At the entrance to the village of Saoû, starts the realm of one of the most beautiful forests in The Drôme. Surrounded by a real wall of limestone, the massif is 2500 hectares large and gives life to an exceptional biodiversity. A true natural jewel in the valley, the forest goes higher through the ridge path, up to the culminating peak (1589 meters high) of the famous “Trois Becs” Rochecourbe, le Signal and le Veyou.
Saoû Forest is also renowned for its most beautiful “perched syncline” in Europe. A phenomenon which regularly attracts geologists and other acknowledged specialists.
Saoû Forest is intimately linked to the people living around. It changed of owners several times. The most well-known one is Maurice Burrus , a wealthy Alsacian manufacturer who bought Saoû Forest at the beginning of the last century to make it his hunting estate.
From 1924 until the Second World War, he planted all sorts of trees coming from everywhere around the world. He also started to arrange the forest to make a walking area and a place for green tourism out of it. He created a sightseeing tour and had an inn, which would become a highly prized catering and festivity place, built. It is called “l’Auberge des Dauphins”.
It was built in reinforced concrete and directly inspired by the “Petit Trianon”, in Versailles.
This building is situated in the heart of the forest of Saou, among tall trees and next to a huge lawn. It has become a must-see place in the Drôme Valley. However, it can’t be visited at the moment, as it is being renovated. The future Interpretive centre should be open to public access between the Autumn of 2020 and the Spring of 2021.
Saoû Forest has been owned by the authorities of the Drôme départment since 2003 and it has been listed as a sensitive natural area. The aim is to conserve this remarkable natural heritage and improve its opening schedule and public access at the same time.
You may come across patrolling eco-guards when visiting or hiking. They are sworn-in by the Drôme départment and they are responsible for the day to day running of the area. It also belongs to them to greet you, inform you , answer your questions and attend to your safety.
The extraordinary diversity of the natural environment comes from the nearly perfect closing of the syncline and from the different sun exposure of the slopes ( two to the south , two to the north). The countless species of plants and animals account for the lushness and specificity of this outstanding site. As for the landscape, the forest is, once more, bountiful : woods, lawns , rocky slopes, flooded forests, wetlands of alluvial forest, cliffs and ledges.
Cycling in Saoû Forest
River in Saoû Forest
A great network of footpaths and marked trails enables walkers, trekkers, mountain bikers , horse- riders to enjoy their favourite leisure activities in full safety.
“Les Bons Plans à pied” ( 6 walking itineraries for all levels) “Bon plans à VTT”( mountain bike itineraries) a discovery game and an orientation route map are available at the tourist office.For your own safety, barbecues and wood fires are not allowed inside the whole area ( even in walkers’ sheds) and apart from road access, motorised activities are forbidden on the site.
To know more : the book La fort de Saoû et l’auberge des Dauphins jointly edited under the direction of The council for the conservation of the Drôme cultural heritage and the Sensitive Nature places Council of the Département is available at the tourist office for 24€.
Saou Forest Internalregulations