In the air, on land, in water and even underwater… Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur’s nature reserves and national parks offer a myriad of natural areas ideal for pushing back your limits, getting a breath of fresh air and recharging your batteries. Visitors enjoy a host of signposted trails to explore, guided excursions and new things to try: here’s a bird’s eye view of some of our eco-friendly sporting activities!
Take to the air
Free as a bird
Let’s head to the Luberon Regional Nature Reserve for a dawn take-off comfortably installed in the basket of your France Montgolfière hot-air balloon in Forcalquier. This pretty town in the Alpes de Haute Provence area boasts one of France’s purest skies. Crystal clear in fact! The lavender fields under your feet flower from mid-June to mid-July, tinting the escapade with deep blue. The balloon wafts over picturesque hilltop villages, while in the distance, Lure mountain spreads out like a master’s painting… Back on terra firma, raise your glass at the traditional aviator’s toast before savouring lunch bathed in a country atmosphere.
Follow the current
How about a swim down the Verdon river with William Michel? Certified by the Valeurs Parc Naturel Régional label, this exciting adventure leads you through the intimate and mysterious Verdon Canyon… Willy also shares a few historic and geological tidbits about this fragile ecosystem as you bob up and down in the clear waters. If you fancy a snorkelling trail, head to Port-Cros National Park, Europe’s oldest maritime reserve. The trail at Plage du Palud, dotted with information panels, and the Tour Fondue trail are perfect for good swimmers. If not, you can enjoy the Baie du Niel transparent kayak trip – bring an underwater camera whichever option you choose! Last but not least, you can opt for a kayak or stand-up paddleboarding excursion along the canal linking Arles to Buc: an ideal way to explore the Vigueirat marshes and Calmargue’s wild countryside. These fun and friendly outings are open to children aged 6 years and over.
Reach for the summits
Your new challenge: go vertical!
The Baronnies Provençales Regional Nature Reserve is home to Orpierre, a village coveted by climbers. It is one of Europe’s biggest climbing sites, measuring 600 metres in length and offering a variety of levels up to 8c for experts. Easily accessible from the village, its reputed climbing routes are set amid the cliffs and bathed in sunshine and fresh air. In the Préalpes d’Azur Regional Nature Reserve, you can opt for a climbing adventure with Terre des Lacs, a Valeurs Parc Naturel Régional service provider based in the town of Saint-Auban guaranteeing a fantastic foray into self-mastery and exhilarating freedom. When you arrive at the top, pause awhile to lap up the beauty of the landscapes and sheer peace, broken only by the sound of clicking carabiners…
Master your basic instincts!
In the pack
In winter, slip into your snowshoes and revel in “Au temps des loups” (Wolf trail) – a Valeurs Parc Naturel Régional hike courtesy of Nicolas Crunchant in the Queyras Regional Nature Reserve crossing forests and copses in search of the elusive local wolf… Follow the clues to gain an insight into how the wolves live – it’s a genuine treasure hunt!
Alternatively, in the Camargue Regional Nature Reserve, saddle up for a trek with Mas de la Grenouillère, a Valeurs Parc Naturel Régional establishment. Their thoroughbred horses are raised on site and promise to be faithful companions for riders of every level: beginners can enjoy a 3-hour ride to the wetlands, lakes and wild beaches, while seasoned riders can opt for a whole day trek or even a short riding holiday.
The freedom of mountain biking
Bask in the sheer exhilaration of a mountain biking holiday courtesy of Tour du Champsaur, with a choice of 5 or 3-day tours (for beginners) in the heart of Écrins National Park. The 150-kilometre trail criss-crosses typical Alpine scenery home to countless high mountain birds, plants and rocks. The adventure starts out from Ancelle, continues to Noyer and Chaillol – the toughest section – and winds up in Orcières before returning home. Keep your eyes peeled near Gap-Bayard golf course: wild fruit and mushrooms abound among the firs and pines… Recharge your batteries as you gaze at these verdant pastures and superb views over the Écrins, Gap and Champsaur.
The north of the Alpilles is crossed by the EuroVelo 8 cycling route stretching from Tarascon to Cavaillon in the Alpilles-Luberon area. Seasoned cyclists might want to challenge themselves to the Tour des Alpilles, a 3-day cycling tour in three stages that joins up with the EuroVelo 8 route. Several local but independent loops are also connected to the route.
On foot and even closer to nature
Mercantour National Park offers a series of specialist-interest hikes benefiting from the Esprit Parc National label. The panoramic Cime de Colmiane trail in the valleys of Vésubie and La Tinée is a perfect choice for daydreamers. Alternatively, opt for a sensory walk for nature-loving families in Allos courtesy of Marc Aynie. If the sea is your thing, the Calanques National Park promises stunning shores and exceptional flora in the company of the Esprit Parc National-certified hiking club Horizon Randonnée. Philippe Chabot guides walking fans on a magnificent voyage from Callelongue to Marseilleveyre, topped with a fascinating insight into the region’s cultural and ecological heritage. You will also find a myriad of walking suggestions around Belvédère d’En Vau and the Monts de Luminy on the Mes Calanques app.
Last but not least, if you’re keen to reach for the stars, try out the night climb in the Mont-Ventoux Regional Nature Reserve! You can choose between the Les chemins de pierre sunset and sunrise camping trail guided by Pierre Peyret, or opt for a palpitating night walk with Aventoux Rando, guided by Cédric Demangeon. 100% natural, 100% thrilling and 100% energy-boosting – what else?!