Forces of nature

Top 7 most spectacular landscapes

Steephead valleys, canyons, dinosaur tracks, geological curiosities... a host of sites in the Jura Mountains where you get a full sense of the almightiness of nature! Without doubt, these mountains have some big surprises in store. The impressive landscapes have been forged since the Jurassic era by a powerful combination of tectonic forces and the whims of water. Here's our selection.

La reculée de Baume-Les-Messieurs dans le Jura
Michel Joly / BFC Tourisme
1 Steephead valley of Baume-les-Messieurs 

A spectacular rocky corrie

In our beloved Jura Mountains, this has to be the best known and the most spectacular geological phenomenon. Resulting from a relentless and complex relationship between water and limestone, steephead valleys can be seen in various parts of Jura, but the one in Baume-les-Messieurs is the most awe-inspiring.

Imagine a semi-circular array of immense rock faces with a picturesque little village and an abbey standing in the middle. Not only that, but Mother Nature has cleverly placed a waterfall and a cave at the bottom of this steephead valley. Mineral, subterranean and aquatic landscapes, all in an amusement park created entirely by nature.

 

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La parc à thème Dino-Zoo
Barbara_Gris-Pichot__Bourgogne-Franche-Comte_Tourisme
2 Loulle site and Dino Zoo

An encounter with Dinosaurs from the Jurassic age

Follow dinosaur tracks at the Loulle site. The fossilised imprints of a diplodocus (the one with a very long neck) can actually be seen in the ground. Amazing! Alternatively, there's the Dino Zoo family theme park which has brought the fascinating Jurassic fauna back to life. 

Indeed, the term "Jurassic" relates to the Jura mountain range. In geology, the Jurassic period was from 200 to 145 million years ago, when the region we now call the Jura Mountains was partially covered by a warm sea. Dinosaurs roamed the shores and left their imprints here. So now you have the full picture. 

 

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Le chapeau de Gendarme dans le Haut-Jura
Anne_Ecuyer__OT_Haut-Jura_Saint-Claude-BFC Tourisme
3 The Gendarme's hat

Rock folded like a sheet

Time for a larger-than-life geography lesson! Before your astonished eyes stands an enormous limestone rock, its different strata resembling a millefeuille of stone. These layers date back to the Jurassic, Cretaceous and Tertiary eras, the former being the most famous! You know, those geological periods we all studied at school and have since forgotten, periods that go a very, very long way back (to when dinosaurs trod the earth, which just goes to show!).

Some 20 million years ago, these mineral layers went through something of an upheaval when the Alps emerged. Jura's malleable strata folded under the enormous pressure and formed what geologists call an "anticline". The result is this amazing sight.

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Paysage de tourbière dans les montagnes du Jura
BFC Tourisme
4 Frasne peat bogs

The tundra of Jura 

The tundra is right on your doorstep, or rather Jura's version of it. Welcome to the peat bogs of Frasne, a rare ecosystem with landscapes that are strangely reminiscent of the tundra. Just the place for a real change of scene without too much travelling!

They might not be the vast stretches of Siberia or Alaska, populated by reindeer and bears, but these landscapes give you a wonderful sense of adventure. The peat bogs can be reached on foot via a wooden walkway that gives you a close-up view of the moss, heather, blueberry bushes and even some small carnivorous plants (Drosera).

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Les Pertes de la Valserine
Elisa Detrez & Max Coquard - Bestjobers - BFC Tourisme
5 The giants' cooking pots and the Valserine losing rivers

Rocks eroded by water

The "Marmites des Géants" (visible from the bridge that crosses the village of Pont-de-Poitte) were created by the River Valserine whose turbulent, swirling waters, combined with the friction of pebbles, resulted in these huge stone bowls.

Nicknamed the Giants' cooking pots, these curious stone cavities really fire the imagination. So what do they remind you of? We can just imagine a giant hurtling down the river and leaving these huge footprints.

The erosion phenomenon continues along the Valserine losing rivers, where the water has carved its way down to produce an impressive labyrinth of rock

 

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Le défilé d'entre-roches près de Morteau et Pontarlier
Sandrine Baverel / BFC Tourisme
6 Entre-Roches gorge

Mini canyon

The United States may have the Grand Canyon, but the Jura Mountains have the Entre-Roches gorge. Okay, so the Doubs gorges are nowhere near the scale of those in Colorado but, all the same, there's nothing more picturesque than the road that winds its way along, following the river between limestone escarpments and conifer forests! And don't hesitate to stop if you just fancy a quick dip in the River Doubs!

Discover the Entre-Roches gorge

 

Rando aux Pertes de l'Ain
Michel JOLY - Bourgogne-Franche-Comte Tourisme
7 The Ain losing rivers 

When water pulls out all the stops

Here, water puts on a performance and delivers a whole repertoire of different renditions. The show starts with the turbulent white waters of the River Ain as it plunges into the deep, narrow gorge.

To get a closer view of this spectacle, take the footpath that follows the Ain's underground course. It leads along the river, crosses it on a small bridge, and overhangs it on wooden platforms. The path then leads into the forest where the water and rock perform their tricks.

After this swirling, churning start, the landscape opens up to reveal a 17-metre waterfall that tumbles gently into a beautifully calm pool that is populated with trout.

 

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En résumé