Outdoor Activities in Poitou-Charentes

Information on hiking, biking, canoeing and horse riding in the hills and valleys of western France. With contact details of regional sport and activity associations...

  • Most Tourist Offices have information brochures in English and several have websites with details on activities in each area.
  • Before heading out for the day, you may want to check the weather

Cycling and Mountain Biking

Poitou-Charentes has over a thousand kilometres of cycling routes, mostly for mountain-biking. There are many forest trails alongside canals and one of the most well-known areas for cycling is the Ile de Ré, a cyclist’s paradise.

The various mountain biking trails can rise from 65 to 850 metres and can be up to 50 Km long.

Many tourist offices sell cycling itineraries compiled by local cycling clubs.


The region is home to a wide number of hiking trails for all levels of ability. Popular areas for walking include the banks of the River Charente and the Vallée d’Issoire

For information on hiking and walking in Charente:

  • Centre Info Rando
    At: 22 boulevard de Bury, 16000 Angoulème
    Tel: 05 45 38 94 48

The Fédération Française de la Randonnée Pedestre (FFRP) is the overseeing body for all marked and maintained walking routes in France. It provides information and guide-books (most in French) for walkers in the Poitou-Charentes area.

Top 25 hiking maps issued by the Institut Géographique National (IGN)  are available from newsagents (presse) and bookshops.

All nationally recognised trails are categorised as follows:

  • GR (Grand Randonnée): Registered hiking trails that often run across the entire country.
  • GRP (Sentiers de Grande Randonnée de Pays): Registered regional trails that will take you around a particular region for several days.
  • PR (Sentiers de Promenade): Walking and hiking trails for short circuits, lasting several hours.
  • Clear explanations of the waymarks, or blazes (balises), of the French route marking system on this website: Click here

Canoeing and Kayaking

Popular areas for canoeing and kayaking in Poitou-Charentes include Montbron on the Tardoire and Aubeterre on the Dronne. Radelage, a sport derived from rafting is practiced on the Vienne.

Navigable rivers for canoeing and kayaking are classified into six grades, Classes I to VI. Class I being for easily navigable rivers, Class V for extremely difficult, and Class VI for rivers that are only navigable depending on the water level and presenting many risks.

  • For information on the classification of navigable rivers (in French): Click here

The sport is monitored by the Fédération Française de Canoë-Kayak (FFCK). It has information on appropriate rivers and expert guides, where available.


  • Fédération Française de Canoë Kayak
    : 02 48 89 39 89
    Comité Départementale de Canoë Kayak de la Charente
    : 2784 Route de Gond Pontouvre, 16600 Ruelle sur Touvre
    Tel: 05 45 69 36
  • Comité Départementale de Canoë Kayak de Charente-Maritime
    : 405 Route du Pineau le Pontreau, 17160 Dompierre sur Charente
    Tel: 05 46 90 56 14
    Fax: 05 46 90 56 14
  • Comité Départementale de Canoë Kayak des Deux-Sèvres
    : Maison des Sports, 103 Avenue de Paris, 79000 Niort
    Tel: 05 49 77 13 01
    Fax: 05 49 77 24 11
    Comité Départementale de Canoë Kayak de la Vienne
    : Maison des Sports, Château de Boivre, 86580 Vouneuil sous Biard
    Tel: 05 49 36 17 55
    Fax: 05 49 36 11 91

Mountaineering and Climbing

A popular area for climbing is the Vallée des Eaux Claires where there are approximately thirty cliffs and also Châteauneuf where there are climbing possibilities for all levels.

Professional guides are available and recommended in most areas. They should hold a diploma from the Ministry of Youth and Sports, and a qualification from the Mountaineering and Rock-climbing Federation, the Fédération Française de la Montagne et de l'Escalade (FFME).

Information (in French) is available on the grade, training options and availability of guides from the FFME:

  • Fédération Française de la Montagne et de l'Escalade
    : 8-10 Quai de la Marne, 75019 Paris
    Tel: 01 40 18 75 50
    Fax: 01 40 18 75 59
  • Charente Escalade is a website dedicated to climbing in the Charente region.
  • APEM - Association Poitevine Escalade et Montagne
    : 22 place Charles de Gaulle, 86000 Poitiers
    Tel: 05 49 88 93 48