A magical getaway in the Alpes Mancelles

Saint-Léonard-des-Bois - Photo J.P Berlose-Cemjika
La Sarthe à vélo - Photo J. Damase
Panorama sur le PNR Normandie-Maine

Escape to the Alpes Mancelles, where the landscape with its mountain feel straddles the Sarthe and the Mayenne. An unexpected setting in the region with a multitude of activities on offer!

The Alpes Mancelles: when the Sarthe puts on its mountain coat!

Water ricochets onto the rocks under the sandstone ridges and thickets. The steep slope that surrounds it all really does give the impression of being in the mountains. From the bottom of the valleys in the Alpes Mancelles, the setting suddenly changes to resemble the Swiss countryside. Legend has it that in the 7th century, two Italian brothers, who had left their country to go on a long journey on foot, decided to stop off in this region that reminded them of Alpine panoramas. It was they who gave it this amazing nickname.

Le Mont des Avaloirs: the highest point in western France

Far below the heights of their distant cousins, the Alpes Mancelles top out at between 140 and just over 220 metres. Some reach a maximum height of 417 metres as they segue into the site of Le Mont des Avaloirs, the highest point in western France. The river Sarthe weaves its way through this area and features some charming – and Alpine-esque – towns along its riverbanks, such as Saint-Léonard-des-Bois, tucked away in a meander at the foot of a rocky escarpment. It sits next to the Vallée de Misère, an incredible place with a chaotic appearance created by a huge rock slide. Further south, the Medieval town of Fresnay-sur-Sarthe, perched on a promontory, is built around its 9th century château.

A host of activities to enjoy

All these landscapes are of course a delight to hikers, who enjoy the 300 km of paths, marked out and maintained, both in summer and winter. Fans of mountain-biking will also be very happy here, while children adore the donkey rides on offer – a mountain must-do! Other activities include canoeing and kayaking, fishing, treetop circuits and, of course, climbing. Ah, the dizzying heights...

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