Halfway between hiking, climbing and touring, this activity was designed to delight any thrill-seeker with a love of breath-taking landscapes.
A Via Ferrata, which translates as iron path in Italian, is a route built into a rock wall with fixed ropes, ladders, bridges, zip lines and more, with their purpose being to facilitate progression and ascent. Each route is guaranteed to get the heart pumping and test your nerve, but rest assured, all the equipment is perfectly solid and security controlled.
Whether done in the traditional way or just for fun, the idea of a Via Ferrata course is to follow a rope, which is sometimes metal, fixed in the rock with relay points and specific steps. One of the great things about this activity is that it can be enjoyed with family and friends, but a word to the wise, we would recommend you tell the most fearful members of the group to avoid looking down.
Read on for our selection of the most incredible Via Ferrata courses in France. Try not to be put off by the height, because if you’ve got the determination, they are all well within your reach.
Le Rocher du Saint Julien, Drôme
Considered to be one of the most beautiful Via Ferratas in Europe, this route in the Buis-les-Baronnies is sure-fire crowd pleaser, whether you’re a purist or a novice! On the menu, 1,600 metres of Via Ferrata, boasting a 288-metre vertical drop and offering a selection of different routes depending on abilities. No need to panic, with 4 different routes dishing up 4 different difficulty levels, there is something for everyone here making it ideal for the summer season.
- Initiation, “La Pitchouno” (The Little One)
Let’s kick off with an easy one, this Via Ferrata is for beginners and children. Taking around one hour to complete, “La Pitchouno” on St Julien rock is about 170m long with 60-metres of elevation. It includes two bridges, a Nepali bridge, a climbing net, a beam and a monkey bridge. This course is ideal for newcomers who are ready to get acquainted with the activity, enjoy all the sensations the Via Ferrata has to offer and testing themselves before facing a tougher route.
- “”La Rompo Quieu” (or “La Casse-Cul”)
Stay alert and get ready to fall in love with this dream setting! The “Casse-Cul” is the most difficult Via Ferrata on the Rock of St Julien, and it won’t take you long to understand why… The route stretches along 640 meters of rock face, lasts around three hours and challenges you to multiple obstacles to cross, including Nepali bridges, footbridges, beams and monkey bridges.
Saint Jacques Hill, Vaucluse
Cap-sur-Cavaillon, in the Vaucluse. The Via Ferrata of Saint-Jacques hill is a must-do for any fans of this nerve-racking activity, as there is a number of diverse and challenging obstacles to cross. In the heart of an exceptional landscape surrounded by Mont Ventoux, Monts du Vaucluse, Luberon, Durance Valley and Alpilles, you’ll find it hard to keep your eyes from popping out!
Once again, there are several routes available to satisfy any adventurer and all with varying degrees of difficulty. The “Via Natura” loop – Playful and super-accessible, this two-hour route of the Cavaillon Via Ferrata is an ideal place to start if your new to this activity or for a fun family outing. The “Via Souterrata” loop – More physically demanding, this route is more suited to athletes. Allow 2 to 4 hours of hard effort, including detours through the Colombier caves with a picturesque crossing over the Beaumes de Combarelles. Bursting with beauty and impressive landscapes, this route around the Cavaillon is sure to satisfy all your senses.
La Guinguette, Ain
Note to fellow Via Ferrata-ists, La Guinguette offers a choice of courses suitable for both amateurs and seasoned athletes. Accessibility is the word, and if you’ve just discovered this activity, find yourself quickly conquering this playful Via Ferrata. On the menu: a secure path from the entrance and, after about thirty minutes, the main course is plotted along the side of the mountain. In the heart of sublime landscapes, including the Albarine Valley, feed you need for adrenaline with ladders, monkey bridges, footbridges and cross passages.
