply rising
vineyards behind and the village nearby.
We have a swimming pool to use and an array of games including table-tennis and petanque.
- 5 minutes walk from the river-bank
- Family run Chambre D'hôte with vineyard
- Immediate access to hiking trails: visit the Château de Peyrelade or the Piédestal De Fontaneilles
- Tour the family winery and vineyard
- Close to small village with shops and cafes
- Beautiful location with stunning views
For the tenth night we stay at the Hotel Belved just south of
Vallons Pont D'Arc in the Ardèche Gorge itself. This comfortable
place has a small pool for our use and we shall dine here, probably
on the terrace, this evening.
After dinner we can walk a short distance down the road to some riverside camp-sites where we may be able to find some entertainment or at least a refreshing beer or two.
- 5 minutes walk from the river-bank
- Large swimming-pool and terrace
- Classic French restaurant
- Full breakfast facilities