Bouldering With Kids in Fontainebleau Forest
Fontainebleau Forest is a natural haven of incredible boulders for any child (or adult) that enjoys climbing and exploring. It’s full of spots to try out, this post shares the two places we chose to go and where we stayed in our campervan nearby.
As a vanlife family exploring Europe we don’t tend to do a lot of paid sites and activities, instead favouring slow travel and exploring the towns and natural places we come across. On my most recent solo trip to France with my two daughters, I discovered that the area around Fontainebleau (south of Paris) is a popular bouldering and climbing spot.
Climbing and bouldering is something both my daughters (9 years and 5 years) enjoy doing at home, so we were excited to find out more and added a few extra nights here to enable us to explore and climb. I think most children enjoy climbing and scrambling, so I would recommend a stop in this area for anyone travelling in a van with kids.
Before I dive into our experiences, I want to shout out this post on a blog from Chris Ensoll (mountain guide) Top Tips For A Family Trip to Fontainebleau (the article itself is written by Richard Cole). This is the post I used for my research into what spots to try, and I found it super helpful. If you want more suggestions on where to go bouldering with kids in Fontainebleau Forest, then have a read of his blog post.
Using the above mentioned article and Park4Night I managed to narrow it down to two spots to visit – Rocher du Duc and Feuillardière. Below you’ll find our experiences of these two bouldering spots for kids, and where we stayed in our campervan. Plus locations are marked on the map at the top of the blog post. We visited in September 2022.
Rocher du Duc
The parking for Rocher du Duc is right next to the boulders – the boulders are visible through the trees from the parking, and there are also signs for a parcour course through the forest here (see below campervan info for pictures). The Top Tips For A Family Trip to Fontainebleau article on bouldering with kids in Fontainbleau Forest was helpful in explaining how the boulders are marked with different colours and symbols, and how these correspond to different abilities or difficulties.
We couldn’t find any signs in or around the boulders to explain the different courses, but with time we realised that you could choose a colour and follow the numbers to complete a course of boulders. My daughters mainly followed the pink trail.
Before we realised there were courses by following the numbers in one colour, my daughters just had great fun running around the forest and climbing whatever struck their fancy. I enjoyed gathering sweet chestnuts which were in plentiful supply in these woods.
My eldest daughter completed the pink coloured course. It was fun to search for the next number – although some of these took us quite some time to locate! Some larger boulders had multiple numbers up them, so climbing up one side, then down again, to climb another side of it.
The car parking area for Rocher du Duc also came up on Park4Night as a place where you could spend a night in a campervan, so we stayed here for the night ready to boulder the next day.
We visited in September and no other campervans stayed the night, however early the next day many buses of young people arrived for activities in the forest. It was a really nice atmosphere.
As a place to stay the night in a campervan, the car park for Rocher du Duc isn’t particularly flat if that concerns you. It’s one of the only times on this trip where I used a chock to level us a bit, but it was still on a slope. It’s also not great for solar panels as it’s in the forest and there’s a lot of tree cover. I thought we were on a fairly quiet back forest road, but buses and locals whizz up and down this road fairly frequently – although not during the night in our experiences.
At Feuillardière we parked in the small parking area which doesn’t have a height restriction – the larger carpark has a height barrier. We followed the track that leads off the campervan parking area, and eventually reached a sort of end point and in front we saw the start of the boulders amongst the trees.
Here the courses are labelled by age and with colours and symbols. We only found the start of the 3 year old + and 8 year old + courses, but I believe from the The Top Tips For A Family Trip to Fontainebleau article there is also a 5 year old + course.
I don’t know if it’s because my kids are fairly new to bouldering and/or because they didn’t have the correct footwear, but they both found the 3 year old + course fairly tricky! The boulders were also damp due to recent rain and the time of the year, which I think added to the challenge. Another family were using mats and something to brush the boulders before their kids climbed.
So we all followed the 3 year old + course through the woods and made it up to number 50, which we felt must be the final boulder. They both really enjoyed following a course from one number to the next – we also discovered that some sections went through rocks!
In the middle of this bouldering area it opens out a bit and there is an incredible large boulder, which my girls nicknamed the turtle. It had an fantastic tunnel through the middle of it, and my eldest daughter could climb up and sit on the top of it. This was definitely their favourite boulder of our visit to Fontainbleau Forest.
As mentioned, we didn’t stay in the small unrestricted height parking area next at Feuillardière. Instead, after our day bouldering at Rocher du Duc, we drove to a village called Fleury-en-Biere for our overnight in our campervan (photo below). The next day we headed to the kids bouldering area at Feuillardière, (which didn’t have any obvious overnight parking nearby to it).
I also found a bakery – Au Coeur De La Mie – in a village called Recloses that I wanted to visit, so we took a detour here first. It was an excellent tiny bakery with artisan sourdough breads using organic ingredients. Tiny but worth a visit if you love your food and French bakeries.
As mentioned, the car park for campervans at Feuillardière is fairly small – there is a larger car park next to it, but with a height barrier. I personally wouldn’t stay the night here, but perhaps you can, I didn’t see any signs either way.
Summary of Our Adventures Bouldering in Fontainebleau
In conclusion all three of us would recommend a visit here to go bouldering with kids in Fontainbleau Forest. Use the article on Chris Ensoll’s blog to see all the different spots to take kids, or follow our advice and try out Rocher du Duc and Feuillardière.
When asked which place was their favourite, it was unanimous that they preferred Feuillardière. I agree that it had a nice feel to it and the boulders were interesting and fun – both for ‘proper’ climbing and just for playing on. Rocher du Duc also offered great boulders to explore and climb and had the benefit of lots of parking for an overnight in a campervan.