Gorges d'Heric

The Gorges D’Héric France

Gorges d'Heric France

The Gorges D’Héric, France

It’s the 6th August 2022 and our vanlife diaries are reaching a really exciting destination on our Summer tour. The Gorges d’Héric in Southern France is a place we’ve seen in a Lonely Planet walking book on France. Sometimes, these guides just bring the best locations right to the campervan travel seat and we can’t wait to explore more.

First though, our route to The Gorges d’Héric is taking us from the incredible Cirque de Navacelles through some beautiful scenery. This part of France is hot and arid, yet the beauty shines through in bucket loads. There’s something incredibly raw about the sheer scale of the region and we love it.

Overnight Aire at The Gorges d’Héric, France

By the time we arrive at the car park to The Gorges d’Héric it’s almost 5pm. Now, we’re ready to park up for the night and luckily, there’s overnight parking allowed right here in the parking area. Not only that, but there’s also a dump area, toilets and fresh water tap, making it a pretty good Aire.

There’s a barrier entrance here, which has a young chap waiting for arrivals. Before we know it we’re paying him the 10 Euro fee which lets us stay overnight in the large mixed parking.

However, as we drive through the barrier, we soon realise the parking area is really full. Wow! This place is popular. Luckily, at this time of the day people begin to return to their vehicles and leave after their day out at the Gorges.

This means, we manage to get a spacious place to park, tucked away at the end of the parking area. There’s another British motorhome near us, this is the first British van we’ve seen in a long time. After settling in with a glass of wine, we soon get to chat to our English neighbours.

It’s good to talk and compare travel notes before we say our goodbyes and settle in for the night.

An early start

Unfortunately, we have a really restless night, due to the heat being more intense in this bowl-like setting. August is obviously hot in these parts, but this was really uncomfortable and sticky.

With a new sense of vigour, we’re ready to start the walk which will take us into the heart of the Gorges d’Heric. It’s 8.30am by the time we get moving, a little later than planned due to more talking with our neighbours.

Unbelievably, the car park is empty, showing the difference it makes at this time of day. Fortunately, the air is cool at the moment too, as we wait for the sun to reach the bottom of the Gorges.

Colossal boulders and turquoise waters

Our route today will take us on a 10km one-way return walk, which starts beside the car park. Initially, the tarmac pedestrian track takes a slight uphill effort, passing colossal boulders which line the river bed through the Gorges.

Before long, we’re walking beside numerous turquoise blue swim holes which tumble all the way through the mountain-lined gorges. At this time in the morning, both the light and clarity of the skies are just beautiful.

One thing we notice is how quiet the path and pools are. No doubt later in the morning, the day-trippers, walkers and bathers will be enjoying the fabulous surroundings.

The route beside the tumbling rocky mass just seems never ending, in the best sort of way, it’s simply incredible. We’d like to take a dip in one of the pools which resemble plunge pools from some tropical paradise. However, it’s a little too early still and we want to reach the end of the route – an ancient farming hamlet first.

A remote cafe and turn around point

As the path winds uphill through the gorges, the scenery is ever dramatic at each turn. A few climbers pass by, taking a different path up into the mountains off the main route.

For us the farming hamlet of Héric is both our turn around point and chance for a coffee. As crazy as it seems, there’s actually a cafe here.

Hold on though, there’s a snag – it’s not open when we arrive. Oh well, the beautiful and remote tiny hamlet of rustic farm buildings are a lovely little place to chill for a while. Unfortunately, the cafe is closed for another half an hour and there’s no one else around at all. It’s just us and the scenery for company, but we’re not complaining.

Héric Hamlet

Héric has no street or road, it’s reached by a tiny path off a track beyond the stone buildings. If I describe the hamlet as rustic, probably I’m under-describing the crumbling state of the buildings. However, rustic it is in the extreme and fascinating too. Some buildings are a little more intact than others, mainly the cafe along with a few beyond where there’s sign of life.

Here we find an elderly gentleman tending to his vegetable garden, which is full of produce and plenty of rams horns scattered between. We ask him what time the cafe opens but he just shrugs his shoulders, saying, maybe 10.30. As it’s 10.10, we decide to take our chances and hold it out for a coffee.

Then, we notice a car pull up the track with 3 people who hurriedly head for the cafe building and begin to open it up. Whilst we wait, another walker arrives and sits with us, before the outdoor terrace beckons and a cafe au lait.

A refreshing dip

After sipping our freshly brewed coffee, it’s time to head back down the same way we came. It’s worth noting, if you do the walk, there’s no toilets en-route, even the cafe doesn’t provide one, so a quick pee in nature has to suffice.

On our way through the gorges, the dramatic rocky peaks rise into the clear morning sky. By now, the sun is slowly making its way to lower ground, and we can feel the heat building.

Those swim holes of crystal clear water are too irresistible to miss, so we quickly choose one that we like the look of, before too many people reach this far up the Gorges. Already, we notice many more people here, with picnic baskets and blankets, ready to make a day of it.

We place our bags on the large smooth boulders and plunge into the cool water. The water flows through the Gorges over a series of winding crevices which are filled with the large boulders. Along the way, pools of water form perfect swim spots, before the water continues on its way down hill.

Some are deep enough and large enough for a swim, others more of a lounging dip. Either way, cooling off and enjoying the scenery is the main objective.

Gorges d'Heric France

The Gorges d’Héric, France, This gets busy

After staying a while, maybe an hour, splashing around and enjoying the mix of sun and water, we continue on our way. As we reach the closer pools to the car park, we notice how full these now are and many more people are walking the path in the opposite, uphill direction to which we’re now taking.

It’s almost as if they’re camped out for the day. Those passing look exhausted as they carry far too many belongs up the gradual hilly path in the now strong sun.

By the time we reach the parking area, the crowds are well and truly here en-masse. This place obviously gets really busy in peak season.

The car park is also now full, with cars and vans circling round trying to find a space. Their hopes are dashed for our space, as they see us unlock the campervan, but stop for lunch before moving on.

We rest in a shady spot behind the van before leaving The Gorges d’Héric behind. Now, we’re heading towards the Mediterranean coast and another beautiful part of France.

First, though we pass a laundry, with spacious parking outside, so we stop do the weekly wash. Somehow, fresh laundry has such a homely feel. Most importantly, we’re ready to reach the Mediterranean, which means finding a place to stop before it gets too late.

Next time, we find a perfect canal-side spot and spend a very noisy last night in France.

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