Rock Climbing at the Verdon Gorge in France

Verdon Gorge Trip Planning Information

These cliffs on the south side of the gorge currently have no climbing routes on them.
Limestone cliffs at the Verdon Gorge in southern France catch the last evening light. Photograph © Stewart M. Green

The Verdon Gorge (Les Gorges du Verdon in French) is simply one of the world's best and most famous rock climbing areas. The Verdon offers excellent bolted sport routes as well as traditional climbs on perfect limestone walls that are up to 1,500 feet high. The Verdon Gorge, located in southeastern France, is a major climbing destination in Europe, attracting visiting climbers from Europe, Asia, Australia, and North America.

OVER 2,000 ROUTES AT VERDON GORGE

The 13-mile-long (21-kilometers) Verdon Gorge, carved by the rushing Verdon River, offers over 2,000 climbing routes that range from single-pitch sport routes to multi-day ​aid climbing adventures. Most of the climbing spreads along a nine-mile stretch of south-facing limestone cliffs below the 14-mile (26-kilometer) Route des Cretes, which forms an open loop driver from La Palud north of the gorge.

VERDON TRIP PLANNING INFORMATION

Sounds like a great place to climb? Here is the basic information you need to plan your Verdon Gorge and French climbing adventure now.

LOCATION

Verdon Gorge is located in southeastern France. The Verdon Gorge is a two-hour drive from Marseille and Nice on the Mediterranean coast and three hours south of Grenoble. The closest airport is at Nice, about a two-hour drive away.

GETTING TO VERDON GORGE

The Verdon Gorge is difficult to reach except by car, making a visit problematic for the visiting budget climber.

Renting a car wherever you fly into, usually Paris or Marseille, makes the best sense since you can travel to other crags, visit local historic sites and places on rest days, and, if the weather turns sour, head south to the coast for drier weather. You also need a car Make car reservations ahead of time because you will get better rates than if you just show up at the rental agency or book in France.

DRIVING DIRECTIONS TO VERDON

From Paris, follow the Autoroute du Soleil A6 south through Lyon to the Avignon Sud exit. Go east on the N100 highway through Apt to Manosque. Get on the D6 here and drive through Valensole to Riez. Continue east on the D952 to Moustiers and then up the final winding highway to La Palud-sur-Verdon.

From the south and Nice, follow the N86 highway to Castellen, then follow the N952 to La Palud.

VERDON CLIMBING SEASONS AND WEATHER

Climbing is possible year-round but it can be too hot in summer and too cold in winter. The gorge's 3,000-foot elevation give it an unpredictable mountain climate, especially since it lies between the cooler alpine region to the north and the drier Provencal climate to the south.

Summer is popular and it usually is not too hot. July and August are the hottest months so climb early and climb late. Reserve the middle of the day for a siesta. Also look for shady routes and avoid climbing in direct sun. The L'Escales cliffs face southeast, with sun from morning until mid-afternoon. Look for smaller shaded cliffs outside the main canyon on hot days. Keep an eye on the weather too since thunderstorms with lightning are common on summer afternoons.

Get off the canyon rim to a lower spot to avoid lightning strikes.

Autumn is the best time to visit the Verdon Gorge, with high pressure keeping temperatures warm and pleasant. October, however, can often be rainy, although it is rare to have more than two days of rain. The rock dries quickly after rain so you never lose much climbing time. The spring months are unpredictable with unstable weather patterns. It can rain and even snow in March and April. May is one of the best months here though with generally warm dry days and occasional rain.

The orientation of the cliffs at Verdon Gorge usually protects climbers from the nagging mistral winds, which come out of the north and west here. Climbing on the main cliff is usually fine when the mistral blows, although doing belay duty on the rim can be a drag.

RULES AND REGULATIONS

The Verdon Gorge is protected in a conservation area called Parc Naturel Regional du Verdon. There are currently no climbing restrictions in the park and gorge. Practice a Leave No Trace Ethic here and follow common-sense rules to avoid creating future problems. These include:
 

  • Use basic etiquette and good manners.
  • Avoid excessive noise-this is a natural area.
  • Make sure your rope and all gear is off the highway. Also don't stand on the highway while belaying or watching.
  • Do not throw rocks or anything else from the tops of the cliffs since other people, including climbers, may be below you.
  • Don't monopolize popular routes by leaving top-ropes on the anchor.
  • Follow proper sanitary procedures by burying human waste well away from the cliff tops and trails.
  • Pack out all garbage, including cigarette butts and energy bar wrappers.
  • Don't disturb nesting birds and vegetation.
  • Respect local residents by not walking on cultivated fields above the canyon, frightening stock animals, and not opening fences and gates.
  • Be very wary of car thieves, especially on busy days or if you leave your car at remote pullouts. Leave nothing of value in your car and open the glove box. You can also leave your car window open so that prospective thieves don't break the glass.

ACCOMMODATIONS AND CAMPING

No illegal or primitive camping is allowed in the Verdon Gorge area or in the park. Most climbers stay at the village of La Palud-sur-Verdon, which offers plenty of accommodations. Two campgrounds, at opposite ends of the village, are perfect.

The municipal campground on the east has grassy sites, some shaded but most sunny. It's a good place to meet climbing partners.

Several gîtes or guesthouses are near La Palud. L'Etable is popular with both dorms and private rooms. Others are L'Arc-en-Ciel, Auberge de Jeunesses, and Auberge des Crêtes. Look on-line for others or to make reservations, especially in summer. There are also several hotels in the area, including Hotel La Provence, Hotel Le Panoramic, and Hotel des Gorges du Verdon.

For information on accommodations, contact the Office de Tourisme in La Palud or visit their website.

SERVICES, EQUIPMENT, AND GUIDES

La Palud offers all visitor services, including a bakery, restaurants, grocery store, and cash machine. Le Perroquet Vert, the local climbing shop on the main street, offers chalk, climbing gear, and guidebooks. It also has a restaurant and rooms to let. There are several climbing guides, including Englishman and long-time Verdon climber Alan Carne's guide service Alan du Verdon.

VERDON GUIDEBOOK

Rock Climbing Europe by Stewart M. Green, FalconGuides, 2005, is an English-language guide to all the best routes and sectors at Verdon that is available at a bargain price.