Cascades du Herisson ("Herisson Waterfalls")

Jura, Burgogne-Franche-Comte, France

About Cascades du Herisson (“Herisson Waterfalls”)


Hiking Distance: 7.4km round trip (all waterfalls)
Suggested Time: 2.5-3 hours

Date first visited: 2012-05-22
Date last visited: 2012-05-22

Waterfall Latitude: 46.61481
Waterfall Longitude: 5.86044

Waterfaller Newsletter

Get over the hump of the mid-week blues! Subscribe and get exclusive curated content delivered to your inbox every Wednesday.

Les Cascades du Herisson (The Hérisson Waterfalls or Waterfalls of the Hérisson; also Les Cascades de Hérisson with one less definite article) was perhaps the one waterfall excursion in France that made us see waterfalls in our sleep!

That was because the Herisson Valley harbored at least seven significant waterfalls on the Herisson River.

Herisson_084_20120522 - Le Grand Saut - one of the major Herisson Waterfalls
Le Grand Saut – one of the major Herisson Waterfalls

At least three of the Herisson Waterfalls were major high-volume waterfalls of over 35m, but we noticed a few side cascades and waterfalls draining into the river itself.

The Herisson River was sourced by Lake Bonlieu and the Ilay Lakes so the waterfalls were said to flow year-round.

Apparently, this site was considered a heritage site in France due to its history of human habitation as well as its scenic allure.

This waterfall series was the main scenic attraction in the Jura department of the Franche-Comté region – an area that was also known as le pays qui respire (i.e. the country that breathes; suggesting you can relax and have room to breathe here).

Herisson_129_20120522 - The Saut Girard was the uppermost of the Herisson Waterfalls that we happened to encounter on the soggy day of our visit
The Saut Girard was the uppermost of the Herisson Waterfalls that we happened to encounter on the soggy day of our visit

Indeed, after partaking in our own self-guided hike while breathing in the cool and misty mountain air, it definitely felt like we were in a very different part of the country.

Experiencing les Cascades du Herisson – Hiking up from la Maison des Cascades

There were a lot of ways to visit the majority of the Herisson Waterfalls thanks to there being connecting trails and several alternate entry and exit points with car parks.

All but one of these car parks were above the Herisson Valley.

However, we thought the most strategic way to experience the waterfalls was to drive into Herisson Valley and stop at the large car park that was closest to the camping area as well as La Maison des Cascades Visitor Center (see directions below).

Herisson_010_20120521 - The trail from the House of Waterfalls (la Maison des Cascades) initially followed alongside the Herisson River
The trail from the House of Waterfalls (la Maison des Cascades) initially followed alongside the Herisson River

By starting from this spot, we were able to take our time as we gradually walked uphill while enjoying each of the major Herisson Waterfalls en route in the ascent.

The two largest Herisson Waterfalls (each 65m tall) – l’Eventail and le Grand Saut – were also closer to the bottom of the valley so these were amongst the first waterfalls that we saw.

When we went as far up the valley as we were willing to go, it was all downhill on the return to the car park as we enjoyed the waterfalls once again.

The walk to take in all the waterfalls starting from La Maison des Cascades was said to be an out-and-back hike of 3.7km each way (or 7.4km round trip which was about three hours total).

Herisson_046_20120521 - L'Eventail (the fan) was another one of the major Herisson Waterfalls
L’Eventail (the fan) was another one of the major Herisson Waterfalls

The elevation gain for the entire hike was said to be about 250m.

We were glad we came prepared with a decent pair of hiking boots because there were plenty of spots where the trail was wet and slippery as well as rocky.

During our May 2012 visit, parts of the trail were flooded due to the Herisson River being in a swollen state from two days of persistent and heavy rains.

Therefore, we weren’t able to do the entire hike as we had planned from the bottom to the top and back down.

However, we did manage to see the major waterfall highlights by splitting up the hike to avoid traversing the flooded parts.

