The Massif Central is the third biggest mountain range in France after the Alps and the Pyrenees. From far, this is the less densely populated area in France, separating with several hundreds of kilometers the South West to South East.
Unlike these, Massif Central is formed of old mountains. Many very different regions form this range, from the volcanic mountains of the Auvergne, in the North, to the Mediterranean provence-like hills that end near Montpellier, in the south.
Meantime, via granitic no-mans-land like the Margeride and the Mont Lozère, where poet Stevenson's wrote his famous "Travels with a Donkey".
Where also lie the wide desertic "Causses", where gorgeous rivers dug some of the most impressive gorges one can find in France.
Considering the lack of objects related to the Massif Central, so far on SP, this page is a bit small, but I will enrich it every time it is necessary. I am open to any suggestions and ready to give editing rights to anyone interested.
The creation of sub-ranges of the Massif Central is also warmly welcome.
Currently the only following areas are presented on SP :
* Volcanoes of the Auvergne, which encapsulates the "Chaîne des Puys", the Sancy, Cantal and Cézallier all together.
* Dent de la Rancune & Crêt de Coq, two rock-climbing spots located in the Chaudefour valley, east in the Sancy massif.
* An album of the moutains of the Cantal, the area of the Auvergne mountains I know the most.
* The Monédières, an excellent page about these hills by desainme, despite he was not there himself.
* The Ardèche mountains, which make one sub-region of the Vivarais, introduced here as a simple album but with great pictures.
* The Gorges du Tarn and the Gorges de la Jonte, the two most impressive gorges in the region of the Causses.
* The Burgundian Cliffs are not exactly in the Massif Central, but from a geological point of view one of its very remote branches connected to the Beaujolais. Since we cannot include it in the Alps or the Vosges (another SP chaos) let's include it here.
* The Montpellier backcountry (on MBPost) and surroundings of the Pic Saint-Loup.
In order to improve current submissions and contribute to organize future ones, here is below a map of the main regions of the Massif Central.
Regions and Map
View Massif Central in a larger map
Getting There"Getting" to the Massif Central highly depends on which part you plan to go.
Massif Central is a huge desertic place which separates various more populated regions of France.
If you come by car, you should first consider where you come from, and which side. It is better to "enter" the Massif Central from the closest side of your final destination, considering that apart from some motorways, other roads including National roads are very inconvenient for long-distance driving.
Don't try to cross the whole Massif Central by road, you'll be exhausted !
However it is crossed by 2 or 3 interesting motorways :
- The A75 from Clermond Ferrand to Montpellier, oriented from North to South, whose journey includes the famous cross of the viaduct of Millau over the Gorges du Tarn.
- The A89 from Brive to Clermond-Ferrand goes very close to the Auvergne volcanoes.
- The unfinished A68 takes you from Toulouse to Albi, and a part until Rodez.
If you come by plane, you'll need for sure to use the local public transport network after. There are some very scenerical railways lines that cross the Massif Central. Also busses, but the public transport network in France is what it is, and in this little-densely populated regions, it is likely that you can wait a whole half-day for some bus...
There are airports in these cities:
- Clermond Ferrand
However if you come from abroad you should perhaps consider flying to Paris, Toulouse, or any major city, and use the "TGV" to get to a secondary regional city like Limoges, Brive, Rodez, etc.
Accomodations in mountainsThere are hundreds of possible accomodations in every of the localities in the massif central: Campsites, B&B ("Gîtes d'étapes", "Chambres d'hôtes"), etc.
As for real "mountain" accomodation, in the way we imagine them in the Alps or Pyrenees for example, there are also of such sort.
In the website www.refuges.info, the Massif Central section refers a very interesting list of moutain-refuges, cabans (unguarded), or traditional B&B accomodations but whose location is particularly convenient to serve as mountain accomodation :
As for wild-camping (or bivouac), there is no real regulation about it, and the freedom is quite big. Generally, I would say you camp camp almost everywhere you want in the mountain without being disturbed.
I would almost say thay you could camp on the border of some secondary roads, since locals are quite peaceful people, who won't make fuss except if you leave a ton of rubbish.
If you are caught such a situation that you encounter someone nearby who ask you to justify the presence of your camp here (old people are not always familliar to hiking and sometimes of distrustful tendency), start to talk, explain where you come from and what's the plan of your visit. Fore sure, you'll start a pleasing and friendly conversation.
Red TapeThere is no real "Red tape" to signal in the Massif Central... except perhaps... fences !
Unlike Alps or Pyrenees, Massif Central doesn't have a strong tradition of mountain-hiking, especially amongst its inhabitants. Most of the areas of the Massif Central are dedicated to the agriculture and cattle-breeding.
Often, when you decide to leave the beaten track and hike some less known areas, you'll find yourself blocked by some fence you need to climb... I once scratched the skin of my leg quite severely trying to walk over one of these fences in the Cantal...
Let's also mention that those fences also often contain cows, the race of the "Auvergnate' cows.. as famous for their fine brown hair than for their stubborness ! I also found myself once or twice in the situation of trying to reach as soon as possible the fence at the second end of the field, chased by a wall of furious running Auvergnates !