If you are looking to enjoy family cycling holidays in France, you should consider the La Dolce Via cycle path. A family-friendly cycle path along disused railway tracks, La Dolce Via is located in Ardeche, one of the most beautiful regions of France.
Family cycling holidays are a great way to be active with your kids in a beautiful, natural setting. When looking for a family cycling destination, Europe is always a great place to start, but with so many excellent options it can be hard to choose. While researching family cycling holidays in France, we came across a bike tour company which looked amazing!
Safran Tours offers a wide variety of self-guided family cycling holidays in France. We were so excited about these amazing family cycling tours that it made our choice easy – our family holiday would be to France and we were going to join two of Safran’s self-guided biking tours.
Our family enjoyed several family cycling tours around the world before, but the La Dolce Via family cycling tour was our first where our kids (aged 7 and 9) pedaled their own bikes the entire route. We had an incredible time on our family cycling holidays in France, and we are confident your family will as well.
La Dolce Via Cycling Tour
- Benefits of a Self-Guided Family Cycle Tour
- Cycling Tour Equipment
- La Dolce Via Tour Accommodations
- Food on the Cycle Tour
- The La Dolce Via Family Cycle Tour in France
- What to Pack on a Family Cycling Trip
- Tips for Cycling La Dolce Via with Kids
- Final Thoughts on La Dolce Via Family Cycle Tour
- Visiting France with Kids
- Amazing Family Cycling Tours
This post contains compensated links.
We love to work with companies who cater to active traveling families, so we quickly teamed up with Safran Tours, allowing us to share our experiences with you.
The following is an honest account of our experiences on this family cycling tour in France on the La Dolce Via trail:
Benefits of a Self-Guided Family Cycle Tour
The concept of a self-guided tour of France is a perfect cycling trip for families like us, who don’t like the typical guided tour experience. Self-guided cycling tours allow your family to go at your own pace and the tour company provides all the equipment and logistical support you need to make your family holiday super-easy and enjoyable.
The benefits you can expect on a Safran Tours family cycling tour are:
Detailed Route Notes and Maps
For each day of your family cycling holiday you will receive detailed route notes, a map of your route and the GPX files you can download into your favorite cycling route app. (We used the Visorando app, but also loaded the GPX files into Google Maps as a backup). Using a handlebar mount made it stress-free to use our phones to follow the full La Dolce Via cycle path from beginning to end.
We love this part about self-guided trips. Safran Tours will transport your luggage from place-to-place for you, meaning you only need to take a small day bag with you on your daily cycling along La Dolce Via.
Chances are you will not need it, but Safran Tours is there to help just in case you need it.
Cycling Tour Equipment
We were very happy with the bike gear that Safran provided for our family cycle tour in France. We appreciated the panniers to carry our gear and the well-stocked repair kit in case of a minor incident along the way.
Cycling Gear for the Adults
You may bring your own bike on the La Dolce Via tour, but we elected to rent bikes. Safran Tours provided each of us a high-quality Scott hybrid bicycle. A hybrid bike is a useful blend of a mountain bike and road bike which allows you to navigate a wide range of riding conditions.
Hybrid bikes have a flat handlebar and upright seated position of a mountain bike but are lighter with have smaller, smoother tires. The bike seat was quite comfortable too. The combination of comfort and flexibility made them the perfect bike for our La Dolce Via cycle tour.
Cycling Gear for the Kids
Safran Tours has a wide variety of equipment for kids of all ages and capabilities, including kids’ bikes, trailer bikes, bike carts or child seats.
For our (nearly) 7-year-old, we got a 20” mountain bike, while our 9-year-old got a 24” mountain bike.
La Dolce Via Tour Accommodations
Aside from Tournon-sur-Rhone, the towns along the La Dolce Via green path are charming little riverside villages. Safran Tours provided some of the best accommodations available in the towns along the family-friendly cycling route.
The actual accommodations may vary for each family who takes this cycling trip, but we stayed in several 3 or 4 star hotels, and one very charming bed & breakfast.
Most nights we shared a single hotel room with our kids, but on two occasions we had separate hotel rooms, either across the hall, or an adjoining room.
