Waterfall at Etretat

Haute-Normandie / Seine-Maritime, Normandy, France

About Waterfall at Etretat


Hiking Distance: 4-5km round trip; scramble
Suggested Time: 2.5 hours

Date first visited: 2012-05-07
Date last visited: 2012-05-07

Waterfall Latitude: 49.70067
Waterfall Longitude: 0.186

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The waterfall at Etretat (Étretat [EHTR-uh-tah]) was my excuse to include the impressive sea arches that the town is known for.

Etretat sits within the Seine-Maritime department of the Upper Normandy (Haute-Normandie) region of Northern France.

Etretat_379_20120507 - The Waterfall at Etretat
The Waterfall at Etretat

The waterfall itself is probably a mere 10m or so, but an excursion to reach it rewards you with an exhilirating close-up look at two of Etretat’s three sea arches – Falaise d’Aval and Manneporte.

You can also get distant views of the third and smallest arch called Falaise d’Amont from a trail starting from the northeast side of town.

It appears that the falls emerges from the base of the sea cliffs facing the English Channel.

It is probably a result of gullies and rain catchments finding an aquifer or seepage holes within the sea cliffs themselves before emerging as a spring near its base.

I’m not sure whether this waterfall flows year round or not.

Hiking to the Waterfall at Etretat – The Tides

Etretat_262_20120506 - Slippery algal-covered rocks before Falaise d'Aval, one of the signature natural sea arches in Etretat
Slippery algal-covered rocks before Falaise d’Aval, one of the signature natural sea arches in Etretat

In order to reach this waterfall, there were a couple of things I needed to know first before heading out.

First and foremost was that I had to respect the tides and only attempt it at low tide to avoid getting trapped by the water.

Second, I had to be aware of the hazards due to some mild drop-off exposure, slippery surfaces, and falling rocks from sea cliff erosion.

To deal with the tide situation, I needed to know the tide table for the day that I planned on doing this excursion.

The visitor center in the town of Etretat gave me a small surf pamphlet (in French, though it wasn’t hard to figure out), but there were also signs where the walkway descended towards the pebble beach providing this information as well.

Etretat_164_20120506 - Pre-dawn look at Manneport in low-tide with a full moon rising as seen through its span
Pre-dawn look at Manneport in low-tide with a full moon rising as seen through its span

I gave myself at least two hours before the reported low time on the pamphlet, and mentally I had until two hours after low tide to wrap up the hike (and avoid getting trapped by the rising waters).

I definitely didn’t want to underestimate how quickly the water rises when high tide approaches, which is why timing is everything in this bit of an adventure.

As for the hazards, I did the hike in hiking boots because I knew I would encounter slippery algae-covered rocks that needed to be traversed to proceed.

There were also sections where I had to climb on rusted metal ladders or hold onto handrails with some exposure to dropoffs.

Although I didn’t bring them on my visit, I definitely could’ve used climbing gloves, which should have improved the grip and protect my hands a bit more.

Hiking to the Waterfall at Etretat – The Adventure

Etretat_001_20120506 - Walking through the charming coastal town of Etretat, which was where we started the adventure to reach the Waterfall at Etretat
Walking through the charming coastal town of Etretat, which was where we started the adventure to reach the Waterfall at Etretat

Assuming that you know and understand the wild nature of this excursion and its risks, here’s a breakdown of how I did the adventure.

I started the hike before sunrise (around 5am) because low tide was at 7:16am.

Since we stayed in Etretat, this was my starting point.

I’d imagine visitors not staying in town would also have to find parking, then walk through Etretat before beginning the hike on the coastline.

It was only a few minutes from town center to the pebble beach facing the English Channel.

Etretat_009_20120506 - Context of the coastal walk leading to the tunnel by Falaise d'Aval, which you can see in the middle of this photograph, but this was taken during high tide so you can see the English Channel covered up the footpath in water when this was taken
Context of the coastal walk leading to the tunnel by Falaise d’Aval, which you can see in the middle of this photograph, but this was taken during high tide so you can see the English Channel covered up the footpath in water when this was taken

It was at the pebble beach where I saw in one direction (east) the Falaise d’Amont and a chapel high up on the cliffs (there was a separate trail that would’ve let me get closer to it as well as a road that also led up there).

Looking in the other direction (west), I saw the impressive Falaise d’Aval, which was undoubtedly the more attractive of the two arches.

I was able to take the boardwalk approaching the stairs in the direction of Falaise d’Aval, but there were a few areas where it was possible to leave the boardwalk and get onto the pebble beach.

I then scrambled along the pebble beach for a few minutes until I reached a pretty large cave-like alcove.

