Puy de Sancy is the highest summit of Volcans d’Auvergne, located in the Massif Central. It is the highest point in the center of France! Puy du Sancy is located 1,885m (6184 ft) above sea level, and 890m (2919 ft) above the town of Mont Dore. This peak is located in the Auvergne Volcanic Regional Nature Park.
The charming town of Mont Dore
Geologically, this volcanic region is the oldest part of all of France, and is located only 50km from the city of Clermont-Ferrand. For those who are looking for an easy way to reach the peak, you’re in luck. You can take a cable car most of the way up the mountain, and then take a set of wooden stairs to the summit. Climbing these stairs will only take approximately 20 minutes (and 864 steps). You can enjoy the view, and then take the cable car back down!
I’d say its debatable whether these are representing a volcanic peak or something else…
We took the more difficult route. We started our hike at the beginning of the trail to Grande Cascade. You can access this trail from the town of Mont Dore, directly to the right of Les Thermes. You’ll climb the stairs and follow a path of about 1.1km until you reach the falls. Although many tourists will turn back here, we followed the track across a small bridge and up a set of metal stairs to continue our hike to Puy de Sancy. If you continue past the waterfall and up the set of stairs, you get a lovely view overlooking the town of Mont Dore.
Our entire hike was approximately 15km (9.3 miles) and took us about 9 hours to complete. If we hadn’t stopped to take so many photographs and have a few snacks, it could have been completed in 7-8 hours. The hike was a loop, so we didn’t have to cover any ground twice.
A little over halfway into the hike you’ll reach Puy de Sancy with an incredible view of the surrounding areas. You’ll take the wooden steps down (they’re extremely uneven and it gets very windy up here), and follow the path to the left to continue the loop. If you’re tired at this point, you can cheat and take the cable car down instead!
You’ll be walking on a narrow path on the top of mountains throughout the majority of the hike. For those with a fear of heights, there are no sheer drop-offs but the elevation still made me a bit nervous.
Eventually you’ll begin your descent and cross a cow field. Once across the field you’re almost finished the descent, and you’ll have the opportunity to hike an extra 0.5km up the Pic du Capucin before reaching the funicular down to the town. Instead of taking the funicular, you can take the path directly to the left of it which will take you right back into Mont Dore.
Aside from my fear of heights and the unbelievable sunburn I received on the hike (wear a hat or sunscreen, folks!), the views were incredible and the hike itself was not too strenuous. On the way up to Puy de Sancy we even got to see a few chamois climbing around on the ice! We completed this hike at the beginning of summer and it did get a bit chilly at the peaks, although spring or fall would add more interest in terms of wildflowers or autumn colors. And although we reached the peak mid-day, the views would be even more stunning if you manage to make it up there by sunrise.
If you happen to find yourself in Central France, you shouldn’t miss making a trip up to the summit of Puy de Sancy. Whether you’re taking the cable car or hiking the whole loop, the views are worth the trip.