Food on the Cycle Tour
Having access to healthy food is imperative when on active family cycling holidays. Traveling with small children who may be picky eaters can make this even more challenging. With a little advance planning you’ll be able to ensure that even the pickiest eaters will have something nourishing and enjoyable to eat at every meal.
A free breakfast is included at each stay, making it the easiest meal of the day. A typical breakfast on tour is a choice of croissants and jam, cereal with milk, and fruit juice. Some places served us à la carte breakfast, while others were buffet style.
We self-catered lunch every day by stopping at markets along the route. We’d buy a loaf of bread, ham, cheese, fruit, trail mix, granola bars, etc. Lunch is a great opportunity for parents to load up their children with food you know they’ll eat. (We look for an opportunity to to eat more bread and cheese in France!)
All but one of our hotels had dinner included in the tour package. We were very happy with the food served at our hotel restaurants, both for the adults and for the kids.
A typical meal for the adults would be a 3-course meal, with a salad, an entrée and a dessert. The offerings for the children were good too, with lots of kid-friendly meal options such as pizza, chicken fingers, salmon, etc. A juice and dessert is often offered as part of the kids meal as well.
The La Dolce Via Family Cycle Tour in France
Day 1 – Tournon-sur-Rhone
After spending a couple of days exploring the wonderful lavender fields of Provence, we made our way by train to Tournon-sur-Rhone for the first day of our family bike tour in France.
Tournon-sur-Rhone is a charming town located in the Rhone River valley, surrounded by vineyard-covered hills. Here you will find a lovely river walk, a beautiful pedestrian-only bridge across the Rhone, churches with multi-colored roofs and a medieval castle.
We spent our free afternoon in Tournon-sur-Rhone at the super kid-friendly chocolate museum (Cite du Chocolat Valrhona). I mean, who can pass up a visit to a chocolate museum on the first day of a family cycling holiday in France??
The Valrhona Chocolate Museum is a fun and interactive museum which educates visitors on all aspects of making delicious chocolate treats, from growing cocoa all the way to making the chocolate they are so famous for. But the real reason to visit the Valrhona Chocolate Museum is for all the free samples!
If you arrive in Tournon-sur-Rhone early enough for lunch, we recommend the nicely air conditioned Le Coffee Theatre, which was only a few blocks from our bike tour hotel. The quality of the food on the kids menu was surprisingly good and the salads we ate were delicious.
Day 2 – Lamastre to Le Cheylard
We woke up ready and rarin’ to go bike France this morning!! To ensure we had lots of energy for La Dolce Via bike path, we filled our bellies at the ample hotel buffet breakfast.
The La Dolce Via bike tour begins with a beautiful steam train journey from Tournon-sur-Rhone to Lamastre. The very scenic steam train runs through a dramatic mountain valley, providing amazing views the whole way. A fun adventure to get things going even before you hop onto your bikes!
The Tournon-sur-Rhone to Lamastre steam train runs 6 days a week, except for Saturdays – which was unfortunately our day to travel to Lamastre. No worries though – Safran Tours arranged for a shuttle van to take us and our bikes to Lamastre. We could see the mountain valley almost the whole way, so we got a great experience too!
Regardless of how you get to Lamastre, pay attention to how much elevation you are gaining. Lamastre is approximately 230 m above Tournon-sur-Rhone, which means that your family-friendly cycling tour begins at a high point and finishing at a much lower point – a nice touch indeed!
Our taxi dropped us off at the Lamastre train station just before noon. While the family got their bikes and gear ready, I ran to the supermarket to buy some bread, fruit and cookies for lunch and snacks along the way.
Before long, our rental bikes were ready and we hit the road! After a very short ride through Lamastre, we were on a bike trail along the outskirts of town, paralleling the tranquil Le Doux River. After 1.2 km of biking, we were excited to see our first sign for the La Dolce Via cycle path!
The first 5 km of this leg of La Dolce Via bike tour was through a beautiful forest, providing plenty of shade for us. That, coupled with a nice breeze, made it easy to forget we were in the middle of an intense European heat wave.