Along the way, I noticed some remnants of bunkers that were set up during war times (probably from World War II).

Etretat_234_20120506 - Looking back at the other side of the tunnel near the Falaise d'Aval
Looking back at the other side of the tunnel near the Falaise d’Aval

Inside the alcove, there was a rusted metal ladder that I was able to climb up and get onto a ledge that provided access to a tunnel flanked by warning signs.

If low tide happened to be during the day, then a torch or flashlight wouldn’t be necessary.

However, since I was here in the pre-dawn hours, I had to use my headlamp to get through the darkness of the tunnel.

Once I emerged on the other side of the tunnel, I descended onto a stretch of pebble beach sandwiched between the protruding cliffs harboring the arches of Falaise d’Aval and Manneporte.

It was this stretch where I first laid eyes on the impressive Manneporte.

Etretat_217_20120506 - Looking through the opening of Manneport towards the Falaise d'Aval
Looking through the opening of Manneport towards the Falaise d’Aval

It was possible to scramble (albeit very carefully) towards the base of Falaise d’Aval, but to continue with the hike, I followed the pebble beach towards the span of Manneporte.

Once I was close to the arch, there were a few handrails aiding me in getting right into the arch’s span.

With a wide angle lens, it was possible to photograph Falaise d’Aval through the span of Manneporte (see one of the Pinterest photos below).

Beyond the arch’s span, there was another metal ladder descending onto small sheltered pebble beach.

There was a tiny trickling spring (which I had mistaken as the targeted waterfall) with algae growing around it indicating that this part of the cliffs typically saw plenty of moisture.

Etretat_211_20120506 - Closeup at a small spring and waterfall just on the far side of the span of Manneporte
Closeup at a small spring and waterfall just on the far side of the span of Manneporte

Near this spring, there was another tricky partial ladder to get onto another bench.

Getting onto this bench and past its protrusion towards the next stretch of pebble beach would’ve led to the desired waterfall.

Unfortunately, I was very conservative about the slip-and-fall hazards on this last obstacle and turned back prematurely.

It was only through doing the cliff-top walk later in the day did I realize that I didn’t have that far to go in order to get right up to the waterfall and photograph Manneporte with it! Doh!

All things considered, I was able to do the entire walk in about 2.5 hours.

Etretat_222_20120506 - Looking up at a ladder leading to a real sketchy climb up to the top of the cliff somewhere between Falaise d'Aval and Manneporte
Looking up at a ladder leading to a real sketchy climb up to the top of the cliff somewhere between Falaise d’Aval and Manneporte

This included plenty of distractions and time taken for photographs though I didn’t finish the job.

I’m sure I’ll have to come back here one of these days and do it right!

Hiking to the Waterfall at Etretat – The Cliff-top Walk

Speaking of the cliff-top walk, it was a much more tame walk where the path was sandwiched between a golf course and the sea cliffs.

It was possible to see the Etretat Waterfall from the cliffs once we got to the next protrusion beyond the one responsible for Manneporte.

That excursion also took us a relaxed 2.5 hours out and back.

Etretat_376_20120507 - Full context of Manneporte and Falaise d'Aval (partially visible behind it) with the Waterfall at Etretat on the lower right
Full context of Manneporte and Falaise d’Aval (partially visible behind it) with the Waterfall at Etretat on the lower right

Then again, the benefit of this option was that it was independent of the tides.

But as you can see from the photo at the top of this page, the drawback was the rather distant view of the falls.

Authorities

The Waterfall at Etretat resides by Etretat in the Seine-Maritime department of the Normandy province (formerly Haute-Normandie) of France. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their tourism board website.

