Walking in the Auvergne Volcano National Park
Situated on the northwestern edge of the Massif Central in Southeast France is the hauntingly beautiful landscape of the Parc des Volcans (Auvergne Volcano National Park). It covers an area of approximately 395,000 hectares and takes in three extinct volcanic mountain chains that are spread over two French departments. The park stretches for more than 120kms along a north-south axis, and has long been a favourite with hikers from around the world, thousands of whom visit the area every year.
At the Park”s northern extent is the Chaine des Puys (Monts Domes) – a chain of volcanic creations that takes in the magnificent crater of Puy de Dome. The Chaine des Puys is the youngest volcanic chain in the Parc de Volcans, its mountains last spewing lava across the landscape some 6000 years ago. The Puy de Dome volcano represents the highest peak here and is easily accessible by foot or by car.
In the central part of the Parc des Volcans is the Monts Dore volcanic area. It contains Puy de Sancy, which at 1886m above sea level is the highest peak in the park. The region has many distinct craters and crater lakes, making for some of the most spectacular scenery in the Massif Central.
From a hiker”s perspective the southern volcanic chain of Monts du Cantal is the most enjoyable of the three areas. Here ridges, valleys and mountains are more easily traversed without the need for long detours or rock climbing equipment. There is an extensive network of paths to walk here, as well as some of the widest ridges in the Massif Central. At nearly five times the size of the Monts Dore area, the Monts du Cantal is also the largest of the three areas, and so has the ability to soak up visitors across its terrain. As a result, even in July and August, the hiking paths across the Monts du Cantal are quiet.
Getting to the Parc des Volcans
The regional airport at Clermont Ferrand offers easy access to the entire Parc des Volcans area. The Puy de Dome crater is only a ten-minute drive from the city. Rodez airport also offers good access to the southern Cantal region. Car hire can be booked in advance for pick up from both locations – see http://www.your-carhire.com