Cascade d’Angon provided us the perfect waterfalling excuse for enjoying what we think was one of France’s “hidden” gems – the charming canal town of Old Annecy or La Vieille Ville d’Annecy. Just imagine something like France’s version of Venice mixed in with a picturesque alpine lake and that pretty much sums up what the Annecy experience would be like. But the waterfall itself allowed us to enjoy our time in Annecy that much more!
Being only about 30 minutes drive away from the charming canal town, we visited this waterfall attraction as a way to experience other parts of the neighboring Lac d’Annecy (Lake Annecy) region. After all, there was only so much strolling around and eating within Old Annecy that we could do in a day, so why not check out what else the beautiful area had to offer without breaking the bank?
Indeed, after finding the trailhead (see directions below), we hiked on a shaded and gradually descending path alongside some rural farms with a teasing view of the neighboring snow-crusted mountains towering over the scene (the same mountains that were backdrops to Lake Annecy making it so picturesque).The signage along the trail indicated to us that the hike from La Pirraz (the small parking area by some basketball court) to Cascade d’Angon was about 20 minutes, but that seemed to underestimate the actual time we had to spend to get all the way to the end of the trail (which I’ll get into later).
The trail was pretty benign with wide paths, lots of tree cover, and some rock step sections (where we had to be careful of the slippery footing thanks to the heavy rains during our visit). However, as we got further along the trail, we noticed there was one lookout through an opening in the foliage that provided us a view of some chateau jutting out to a peninsula on the southwestern part of Lake Annecy.
Continuing forward, the trail began to transition from the easy and tame trail to a more narrow cliff-hugging path that seemed to be cut right into the cliff itself. In a way, this half-sheltered cliff-hugging trail kind of protected us from the rain (at least before the weather started clearing up).Nonetheless, given the heavy rains we were experiencing the morning that we did this hike, the rocky surface made for some real tricky footing the further we went (i.e. it was very slippery). However, the trail also allowed us to look behind and get glimpses of the southernmost extreme of Lake Annecy surrounded by pretty snow-crusted mountains. All throughout this section of trail, we could appreciate the steepness of the gorge while also getting teasing glimpses of more mountains slowly revealing themselves above and across the gorge.
The trail got a bit steeper as it descended towards the head of the gorge it was hugging. It was at the head of this gorge where it became apparent that there were really two waterfalls coming together here!
I’m not sure how permanent the first waterfall (on the left) was given its lighter flow relative to the second waterfall (on the right), which I suspect was the main Cascade d’Angon, which was said to be 35m tall. In any case, the slippery trail descended behind this first waterfall before climbing up to a little “nose” section where the trail momentarily left the overhead shelter of the cliffs above and allowed us to get attractive views back at this first waterfall while also getting partially obstructed views of the second waterfall.Beyond this little spot that I’m calling the “nose” (for some reason I imagined the waterfalls being the eyes crying and the trail between them as the bags under the eyes), the trail dove right back into the shady confines of the sheltered cliff-hugging path steeply descending at first before making a final steep ascent towards the upper-middle section of Cascade d’Angon (see photo to the left). As a testament to how slippery it became in this section, I actually managed to slip and fall on my back here despite holding onto the railings. Luckily, my day pack broke my fall.
The Cascade d’Angon represented the end of our hike and the turnaround point. It was difficult to get a clean look of the entire waterfall while en route to it given all the trees blocking the view. Plus, the tendency of this waterfall to drop right into a very narrow gorge made it difficult to get clean looks of its relatively concealed base. The net effect was that pictures didn’t do this waterfall justice as it always seemed to appear shorter than it really was.
From the very end of the trail, we could really feel the sense of vertigo as it was possible to peer up at the brink of the falls while also to peer down at the bottom of the falls (almost appearing like it dropped into a hole though it was really just a tight alcove). Further downstream, we could see another tier of that first waterfall joining the stream of this waterfall before the combined stream ultimately drained into the lake.
Another thing worth noting about Cascade d’Angon was that we noticed there was a chain and rope above this impossibly narrow and slippery-looking ledge. I believe the purpose of this was to make it possible to hang onto the rope-chain while precariously inching along the scary ledge to get right up to the waterfall and touch it. As both Julie and I saw this, we thought whoever has done this must have a death wish!
Finally, I have to add that even though the signs indicated it was only about a 20-minute hike in each direction, I think that time table only pertained to just getting to the first waterfall. It easily took us another 20-30 minutes of very slow and ginger walking (no thanks to the effects of rain and the resulting slippery surface) to go from the first waterfall to the second waterfall. So all things considered, it took us about two hours for the entire out-and-back hike, including all the time taken to enjoy the scenery and take lots of photos.
From Annecy (or wherever you managed to find parking in the city, which was very difficult), we drove on D909 around the eastern side of Lake Annecy towards Talloires. A few minutes past the village of Clos Don Jean, we then took the D42 road for 3km as it ascended towards the village of Vèrel.
At the 3km point (before reaching the village), look for a rather small sign telling you to turn right for Cascade d’Angon. There’s a pullout area there for parking the car right next to some multi-use basketball court at some spot the signs indicate is “La Pirraz”. The trail begins a few paces in front of both the car park and basketball court. The drive from Old Annecy took us slightly over a half-hour.
For geographical context, Annecy was 42km (under an hour drive) south of Geneva, 107km (under 90 minutes drive) north of Grenoble, and 148km (90-120 minutes drive) east of Lyon. The city of Lyon was 466km or at least 4.5 hours by car from Paris. However, we used the very fast and efficient TGV (high speed train or le train a grande vitesse), which wound up taking around 3 hours to cover this stretch between the two major cities.
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