Herisson_053_20120522 - Looking over the brink of l'Eventail towards Herisson Valley
Looking over the brink of l’Eventail towards Herisson Valley

Here’s how we did it…

Our Cascades du Herisson Experience – From la Maison des Cascades to l’Eventail

Starting from the main car park (i.e. the one within Herisson Valley nearest to both Herisson camping as well as La Maison des Cascades), we followed a wide path leading to La Maison des Cascades Visitor Center.

Immediately after the visitor center, the path flanked the Herisson River.

Within a few minutes past the House of the Waterfalls, we saw the first waterfall right across the river called Tuffiere (or Tuffière).

This one came from a side stream so it had more of a lacy appearance, which contrasted with the turbulence of the swollen Herisson River.

Herisson_013_20120521 - Looking towards the Tuffiere, which was one of the side waterfalls feeding the Herisson River
Looking towards the Tuffiere, which was one of the side waterfalls feeding the Herisson River

Barely another minute or two beyond Tuffiere was the first major waterfall on the river itself – l’Eventail.

The word was French for “the fan,” and we speculated that it was probably so named because someone imagined it looked like a fan under certain conditions.

This powerful multi-staged waterfall was said to be 65m tall, but just from our immediate impressions, we suspected that this was probably the largest of the Herisson Waterfalls.

Next, we followed the most obvious path, which was to walk alongside the river then up the stairs right next to the waterfall.

These stairs took us to a few more switchbacks as the trail steeply climbed to access the top of l’Eventail.

Herisson_037_20120521 - Hiking towards l'Eventail
Hiking towards l’Eventail

Since the trail so closely followed the river and waterfall, this meant that we were blasted by Eventail’s mist.

So we were glad to have brought rain ponchos and waterproof pants to shield ourselves and our belongings.

However, we figured out later that there was another path that bypassed the misty section and rejoined the main trail up a couple of the switchbacks.

I’m sure this would be the preferred way to go if getting blasted by l’Eventail’s mist was not desirable.

At the top of Eventail, there was a railing and viewing area where we were able to get pretty close to the brink of the waterfall.

Herisson_052_20120522 - Julie only going so far onto the railed overlook at the flooded brink of l'Eventail
Julie only going so far onto the railed overlook at the flooded brink of l’Eventail

However, since the river was swollen, some of it overflowed and prevented us from getting all the way to the corner of the railings where we would be as close to the brink of the falls as safely possible under normal circumstances.

Our Cascades du Herisson Experience – From l’Eventail to le Grand Saut

Next, the trail crossed the river over a bridge.

Immediately after the bridge, there was a trail junction where one way went upstream while the other way went downstream.

The downstream route led to an alternate top-down and angled view of l’Eventail as well as another perspective of the valley.

Continuing along the main trail in the upstream direction for a few paces, we reached yet another junction.

Herisson_066_20120522 - The trail leading along the vertical cliff wall towards le Grand Saut under some pretty foul weather
The trail leading along the vertical cliff wall towards le Grand Saut under some pretty foul weather

This time, there was a path that continued following the river as well as another path that ascended away from the river.

The riverside path, which was one end of a looped detour to get close to the front of the next major waterfall called the Grand Saut (“big leap”), was blocked because there was a persistent danger of rock falls.

So the only sanctioned way to proceed was to take the ascending path.

At this junction, we opted to obey the signs and ascend (despite us noticing an obviously defiant shortcut trail descending from the sanctioned trail and bypassing that barricade below us).

The higher we went on the sanctioned trail, the more it became painfully apparent that there wouldn’t be any satisfying frontal views of Grand Saut.

Herisson_069_20120522 - Profile view of le Grand Saut while standing beneath some overhanging cliffs
Profile view of le Grand Saut while standing beneath some overhanging cliffs

We’d eventually reach another trail junction where we saw another barricade blocking the other end of the Grand Saut loop.

It was from this barricade that we could get partial views of the 60m Grand Saut, but even from here trees and cliffs blocked the view enough to tease us into trying to see more.

And knowing that the views wouldn’t improve, we actually committed our own act of tempting fate (knowing there were risks involved) to briefly go out to get that elusive view of the waterfall (see photo at the top of this page).

