The Cascade du Ray-Pic ([RAY-peek]; “Ray Peak Falls”) was one of the more intriguing waterfalls we’ve seen. What made the roughly 60m falls interesting was that it was accompanied by prominent yet contorted basalt columns. The last time we saw waterfalls with such obviously conspicuous basalt features was in Iceland (namely Svartifoss and Litlanesfoss).
However, the Ray Peak waterfall also exhibited some geologic movement which gave rise to the bending of the basalt columns to the point that we could see the cross section of the columns to the upper left of the main waterfall. Our understanding of geology suggested that typically, basalt columns were indicative of the history of lava of a particular composition being rapidly cooled and solidified by ice (said to have occurred some 35,000 years ago according to the signs).
It was this geology that also caused the closure of the access to the base of the falls due to the rock fall danger from the overhanging basalt cliffs (most photos of the falls out in the literature were from this forbidden area). We were there when they pretty much finished a new walkway that avoided the base of the falls altogether and allowed us to see the falls from a pair of lookout platforms.
In high flow, the main waterfall can be accompanied by a thinner (but also impressive in its own right) waterfall. It was difficult to capture both waterfalls in one photo from the base, but one of the new overlooks gave us a pretty good view of both falls together. However, in the late morning, we had to look against the sun from this vantage point. So perhaps this may suggest that early to late afternoon may be better suited for viewing the falls from the better of the two official lookouts.
From the official car park, it took us about 15 minutes to walk to the overlook platforms and about an hour and 15 minutes to do the entire excursion including all the photo taking and relaxing. The trail was fairly easy without too much elevation change except for the end when we descended towards the lookouts down some steps.
Although this is not recommended and only if you’re willing to take risks while disobeying the signs, it is possible to hop the railing and continue on an old, steep trail towards the base of both falls. However if you do this, you need to be fully aware of the rock fall risks and understand why the authorities chose to close this means of access in the first place. In other words, your safety and your choices are solely your responsibility. That said, we did take some photos and videos from the base, which you can see further down this page.
One last thing worth mentioning is that we apparently stumbled onto a different trail leading to Cascade du Ray-Pic when we were driving away from here towards the natural bridge known as Pont d’Arc. This alternate trailhead (though I suspect it only led to the car park and didn’t provide a truly alternate access) was near an arched road bridge and featured a small cascade near it before following the stream along a sun-drenched gorge going in the upstream direction.
This rather off-the-beaten-path waterfall is said to be near the mountain village of Péreyres in the Ardèche department of the Rhône-Alpes region of Eastern France. There’s a lookout (Belvedere du Ray-Pic) as well as a car park further downhill from it, both of which are along the D215 between the communities of Burzet and Lachamp Raphaël.
Since we were staying in Lyon, we’ll describe the detailed driving directions as follows.
We left Lyon on the autoroute A7 going south through Valence and eventually leaving the autoroute A7 at the D104N exit between Loriol-sur-Drome and Le Pouzin. We then headed west on the D104 road for about 28km before keeping right onto the D122 road. Then, we followed the D122 for the next 28km when we then turned left onto the D215 at Lachamp Raphaël. Then, for the final 7km or so, we followed this road to both the overlook as well as the signposted trailhead a short distance thereafter near a hairpin turn. Overall, we did this as part of a long out-and-back day trip, but this part of the drive took us a little over 2.5 hours one-way.
Finally, for a bit of geographical context, 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 distance.
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