The bike trail is often along the side of a downslope, with a rocky hill above you on one side, and trees or scenic views below you on the other side. There are occasional charismatic stone country houses scattered throughout the countryside, and our kids were very excited to stop and feed grass to a few horses near the cycle path. Adding to the ambience are an abundance of wildflowers, with delicate butterflies floating all around.
One of the features that sold us on the La Dolce Via family bike tour was the fact much if it takes place on disused railway tracks, which have been converted to a hiking / biking path. Former railway tracks are great for family cycling as it virtually guarantees the grade will never be too steep up or down.
While cycling along La Dolce Via, watch for signs that indicate you are crossing a “viaduct”, which are old train bridges which now function as bridges for bikes. Take a moment and pull off to the side to see the incredible architecture of these amazing stone bridges.
Today the cycle paths alternated between gravel and paved. The kids found the uphill gravel sections to be hard in spots, but they persevered.
The first 12 km of this leg of the La Dolce Via family bike tour is a slow, but steady uphill. On average, it’s about a 2.2% incline, meaning you’ll gain 22 m of elevation for every 1 km biked. It’s not very steep, but over the course of 12 km of climbing, it can be tiring, especially on a hot day. If you’d like an incentive to keep your kids going, there’s a small playground at the 10.4 km mark of this leg of the cycle tour.
There are three tunnels along the back half of today’s journey, the first being at 11.5 km. This tunnel is quite long and can get damp inside. As if riding their bike through a tunnel isn’t fun enough, have your kids watch for little frogs jumping around inside the tunnel!
Coincidentally, the first tunnel also marks the spot where you start to ride downhill. After nearly 12 km of steady climbing, the easy downhill feels so amazing! Our kids were all laughs and smiles as we rode our bikes swiftly downhill towards Le Cheylard.
Along the way, we passed over many more viaducts and rode through a few more tunnels. Much of the back half of the cycle path was forested, but we enjoyed occasional scenic views of the river valley below as we continued our downhill coasting to Le Cheylard.
The final 700 m or so is along the streets of Le Cheylard. After a full day of car-free bike trails, it’s a little hard to get used to sharing the road with cars again, but thankfully the roads were not busy.
After checking into our central Le Cheylard hotel, we took a short stroll to the town plaza in front of the impressive church. We rewarded the kids for a job well done with a 3-scoop ice cream sundae at a local cafe in the plaza – the first of many ice cream stops on this tour.
Day 2 Cycling Stats for La Dolce Via
In total, we biked 13.7 miles / 22 km. As mentioned, the first 12 km was a slow and steady uphill, with the final 10 km being a super-fun, easy downhill glide to Le Cheylard.
It took us 2 hours and 40 minutes of moving time to complete this leg of the journey. The kids were getting a bit tired on the second half of the uphill, which slowed our pace considerably. The Ardeche is one of the most beautiful regions of France, so we stopped for lots of pictures and videos. Due to the heat, we stopped for plenty of water breaks as well.
Day 3 – L’Eyrieux River Valley to St. Martin de Valamas
Today was a real treat. When we envisioned a family cycling holiday in France, this is the type of experience and scenery we were hoping for. After a bit of an uphill grind the previous day, this leg of the La Dolce Via family cycle tour is a much easier trail for all to enjoy.
After leaving the streets of Le Cheylard, you’ll be cycling a quiet residential road, with a few small apple and pear orchards. Before long, you’ll be on a paved cycle path venturing into the mouth of the lush L’Eyrieux river valley.
This leg of the La Dolce Via cycling trip is lined with many gorgeous trees, providing ample shade on a hot summer day. The trees provide a nice home for many birds, who fill the air with birdsong. Your kids will love the plentiful butterflies and the tiny lizards who skitter across the trail every now and then.
For much of this leg of the La Dolce Via family cycle tour, the wide trail has towering rock walls on one side, with dramatic drop offs to the river valley below. No need to worry though as any dangerous drops are protected with guard rails.
It’s worth it to pull over and look over the guard rails, as you’ll often see gigantic retaining walls beneath, which help showcase what an engineering feat it was to build a railway through this terrain.
The cycling path remains paved for the first half of the ride to St. Martin de Valamas, then it alternates between paved and gravel. There’s one section just beyond the first patch of gravel where the trail is covered by a canopy of trees, which is especially beautiful in an already stunning setting. Shortly thereafter, you’ll bike through a short tunnel.
