Canyoning is a bucket full of French Alps adventures all rolled into one – slip down natural water-slides, leap into crystal clear pools, abseil down waterfalls and zipline across ravines!
The best Canyoning Descents in the French Alps
Canyoning is a great way to explore some of the French Alps’ most inaccessible yet beautiful landscapes. A canyon with its gushing waterfalls, natural swimming pools and boulders for clambering over is like a huge natural water park. If you enjoy jumping into water, scrambling up rocks and exploring in the great outdoors, you’re going to love canyoning.
Canyoning is the perfect group activity and there are canyons in the French Alps suitable for all levels of ability. Accompanied by your guide you’ll tackle a descent that suits the expectations of your group. If it’s your first time, you may want to go for an easier randonée aquatique, or if you’re a bit of a thrill-seeker and you’re confident in the water, you’ll want to tackle a steeper canyon with bigger jumps, abseils and slides. As a rule, if you can swim and you’re over 8 years old, you can go canyoning.
Gear wise, your canyoning guide will provide you with a full length wetsuit, a harness and a helmet. You should bring swimmers to wear under your wetsuit and some old trainers that still have a bit of grip and you don’t mind getting soaking wet.
Where to go Canyoning in the French Alps
Book a French Alps Canyoning Trip
Our canyoning partners in the French Alps employ experienced guides who are all certified with a Canyoning Brevet d’Etat so you can have fun and stay safe. If you 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. Having said that, it’s best to go with a qualified guide, you’ll be safer and you’ll have a lot more fun!
The high mountain terrain that makes Haute-Savoie a top destination for winter sports also makes it a canyoning hot spot. Spring meltwater fills rivers and carves out deep canyons perfect for exploration. If you’re new to the sport, check out the beautiful Canyon du Balme near magland, or if you’re an accomplished whitewater explorer don’t miss Le Canyon d’Angon near Annecy.
Canyoning La Barberine – Vallorcine, Chamonix
The Barberine canyon creates a natural border between France and Switzerland. An upper and lower section can either be done as a single trip or separately depending on the fitness of your group. The upper Barberine takes about 2.5 hours and is more technical with a succession of small waterfalls peppered with some excellent jumps. The lower section is a bit shorter and just pure fun. Enjoy lovely natural water slides and an 11 m jump. The Barberine is dam-released and the water level can rise suddenly – always check with local guides before attempting a descent.
Length: 1250 m Vertical drop: 500 m Descent time: 4 h 30 min
GPS coordinates: 46.062080, 6.936576
Canyoning Rots de Balme – Les Carroz
This is a super fun mid-length canyon near the Les Carroz d’Arâches mountain resort in Haute-Savoie. The canyon is in two parts, so you can choose to do the whole thing or just the top or bottom half. There’s 2 big waterfalls in the first half and a brilliant sequence of slides about halfway down the second half that kids (and adults) will love. Allow about two and a half hours for the full descent. The Balme is a safe canyon and there are exit points along its entire length.
Length: 1000 m Vertical drop: 180 m Descent time: 2 h 30 min
GPS coordinates: 46.047798, 6.614026
Canyoning La Belle aux Bois – Megève
La Belle aux Bois canyon is located right on the outskirts of the ski resort of Megève. It’s a fun yet straightforward canyon, and there’s a bit of everything including a series of waterfalls including a 30 m one, natural rock slides and some scrambling. Be aware of the strong current below the rock slide just before you get to the big 30 m waterfall. You can park right next to the start of the descent look for the Parking Canyon sign along Chemin du Maz.
Length: 1000 m Vertical drop: 80 m Descent time: 1 h 30 min
GPS coordinates: 45.847983, 6.632995
Canyoning Cascades de l’Arpenaz – Sallanches
Arpenaz is a long and technical canyon for experts only. Over the course of the 2 km descent you’ll drop down 1000 m from a starting altitude of 1550 m. You’ll encounter a series of big waterfalls including a 145 m cascade for which you’ll need a 60 m rope. Throughout the 8 hour descent, there’s only 2 escape routes, albeit easy to spot. The first is after 2-3 hours and the second is 3-4 hours further again. That combined with the big abseils means you need to be fully committed to take on this canyon. The walk in is about 2 h 30 min on the Refuge de Véran trail.
