- by Stéphane
The ViaRhôna is a cycle path that is 815 km long. The path follows the natural course of the river Rhône, from Lake Geneva all the way to the Mediterranean. The ViaRhôna is adapted to those looking for a sporty outing, those travelling from place to place, or for a day out with family or a group of friends.
A family-friendly cycle path
I often go for a bike ride along this path with my wife and 10-year-old daughter. Our favourite tour is the section of the ViaRhôna between Bourg-lès-Valence and Valence.
I like going on this bike ride in the spring because there are not many people and the temperatures are ideal. But this route is possible all year long. Along the way we cross paths with tourists cycling from place to place, as well as joggers and local families.
The logo for this route can easily be identified and you'll see it on the signs along the way, but I must admit that I'm so used to this path now that I don't take any notice anymore.
Begin at a leisurely pace
The bike ride starts off slowly and we pass the dam. Then we follow a long straight section along the Rhône until we reach the new Theatre Le Rhône esplanade. This place has only recently been developed. You'll find picnic areas with barbecues, children's playgrounds, petanque pits and beach volleyball courts. It's a very enjoyable place to be!
After a short break to enjoy the atmosphere of the area, we get back on our bikes. We reach the railway tracks and then we approach Valence town centre. You have to be careful here because some sections of the route are shared with cars. But the signs for the cycle path are easy to see and there are markings on the ground.
A short break in Valence
In the centre of Valence, I follow my usual route: pass in front of the monumental fountain then the Champ de Mars. From this esplanade there's a superb view of the hills of Ardèche! Local people love to come here for a stroll. You'll be able to easily recognise the area with the two big rectangular sections of grass on either side of the Peynet bandstand, listed as a historic monument.
It's time to leave your bikes in a secure storage unit and carry on your exploration on foot. For those intreseted in architecture, I recommend going to the maison des têtes. It owes its name to the many sculpted heads that decorate the building. You could also go to the Museum of Art and Archaeology or just wander around the small streets and pedestrian squares. I love walking around and looking for a new place to go for lunch.
Head back before nightfall.
The way back and the end of the day
When you've finished exploring this great town, carry on along the cycle path. The path will take you around Jouvet Park where we sometimes stop off for our picnic lunch. Then there's a section that leads you under the motorway.
You then follow the river Rhône once again until you reach Epervière harbour. This is the biggest river port in France with 420 berths. You can stop off to visit the huge leisure complex here.
One last push to Lônes bridge which takes us over the Rhône! Then it's time to turn around and head back before it gets dark.
If you would like to spread this ride over 2 days, I recommend staying at the Vélo Gîte in Valence. A stone's throw from the town centre, this holiday gîte is especially equipped for cyclists.