As you ride along, watch for a guard rail where you can see a large mansion up the L’Eyrieux Valley. Stop for a moment and look up and to the right of the mansion where you’ll (hopefully) see the ruins of the Roche Bonne castle. Our daughter was the only one who spotted it on the way up!
After 9 km, we reached St. Martin de Valamas and crossed the L’Eyrieux River via two very scenic bridges.
From St. Martin de Valamas our options were:
- We could have stayed on the far side of the L’Eyrieux River valley and cycled along a vehicle road back to Le Cheylard. Being a weekend, there were too many cars on the road, so we didn’t choose this option.
- We could have continued along the La Dolce Via bike trail for an additional 4.5 km to the station of Boutieres. Under normal circumstances, we’d have likely continued on to Boutieres, but with the very high temperatures, we elected not to.
- So, we chose the most fun option, which was to turn around and ride the La Dolce Via bike trail back the way we came. All downhill with amazing views and no cars? Sounds like a perfect family bike ride to us!
Tips for this leg of the La Dolce Via Family Cycle Tour
This biking trail near Le Cheylard is popular with older riders on their e-bikes. You may want to remind your kids about the importance of staying on their side of the bike trail, especially around blind corners.
Don’t Miss: Swimming in L’Eyrieux near Le Cheylard
On the way back to Le Cheylard, we stopped at a popular local swimming spot in the L’Eyrieux River. It’s very close to where the La Dolce Via bike trail meets up with the streets of Le Cheylard. You can access it by turning onto the Rue d’Aurives and cycling to the parking lot at the end.
This cute little L’Eyrieux River swimming hole has several little waterfalls. The water is knee deep for most of it, but there are a few spots where kids could be in over their heads. We spent a good hour or so here, laughing and playing in the cool water – a nice reward for another excellent day of family cycling in France!
Scenic Walk in Le Cheylard
After swimming in the L’Eyrieux River, we craved more time in the beautiful outdoors, so we went exploring along the La Done River near our hotel. We found a little walking path which ventured up into the trees.
The whole family enjoyed the leisurely walk to a scenic viewpoint overlooking Old Town Le Cheylard. It inspired us to go back, cross the La Done River and explore more of the charming old town.
Day 3 Cycling Stats for La Dolce Via
In total, we cycled 12 miles / 19.4 km on this leg of the La Dolce Via cycle tour. The elevation difference between Le Cheylard and St. Martin de Valamas was only 325 feet / 100 m. This was a significantly easier route than Day 2.
It took us 2 hours and 20 minutes of moving time to complete this leg of the La Dolce Via family cycling trip. The kids barely noticed the uphill on the way to St. Martin de Valamas and, as usual, loved the easy downhill on the way back.
Day 4 – Le Cheylard to Les Ollieres
Cycling this leg of the La Dolce Via with kids was a lot of fun. Today we cycled through the L’Eyrieux River valley the entire way from Le Cheylard to Les Ollieres. The best part? It was a very easy route, being downhill the entire way!
As we left Le Cheylard, the bike path transitions into a paved residential road, with many stately houses with their beautiful gardens along the L’Eyrieux River. Some houses even have small orchards of fruit trees on their property.
As we continue down this beautiful Ardeche river valley, the path is lined with steep rock cliffs on one side of the trail, with tall, lush trees on the downslope side of the trail. The whole family enjoyed the sound of frequent birdsong as we cycled through the shady trees.
As this section of La Dolce Via is a residential road, you’ll encounter the occasional car, so everyone should keep their vehicle awareness up, just in case.
4.5 km after leaving out hotel, we passed the Base Aquatique Eyrium water park. This riverside aquatic park features a large swimming pool with two waterslides. In addition to the pool, Base Aquatic Eyrium has nice manicured gardens, beach volleyball, a playground and mini-golf. Although it looked very nice and a lot of fun, we elected to keep cycling and enjoy a swim closer to the end of our daily bike ride.
Not far from the Base Aquatic Eyrium water park, you’ll find some washrooms and a potable water station. If your family is enjoying the La Dolce Via cycle path on a hot day, be sure to stop and fill your water bladders.
