Hiking among the Volcanoes ~ the Chaîne des Puys, Auvergne

Afternoon view down Rue des Gras, Clermont-Ferrand to Puy de Dôme

Afternoon view down Rue des Gras, Clermont-Ferrand, to the dormant volcano: Puy de Dôme

Clermont-Ferrand, in case you don’t know it, is a charming city with a two thousand year history right in the middle of France “at the crossroads of the main highways of Europe”. It is also at the heart of the Michelin company, so we are here while my husband attends meetings at his head office. As happy as I am to sit at a table on the cobblestones of the old quarter, drinking wine and eating the excellent local cheese, I am at risk of turning into a complete pudding.

Fortunately, Clermont-Ferrand is also within reach of the Auvergne volcanoes: a chain of eight dormant volcanoes (or Chaîne des Puys, in French) at the edge of the Massif Central. Looked after by the Maison du Parc Naturel Régional des Volcans d’Auvergne, this area offers some great hiking opportunities. I was lucky enough to find an obliging local resident willing to accompany me on a couple of wonderful forays into the “Monts Dome” range.

These mountains are not particularly high (the Puy de Dôme is the highest at 1465m), but they stand out in stark relief against the surrounding plateau. On Monday, in changeable weather and under ominous clouds, we walked 1.9km up the well-graded Chemin des Muletier or ‘Mule Train’ path, through the hazel, oak and alder trees, to the top of Puy de Dôme. This sounds easy enough, but the 350m rise in elevation is much more difficult with jet-lag and and after a surfeit of wine and cheese!

View of  Puy de Dôme volcano from the access road

Driving to the Puy de Dôme from Clermont-Ferrand, you have a continual view of the volcano from the access roads on the flat plateau surrounding it.


In 2012 you won't have to walk up the hill. The new crémaillère (rack railway) train will do the job for you. Puy de Dôme, Auvergne

Withered oak leaves

Last year's oak leaves remain on their branches until the new buds send them tumbling...

Close-up: Buds and new leaves on an elder tree

The New Season's Alder Leaves

Tall tower at the top of a dormant volcano

Physics Laboratory and Signal Tower Under a Looming Sky: Puy de Dôme, Auvergne

Red Parasail against the Auvergne volcanoes and grey cloud

Up-drafts from around the Volcano Make it Popular for Paragliding

Hang-glider in a Red Parasail over the Auvergne volcanoes

Safely Cocooned over La Chaîne des Puys

Fenced-in ruins under a grey sky

Ruins of the Gallo-Roman Temple to the God Mercury were Uncovered in 1873. Puy de Dôme

Statue of an aviator: Eugène Renaux, 1911

A Statue to the Pilot Eugène Renaux, who, with his mechanic Albert Senouque won the Michelin Grand Prix in 1911 for flying from Paris to Puy de Dôme in 5 hours, 10 minutes and 27 seconds.

Today (Thursday), we walked up the Puy de Pariou. Not only is the walk relatively easy, with a reasonable gradient and a total altitude of 1209m, but we were blessed with glorious sunshine, clear skies and great views across to the neighbouring Puy de Dôme.

Three women hiking on a French trail, Puy de Pariou

Setting out on the Puy de Pariou Trail with the Puy de Dôme Overhead

Woods in the springtime, Puy de Pariou

The French Forest of Puy de Pariou

White anaenome on the forest floor, Puy de Pariou

Anenome on the Forest Floor, Puy de Pariou

View of the Auvergne Mountains from Puy de Pariou

View of the Mountains in the Chaîne des Puys, from the top of Puy de Pariou

Rocks in a heart shape in the bowl of the crater

Whimsy in the Crater Bowl, Puy de Pariou

Wooden guardrails on the path into the crater bowl, Puy de Pariou

The Path Into the Bowels... Puy de Pariou

Two men sitting on Puy de Pariou looking at Puy-de-Dôme

View from the top of Puy de Pariou ~ looking at Puy-de-Dôme

blue wildflower

Wildflowers on the Forest Floor, Puy de Pariou

It was a beautiful way to enjoy a couple of spring days in the heartland of central France.

Enjoy the season!


  • Cedric - April 8, 2011 - 5:37 pm

    Nice ballad, I envy you 😉ReplyCancel

    • Ursula - April 8, 2011 - 9:03 pm

      Bonjours Cedric! C’est vrais ~ c’était tellement enjoyable.ReplyCancel

  • Tricia Bates - April 9, 2011 - 4:43 am

    Beautiful photos Ursula, I almost felt like I was there walking with you.ReplyCancel

    • Ursula - April 9, 2011 - 4:03 pm

      Glad to have your company, Trish! 😀ReplyCancel

  • Signe Westerberg - April 11, 2011 - 2:37 am

    just lovely as always, interesting how in the ruins there appears (although clearly not) a burnt out bus near the fence.. or are my eyes simply playing tricks – the shape of the old stones etc…. very interesting. For the record I know it’s not a bus..lolReplyCancel

    • Ursula - April 11, 2011 - 6:42 am

      Must be your eyes!! Or a smudge on the lens! 😉 Lot’s of stylish graffiti around here, but haven’t seen any burned out buses. xReplyCancel

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