You’d better take a jaw-sling with you when driving to La Cascade along the Gorges de la Jonte. Because if the views along this scenic chasm (especially the part between Le Rozier and Meyrueis) don’t make the lower half of your face succumb to the force of awe-inspired gravity, then the fantastic atmosphere at the campsite will.
While the area around the gorge brims with campsites, the majority are large, commercial and – dare we say – déclassé. La Cascade deftly sidesteps any such negative associations by virtue of its location, slightly away from the gorge itself, positioned at an altitude of 2,460 feet (750 m) at the foot of the majestic Causse Méjean.
There’s no denying it’s big – but big in a large, open, and friendly way, rather than a packed- with-caravans-God-I-can’t-breathe-properly way. Rather than welcoming motorhomes and building loud discos, La Cascade’s hospitable French owners, Marie-Hélène and Eric Marilou, have kept it deliberately natural, with just a smattering of wooden chalets (13 to be exact) and a huge amount of space for campers.
There are 50 pitches in total, split between two main fields (plus a couple in a delightful little hidden area next to a stream). Wherever you throw up your tent you’ll get lots of space and lovely open-sky views, either of the handsome Causse Méjean or the fresh, towering pines on the other side. In the morning the first sounds you’re likely to hear are bells and sheep.
Both Marie-Hélène and Eric grew up in the area. Eric’s family have long owned the land that La Cascade was built on and, in fact, he can trace his ancestry back an impressive 1,500 years – talk about carrying on the family business. The couple take their environment seriously, which is reflected in the ardent eco-policy of the site (they were awarded the Clef Verte in 2005): 60 per cent of the energy needed to heat the domestic water is solar, two-thirds of the lightbulbs are low-energy consumption, and there’s an emphasis on recycling.
There’s a fair amount to do on site. A sizeable boules court, small library with documentation about the surrounding region, a playground for kids, and a badminton net stretched across one field. You can splash around in the spring and waterfall right next door (which is connected to the River Jonte), hire a bike from the site, or take one of their guided hikes during summer. There’s no restaurant on site, but the shop sells lots of excellent local produce.
Since the site is located within the Parc National des Cévennes, there’s an abundance of activities off site, too. You have direct access, of course, to the nearby Gorges de la Jonte, which offers plenty of climbing, hiking, and cycling opportunities; but the even more spectacular Gorges du Tarn, formed by the Tarn River between the Causse Méjean and the Causse de Sauveterre, is also just a half-hour drive away.
Here you can take walks and drives, enjoy kayak trips or rafting, go fishing, caving, or canyoning... all you’ll need are some wheels, a desire for adventure, and your very durable jaw-sling.
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If you are looking for a quiet campsite, with plenty of space and good facilities for children - this is the place for you. This area of France is beautiful, with plenty of activities nearby to suit almost everyone. We visited the campsite in high summer, but had plenty of space and the facilities were never crowded. There is a small play park for the children and the possibility for swimming by a small waterfall (not the picture above), there is also a large open space for football/tennis. We had a wonderful time here and the price was very reasonable - highly recommended.
Tents, campervans, caravans – yes. Dogs, groups – by arrangement in low season only.
No campfires allowed, but BBQs okay (if they are raised off the ground); 50 camping pitches; a clean and well- maintained shower and toilet block with 5 showers, 6 toilets, and a dry toilet (all free); washing machine available (€4). Boules pitch, kids’ playground, free bikes, and table tennis. The onsite shop sells local delicatessen goods and you can also access wi-fi if you need to. Binoculars are available to observe the copious birdlife – vultures, short toad eagles, and more – from the site and on walks.
Hiking in the Cévennes National Park is a hugely popular activity and there are hikes available for all levels, such as the breezy 3-hour climb up to the Corniches du Causse Méjean, or a hike up to Le Puech Pounchut (also 3 hours), where fabulous 360-degree views of Mont Aigoual and Causse Méjean await. Reception has details on these walks and many more. The Dargilan caves in Meyrueis (00 33 4 66 45 60 20), discovered in 1880 by a shepherd who was hunting a fox, are a beautiful riot of ochres, yellows, saffron, and pinks, and well worth a visit; La Barbote (00 33 5 65 62 66 26) is a great place to organise canoeing and rafting in the Gorges du Tarn and de la Jonte, as well as other activities such as via ferrata and climbing. Les Arts du Vide, run by Géraud Fanguin (00 33 6 81 06 34 96) is also recommended for organising canyoning, climbing, and bird-watching trips in Jonte Gorge. If you’d like to paraglide over the Gorges du Tarn, try Antipodes Millau (00 33 5 65 60 72 03), who are open all year round and organise trips from €70 per person.
Food & Drink
The site serves fresh bread (croissants, pains au chocolat) each morning and has a deli shop selling local produce. Meyrueis has lots of pleasant cafés and restaurants such as Le Jardin des Glaces (00 33 4 66 45 43 75), which serves a delicious aligot (potatoes, crème fraîche, Cantal cheese); Hôtel du Mont Aigoual (00 33 4 66 45 65 61) is one of the best in the area – elegant but still good value, with a terroir menu for €20 and gourmet menus from €32. Slightly more down to earth, but with consistently good food, is the aptly named Hôtel Family (00 33 4 66 45 60 02). There are also plenty of smaller restaurants along the river.
Tent plus 2 people €11–€17.50, chalet €260–€505.
Take A75 to Millau and exit 44/1. Pass through the Gorges du Tarn, Le Rozier, Meyrueis, and take the direction Florac on D996 until you see the sign for La Cascade at the town of Salvinsac. From A75 Marvejols, take N108 to Balsièges, then D986 Ste-Enimie – Meyrueis. Follow directions, as above, to Salvinsac on D996.