Did I mention that we went camping in France during the summer, and had some pretty awesome fun? I possibly might have. Anyway we found some pretty fun activities for families to partake in, some of which we tried out. So if you’re heading out to the Alpine region in summer, (or in particular the Vercors area), here are some great family activities we recommend you check out:
There are several activity centres offering rock climbing of various kinds, suited to different ages and abilities. And if you’re going to rock climb, where better than the Alps? I have to say I never thought I would be any good at this but actually loved it! As a beginner you get to climb up the rock face as high as you feel happy, then abseil gently back down. There were different levels of challenge, so after mastering one face you could move onto a slightly higher and trickier challenge. As well as options for group or private lessons, in some areas there are thrilling opportunities for ‘Via Ferrata’, which is where a steel cable runs along a mountain route fixed to the rock. Climbers can secure themselves to the cable and use additional climbing aids, such as iron rungs, carved steps and ladders that are often provided. Meaning more challenging routes can be undertaken by relative novices wishing to experience the thrill of a mountain climb. Note there are age limits imposed, but children as young as 8 are able to take part in some places.
Parc Accrobranche (Tree Top Adventures)
This is always a favourite with our kids. A series of high rope obstacles in a course through the trees, also known as tree trekking, featuring swinging bridges, zip wires and Tarzan swings. You are safely attached via a harness and make your way around the course which varies in height and challenge according to age and ability. Great for getting over your fear of heights (you will be too busy ensuring your youngsters are safely clipped in to worry too much about the 20ft drop beneath you!) and a great confidence booster for younger children.
Canyoning and Caving
This is something I’m keen to try, but our kids are a little too young yet. For the uninitiated, canyoning involves trekking and climbing through rocky gorges, abseiling or leaping down into rivers (or the sea). It looks super exhilarating and puts you right up close with adventure in nature. In the Vercors area there are also many limestone caves which you can explore with a guide, right into the belly of the mountain!
Yes the Alpine rivers and lakes are a little… cool, but so clear and refreshing! Not many things beat a swim in a natural spot in the sun. If you’re really lucky you might make it to a waterfall such as the Chute de la Druise at Omblèze. Make sure the swim is well within your children’s capabilities and you are in a safe place before swimming, check with locals or the Tourist Office.
Ok so you can go pony trekking anywhere, but surrounded by huge craggy mountains and lush, flower filled, Heidi-esque pastures it’s something rather special.
You can hire a donkey in the Alps and take it with you for a few hours trek. Great to motivate the kids and make the prospect of a long walk a lot more appealing. The donkeys can either carry your picnic or your child!
Take a cable car to the clouds
Many of the ski resorts remain open during summer months for these and other activities, meaning some of the main lift arteries are also open. What could be nicer than to take the ‘téléphérique’ to the top of the mountain with a picnic on a sunny day, and take a walk amongst the noble peaks? Plus the lifts and passes are often much cheaper in the summer.
There is a summer luge at Ludi Parc in Villard de Lans. We didn’t make it there as we simply ran out of time but it did look a lot of fun and worth a mention! There are several Alpine resorts offering similar.
There are a few places where you can go glacier skiing in the summer in the Alps, Les Deux Alps and Tignes both offer summer skiing. You might have to rise early to get the best conditions.
Other Active Activities
Of course as well as the above there are loads of options for getting out in the alpine air; mountain biking, hiking, paragliding and ballooning to mention a few. Or simply enjoy the magnificent scenery: For a breathtaking drive in the Vercors area, take the road from Pont-en-Royans to Villard de Lans which winds you through the La Bourne Gorges. Or hike up to the Vertige des Cimes at Villard de Lans for an unforgettable point of view.
This was out first visit to the Alps in summer, and I have to say a fantastic holiday option for families. There are an abundance of fun, outdoor activities, breathtaking scenery, great food and lots of accommodation options at much more affordable prices than you would find them at in snow season. We took our own tent and found a lovely campsite, Camping le Gouffre de la Croix which I highly recommend, but there are options to suit all budgets. This trip has the bonus of being driveable from the UK, making it a very affordable option if you take the Dover Calais ferry (plus you can make a stop off in the Champagne region to break up the journey!)
You can contact the Tourist Office at Villard de Lans which was our closest ski resort on 33 4 76 95 10 38 for more details of these and other activities.