At the 5.4 km mark of the ride to Les Ollieres, you’ll encounter the first of many dams along the L’Eyrieux River. Our kids loved watching the water spray powerfully out of the dam back into the river below. They also loved the many butterflies flying near a series of lilac bushes growing near the dam lookout point.
Beyond the dam, the trail continues through a lush forest, with the sound of the L’Eyrieux River below. It’s easy to become accustomed to the beautiful Ardeche scenery, but at this moment, I had a “wow” moment and was so grateful to be on this family cycling holiday in France – the scenery in this region of France was just so beautiful.
At 8.2 km, we cycled through a short curved tunnel. Shortly thereafter, we passed the second dam of our journey and the bike path changed to gravel. After 8 km of straight pavement, the remainder of this leg alternates between gravel and paved path.
Families cycling the La Dolce Via will be treated to a lovely spot to stop at the halfway point of this leg. Just past the Pont de Chervil bridge in the town of Chalencon there is a wonderful little picnic area with some nice shade.
There is another potable water station and a composting outhouse (which our kids thought was the coolest toilet ever!). Just beyond the picnic area is a little café which has ice cream, and an escape room.
As you continue cycling with your kids towards Les Ollieres, take a moment to point out the terraced hills to your kids. The incredible amount of effort it took to turn these steep hills into farmable land is simply mind boggling.
La Plage de la Fontugne Swimming Hole
At 24.5 km, we left the official La Dolce Via cycle path to go swimming at La Plage de la Fontugne, as it was an incredibly hot day (nearing 40°C / 104°F). Thankfully it was a quick 2 km bike ride from Sant Sauveur de Montagut to the La Plage de la Fontugne swimming hole. It was partially along an uphill winding highway, requiring our best car safety behaviours.
The water at the La Plage de La Fontugne swimming hole was surprisingly cold – much colder than the swimming hole we found near Le Cheylard. It was incredibly refreshing and a perfect treat for the kids who were toughing it out cycling in such hot weather.
After a nice long, refreshing swim, we returned to La Dolce Via and enjoyed a scenic downhill ride to Les Ollieres. You’ll enjoy plenty of excellent views of people kayaking and paddleboarding on the tranquil L’Eyrieux River below.
Day 4 Cycling Stats for La Dolce Via
Had we simply followed the La Dolce Via bike trail from Le Cheylard to Les Ollieres, we’d have biked a very enjoyable, easy 19.3 miles / 31.1 km on this leg. Adding on a side trip to the La Plage de la Fontugne swimming hole added an additional 2.5 miles / 4.1 km for a total distance of 21.8 miles / 35.3 km.
Excluding our side trip to the swimming hole, it took us 3 hours and 10 minutes of moving time to complete this highly enjoyable, downhill leg of the La Dolce Via family cycling tour.
Day 5 – Free Day in Les Ollieres
We were lucky that our free day in Les Ollieres was on a Tuesday as that is the day the local market is on. After a delicious breakfast at our bed & breakfast, we wandered down to the explore the market (which is under the bridge).
Local markets in Europe are always so fun and interesting and the Tuesday market in Les Ollieres was no exception. There was a wide variety of interesting goods on offer including plenty of local fruits and vegetables, cheese, sausages, toys, and much more.
After a complete lap of the market, we decided to explore more of this charming town, always staying on the shady side of the street. We bought some croissants and pastries from a bakery, then went back to the market to buy some cheese and nectarines to have a picnic lunch down by the Les Ollieres swimming hole in the L’Eyrieux River. We found a picnic table in the shade of a massive evergreen tree.
Still in the midst of the European heat wave, we wanted something cool, so we hopped back on our bikes in search of ice cream. The Glacier Terre adelice Le Molinon ice cream shop was highly recommended by Safran Tours, our B&B hosts and our friend at Ardeche Tourism.
The Glacier Terre adelice Le Molinon ice cream shop is about 5 km from Les Ollieres along the bike path from day 4. It’s a fairly flat ride and only took us about 20 minutes to get there.
