Believe it or not, France has some volcanoes too. It is an ancient volcanic range, none of them are active anymore though.
They are located in Massif Central, some 200km west of Lyon. The highest is Puy de Sancy with 1886m. Volcanoes there, are called "Puys".
It is a great area for all outdoor activities : hiking, mountain biking and rock climbing in summer ; skiing, snowshoes and ice climbing in winter.
All of this in very well preserved area, with fewer people than in the Alps.
Getting ThereThe main town in the area is Clermont-Ferrand.
By train it is 03h30 South of Paris, and 2h West of Lyon.
There is a small airport but very little flights.
The best is to have a car, in order to access easily the sites you want to reach.
Especially because the area is wide (the larger National Park in France).
Puy de Sancy (1886 m)
Plomb du Cantal (1855 m)
Puy Mary (1787 m)
Mont Mézenc (1754 m)
Mont Lozère (1702 m)
Pierre-sur-Haute (1634 m)
Mont Aigoual (1567 m)
Signal de Maihe Biau (1469 m)
Puy de Dôme (1464 m)
Les Bois Noirs (1287 m)
Mont Caroux (1059 m)
Mont Bessou (977 m)
Hiking / Biking / Snowshoes
A lot of day hiking / biking on each volcanoes are there to satisfy your heart.
However the true adventure is to go for the whole traverse (north to south).
It takes 4 days by bike and a week if you walk (about 150 km).
The itinerary given here is mostly the same whether you hike or you bike, but the stages given here are for bikers.
Day 1 :
Start from Volvic (20 km NW of Clermont-Ferrand on track GR441.
Go across Puy de la Nugère, Puy de Jumes and Puy de la Coquille.
After Puy des Gouttes, you then go in between Puy de Chaumont, Puy de Fraisse, Puy de Côme and Puy de Pariou.
To finish ride on top Puy de Dôme and then get down to the small town of Laschamps.
From Laschamps, you pass between Puy Pelat and Puy de Mercoeur, then towards Puy de La Vache.
Next, you reach the village of Pessade where you go on track GR4.
You climb up Puy de la Tâche, then go round the Mont Dore circus, to reach Puy de Sancy (the highest Puy in Massif Central).
You end up nearby in the village of Super-Besse.
Day 3 :
From Super-Besse, keep following track GR4.
You will go across some high plateaux, less busy than the first two stages.
After Col de Serre you will reach Puy Mary. You then end up at Buron d'Eylac (hut).
Day 4 :
From Buron d'Eylac, you go across Col de Cabre and Col de Rombière.
You climb up Plomb du Cantal, and then down to Col de Prat de Bouc.
Next, go across a wide plateay you reach Vallée de l'Ander, and then through a few villages : Valuéjols, Le Sailhant and Andelat.
Your final destination is Saint-Flour.
You don't actually climb on volcanoes as they are quite low and round, and usually covered with grass.
In winter a few cascades are there in winter to freeze enough to be climbed (mostly in Vallée de Chaudefour).
the main sites are located in the department of Puy-de-Dôme.
The nicest is undoubtedly the Dent de la Rancune.
Other sites listed below all offer a good variety of climbing (are mentioned the number of routes, the difficulty, the type of stone, the height and the orientation)
Châteauneuf-Les-Bains : 78 routes / 4a to 7 c/ up to 35m / rhyolite / W
La Volpie : 30 routes / 4b to 7b / up to 60m / granit / SW
Le Rivalet : 58 routes / 3b to 7a / up to 80m / granit / S
Saurier : 38 routes / 3a to 7c / up to 50m / granit / S
Le Capucin : 69 routes / 4a to 7b+ / up to 80m / sancyite / E & NW
La Roche Tuilière : 24 routes / 3a to 7a / up to 110m / phonolite / S & E
Châteauneuf / St-Sauves : 27 routes / 5c to 8a+ / up to 35m / granit / W
Le Verrou : 47 routes / 4c to 7a / up to 45m / dyke / S & SW
Le Pavin : 24 routes / 4a to 6b+ / up to 25m / basalt / SW
Dent de la Rancune : 28 routes / 5a to 8a+ / up to 90m / dyke / N & S, W & E
Crêt de Coq : 29 routes / 2c to 6b+ / up to 130m / dyke / S
Books & Maps
No doubt that the best source for handbooks about Massif Central is Chamina.
In particular for :
> Hiking / Snowshoes
> Moutain Biking
> Massif Central traverse (describe above)
> Hotels and Guest Houses
For climbing one handbook covers it all : Escalade en Puy-de-Dôme.
And for Ice & Gully climbing, check this website.
For maps you will find everything you need for IGN maps covering Massif Central.
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