Situated on the eastern edge of the Massif Central, the Ardèche Mountains Regional Nature Park extends across an area of more than 180,000 hectares, and covers six different landscapes, which are the Boutières, the Vernoux plateau, the Sucs region, the High Cévenne, the Piémont cévenol and the southern Cévenne. Ancient chestnut groves, dry stone terraces, old volcanos, forests and pastures, gorges and verdant valleys, moors and garrigue all make up the variety of landscapes which characterise this vast protected area.
The Ardèche mountains stretch out to the west of the Park, with, amongst others, the Tanargue massif, an area of medium height mountains good for outdoor activities such as hiking or mountain biking, horse-riding and fishing, in the summer; and alpine skiing, cross-country skiing and snowshoe walking in the winter, at the Croix de Bauzon resort.
Famous volcanic sites, like Mount Mézenc – the highest point in the Ardèche (1 753 metres high), the Ray-Pic waterfall, the Jaujac basalt lava flows and Mount Gerbier de Jonc, at the foot of which the Loire river has its source, will delight nature lovers.
While the Ardèche Mountains Nature Park enchants sports lovers, it also delights those wishing to relax, with its three spa resorts, Neyrac-les-Bains, Saint-Laurent-les-Bains et Vals-les-Bains. Their spa establishments provide, apart from medical cures, courses of treatment for well-being, fitness and beauty therapy, such as the Thermal Baths at Neyrac-les-Bains, which offer body treatments inspired by Asia and the East...To stay in the Ardèche Mountains is also to take time to luxuriate on the beach of Lake Saint-Martial, where bathing is supervised in July and August, or to descend the Eyrieux or Chassezac rivers by canoe-kayak.
This wild conservation area is also rich in built heritage, predominantly stone edifices: Romanesque churches; medieval Castles; the picturesque little village of Chalencon with its granite houses; the hillside village of Antraigues-sur-Volane, with its shady terraces on Place de la Résistance Square and lanes whose walls are decorated with sculptures ; the remains of the Charterhouse of Bonnefoy, dating from the 18th century; the character village of Jaujac with its basalt lava flows; and Rochemure Castle, within whose walls the Park House (Maison du Parc) now stands.
To visit this part of Ardèche is also to learn about its history, traditions and skills, thanks to various museums such as the House of the Chestnut (Maison du Châtaignier) at Saint-Pierreville, the Bourlatier farm at Saint-Andéol-de-Fourchades, the Museum of Vivarais Protestants at Pranles, the Eco-museum (Ecomusée des Terrasses) at Saint-Michel-de-Chabrillanoux, and also the Chestnut Grove Museum (Musée de la Châtaigneraie) at Joyeuse.
In autumn, many places celebrate the traditional chestnut festival, the Castagnades, which honours the famous Ardèche nut.