This was one of the best ice cream shops we have been to anywhere in the world – no lie. First of all, Glacier Terre adelice Le Molinon has 96 ice cream flavors! You’d think that a place with so many flavors is just focusing on the quantity of flavors and not the quality, but this is simply not true. The ice cream here was incredibly good.
We each got a double scoop on a waffle cone, allowing us to try 8 of the 96 ice cream flavors at Glacier Terre adelice Le Molinon; our favorites included salted caramel, coffee and chocolate mint ice cream. We highly recommend you stop at Glacier Terre adelice Le Molinon on Day 4 and return again on your free day in Les Ollieres.
Day 6 – Les Ollieres to Soyons
Sadly, today is our final day cycling along the beautiful La Dolce Via cycle path with kids. The good news is that we get to enjoy this scenic France cycling route for approximately 17 km until we transition to the Via Rhona bike trail.
After 3 km of cycling, the bike route crosses L’Eyrieux River via a beautiful curved viaduct. The gently rolling hills of L’Eyrieux Valley remain, but you can feel them getting a bit smaller as the river gets closer to draining into the Rhone. The bike trail leads you through some beautiful farmland, providing open spaces to soak in the beautiful views all around.
One of the best parts about today’s family cycle ride in France was the long sections of dense trees, where the leafy canopy covers the bike path. With 30°C+ temperatures, the shade was not only beautifully provided, but it was also very welcome.
This leg of La Dolce Via bike trail featured some very nice rusted metal La Dolce Via trail maps along the route. The safety railing also became very nice, along with some informative signs about the local flora and fauna.
The kids always love seeing local farm animals while on two wheels. Today we saw goats, chickens and even a couple of donkeys!
We crossed L’Eyrieux River one final time at the halfway point of today’s cycle trip. This bridge crossing leads into the town of Saint-Laurent du Pape and is the beginning of our least favorite stretch of the family bike trip so far (something had to be our least favorite, right?).
The next 3 km of biking is along a busy roadway, with speed limits as high as 70 km/h. There’s sufficient room for cars and bikes to share the road, but it can be a little nerve wracking with easily distracted children.
Once you reach the town of Beauchastel, you’ll turn off the busy roadway and back onto a sleepy bike path. Ahhhh…. You’ll follow L’Eyrieux for it’s final 1.5 km before it meets the Rhone River.
Before long, a large friendly sign welcomes you to the paved Via Rhona bike path. We weren’t sure what to expect biking the Via Rhona with kids, but we ended up having quite a bit of fun.
To be honest, the scenery along the Via Rhona isn’t as nice as it was along the La Dolce Via, but to be fair, how could it be? Ardeche is one of the most beautiful regions in France. There was still plenty of interesting things to see on the Via Rhona cycle ride into Soyons including passing a large dam across the Rhone, many swans, fields of corn and even a field of sunflowers in bloom.
The best part of cycling the Via Rhona with kids today was passing through the apricot and nectarine orchards. Out of respect, we didn’t pick any fruit, but the smell of the nectarines was intoxicating! The air was so sweet smelling, it was amazing!
Don’t Miss: Grotte du Renard Caves
The Grotte du Renard caves were just a few minutes away from our Soyons hotel. We love visiting caves with our kids, but the huge benefit on this day was that it was 15 – 20°C cooler inside the caves vs outside. The bad news? You need to climb approximately 300 steps to get to the caves. Even in the heat, it’s worth it!
Our English-speaking tour guide took us to two separate caves where we learned all about how limestone caves are formed. It was fascinating to hear about the lives of the bears and Neanderthals who once called this cave complex home. (Sorry for the lack of pictures – no photography is allowed inside the Renard Caves).
The stalactite and stalagmite formations within the caves were quite interesting and well lit. We also got to see a few tiny, harmless bats hanging from the ceiling and occasionally flying around the cave.
Day 6 Cycling Stats for La Dolce Via and Via Rhona
Today we cycled 20.2 miles / 32.6 km along two amazing France cycle paths – the La Dolce Via and the Via Rhona.
The last leg of La Dolce Via was a nice, gentle downhill all the way to the Rhone River. Once you join up with the Via Rhona, it’s very flat all the way to Soyons.
