Saoù forest, The Drôme, France

The Drôme: Exploring The Magical Saoù Forest

Hiking In The Drôme


Saoù forest, La Chaudière, France


As promised, here is Part III of the fabulous trip we took to The Drôme recently!  To catch up on the previous ravings about the area, you can  click on these links to read about the villages we visited and the wine festival we bumped into while we were there.  This time, it’s all about the wilds of the Drôme and the stunning geology that can be found nowhere else in Europe but there.  That makes it a region worth visiting, even if you don’t care about wine, castles and quaint villages.  Of course, while we were there, we took a hike, as that’s what we do, as you may remember from other posts I’ve written about getting lost in Allos valley and meeting cows and army jeeps in Mercantour  Park.


La Chaudière trail, The Drôme, France


The Saoù forest is very special as it grows in an almost completely closed valley, which is surrounded by hills that slope gently upward on the inside of the valley, then drop away on the outside edge into white cliffs, as you can see in the photo below. The geological term for this kind of formation is called a syncline, where the land folds like a towel if you push it together from both ends at the same time.  Not only is it folded, but thanks to millions of years of erosion from glaciers, water flows and earthquakes, the cliffs emerged from the land, and formed a perched syncline.  So, now you know.


Hiking in The Drôme, La Chaudière


There is one narrow road that leaves from the village of Saoù and follows the Vèbre River into the valley, and one nearly-mountain pass that hairpins its way out of the forest at the other end of the bowl. I saw photos taken from the air.  They’re really spectacular! Unfortunately, we didn’t have a way of flying above it so we had to content ourselves with walking along the top of it instead. The highest point of the walls that shelter the Saoù forest are three peaks called Les Trois Becs at La Chaudière. This is, of course, where we went since I have decided the rest of my family are half mountain-goat.  They’re always trying to head for the highest bit of ground they can find!


View of The Drôme, France


The valley shelters a whole heap of animals and plants that have been protected by its isolation from the rest of the surroundings. You can find everything in the Saoù Forest from squirrels and foxes on the valley floor to chamois and marmots in the higher reaches of the bowl. We did see a fox hunting on the side of the road one evening when we were going back to the gite after dinner. Sadly, we didn’t bump into anything else, except a very colourful snake when we were on the hike. I’m not sure who was more frightened.

After the actually-not-so-difficult hike, and the fabulous views from the top of the Saoù Forest, we went down into the valley itself to lie around in the grass and relax.  This time around, my eldest was tired enough not to moan about how bored he was.


Saoû forest, The Drome, France


By Lisa Watson