Etretat_057_20120506 - Walking through the town of Etretat, which was the base from which we experienced the Etretat Waterfall
Etretat_061_20120506 - Looking towards Falaise d'Amont and chapel from the pebble beach at Etretat
Etretat_046_jx_05062012 - Sunset at Etretat.  In hindsight, we probably should've done the waterfall hike that afternoon (when the visibility and lighting would've been ideal) instead of doing it the following morning.
Etretat_134_20120506 - Pre-dawn start as I walked through the quiet town of Etretat to take advantage of the low tide
Etretat_274_20120507 - Context of the beach fronting the town of Etretat looking towards the Falaise d'Aval.  Note for this and the next 6 photos, I'm showing them in the order you'd see them if you were doing the hike and not chronologically since the lighting was way too dim on my way to the waterfall
Etretat_252_20120506 - Before reaching the tunnel to get behind Falaise d'Aval, I noticed this bunker that was probably set up during World War II during the Nazi occupation of France
Etretat_247_20120506 - Looking back at an arrow near the tunnel entrance
Etretat_248_20120506 - Signs flanking the tunnel leading past the Falaise d'Aval
Etretat_244_20120506 - Looking back at the tunnel entrance from within the tunnel to get behind the Falaise d'Aval in low tide
Etretat_241_20120506 - Looking towards the pebble beach between the Falaise d'Aval and Manneporte after having passed through the tunnel
Etretat_140_20120506 - Looking ahead at Manneporte while walking the pebble beach en route to it
Etretat_144_20120506 - Looking back over low tide pools towards Falaise d'Aval
Etretat_177_20120506 - a handrail helping me get closer to the span of Manneporte
Etretat_178_20120506 - More handrails helping me where there was some mild dropoff exposure at the base of the span of Manneporte
Etretat_187_20120506 - Looking back at the metal ladder leading to a dodgy trail that connected the beach with the sea cliffs. I think it was wise that they closed off this shortcut.
Etretat_189_20120506 - Looking towards a bright pink full moon during my pre-dawn scramble to the Waterfall at Etretat
Etretat_202_20120506 - More elevated look over a tide pool at low tide towards the Falaise d'Aval
Etretat_214_20120506 - The ladder behind the span of Manneporte
Etretat_275_20120507 - More WWII bunkers; this one was next to the stairs ascending from the pebble beach and onto the cliff top as we sought out a view of the Waterfall at Etretat from the top
Etretat_061_jx_05072012 - Looking down at people walking on the beach towards the Falaise d'Aval, but they can't get very fall since it was high tide
Etretat_285_20120507 - Looking down along the sea cliffs of Etretat at high tide so the beaches down below were completely submerged in water
Etretat_067_jx_05072012 - Looking down along the steep sea cliffs towards Manneporte and the strip of pebble beach leading up to the span of the arch
Etretat_292_20120507 - Context of the trail hugging the sea cliffs of Etretat
Etretat_294_20120507 - Looking towards Manneporte at high tide from the cliff-top walk
Etretat_296_20120507 - Looking towards some shelters in the direction of Etretat
Etretat_341_20120507 - Looking back at Falaise d'Aval at high tide
Etretat_353_20120507 - The only steep part of the cliff-top walk to get a decent look at the Waterfall at Etretat from the top
Etretat_356_20120507 - Looking down at some kind of natural arch (I think it was natural) from the cliff-top walk on the way to a view of the Etretat Waterfall
Etretat_357_20120507 - Julie approaching another gully along the cliff-top walk towards a view of the Etretat Waterfall
Etretat_359_20120507 - Finally getting a look at the Waterfall at Etretat at the base of the sea cliffs
Etretat_360_20120507 - Context of Manneporte and Waterfall at Etretat
Etretat_361_20120507 - Another look down at the context of the pebble beach and the Etretat Waterfall
Etretat_384_20120507 - Looking through some opening towards more sea cliffs further out from the Waterfall at Etretat
Etretat_385_20120507 - Context of Julie checking out Manneporte from the spot where we also noticed the Etretat Waterfall
Etretat_391_20120507 - Kind of hard to tell, but I think you can kind of see through both the spans of Manneporte and Falaise d'Aval from here
Etretat_393_20120507 - Julie heading back to Etretat after having our fill of the top down view of Manneporte and the Waterfall at Etretat
Etretat_076_jx_05072012 - Looking down along the sea cliffs towards the Falaise d'Aval from the sea cliff top on the way back to Etretat
Etretat_397_20120507 - Etretat in sight as we were just about to end our hike along the sea cliffs

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Basically this excursion starts and ends at the town of Etretat, which is about 27km northeast of Le Havre.

There is some parking near the beach, but there is also free public parking roughly 10 minutes walk from town southeast along the Route D940.

For geographical context, Etretat was 209km (about 2.5-3 hours drive) northwest of Paris.

Contextual view of both Manneporte and the waterfall before zooming in on the waterfall itself


Just focused on the waterfall as seen from the sea cliffs


Sweep from beneath the span of Manneporte taking in Falaise d'Aval as well as a tiny spring I thought was the waterfall behind Manneporte


Sweep from beneath the Falaise d'Aval taking in Falaise d'Amont and Manneporte


Sweep starting with Falaise d'Aval then following the striated sea cliffs before taking in a full moon through the span of Manneporte


Starting with a spring I thought was the waterfall behind Manneporte then panning over to the backside of Manneporte

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Tagged with: etretat, seine-maritime, haute-normandie, le havre, paris, northern france, france, waterfall, manneporte, falaise d'aval, sea arches, beach town, falaise d'amont, english channel



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