Canyoning in the Vercors Massif
The Vercors is home to some of France’s most spectacular canyoning descents! Jump into pools of crystal clear water, abseil down waterfalls and slide down natural water slides.
The best Canyoning Descents in the Vercors
The Vercors Massif is a mountainous plateaux straddling the departements of Isère and Drôme in the French pre-Alps. Fast flowing rivers originating high in the Alps have carved deep canyons through the limestone making the Vercors a paradise for canyoning. Within the boundaries of the Natural Regional Park there are more than a dozen canyons to explore.
Experienced canyoning enthusiasts will love Le Ruzand and the upper section of Les Ecouges with its huge 68 metre waterfall abseil. First timers will enjoy more accessible descents like Les Carmes and Le Betton which aren’t as committing, but still have a good mix of smaller abseils, jumps, slides and whitewater swimming.
A commercial canyoning trip will favour the most beautiful and spectacular descents over the more technical canyons. That makes canyoning a great fun group activity, where the thrill-seekers in the group can take on the big jumps and the guide can help more tentative members of the group climb or abseil down.
So, if you have a sense of adventure and you want to experience the wild side of the Vercors, a canyoning trip is hard to beat!
Watch this: Canyoning Vercors with Vercors & Cie
Best time of year to go canyoning in the Vercors
Whether you can safely run a canyon will depend on the volume of water flowing through. Your canyoning guide will know which canyons are working best on any given day. In the Vercors, the canyoning season begins in March when the snows begin to melt and runs through to the end of September. In spring with the high volume of cold water it’s best to wear a drysuit.
In the summer, the water flow is changeable and dependant on rainfall in the drainage basin higher up in the mountains. The water is still cold but with the hot sunshine you’re comfortable in a wetsuit.
Book a Vercors Canyoning Trip
Our canyoning partners in the Vercors 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 canyoning 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 always best to go with a qualified guide, you’ll be safer and you’ll have a lot more fun!
Where to go Canyoning in the Vercors Massif
Canyoning Les Ecouges (Top section) – Saint-Gervais
Located halfway between Grenoble and Valence, the Canyon des Ecouges is considered to be one of the most spectacular descents in France. You enter a natural environment that is otherworldly as you take on a huge 68 metre abseil, natural water-slides and jumps into crystal clear pools. This is a technically challenging descent, so make sure you take a guide. For a full day’s adventure, you can integrate this descent with the easier lower section.
Length: 500 m Vertical drop: 261 m Descent time: 3 h 30 min
GPS coordinates: 45.177461, 5.498117
Canyoning Les Ecouges (Lower section) – Saint-Gervais
The lower section of Les Ecouges is a great descent if you’re new to canyoning. It’s a half-day trip, the actual descent taking about 2 and a half hours. Everything you expect from a canyoning trip is here – jumps, slides, white water swimming and some short abseils, the highest being 12 metres. Pure fun!
Length: 1000 m Vertical drop: 220 m Descent time: 2 h 30 min
GPS coordinates: 45.179066, 5.493580
Canyoning Les Carmes – Saint-Pierre-de-Chérennes
Les Carmes is an accessible canyon suitable for newcomers to the sport and kids from 8 years old. The lower In a setting of lush vegetation and turquoise natural swimming pools you follow the Ruisseau des Carmes for 1.5 km. The canyon has all the jumps, water-slides and whitewater swimming you need for a super-fun half-day in the Vercors. An access point mid-way along the route means you can split the descent into two trips.
Length: 1500 m Vertical drop: 250 m Descent time: 3 h 00 min
GPS coordinates: 45.110592, 5.382365
Canyoning Le Versoud – La Rivière
Le Versoud is a superb canyon. There’s a 15 minute walk in to reach the start of the descent. Expect lots of ropework, jumps, slides and refreshing emerald green pools. Experienced canyoning enthusiasts can start the descent above the Cascade des Brouillards, a 150 m waterfall. The full upper and lower Versoud takes about 7 hours. Commercial trips stick to the lower section.
Length: 400 m Vertical drop: 80 m Descent time: 1 h 45 min
GPS coordinates: 45.218808, 5.501149
Canyoning Le Betton – Saint-Benoit-en-Diois
Located in the Vallée de la Roanne, Le Betton canyon is a great option as an introduction to the sport. It’s best to do it when there’s a lot of water and the descent becomes a sequence of brilliant waterslides. Huge fun for groups and families, this is one of the few descents where canyoning guides will take kids from as young as 8 years old.
Length: 1500 m Vertical drop: 260 m Descent time: 2 h 00 min
GPS coordinates: 44.654925, 5.259752
Canyoning Le Léoncel – Oriol-en-Royans
With the waterfalls and the dense vegetation, Le Léoncel feels like a tropical river. The descent is long but not too steep and you’ll take on a sequence of a dozen or so waterfalls from 5 to 15 metres that you’ll either jump or abseil down. There’s also 3 good waterslides and lots of smaller jumps. Le Léoncel isn’t a technical descent but it is quite long so you need to be quite fit to enjoy the day. Access is straightforward.
Length: 3000 m Vertical drop: 302 m Descent time: 4 h 30 min
GPS coordinates: 44.982280, 5.263261
Canyoning l’Infernet – Quaix-en-Chartreuse
L’infernet is located in Quaix-en-Chartreuse just 25 minutes outside Grenoble. It’s a short descent (just 2 hours) but it’s challenging with a lot of ropework and it definitely helps if you’ve had some previous abseiling experience. A 25 metre abseil marks the entrance to this steep and narrow canyon. To enjoy the Infernet, you’ve got to be comfortable in fast moving water. The volume of water can be quite intimidating with gushing waterfalls and surging whitewater.
Length: 500 m Vertical drop: 180 m Descent time: 2 h 30 min
GPS coordinates: 45.250478, 5.714169
Canyoning Le Ruzand – Saint-Pierre-de-Chérennes
Le Ruzand may be less well known than Les Ecouges, but this canyon is a gem. It’s a long and sustained descent for experienced canyoning enthusiasts only. A highlight has to be the 150 metre waterfall that you descend in 3 stages; 25 metres, 50 metres and 80 metres. The view from the top over the Isère Valley is breathtaking. The big abseil is followed by a sequence of waterfalls over petrified limestone. A proper full-day’s adventure.
Length: 1000 m Vertical drop: 420 m Descent time: 5 h 30 min
GPS coordinates: 45.126303, 5.387970
Please leave a comment below if you need specific advice for your Vercors canyoning trip, or if you have any recommendations to help us improve this article. Happy holidays!