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Outdoor Activities on the French Riviera
Information on hiking, walking, mountain biking and other outdoor activities of the French Riviera region...
Did you know:
- 2,000 of the 4,200 plant species in France grow indigenously in the Alpes-Maritimes. Of those, 200 are rare varieties, and 30 endemic species
- The sun shines 320 days out of 365
- 80 percent of the area of the Alpes-Maritimes is mountain
- The sea is less than 40 Km from the tallest peak of the region
- Six of the mountain peaks are higher than 3,000 metres
- There is about 1,200 Km of river and stream in the area
There is an endless supply of activities for the adventurous and much useful information available.
Most tourist offices have information brochures in English. Look out for the RandOxygène guides (in French) or call the Conseil Général Alpes-Maritimes.
Several of the Tourist Offices have websites with details on activities in each area.
Before you head out to the hills you may want to check the weather.
Note: Many forested areas of the Var region are closed in summer to prevent fire hazard. For up-to-date information on road and park closures: call for a recorded message (in French): Tel: 04 98 10 55 41.
- Côte d'Azur Tourisme presents all outdoor activities in the region: Click here
This nature reserve was established in the northern reaches of the Riviera in 1979. It has an area of 68,000 hectares. The 2 primary functions of the park are the protection of existing rare flora and fauna species and the re-introduction of others.
It provides an eco-tourism experience in a natural environment.
Cars and mountain bikes are prohibited in most parts of the park.
Many guided sports activities take place in the rivers and valleys and on the slopes and rock faces of this park.
- Mercantour Administrative Office, Nice
Tel: 04 93 16 78 88
Fax: 04 93 88 79 05
The Conseil Général des Alpes-Maritimes publishes a set guide books, Les Guides Randoxygène, available free at Tourist Offices throughout the region. There are editions for walks in the coastal area (Rando Pays Côtier), inland (Rando Moyen Pays) and the higher hills (Rando Haut Pays). The books have marked maps and descriptions of the walks and details on how to reach the start (in French only). Editions are also available for via ferrata, mountain biking and canyoning. The Conseil Général's website RandOxygène.org has also has hike details (in French).
Marked hiking routes
The French Hiking and Walking Federation (Fédération Française de la Randonnée Pedestre - FFRP) is the overseeing body for all marked and maintained walking routes in France. It provides information and guide-books (most in French) for walkers in the area.
Six primary hiking paths have been marked and mapped in the mountains of the Alpes-Maritimes. These walks are signposted and have safety information at certain points. Group walks can be arranged or guides hired, or else get the Institut Géographique National (IGN) Top 25 maps which have the routes marked and numbered. Available at bookshops and newsagents (presse) throughout the region.
All nationally recognised trails are categorised as follows:
- GR (Grand Randonnée): Registered hiking trails that often run across the entire country
- GRP (Sentiers de Grande Randonnée de Pays): Registered regional trails that will take you around a particular region for several days
- PR (Sentiers de Promenade): Walking and hiking trails for short circuits, lasting several hours
The French route marking system shows paths by means of signs and blazes. During the summer months, marked paths may be closed for fire hazard.
- For clear explanations of the waymarks, or blazes (balises): Click here
- Website Riviera Rambling (in English) has clear route descriptions on local marked hiking trails with personal comment, maps and Google Earth downloads for GPS.
Local hiking organisations
- Comité Départemental de la Randonnée Pédestre (in French)
At: 4 avenue de Verdun, 06800 Cagnes-sur-Mer
Tel / Fax: 04 93 20 74 73
- Comité Départemental de Course d'Orientation (in French)
At: 23, vieux chemin de Gairaut, Le Rubis D, 06100 Nice
There are many climbs in the region. The best facilities for mountaineering are in the Mercantour. Rock-climbing faces vary in surface and grade and there is a climb to suit all abilities, particularly in the foothills of the Alpes and the Roya Valley, and the coastal hills for beginners or training.
Professional guides are available and recommended in most areas. They should hold a diploma from the Ministry of Youth and Sports, and a qualification from the Mountaineering and Rock-climbing Federation (Fédération Française de la Montagne et de l'Escalade - FFME)
Information (in French) is available on the grade, training options and availability of guides from:
- Comité Départemental de la Montagne et de l'Escalade (in French)
Tel: 04 93 24 98 34
- Bureau des Guides de la Bévéra
Tel / Fax: 04 93 04 07 19
For Via Ferrata climbing, a rock face is permanently rigged with rungs and cables. This enhances safety in the climb and makes the sport accessible to the less experienced climber.
The mountains of the Alpes-Maritimes have 8 Via Ferrata climbs with departure points at Puget-Théniers, Auron, La Colmiane, Lantosque, Tende, La Brigue, Peille and La Moulière. The website RandOxygène has details of all the Via Ferrata itineraries in the region.
- To download the Via Ferrata guide: Click here (PDF in French)
- Via Ferrata climbs in France: Click here (in French)
There are many routes specifically for Mountain biking (Vélo Tout Terrain - VTT).
Rando VTT has routes, regulations and practical tips. It is available in English from Tourist Offices or from the Conseil Général des Alpes-Maritimes.
VTT France has information on mountain bike routes throughout France. The website lists events, clubs and mountain biking itineraries.
- For information on mountain biking routes in the Alpes-Maritimes: Click here (in French)
The Fédération Française de Cyclisme is the French cycling authority. It organises events and controls a network of clubs around the country in various disciplines including, VTT (mountain biking), BMX, road racing, velodrome racing and polo teams playing on bikes.
- To find a local cycling club in any discipline: Click here (in French)
- Provence Cycling Federation (Fédération Française de Cyclisme-Provence - FFC) (in French)
Tel: 04 91 12 23 12
Fax: 04 91 12 23 14
Canoeing is well represented in the local rivers. Navigable rivers are classified into six grades, Classes I to VI. There are many organisations providing training, transport and equipment for trips, one day or several. The sport is monitored by the Fédération Française de Canoë-Kayak It has information on appropriate rivers and expert guides, where necessary.
This sport is allowed in the summer only, generally 1 April to 31 October.
There are strict rules concerning the responsible use of all canyoning sites, as regards protection of the ecology, and treatment of the site.
There are about 70 recognised canyoning locations in the region, of which 25 to 30 are particularly difficult. Refer to "Gorges and Canyons" in the RandOxygène collection.
The Conseil General des Alpes-Maritimes publishes a guide book detailing 45 routes that can be followed on horseback. These range from one to several day-long routes, from the coast to the high mountains. The guide book, Équitation, (in French only) is part of the Guides Randoxygène range and is available free at Tourist Offices throughout the region.
- It can also be viewed online: Click here (PDF)
There are many caves worth exploring, but it is advisable to join an organised club or hire a guide. Information from:
- Comité départemental de Spéléologie - Nice
Tel: 04 92 97 46 85
- Comité départemental de Spéléologie du Var (in French)
Tel: 04 94 31 29 43
Snakes & Frogs of France
Many people encounter snakes while hiking. Website Herp France in comprehensive and in English and explains all the snakes, lizards and frogs of France in detail.