Canoeing on the Ardèche River is an enjoyable outdoor activity suitable for everyone. Children, families, beginners and anyone who loves canoeing or kayaking will find a pristine natural spectacle along the canyon. Discover the best canoeing descents on the Ardèche River, from the shortest of just 8 km to the longest of 36 km, covering the entire canyon (30 km), and including Pont-d’Arc.
Canoeing on the Ardèche River is guaranteed fun. But what can you expect from this experience? In this article I will try to describe what awaits you along the various routes so that you can find the best canoeing descents on the Ardèche for your holiday in France.
On the map, you can see the routes of the best canoe tours on the Ardèche. The black line represents the shortest tour of 8 km, while the red line shows you the 12 km route. The 24 km route is drawn in blue, and in green, you can make out the 32 km tour. Last but not least, the 36 km route is coloured in purple.
What to expect from a canoe tour on the Ardèche:
The Ardèche area, named after its most important river, is part of the Auvergne-Rhone-Alps region in southern France. The reason why canoe and kayak descents are so famous here, is because they allow you to admire wonderful natural sights such as the Pont d’Arc in a fun and unconventional way. Also, despite the fact that this is a very mountainous area with several routes leading through the Gorges de l’Ardèche, canoeing here is easier than in many other places in France, making it a good fit for a larger pool of people.
With its spectacular arch, the Pont d’Arc, a rock that looks like a bridge naturally carved out by the river over centuries, boasts some impressive dimensions: 60 m long and 54 m high. This, alongside the Gorges de l’Ardèche that cross the limestone plateau of the river for around 30 km between the municipalities of Vallon-Pont-d’Arc and Saint-Martin-d’Ardèche, are places to see at least once in a lifetime.
The Canoe or Kayak tour
You can arrive by car in one of the two towns of Vallon-Pont-d’Arc or Saint-Martin-d’Ardèche. Once you arrive at the base of the operator, they will provide you with the appropriate equipment for your tour and accompany you to the starting point. Most routes begin near Vallon-Pont-d’Arc, so if you book with a provider in Saint-Martin-d’Ardèche, you will be taken north.
Once you arrive at the starting point, the provider will give you the final set of instructions and then let you depart by yourself. You will be able to paddle at your own speed, stop on a small beach to rest, have a picnic or lie down to sunbathe. Hence, even if you choose the shortest route, you can enjoy a whole day out in nature. Finally, once you arrive at your destination, you will be taken back to your cars.
Choose the best canoe tours on the Ardèche
Easy tours – black and red:
These two routes are considered fairly easy because, being relatively short, they can be tackled even by the youngest and inexperienced. Along the way, there are many small beaches that are perfect for a nice break by the river. Both routes are outside of the actual Gorges de l’Ardèche.
- The 8 km route (black) starts in Vallon and ends in Chames, just after Pont d’Arc. Along the route, there are 3 rapids: Les Blachas, Les Branches and Le Charlemagne, of which the last one is the most challenging (class III WW).
- The 12 km route (red) starts earlier, in Les Mazes, and ends, just like the previous route, in Chames. Along the route, there are 3 rapids, the same as mentioned above, and 3 “Glissière” that are slides made to overcome certain parts of the river. If you are curious to see what these slides look like you can check them out here.
In addition to these two trails, you can find others, such as the 6 km one. These routes are also easy and allow you to admire the Pont d’Arc.
Intermediate tour – blue:
- The 12 km route (blue): This is the only route mentioned in this article that does not allow you to see the Pont d’Arc. Indeed, it begins exactly where the two previous routes end – i.e. in Chames, and ends in Sauze. While you don’t get to see the famous natural arch on this route, it is still more than worthwhile as it stretches along the spectacular Gorges of Ardeche. Along the way, you will encounter 8 rapids. The most exciting ones will be La Dent Noire, which you will encounter third, as well as the sixth and seventh, which are: La Toupine and La Pastière.
Difficult tour – green and purple:
The trails that are seen as the most difficult are the ones that are the longest This is because they require a certain level of stamina and not because of any difficulties that you will encounter along the way. As such, even canoeing beginners, given that they are in good health and relatively fit, can partake in these tours. Both of the routes described below can be done in two days. In fact, it is possible to spend the night in one of the camping areas set up along the route (there are 4 of them!) and continue the descent the next day. An unforgettable and adventurous two-day experience.
- The 32 km route (green) starts from Vallon and ends in Sauze and is the sum of the 8 km route and the 24 km route. Canoeing champions have managed to cover this stretch in less than 1 hour and a half, the record is 1 h and 28 minutes. However, there is no reason to be so fast. Between rapids and small beaches, you can spend one or two magical days out in nature.
- The 36km route (purple) combines the 12km route and the 24km route. This route is the most extensive and the most suitable if you want an authentic and unforgettable experience. 8 rapids and 3 “Glissière” is what you can look forward to.