Given the rainy conditions, there were several small mini-waterfalls spilling from the overhanging cliffs above us right onto the trail.

It was apparent from examining the cliffs surrounding this forbidden trail, that the authorities closed this trail for good reason.

Herisson_095_20120522 - Looking down over the brink of le Grand Saut
Looking down over the brink of le Grand Saut

However, I sometimes wondered where the line was drawn between being overly conservative and being reckless since Nature itself harbored inherent risks and constant changes.

In any case, we took whatever photos we could without even entertaining the option of going behind the waterfall (where the loop trail continued) before we returned to the main trail.

I’m sure our act of defiance wouldn’t even be possible outside of our visit (which was apparently either the low or shoulder season) because we were the only ones on the trail at the time.

However, I’d bet with more people and perhaps more enforcement in the high season, this Grand Saut loop trail would be strictly interdit or forbidden.

Our Cascades du Herisson Experience – Beyond le Grand Saut

Herisson_097_20120522 - There had been so much rain during our visit to the Herisson Waterfalls that the trail kept crossing new cascades from all the overflow
There had been so much rain during our visit to the Herisson Waterfalls that the trail kept crossing new cascades from all the overflow

Anyways, the main trail continued ascending higher up the cliffs going past a few more mini-cascades crossing the trail.

Eventually, the climb would flatten out somewhat until it reached a pair of overlooks above the brink of Grand Saut.

It turned out that these would be the only sanctioned views of the big waterfall, but as was usual for most waterfalls when viewed from the top, it was not as good as the views from the front of the waterfall.

As the main trail continued further upstream from the waterfall, we saw another small waterfall on the river called Gour Bleu.

This one was gushing thanks to the swollen Herisson River, but wasn’t tall (probably with a 5m or so drop).

Herisson_111_20120522 - This was the flooded part of the trail where the Herisson River consumed part of the path and we opted not to push past this
This was the flooded part of the trail where the Herisson River consumed part of the path and we opted not to push past this

Above that waterfall, the Chateau Garnier Waterfall was only 5 minutes away. However, that was when we encountered severe enough trail flooding that caused us to turn back.

It was the type of flooding where lost footing could easily result in getting swept up by the strong current of the swollen Herisson River.

There was even a guy who seriously tried to figure out a way through the flooded section while carrying his dog.

Eventually, we’d be back at the main car park about two hours after we had started.

Driving up to experience Saut Girard

We’d ultimately drive back up and out of the Herisson Valley until we reached the car park yielding the shortest hiking distance for Saut Girard.

Herisson_123_20120522 - Checking out some kind of outflow coming from a stone structure and spilling over the trail leading down to Saut Girard
Checking out some kind of outflow coming from a stone structure and spilling over the trail leading down to Saut Girard

There was a second car park close to Saut Girard by La Fromagerie, which had a slightly longer trail to the falls, which was why we chose not to take it.

See directions below for the route we took to the secondary car park that we selected.

From the car park nearest to Saut Girard, it was only a 5-minute slightly downhill walk to get right in front of the 35m waterfall.

This waterfall featured a main plunge with a dam-like contraption fronting its plunge pool creating another small waterfall tier.

There was also some kind of cat-like statue atop a pedestal just in front of that dam.

Herisson_142_20120522 - Contextual view of some kind of statue fronting the Saut Girard
Contextual view of some kind of statue fronting the Saut Girard

I wasn’t sure what the significance of that statue was, however.

In the alcove behind the main drop of the Saut Girard, there were additional cascades emerging from the alcove walls.

It was pretty apparent to me that they were springs, and that combination of a plunging waterfall backed by percolating springs was what made Saut Girard memorable.

It wasn’t easy to get a clean frontal photo of the falls due to the heavy mist spraying out from its base as well as the positioning of some trees blocking some of the line-of-sight as well.

Even from the bridge just downstream from the Saut Girard, some of the spray reached it while many trees grew alongside the river to prevent me from having a clean look from there.

