Walking in the Auvergne

42 Walks in Volcano Country

By Rachel Crolla, Carl McKeating

Guidebook to the Auvergne describing 42 walks between 5 and 20km in the quiet volcanic hills of central France. Five areas are covered: Cantal, Chaine des Puys, Mont Dores, Haute-Loire and Montagne Bourbonnaise. The volcanic geography provides a stunning backdrop to routes suitable for all walkers. Bases in Vichy, Clermont-Ferrand and Puy-en-Velay.



All the routes can be enjoyed from May to October. The summer months are usually hot and sunny, but the winters see snowbound villages and skiing on the higher Auvergne peaks


cities: Puy-en-Velay and Vichy; villages: Orcival for the Monts Dore and Dômes, Murat for the Cantal, Mayet-de-Montagne for the Bourbonnaise


Grade 1: Short easy walks with few navigational problems and little ascent; Grade 2: Walks that will not be taxing for a fit and experienced hiker. They may be longer, have moderate height gain or require good navigation skills; Grade 3: Challenging walks for experienced hikers. Steep terrain may be encountered with considerable ascents or longer mountain days
Must See

Must See

Fascinating volcanoes: Puy de Dôme, de la Vache and Pariou; high summits: Plomb du Cantal, Puy Mary and Puy de Sancy; magnificent abbeys and churches: Chaise Dieu, Lavaudieu and Orcival; chateaux: Montgilbert and Lavoûte-sur-Loire; attractive bases: Le Puy-en-Velay and Vichy; lakes Guery and Pavin, the Grand Cascade and Volvic spring
13 May 2013
17.2 x 11.6 x 1.6cm
  • Overview

    This guidebook explores an ancient volcanic landscape formed over 70,000 years ago. The Auvergne offers a wealth of accessible walking against a backdrop of spectacular mountain scenery, which is nevertheless suitable for most walkers, with the 42 routes in thsi guidebook ranging from 5km strolls to more challenging 20km adventures.
    The Auvergne region rises out of the Massif Central and spans the area from the spa towns of Vichy and Clermont-Ferrand to the historic Le Puy-en-Velay. The landscape bears witness to the seismic volcanic eruptions of bygone ages, the result of which is that the area boasts mountainous terrain set alongside a wealth of more gentle ground, all of which is open to exploration and discovery.

    The Auvergne area is both accessible and provides a wide range of cultural and historical (and geological) interest. The guidebook also provides a wide range of practical information for visiting the Auvergne, with accommodation transport, and preparation advice, as well as providing a wealth of detail on the many places of interest along the walks.

    The walks are grouped around five areas, as follows:
    The Cantal offers steep and dramatic peaks, but these are relatively easy to achieve – a circular route to the summit and back can take just a little under three hours.
    The Chaîne des Puys (Monts Dômes) is home to the very distinctive dome-shaped mountains, the highest of which (Puy de Dôme) is just 1,465m. For a city base, Clermont-Ferrand is an ideal choice, while the village of Orcival offers a quieter option.
    The Monts Dore has topography that favours multi-peak ridge crest link-ups, and its location means that it can be explored from the same bases as suggested for the Chaîne des Puys.
    The Haute-Loire offers gentle hiking options, with many cultural and historical sites to visit en route.
    The Montagne Bourbonnaise is likewise an area for mild strolls of only a couple of hours and with little ascent – a perfect destination to escape from a hectic 21st-century lifestyle.

    • 42 day walks in five areas of rural France
    • illustrated with clear sketch maps and colour photographs
    • with all the background information you need to plan your trip, including a useful walker’s glossary

  • Contents

    Plants and wildlife
    Food and drink
    When to go
    Getting there
    Getting around
    Hazards and emergencies
    Using this guide
    1 The Cantal
    Walk 1 Puy de Niermont
    Walk 2 An Ascent of the Puy de Peyre Arse
    Walk 3 Puy Mary with Optional Excursion to Puy de la Tourte
    Walk 4 Traverse of the Brêche de Rolland from Puy Mary to Peyre Arse
    Walk 5 Around Medieval Murat
    Walk 6 The Plomb du Cantal
    Walk 7 A Rombière Ramble
    Walk 8 Puy Griou
    Walk 9 Up the Usclade
    Walk 10 The Elancèze
    Walk 11 Puy Violent and the Shadow Rock
    Walk 12 Roches Taillade and Roc d’Hoziéres
    Walk 13 Circuit of Puy Chavaroche
    Walk 14 St Cirgues de Jordanne A
    Walk 15 St Cirgues de Jordanne B
    2 The Châine des Puys (Monts Dômes)
    Walk 16 Puy de Dôme
    Walk 17 Puys Lassolas and de la Vache
    Walk 18 Around Orcival
    Walk 19 Puy des Gouttes
    Walk 20 The Crater of Puy Pariou
    Walk 21 The Water of Volvic
    3 The Monts Dore
    Walk 22 The Grand Horseshoe: Puy de Sancy from Mont-Dore
    Walk 23 Up the Chaudefour Valley to Puys Sancy and Ferrand
    Walk 24 Around Lake Pavin
    Walk 25 Connecting the Cascades of Puy d’Angle
    Walk 26 The Tuilière and Sanadoire rocks
    Walk 27 A Tour of the Curiosities of St Nectaire
    Walk 28 Lake Guéry and the Banne d’Ordanche
    4 The Haute-Loire: Livradois Forez and Velay
    Walk 29 Around Chaise-Dieu and the Senouire
    Walk 30 The Gorges of the Loire
    Walk 31 A Circuit of Allègre
    Walk 32 Mont Bar from Allègre
    Walk 33 Domeyrat and the Senouire
    Walk 34 Vieille Brioude and the Ceroux
    Walk 35 Lavaudieu Abbey and the Senouire
    5 The Montagne Bourbonnaise
    Walk 36 The Ruins of Montgilbert
    Walk 37 Milling around the Mills
    Walk 38 Around Châtel Montagne and the Puy de Roc
    Walk 39 Rocher St Vincent
    Walk 40 The Cascade de la Pisserote
    Walk 41 The Plateau de la Verrerie and its Tourbière
    Walk 42 Pierre Châtel from St Nicolas des Biefs