It took us 3 hours and 3 minutes of moving time to complete this leg of the La Dolce Via family cycle tour. Again, the easy downhill cycling was such a treat, and makes it easy and fun for the kids.
Day 7 – Le Soyon to Tournon-sur-Rhone
To be honest, I hopped on my bike this morning, expecting the final leg of the La Dolce Via family bike tour to be a bit of a letdown. After so many amazing days of scenic biking through the Ardeche region of France, a simple ride up the Via Rhona didn’t seem all that exciting. While it’s true the Via Rhona scenery couldn’t compare to earlier in the trip, we ended up really enjoying the final leg of this family friendly bike trip.
The final day’s bike journey starts along a well-treed section of the Via Rhona, with good views of the Tour penchée de Soyons ruined castle on the hilltop ahead on the left. You’ll also enjoy good views of the cliffs where the Soyons caves are located. Our daughter insisted that we stop to admire the beautiful horse along the side of the trail.
After passing through several fragrant apricot and nectarine orchards, we reached the mighty Rhone River. You’ll be sandwiched in-between the rail tracks and the Rhona for a little while – it’d be very exciting for the kids if a train goes whizzing past!
At the 4.6 km mark, we enjoyed a long ride through a canopy of trees, before reaching a tunnel under a bridge. There are many tunnels under this bridge, each with some amazing graffiti. We took some time exploring the artwork in the various tunnels before proceeding.
At 6.2 km you begin a long bridge crossing over the Rhone River, using a safe, segregated cycling lane across the bridge. Be sure to stop at the top and enjoy the amazing views of this mighty French river and the town of Soyons.
From the top of the bridge, it’s a long, fun downhill glide to the bottom, where you leave the Ardeche and enter Drohne. The Via Rhona here is a really beautiful, well treed section of trail along the river. There are lots of locals enjoying a nice morning walk or bike ride along the trail here, each with a friendly smile and a ‘bonjour‘.
At the 9.7 km mark, we stopped in a beautiful riverside park to let the kids play at an awesome playground in Parc L’Eperviere. It’s an all wooden structure which is essentially one big long obstacle course for kids to navigate. Our kids had a great time at this playground and even made a few new French friends in the process.
Shortly after leaving the park, the Via Rhona becomes a paved boardwalk over the river water, which the kids loved.
At 11.4 km, we enter the city of Valence along some quiet side streets next to a park. Before long, we enter a pedestrian-only section of old town Valence. This is a particularly beautiful part of Valence; if you have the time, you may want to lock up your bikes and explore this beautiful part of Valence.
After a few quiet side streets in the far side of Valence, you’ll find yourself back along the shores of the Rhone. With a few trees here and there, you’ll enjoy wide open views of the Rhone River valley.
You’ll encounter a beautiful natural phenomenon at the 21.6 km mark at the confluence of La Canal and L’Esere River. The water from La Canal is a deep, dark blue while the water from L’Esere is a milky white. It’s a really interesting sight to see the two waters meet, creating a line in the water.
Shortly you’ll cross a bridge and start following La Canal (an offshoot of the Rhone). There were a pair of massive swans under the bridge. You’ll be kept company by the sound of cicadas in the trees along the canal.
Our final bridge crossing of the day takes us back to the west side of the Rhone for our final push towards Tournon-sur-Rhone. There were more beautiful swans in a canal near the town of Glun.
Along the final stretch we passed many fruit orchards and enjoyed views of the steep vineyards on the nearby hills. We even passed a BMX racetrack, which our son insisted we stop and look at.
It was a bittersweet feeling as we arrived back at Tournon-sur-Rhone. It was fun to see all the sights again, this time as much more seasoned French travelers. I was so proud of us as a family, and especially the kids who were amazing all the way along this excellent family-friendly bike tour in Ardeche.
Castle Museum of Tournon-sur-Rhône
After rewarding ourselves for a successful family bike tour with another delicious lunch at Le Coffee Theatre, we meandered down a fun pedestrian-only street to the Tournon Castle Museum.
To be honest, our kids found this small castle along the Rhone a little boring, but the English-language activity book they were given helped keep their interest levels up. We enjoyed the excellent views of the town and the Rhone River from the upper, outdoor terraces.
