Fontainebleau, also known as Font or Bleau, is situated 90km south of Paris and can be simply described as the best bouldering area in Europe if not the world. The majority of the bouldering is to found in the forests that surround Fontainebleau, which makes for a magical and unique setting. The sandstone rock is of fantastic quality and the landings are generally soft and sandy. The bouldering sometimes requires brute strength, but that is rare, most of the time you need excellent skills in balance, footwork and technique.
The unique circuits that have been developed here are colour coded, that lead you from boulder problem to boulder problem and there are literally thousands of them for every level of rock climber. From the yellow circuits for the inexperienced climber; to orange, blue and red circuits for intermediate climbers; and white and black circuits offer the top end bouldering experience. There are also many individual extreme problems outside of the circuits, generally graded from Font 7a and above!
For guided or instructed bouldering holidays in Fontainebleau we recommend our friends at Rock & Sun.
The area is huge with many excellent bouldering locations. There are in excess of 100 different circuits at Fontainebleau, with the very best combining taxing individual problems that will examine the full range of a climber’s skills from slabs and aretes to dynos and even offwidth cracks. Some of the main areas are described below:
(1) Bas Cuvier & Gorges d' Apremont. Located just off the N7 into Fontainebleau Bas Cuvier was the first set of boulders to be developed and could be described as Fontainebleau's temple of climbing. There are many classic problems here at all levels with 6 circuits plus a further 3 circuits close by at Cuvier Rempart, all within the main forest. Apremont is another popular area of the forest as it is such a vast and rugged terrine with an abundance of routes at all grades with over 24 different circuits. It is also the closest area to the popular village of Barbizon.
(2) The Trois Pignons area. This is easily the largest rock climbing area of the Fontainebleau area - hundreds of square metres of forest, white sandy beaches and perfect sandstone boulders, and over 60 different circuits. The landscape of the sand and trees means you are constantly in and out of the shade as you complete a circuit, and the sand provides the best and softest landings in the whole area.
The Trois Pignons area is a good place to be based, as it is very central to all the bouldering. There is also a good campsite in this area call La Musardiere near Milly-La-Foret, which is open from mid-February to the end of November. See our Fontainebleau accommodation page for more information about this campsite.
(3) Franchard and Fontainebleau. Again located in the main forest area Franchard is one of the most popular sites. The rock is very sharp here, which will test your fingers and your edging ability to the full. In all there over 15 circuits, at all grades, including the famous mountain circuit. This mountain circuit consists of 6km of easy bouldering, which is linked together to make a very physical excursion amongst the trees and rocky crests of Franchard. There are also a small number of circuits just outside of Fontainebleau itself mainly to the south and west.
(4) L' Elephant. Near La Chapelle-la-Reine to the southwest of Fontainebleau is the area's most famous boulder - The Elephant. This iconic boulder is seen on many postcards and also has some great problems on it. L' elephant circuit is also excellent though the boulders are generally higher than most other areas of the forest.
When is the best place to go Bouldering in Fontainebleau? It is ideal to go bouldering in Fontainebleau at any time of the year, you will always find either the shade or the sun depending upon the season - it's only the rain that will stop you.
What equipment is needed? The only equipment you need is your boots and a rag or mat to clean the sand off your boots. However many people now use a crash mat and chalk, while the locals still use their "pof". This is resin crystals packed inside a rag that is hit against the holds to make them sticky. Cheating? Well when in Rome...
What bouldering guidebooks are available for Fontainebleau? Climb Europe stocks a wide range of guidebooks for Fontainebleau that can be bought from our shop, and there are essentially 2 types of guidebooks available.
The classic boulder at L' Elephant, that gives its name to the area. Click here to view a larger image.
Bouldering at Cul de Chien
The first type of guidebooks focuses purely on individual circuits across a broad range of grades. These guidebooks will have boulder maps of the circuits and location maps to find the start of them. Examples of these are Fontainebleau Climbs and Fontainebleau Fun Blocs.
The second type of guidebooks focuses purely on individual problems that are sometimes part of a circuit or located on their own in the forest. Examples of these are Fontainebleau Off Piste, Fontainebleau 5 + 6 (central and southern), Fontainebleau 5 + 6 (western and northern), and Fontainebleau 7 + 8.
Buy bouldering guidebooks for Fontainebleau from our shop.
A map of the forest is also a useful addition to any trip. The 2417 OT - Foret de Fontainebleau Walking Map covers all the main bouldering areas such as Apremont, Trois Pignons, Franchard and Fontainebleau.
Various guidebooks are available describing the bouldering circuits to be found in Fontainebleau. Buy them from our shop.
Fontainebleau Fun Bloc describes many of the mid-range bouldering circuits to be found at Fontainebleau.
It includes many fantastic photographs along with excellent boulder topos and location maps.
Buy this guidebook from our shop.
Read an article by Ian Wyatt describing the “Joy of Fontainebleau”.