Herisson_135_20120522 - Context of a part of the Saut Girard where it seemed like part of it came out of the cliff beneath the main waterfall
Context of a part of the Saut Girard where it seemed like part of it came out of the cliff beneath the main waterfall

Almost besides the bridge, there was a trail junction where I could’ve continued walking downhill for 30 minutes to eventually reach another waterfall called Le Saut de La Forge while passing by yet another waterfall called Le Moulin Jeunet en route.

Ultimately, I could’ve reached the waterfall I skipped earlier this morning due to flooding called Le Chateau Garnier, which was a little further than Saut de La Forge.

Unfortunately, I opted not to do it so I can’t really say anything more about these waterfalls.

Maybe on a return trip, I might have a more thorough visit under more benign conditions.

Authorities

Les Cascades du Herisson (Herisson Waterfalls) reside near Menetrux-en-Joux in the Jura department of the Burgogne-Franche-Comte province of France. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their tourism board website.

Herisson_008_20120521 - Warning sign indicating the trail to the Herisson Waterfalls is slippery
Herisson_022_20120521 - Looking upstream at l'Eventail in a gushing and swollen state
Herisson_027_20120521 - Contextual look upstream at l'Eventail with the Herisson River looking flooded as other side creeks or gullies also fed its flow
Herisson_038_20120521 - Up-close look at l'Eventail as the trail climbed up alongside its drop
Herisson_040_20120521 - Broad look at the l'Eventail waterfall in a pretty swollen state thanks to the heavy rain during our late May 2012 visit
Herisson_058_20120522 - Looking downstream past the brink of l'Eventail towards the Herisson Valley
Herisson_060_20120522 - Julie crossing a bridge over the Herisson River as we continued our hike beyond l'Eventail
Herisson_061_20120522 - Sign and barricade blocking the loop trail to Grand Saut
Herisson_063_20120522 - Initially, we went up past the barricade to see if there was a chance we might get to experience le Grand Saut, but alas, there was no other way
Herisson_070_20120522 - Looking back up at the overhanging cliffs along the trail leading closer to le Grand Saut, but there was so much rain that there were some minor waterfalls spilling right onto the trail
Herisson_080_20120522 - Checking out le Grand Saut with some heavy rain augmenting its flow as well as creating new waterfalls along the overhanging cliffs
Herisson_088_20120522 - Looking back at some small cascades crossing the trail leading to the brink of Grand Saut as we continued making our way further up the Herisson Waterfalls Trail
Herisson_090_20120522 - Looking across the top of le Grand Saut from near its brink
Herisson_091_20120522 - Looking down across the river at some other large cascades within the forbidden section as seen from near the brink of le Grand Saut
Herisson_102_20120522 - Gour Bleu - another unexpected waterfall we noticed on the Herisson River
Herisson_107_20120522 - Passing by another minor cascade on the way up the Herisson Waterfalls. Maybe this particular one happened to be the Chateau Garnier Waterfall
Herisson_116_20120522 - Looking down at l'Eventail from an alternate overlook on the other side of the Herisson River, which we checked out on the way back down to la Maison des Cascades
Herisson_119_20120522 - The long cascade that tumbled besides the switchbacks near l'Eventail
Herisson_125_20120522 - Bridge at a trail junction near Saut Girard
Herisson_126_20120522 - First look at Saut Girard from the bridge over its creek
Herisson_134_20120522 - Profile view of the main drop of Saut Girard as I pursued the trail leading as close to it as possible
Herisson_136_20120522 - Paying close attention to the spring flowing out of the cliff beneath the Saut Girard
Herisson_144_20120522 - On the other (more mistier) side of Saut Girard and its gushing main drop in the heavy rain

join-booking-970x240-1.jpg


There are many ways to drive to les Cascades du Herisson (the Herisson Waterfalls), but we’ll just focus on how we managed to do it.

Driving from Prevessin-Moens to la Maison des Cascades

We drove to the car park for the Maison des Cascades (at the Herisson Waterfalls) from the town of Prévessin-Moëns, which is on the outskirts of Geneva near the Geneva Airport.

We essentially followed the D984C due north to the town of Gex.