La Panoramique, Pyrénées-Orientales
Climbers in search of an adrenaline fix will meet their match with this Via-ferrata! Covering a distance of about 900-metres and offering a 25-metre wall for appetisers, “La Panoramique” is a tricky route that won’t easily be tamed. Hosting fun and challenging crossings, this course boasts monkey bridges, Himalayan bridges, sloping passages and rugged roads. Clip up your helmet and get ready to experience a thrilling Via Ferrata ready to delight even the most athletic!
Another famous route is the Liaucous Via Ferrata. Perfectly in harmony with nature, this 1000m course offers two options of varying difficulty, both guaranteed to blow you away with their magnificent panoramas. Start and finish at the heart of the ledges of Causse Sauveterre, while enjoying a myriad of different sceneries in-between. Face Nepalese bridges, monkey bridges, footbridges, cave passages and optional zip lines on a memorable journey and leave with a feeling of accomplishment and desire to plan your next Via Ferrata!
La Grande Fistoire, Alpes de Hautes Provences
Located in Cairo (no, not in Egypt), the Via Ferrata of La Grande Fistoire is located 25 kilometres north-east of Sisteron. Just for a heads up, this Via Ferrata is open all year round is famous for its sports course! A 60m footbridge awaits the more adventurous, as well as a lying slab and a 32m Nepalese bridge, before accessing the rock of the Great Fistoire. Find your thrills as you zoom along three ziplines, measuring at 150, 135 and 220 metres long, which will certainly get the heart pumping and take you on an adventure adding up to around 2 to 4 hours of fun.
Jules Carret, Savoie
The cream of the crop, since Jules Carret is considered one of the hardest Via Ferratas in France, classified a Extremely Difficult, you can probably understand that this isn’t for beginners or those with little practice. This Via Ferrata, located 20 minutes from Chambery, is thus intended for mountaineers with many hours of experience. This expert-level, and notably aerial course, boasts many very physical passages that in turn allow the Via Ferratists to enjoy a magnificent view of the Chambérien basin and Mont Granier. This route really is unmissable if you are passionate about Via Ferratas and is a great goal to work towards if you haven’t quite clocked up enough mountain hours yet!
Something extra special about this route is the fact that part of this Via-Ferrata is accessible to blind and visually impaired people, who can be initiated to the activity and feel all the benefits. Three courses are offered, one for beginners, another for experienced climbers and the final one for expert mountaineers. In this mountainous environment find yourself being faces with rock walls, Tibetan bridges, monkey bridges and many more obstacles. Top that off with the sensation of experiencing this route with the sound of the torrent in the background and in the sumptuous setting of the Gorges de la Truyère.
Les Échelles de la mort, Doubs
Don’t be fooled by its name, this Via Ferrata is actually very welcoming! Stretching over 500-metres on a beautiful limestone rock, with a drop of 100m, this famous Via Ferrata offers a fun and friendly course suitable for children.
Bridges, footbridges, beams, ladders and a 60m zip line awaits you in a beautiful setting, and it’s only a stone’s throw from Besançon by car. Make the most of this accessible course and learn the fundamentals before you move on to tackle a tougher, more technical routes.
La Croix du Verdon
One of the highest Via Ferratas in France, towering at 2,700-metres above sea level with an elevation gain of 889-metres! Start the experience in a cable car which takes you to the start of the course and enjoy a dramatic change of scenery and the sensation of a high mountain atmosphere situated between Courchevel and Méribel. The route is very aerial with steep passages and is not recommended for beginners, but in reward for your efforts you’ll be able to experience a breath-taking view of Mont Blanc and the glaciers and peaks of the Vanoise. This Via Ferrata truly is epic and unique!
Ideally located on the ski area of La Flégère in Chamonix, this Via Ferrata offers an exceptional panorama of the Mont Blanc range. Starting at an altitude of 2000-metres, this relatively short 200-metre course is easily accessible to beginners and is the perfect route for a first-time experience of alpine climbing in the mountains. Limit risks and always make sure you are accompanied on every trail, preferably by a mountain guide, and most importantly, enjoy!