Day 7 Cycling Stats for the Via Rhona
Today was the longest day of La Dolce Via family bike tour. We cycled 23.1 miles / 37.2 km along the Via Rhona, which is slightly longer than the official cycle path, due to a few detours we made along the way.
The last leg of your journey is an almost imperceptible uphill, gaining only 20 m / 65 feet of elevation from start to finish.
It took us 3 hours and 41 minutes of moving time to complete this leg of the La Dolce Via family cycling tour. We rode into a headwind most of the way, which likely slowed us down a bit.
What to Pack on a Family Cycling Trip
In addition to your bike clothing, we recommend you bring the following with you each day on your La Dolce Via family cycling trip:
- A handlebar mount for your phone allows you to easily navigate your way through this family-friendly cycling trip.
- A small travel first aid kit. You never know when an accident will happen, so having a small first aid kit will help with the minor scrapes you many get along the way.
- A sweat resistant sports sunscreen.
- Bug spray. To be honest, we didn’t notice any mosquitos on either the La Dolce Via or the Via Rhona, but we they were pretty bad at a few of the outdoor restaurants.
- A cycling backpack with a hydration pack. The cycling specific backpacks are great as they are small and aerodynamic. Having a hydration pack for each cycler is imperative to ensure everyone gets enough water along their daily ride. This becomes especially important as the temperature rises. Our kids used this hydration pack from Outdoor Products, while we used this Osprey bike hydration backpack.
- A small power bank. You’ll burn through your phone battery pretty quickly running your GPS, taking videos and photos etc. It’s always comforting to have a small power bank and charging cord along with you in case your phone battery gets too low. It’d be a shame to miss out on great family photos because your phone was dead.
- We used an Insta360 action camera mounted to the handlebars to capture great videos of our family bike tour in France. Having a handlebar-mounted camera is much safer than pulling your phone out and recording video as you ride with one hand. This is especially true while cycling downhill.
- Packable sun hats are useful for when you get off your bikes and take off your helmets. If the sun is strong, you’ll still want your kids to be protected from the sun.
- Almost every day you’ll be cycling with your kids alongside some really beautiful French rivers. There are several opportunities to jump into the river for a fun, refreshing swim. Be sure to bring your swimsuits each day.
Tips for Cycling La Dolce Via with Kids
- If you preload the Visorando app with the GPS maps provided by Safran Tours, we recommend you turn cellular data on for the app (as long as you have reasonable data costs and are not paying outrageous roaming charges). If you have cheap data, the Visorando map detail is superior to simply downloading the map and running the app without data. (We used Airalo eSIM’s in France for our cellular data – sign up for Airalo and get a discount off your first eSIM)
- Early morning rides are a good way to beat the heat if the daily high temperatures are too much for your children.
- There are picnic tables all along the La Dolce Via trail. Pack a healthy lunch and stop at a scenic table for a nice break along the way.
- Each picnic table has a garbage can as well, so there is no need to carry your litter with you.
Final Thoughts on La Dolce Via Family Cycle Tour
We have done family cycling tours before, but this was the first time our kids did all their own cycling. We knew they were capable of the daily distances on single outings back home, but we wondered if they could string together these daily cycling distances over a solid week?
There was no need to worry as they did amazing. Even with the intense sun from the ongoing heat wave, they amazed us with their energy, resilience and positive attitudes.
The beautiful river valleys along the La Dolce Via bike trail did not disappoint either. The rivers were rocky and interesting, the hills were tall and well-treed and the towns along the way were as charming as you’d hope the French countryside would be.
Safran Tours did an excellent job. Their trip information package gave us interesting information about the region and the places we would be cycling with our children. Their route maps and detailed directions gave us confidence as we set out each day. The cycling equipment was in great shape, and with help only a phone call away, we felt safe taking our family cycling each day.
We would travel with Safran Tours again and would recommend their La Dolce Via family cycle tour to anyone. We encourage you to read about our Family Cycle Tour in Alsace, another family cycling holiday by Safran Tours.
If our post inspired you to book the La Dolce Via tour (or any family-friendly tour by Safran Tours), please use coupon code “familycantravel” to let them know we referred you.