Length: 2250 m Vertical drop: 1000 m Descent time: 8 h
GPS coordinates: 45.974574, 6.640627
Canyoning Angon – Talloires, Annecy
Angon Canyon is located between Talloires and Angon in the Bornes-Aravis mountains on the east side of Lake Annecy. It’s a steep canyon and the descent involves a number of abseils including one at the very beginning when you drop down the 60 m Cascade d’Angon. Once you’re in there’s a succession of 15 to 20 m abseils mixed with jumps and slides, including a superb siphon slide nicknamed the letterbox. It’s best to keep your elbows in! And, what better way to end the descent than with a swim in Lake Annecy.
Length: 710 m Vertical drop: 250 m Descent time: 3 h 30 min
GPS coordinates: 45.833761, 6.228181
Canyoning Montmin – Faverges, Annecy
Great for first-timers, Montmin Canyon is one of the most popular canyoning descents around Annecy. Located at the foot of the Col de la Forclaz just south of Lake Annecy, you can expect, natural rock slides, 10 m abseils and jumps of up to 5 m into crystal clear water. With an easy 5 minute walk in and the same at the other end, Montmin is a great introduction to the sport and all round fun day out.
Length: 1200 m Vertical drop: 200 m Descent time: 3 h 30 min
GPS coordinates: 45.779568, 6.260510
Stretching from Chambéry in the west, to the 1992 Winter Olympics venue, Albertville, in the north and bordering Italy to the south and east, Savoie is a huge playground for mountain sports enthusiasts. Savoie is home to some of the French Alps best ski resorts including Méribel in the Three Valleys and Tignes in the Tarentaise. The department also boasts France’s first National Park, Vanoise, which borders Gran Paradiso National Park in Italy to make up the largest protected area in the Alps. With over 60 canyons in Savoie, there’s a descent to satisfy every canyoning enthusiast, whether it’s your first time, or you’re a seasoned pro. Some descents such as Lavanches and Hermillon will push you to your limits with their 100 m waterfalls, whilst others are just pure fun like Canyon de Pussy near Moûtiers.
Canyon de Pussy – Pussy, Moûtiers
The descent starts in the Alpine village of Pussy which is just 10 km from Moûtiers on the road up the Col de la Madeleine in the Lauzière mountains. Despite its name this canyon isn’t just for scaredy cats! Soaking wet abseils down waterfalls, fun slides and spectacular jumps into crystal clear (if cold) water makes Pussy Canyon popular with canyoning tour operators. Just the job if you’re looking for a refreshing day out in the Alps.
Length: 700 m Vertical drop: 120 m Descent time: 2 h 30 min
GPS coordinates: 45.550427, 6.455777
Canyoning Torrent d’Eau Rousse – La Léchère, Moûtiers
If you’re on holiday in the Tarentaise and you fancy giving canyoning a go, Les Eaux Rousses is ideal as an introduction to the sport. A mid-length canyon and not too steep, you’ll find a bit of everything – abseiling, natural water slides, scrambling and jumps from 1 to 4 metres. The canyon is located just outside La Léchère, 5 km from Moûtiers.
Length: 1200 m Vertical drop: 200 m Descent time: 2 h 30 min
GPS coordinates: 45.532565, 6.473191
Canyoning L’Ecot – Bonneval-sur-Arc
Carved out by the upper Arc river high in Vanoise National Park, L’Ecot Canyon provides an exceptional setting for a canyoning descent. It’s not all about the grandiose scenery, there’s a nice uninterrupted sequence of features through the 2000 m high granite gorge, including some excellent abseils, jumps and slides, making this one of the French Alps must-do descents. The icy cold water means neoprene boots and gloves are a must. Access is straightforward from the bridge just outside the hamlet of l’Ecot.
Length: 900 m Vertical drop: 125 m Descent time: 3 h
GPS coordinates: 45.380116, 7.089898
Canyoning Ruisseau de Grenant – La Bridoire, Chambéry
Grenant Canyon is located just south of Lac d’Aiguebelette less than 30 km from Chambéry and 50 km from Lyon. Lower in altitude than most canyons in the French Alps, Grenant is largely rain fed and can be run from early April. Grenant provides a great introduction to canyoning with a nice mix of technical features requiring abseiling and downclimbing and plenty of fun slides and jumps as well. The forested setting provides an enchanting atmosphere. Please be mindful of the local residents when parking and getting changed.
Length: 1500 m Vertical drop: 160 m Descent time: 3 h
GPS coordinates: 45.523628, 5.759296
Please leave a comment below if you need specific advice for your French Alps canyoning trip, or if you have any recommendations to help us improve this article. Happy holidays!