    Appendix A Route summary table
    Appendix B Glossary of French walking terms
    Appendix C Further reading
    Appendix D Useful contacts

  • Maps

    For all but the Grade 1 walks in this guide a map is recommended. Detailed topographical maps are available for all the areas covered. A Series Bleu IGN map at 1:25,000 incorporates the entire Cantal section, two cover the Châine des Puys and Massif du Sancy. The Montagne Bourbonnaise walks are mainly covered by the Mayet-de-Montagne map and the Haute-Loire by the Allegre/La Chaise Dieu maps. The full names of the IGN 1:25,000 sheets, if you are ordering online or by phone, are shown below.

    1 The Cantal 2435OT Monts du Cantal
    2 The Châine des Puys (Monts Dômes 2531ET Châine des Puys
    3 The Monts Dore 2432ET Massif du Sancy
    4 The Haute-Loire: Forez and Velay 2734O Allègre/La Chaise Dieu2735E Le Puy en Velay2634E Paulhaguet2634O Brioude
    5 The Montagne Bourbonnaise 2730O Mayet de Montagne2729O Lapalisse2730E St Just/Monts de la Madeleine

    Each map is widely sold in the area which it covers but unlike in Britain it can be infuriating getting them elsewhere: you may, for example, encounter problems getting hold of a map of the Cantal from shops in the Monts Dore, despite being so nearby. Indeed, the authors spent an entire afternoon and failed to find a single shop selling maps of the Monts Dore in the major town of Vichy. Supermarkets, hypermarkets and bookshops are usually a good bet for stocking maps of the wider region, but there are no guarantees. Tourist information offices and newsagents usually sell IGN maps of their near area. The IGN maps are available prior to departure in the UK from Amazon, Stamfords, the Map Shop and other good reatilers on and offline.

    A word of caution about the IGN maps of this region. Partially due to the lack of a rights of way system which we have in Britain, but also clearly as a result of some lazy mapping, some of the tracks and paths appearing on the 1:25,000 maps in the Auvergne do not exist on the ground. They have probably fallen into disuse, but in some instances we have found ‘disuse’ to equate to decades of absence. Similarly, many other good and long-established paths on the ground are not marked at all on the maps. Added to this, the distinction between paved roads and tracks is often not made. We have tried to clear up this issue and others in our route descriptions.

  • Updates
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    Aug 2017

    The authors are grateful for the following suggested updates to Walking in the Auvergne:

    Walk 41, page 232.
    "Go straight across the road and up the left side of the café to find a path."
    Can now read: "Go straight across the road and up the left side of the (new) community hall to find a path at the rear."

    Walk 38, page 220.
    As of 2017, disappointingly trees obstruct the view from the Puy de Roc making its observation table redundant. The trees may well be cut back in future.

    Walk 40, page 227.
    Route finding in the woods may prove a little challenging as you leave the valley floor on the obscure path opposite Le Moulin du Mas. It is helpful to keep in mind your position relative to the river, even after it goes out of sight. You should initially be heading in a roughly south westward and then westward direction before turning northeastwards on your descent to the river. The circular outing that extends the route is not a long one; if in any doubt about your route simply retrace your steps.

  • Reviews

    'Walking in the Auvergne by Rachel Crolla and Carl McKeating is a comprehensive guide to this fascinating and beautiful region and is up to the usual high standard of Cicerone guidebooks. The authors have clearly spent a lot of time exploring the Auvergne’s mountains, valleys and villages and there is a wealth of background information on each part of the region as well as maps, photographs and detailed information on each of the 42 walks described.

    A must for any walker planning to visit the Auvergne.'

    Read the full review.

    Pete Buckley, petebuckely.wordpress.com, July 2013

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Rachel Crolla

Rachel Crolla

Rachel Crolla is an outdoors all-rounder who loves hiking, biking, scrambling and climbing. Rachel is an outdoors writer and photographer who is also trained as a journalist and teacher. She has hiked and climbed across the UK, Europe and the USA. In 2007 Rachel became the first woman to reach the summit of every country in Europe, and co-wrote the Cicerone guide book Europe's High Points soon afterwards. She is passionate about enthusing the next generation of hikers and cyclists with a love of the outdoors.

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Carl McKeating

Carl McKeating

Carl McKeating is from Yorkshire. He is the co-author with Rachel Crolla of the books, Europe's High Points and Walking in the Auvergne published by Cicerone. A rock climbing and mountaineering enthusiast, in addition to ascending all of Europe's national high points, in 2010 he completed a long-standing ambition to climb all the routes in Ken Wilson's Classic Rock which he followed with a three-month climbing and mountaineering tour of America. A qualified English teacher, in 2014 Carl started work on a doctorate about Mont Blanc in British Culture.

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