Herisson_001_20120521 - The main car park area by the Maison des Cascades within the Herisson Valley
The main car park area by the Maison des Cascades within the Herisson Valley

Then, we drove the D1005, which ascended right into the Jura Mountains to the border town of La Cure.

After La Cure, we then took the N5 and followed it until we took the D678 at Saint-Laurent-en-Grandvaux.

By this point, we started to see signs for Cascades du Herisson, and the signs had us follow the D39.

The D39 eventually junctioned with the D326 where we took that road down into the valley past Lac de Chambly and Lac du Val and eventually to the desired car park.

The drive from Prévessin-Moëns took us about 2 hours.

Other car parks for the Herisson Waterfalls

Herisson_120_20120522 - This was the trailhead from the nearest car park leading down to the Saut Girard, which was the uppermost of the Herisson Waterfalls
This was the trailhead from the nearest car park leading down to the Saut Girard, which was the uppermost of the Herisson Waterfalls

Also note that while driving the D39, we encountered a few other car parks for the Herisson Waterfalls.

These car parks were for some of the alternate entry points descending towards the waterfalls series.

Among the ones we passed by were at Ilay (for Grand Saut), La Fromagerie (also for Grand Saut), Le Saut de La Forge, and l’Eventail.

When we went to the car park for Saut Girard, it took us about 30 minutes from the Maison des Cascades car park going back the way we came until we turned right onto D75.

The car park was only a minute or two past the D39/D75 junction.

For context, the town of Prévessin-Moëns was 11km northwest of Geneva and 142km (2 hours drive) northeast 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.

Bottom up sweep of Tuffiere


Left to right sweep of Eventail


Fixated on the powerful Eventail


top down L-shaped sweep following the trajectory of the falls before ending at the mist blasting the trail


right at the brink of the swollen falls following the trajectory of the water as it plunges deeper into Herisson Valley


Left to right sweep from a set back position away from the brink of the falls


Left to right sweep of the forbidden area from behind the overhanging cliffs showing smaller waterfalls spilling onto the trail before panning towards the Grand Saut itself


Left to right sweep from under the overhanging cliffs from a position as close to the falls as I would get (just past a signpost)


fixated on the Grand Saut


right to left sweep following the overhanging cliffs before following the trajectory of the falls itself then panning over to other cascades nearby


Right to left sweep over the brink of Grand Saut


Left to right sweep of the raging river before zooming in on the smaller waterfall known as Gour Bleu


Left to right sweep following starting with some farms in the valley then panning over to Eventail from the other side of the river


right to left sweep from near the animal statue as it pans over to the Saut Girard itself


left to right sweep following some springs behind Saut Girard then panning along the main waterfall itself


left to right sweep from near the bridge


left to right sweep from near the animal statue on the other side of the river before panning over to the falls and the contraption in front of it


right to left sweep following cliff contours and small cascades before following the trajectory of the water of Saut Girard

Trip Planning Resources


Nearby Accommodations




Tagged with: jura, franche-comte, france, herisson, eventail, grand saut, maison des cascades, waterfall house, tuffiere, gour bleu, chateau garnier, saut girard, fromagerie, saut de la forge, moulin jeunet, burgogne-franche-comte



Visitor Comments:

No users have replied to the content on this page


Share your thoughts about what you've read on this page

You must be logged in to submit content. Refresh this page after you have logged in.

Visitor Reviews of this Waterfall:

No users have submitted a write-up/review of this waterfall


Have you been to a waterfall? Submit a write-up/review and share your experiences or impressions

Review A Waterfall

Nearest Waterfalls

The Waterfaller Newsletter

The Waterfaller Newsletter is where we curate the wealth of information on the World of Waterfalls website and deliver it to you in bite-sized chunks in your email inbox. You'll also get exclusive content like...

  • Waterfall Wednesdays
  • Insider Tips
  • User-submitted Waterfall Write-up of the Month
  • and the latest news and updates both within the website as well as around the wonderful world of waterfalls
Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of the award-winning A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
Read More About Johnny | A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls.