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Hiking the Gorges du Toulourenc

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Gorges du Toulourenc

It’s no secret, the South of France is known for its heat waves during the summer months. Although tourists pilgrimage en masse to the famous European Riviera, heat will always be a slight annoyance. So it goes without saying that during the dog days of summer, tourists and locals gather on the country’s beaches often without leaving a single free spot for those lagging behind. It’s too hot to visit the cities or the picturesque little villages, too hot to go on hikes even in shaded areas and too hot for any activity that’s not water related. With all this in mind, here’s a hot tip for those who want to go for a refreshing jaunt: Plan a hike through the Canyon of the Toulourenc river or as they call it in french “les Gorges du Toulourenc“.

Gorges du Toulourenc

Toulourenc is the name of a river on the north flank of the Mont Ventoux in the Provence region.

According to an urban legend the name Toulourenc comes from an old expression “toul ou renc” which means “all or nothing“. They say that the river is called like that, because days following heavy rainfalls the peaceful little watercourse sometimes transforms into a torrential stream.

The real etymology of the name though, comes seemingly from the Occitan language. But hey, I’d rather stick to the urban legend. It sounds way more fun and treacherous.

Hiking through the canyon

The starting point is located next to the hamlet of Veaux not far away from Saint-Léger-du-Ventoux in the Vaucluse department.
Ascent: The total ascent of the tour is approximately 348m, stretching along 4 km.
Length of the loop: The Gorges du Toulourenc hike is 9.56km closed loop (you’ll have wet feet for about 6 km and will walk on dry ground during the other 4 km)
Required fitness level: Low to intermediate. It all depends on the water level, but mainly it’s quite an easy and entertaining walk.
Ground: 6km walking through water. The level varies from ankle-high to knee-high and sometimes as well to torso-high. It all depends on your height as well… obviously! The ground under the water is made of pebbles and sometimes sharper rocks. Bigger During the other 4 km you’ll face some steep climbs on scree paths with loose stones and rocks.

Silly me, trying to make my way through the waters and over the rocks

Tips

  1. Since this hike is a closed loop, so you can start in either direction.
  2. If you’re planning your hike on an exceptionally hot day, plan in a picnic next to the river bed… look out for the perfect bathing spot.

What should you bring?

  • An App or watch with gps tracking (although, it’s quite impossible to get lost)
  • Simple sneakers or walking sandals. Keep in mind that there are sharp stones underwater, so it’s not recommended to walk barefoot. You won’t need special hiking boots for the rest of the hike.
  • A bathing suit and comfortable clothes (you might need to climb onto rocks at some point)
  • Snacks & drinks to enjoy a picnic somewhere next to the river
  • A waterproof camera or a zip bag to protect your mobile phone
  • Sunscreen
  • A sense of adventure

When to go?

Plan your hike in the Toulourenc Gorges during the hot season. The water is quite cold, so it’s the perfect place to be for a refreshing afternoon activity. During July and August you might find the canyon a little crowded. Avoid national or bank holidays, if you’d like a more intimate experience. Personally, I think that the best months to roam around the Toulourenc river are May & June, when it’s hot and beautiful and the crowds are still nowhere to be seen.

More info about the Gorges du Toulourenc

Furry friends accepted
Since this is not a National Park, dogs are allowed to take part in the adventure. Your pooch might be ecstatic – just like you – for this welcome refreshment. But be aware of the water level. You’ll never know what to expect of the river. After heavy rainfalls it can take up to 3 weeks before the river turns into a torrential stream and the currents can become too strong for your dog. (After all, the urban legend might be right). Just be ready to turn around at any time… you wouldn’t want to scare your furry companion!

Well, after those wise words, I’ll leave you to your hike: Get your feet wet and have fun. Cheers!

Interested in other hikes in the South of France? Check out these posts:

Other great hikes throughout the world:

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