The south of France is a world-class destination for canyoning and the Alpes-Maritimes and Alpes-de-Haute-Provence regions have some of the best descents. The stunning scenery, crystal clear water and the variety of the canyons attract both holiday makers looking for a challenging activity and serious canyoning enthusiasts alike.
The best Canyoning Descents in the South of France
Canyoning is a bit like off-piste skiing – there are fantastic days when everything is doable, and days when the canyons are either dry or swollen with whitewater. A flooded canyon is extremely dangerous – you can’t fight against fast flowing water. In spring, some canyons are doable no problem, yet others are fed from sources high up in the mountains and the water is pumping dangerously fast. These canyons are to be avoided at all costs. It all depends on the weather conditions over the previous few days. A sudden rise in temperature can mean more snowmelt. Similarly, a lot of rain in the mountains or a thunderstorm can also result in a rapid rise in the water level and dangerously high water in the canyons.
It’s best to go with a qualified guide, but if you do decide to go it alone, it’s a good idea to check in with local guides on the current conditions, or try to recce the start or end of a canyon to make an assessment about water levels and whether the route is doable.
There are lots of companies offering canyoning, but make sure your guide is properly certified with the brevet d’état so you can enjoy the day safely. Recommended canyoning companies.
Where to go Canyoning in the south of France
Book a Canyoning Trip in the South of France
Our canyoning partners offer full-day and half-day canyoning adventures and cater to all abilities and group sizes. Canyoning adventures are staged in magnificent mountain terrain in remote locations. Take a guide, you’ll be safer and you’ll have a lot more fun.
Where the Alps meet the Mediterranean, steep slopes and fast running rivers have carved out deep canyons. Almost every valley leading to the sea has a canyon worth exploring. Add to this the glorious sunshine and a season that runs from April to October and you have a fantastic destination for your next canyoning holiday. The centre of canyoning in the Alpes Maritimes is the Roya Valley about an hour’s drive inland from Nice. This is where you’ll find the more adventurous descents.
Canyoning Maglia – Roya Valley
The vallée de la Roya in the massif du Mercantour is undoubtedly one of the best spots in France for canyoning and Maglia is one of the most popular canyons in the valley. With its turquoise water, jumps, slides and abseils, Maglia is one of the most technical and beautiful canyons in the Alpes Maritimes. To get the adrenalin pumping even more, you can extend the descent to include a 60m abseil. Located inland from Menton, close to Breil sur Roya.
GPS coordinates: 43.943901, 7.516716
Canyoning Cuébris – Esteron Valley
Cuébris is a more remote canyon and doesn’t get as busy others in the region. A 25 meter abseil near the beginning of the descent is followed by a walk through white water and jumps into crystal clear turquoise water. There’s nothing too difficult making it accessible to everyone. The Cuébris canyon is located near Roquesteron in the Esteron valley.
GPS coordinates: 43.874672, 7.008872
Canyoning Bollène – Vésubie Valley
The Bollène canyon in the Vésubie Valley in one of the most popular in the Cote d’Azur. The big attraction is the two big natural water slides, plus the usual canyoning features like jumps, white water and abseiling down waterfalls. You’ll need a full day for the Bollène descent. Located close to the village of Lantosque in the vallée de la Vésubie.
GPS coordinates: 43.985134, 7.320124
Canyoning Barbaira – Rochetta Nervina
Located across the Italian boarder, just 50 kms from Nice, the Barbaira canyon is a gem. Beautifully clear turquoise water, jumps, water slides and abseils down waterfalls all contribute to an unforgettable 4 hour descent. Barbaira is one of the most fun canyons in the region, yet it’s accessible to all, as the most challenging jumps and abseils aren’t compulsory. Head to the village of Rochetta Nervina by the Vintimille péage.
GPS coordinates: 43.889881, 7.599422
Canyoning Gorges du Loup
The Gorges du Loup canyon is an ideal introduction to canyoning. Located near Grasse, it’s the most well known whitewater scramble (randonnée aquatique) in the Alpes Maritimes. The Gorges du Loup canyon is a bit of a choose your own adventure in that there’s always an escape route if you choose not to tackle a feature. However, if you’re keen, there are some lovely jumps and slides, and the possibility to discover abseiling. The descent is suitable for kids from 6 years old.
GPS coordinates: 43.738833, 7.000450
Canyoning Gours du Ray – Gorges du Loup
The Gours du Ray is a beautiful canyon located above Gréolières in the Gorges du Loup valley. The canyon has everything you need from a descent – white water, jumps, slides and abseils. It’s a very accessible canyon and is suitable for everyone, adults and children alike. Although it’s a straightforward descent, it’s rarely visited which makes it feel like proper expedition, and a real escape from the busy coast.
GPS coordinates: 43.796355, 6.942364
Canyoning Cramassouri – Vallée de la Tinée
The Cramassouri canyon in the Tinée valley is superb for making the transition from white water scrambling to full on canyoning. On a 3 hour descent you’ll get progressively more challenging jumps, slides, and some abseiling making it great for families. A truly beautiful, yet very accessible canyon. Located 1 km beyond the village of La Courbaisse on the Route de la Tinée.
GPS coordinates: 43.931992, 7.175639
Canyoning Clue du Riolan, Sigale
The Riolan in the Esteron Valley is without doubt one of Europe’s most beautiful canyons, a real jewel. It’s not a very difficult canyon, but it’s a long, feature packed descent that requires you to be physically fit. You’ll find jumps, slides, abseils and long sections of whitewater walking and swimming. The canyon is 2.6 km long, drops 210 m and takes about 5 hours to complete. There’s a 15 minute walk in and the exit is straightforward, with an 8 km loop back on the road to the start.
Length: 2600 m Vertical drop: 210 m Descent time: 4 h 30 min
GPS coordinates: 43.885621, 6.936365
Alpes de Haute-Provence Canyoning
Where Provence meets the Alps, the Alpes de Haute-Provence department stretches from the Luberon in the west to the Mercantour National Park on the border with Italy. Steep mountain rivers fill with meltwater and carve out deep canyons, the most famous of which has to be the Gorges du Verdon, which at nearly half a kilometre deep has earned it the nickname of France’s Grand Canyon. Needless to say, opportunities for canyoning abound and you’ll find everything from leisurely aqua-randos to steep, technical descents suitable for experts only.
There are more than 15 canyons in and around the Gorges du Verdon. Some, like the Artuby canyon flank the Verdon gorge itself. Others like the Baudan Baou canyon take a bit more effort to get to. Couloir Samson is a display of nature at its most sublime and is labelled a “rando-aquatique” as it doesn’t involve any rope work. A canyoning trip in the Gorges du Verdon is a great way to discover some of the more isolated and spectacular scenery. Canyoning season typically runs from May to September.