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Waterfalls In France | 10 of the Best

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Walking, Hiking & Trail Running

If you like waterfalls, you'll love what's on offer in France. Here's an introduction to some of the country's finest

Frozen water that spikes like the quills of a hedgehog, extinct volcanoes where rivers plunge into ‘gigantesque’ rock cauldrons, and torrents tumbling amidst limestone rocks that look like holey cheese; our guide to 10 of the best waterfalls in France has all of this, and more. 

There’s just something about a waterfall that beguiles the senses. The fractions of light that send rainbows bouncing through the foam, the thunderous roar of gallons and gallons of water falling vertically. The sheer joy of standing under the torrent yourself and giving your hair a good old scrub in nature’s power shower.

Waterfalls have captured the minds of artists and poets for centuries, and formed the backdrop of countless adventure stories for children. These days we are, of course, fed a rich diet of long exposure shots by some of the best photographers in the world (often on social media). These photos transform the most ferocious torrents of water into soft white lines that look like gently exhaled smoke.

France might not have waterfalls the height of Angel Falls or the scale of Iguazú, but the geographical diversity of the country means that there are plenty here that are worth chasing. Let’s discuss them.

Cascades du Hérisson

Pictured: Les Cascades du Herisson in the French Jura mountains. Credit: Getty Images

Where: Jura, Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, East France

Jura’s ‘hedgehog falls’ spill down in spiky levels over layers of limestone, and when they freeze during the winter the water forms icicles that look like the quills of a hedgehog. There are 31 different falls here, the highest of which is 65m. Simply put, this is an incredibly pretty part of France. 

Fer-à-Cheval

Credit: Getty Images

Credit: Getty Images

Where: Haute-Savoie, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, East France 

Cirques are mountain depressions carved out by glaciers, and here at Fer-à-Cheval is the largest in the Alps. Nature then added a little water, and left us with one of the most visually spectacular waterfall destinations you’ll find anywhere in France. The cirque is vast, measuring 5km across, and skinny waterfalls pepper the towering limestone cliffs; giving off the impression that the mountains are drooling. Come here, and we guarantee you’ll be drooling as well (at the view, that is). 

Cascade de Piscia di Gallo 

Pictured: The 50m-high Piscia Di Gallo. Credit: Getty Images

Where: Corsica

The Piscia di Gallo, or ‘cock’s piss’, is much prettier than the name would suggest. Pouring down with a confident jet from 50 metres up. there are even little turquoise pools at the bottom of it for swimming in. In the midst of the Forêt de l’Ospédale, a mountainous pine forest, the spine of Corsica is perfect for hiking. In the hot, summer months, the dehydrated ‘rooster’ often runs out of urine.

Baume-les-Messieurs

Where: Jura, Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, East France

Baume-les-Messieurs is so full of lumps, bumps and funny shapes that it looks like a sleeping giant. The name translates as gentleman’s balm, or ointment, but don’t let the name put you off. We’d say this place is soothing for all genders. In the winter, the falls create a frozen ice sculpture that wouldn’t look out of place in one of them Disney films. Set in an extremely picturesque valley between tabletop mountains, the village of Baume-les-Messieurs is almost as pretty as the main waterfall here.

La Grande Cascade de Gavarnie

Pictured: The highest waterfall on France’s mainland. Credit: Getty Images 

Where: Hautes-Pyrénées, Occitanie, South-West France

The Cirque du Gavarnie is a UNESCO World Heritage site, ringed with mountain peaks, many of which stand at over 3,000m high. It might look inaccessible, but it’s actually easy to reach by car (you can parking in Gavarnie village). Standing at 423m and fed by snow melting from glaciers, La Grande Cascade de Gavarnie is the highest waterfall in mainland France.

Cascades du Flumen 

Pictured: The Cascades du Flumen. Credit: Anna Richards

Where: Jura, Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, East France

Just outside the town of Saint-Claude, the Cascades du Flumen feel a million miles from civilisation. It’s reached via a gravel track that becomes a rocky, mossy, path just before the falls. Three waterfalls in a line tumble into the shallow river, creating a fine mist in the basin between cliffs. Go in autumn to see waterfalls shine bright white against the flame-coloured leafy backdrop. 

Cascade de Saint Chély

Pictured: Cascade de Saint Chély. Credit: Getty Images

Where: Lozère, Occitanie, South France

If you think having a fountain in your garden is fancy, imagine having a whole waterfall. Now imagine that said waterfall actually spills down from your house. In the medieval village of Saint-Chély-du-Tarn, there’s exactly that set-up going on. The Cascade de Saint Chély pours down over lumpy moss which protrudes growth-like over the Tarn River, showering kayakers that are navigating the Tarn Gorges. 

Les Cascades du Cornillou 

Pictured: The River Rhue flowing in Cantal. Credit Getty Images

Where: Cantal, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, Central France 

The craters of the Auvergne’s extinct volcanoes give the impression of being on a lush, green, moon. In the Artense massif, the Gabacut stream pours sharply down into the River Rhue, creating the Cascades du Cornillou. Surrounded by beech trees, the scooped basin at the bottom is called a ‘marmite de géant’ (aka giant’s cauldron). It’s a fantastic spot for canyoning. 

Cascade du Cirque de Saint Même 

Pictured: Cirque de Saint-Même. Credit: Hugo Clément

Where: Savoie, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, East France

In the hiker’s paradise of Chartreuse Regional Park, encircled by immense limestone cliffs, pour three different waterfalls; the highest of which requires a scramble to reach. The light here is all but blotted out by foliage and the towering rock faces. Swimming in the pools at the bottom is possible but, be warned, the water is cold. 

Les Cascades du Sautadet

Pictured: Cascades du Sautadet. Credit: Jametlene Reskp

Where: Gard, Occitanie, South France

The Cascades du Sautadet are a bit of an adventure playground, with many of the crystal-clear pools perfect for wild swimming. They’re accessed on foot from the fortified, medieval village of La Roque-sur-Cèze via a windy, undulating trail. Many of the limestone rocks at this location have been eroded into surreal shapes, and resemble, in places, great big blocks of Emmental cheese. 

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