The Galion falls, a splendid waterfall
In this article, we’ll keep on discovering the beautiful island that is Guadeloupe, and more particularly the inland part and its superb tropical forest. Having taken you on a trip to the beautiful seaside of Basse-Terre during the hike of the “Sentier de la Grande Pointe” in Trois-Rivières, let’s discover, today, the Galion falls, at the foot of the Soufrière volcano, in the Guadeloupe National Park.
We went up there several times during the August Covid lockdown because we were less than 5 km away from the spot, and frankly, the site is superb (especially during Covid times since there was almost no one there!). I imagine during the high tourist season in Guadeloupe -from December to April-, it must be different. You just have to see the number of parking spaces at the top near the “Bains Jaunes”, to imagine how crowded the site must be!
Still, we took advantage of our arrival in Guadeloupe at the beginning of August with its smaller crowds (the tourists had left) to discover all the more or less classic spots mentioned in the tourist guides. Amongst all the sites to visit, the Galion Falls remain a must-see according to a large number of these guides. With an impressive 40m height, they still remain much less popular than the Carbet Falls with its three different hikes, about which I will tell you as soon as we’ll have done the first one.
As usual, I had to go back twice to not only be able to write this article but also take the pictures I wanted. The first time, it was with Louis, my 5-and-a-half-year-old. For those of you still wondering about it, as I’ll mention it below, it’s a child-friendly hike that can even be done with a baby carrier. However, the end of the hike on slippery rocks with a few ropes will require caution. Melanie would tell me that it’s not very safe to go there with a baby, but hey ho, that’s moms for you… (and between you and I, she hasn’t been there yet, so there!). Let’s go for a walk!
Of course, and as usual, you’ll find everything you need to know about this hike at the end of the article! If you like hiking and if you plan on visiting a lot of different sites during your trip to Guadeloupe, it’s clearly worth buying a topographic IGN 1/25 000 map (see the map link below).
The Galion waterfall hike (Chute du Galion)
As I said above, I hiked this beautiful waterfall twice. It must have rained the day before my first walk with Louis as the path was quite slippery and muddy in some parts. When I went back alone the second time, the trail was much drier and an easier hike.
The hike starts at the same spot as many hikes in the Guadeloupe National Park, at the foot of the Soufrière volcano. You can’t go further by car, so you have to park here, at a 900m altitude. From what I heard, during the high tourist season, it can clearly be difficult to park at the very top, unless you arrive early, which I advise you to do anyway. Indeed, you should know that, as with many tropical islands, clouds often appear during the middle of the day and the more the day goes on, the more the risk of it raining. Anyway.
Once parked, you can go to the sign that shows all possible hikes from this starting point. You are spoilt for choice. However, here, we will only talk about the Galion Falls hike. The sign at the start of the trail indicates a 1h15 hike. Alone, I took 45 minutes to get to the foot at a good pace. I would say that a “usual pace” should take you there in an hour, on average. Accompanied by small children or even with my eldest 5-year-old, I will need even more.
You begin the hike following the famous “Pas du Roy” which starts in front of the no less famous Bassin des Bains Jaunes. I’ll tell you about it at the end of the article, because I think it’s a must-see at the end of this hike (and of all the other ones, for that matter). It is a developed area (bath) with relatively warm water (30°C approximately), ideal to soothe your feet after a walk. But let’s get back to our story. The beginning of the hike is not cause for worries as there is a pathway that has been completely paved (or almost completely), resting under the shade of a luxuriant forest. The atmosphere is really nice, very green so also very humid. When I went back the second time around, I was alone during the beginning of the trail so I could hear the singing of birds and frogs, quite nice. Along this first 10-15 minutes section, you can see a few signposts introducing the area, the surrounding hot springs, the history of the area, etc. If you look carefully to your right, about 10 minutes into the hike, you may even see a fluorescent yellow hot spring flowing under your feet. You’ll also pass through several landscaped areas with steps, stairs, and other wooden railings. I imagine that everything is carefully maintained because it rains a lot in this area so everything can get damaged pretty quickly.
About 15 minutes into the walk from the Bains Jaunes, you have to leave the famous “Pas du Roy” path (which goes up to the left) to follow the sign indicating “Chute du Galion at 1h05”. From here, the path goes down on a gentle slope for about 1,5/2km. There is no real difficulty, but you will find a lot of tree roots and wet patches where you have to slalom your way between pebbles, rocks and wooden boards laid here and there to avoid getting your feet completely wet. Let’s mention it straight away, if it rained the day before (as was the case when I went with Louis), you will end up with wet shoes anyway. There are simply too many passages that go through the mud…
The downhill walk is really nice. You just observe the vegetation, ever so beautiful, but be careful where you put your feet while doing so. Several portions are adjusted as they were considered difficult with wooden layouts covered with iron fencing, the same as those found in New Zealand during our walks. They handily avoid you slipping in portions that are little tricky. During this first section of the hike, do not hesitate to look around. There are a lot of epiphytic plants in the top of the trees, which need a support to grow. I also came across some flowers and wild orchids. Also note the presence of yellow mangroves with their characteristic roots. The trail is entirely marked, and it is impossible to get lost. In fact, considering the dense vegetation, cutting through the forest is unthinkable… At the beginning of the trail, in the early morning, temperatures feel really good, if a bit chilly in my opinion!
After about 30 minutes (depending on pace), we start the more technical and steeper downhill walk to the waterfall below. From a south heading we go due east towards the waterfall. This part of the hike is a little more difficult than the previous one. We find a lot of roots, some delicate passages, but nothing really wild. You will even cross a small gully (“Ravine Madame Toussaint”). Louis progresses more slowly here, but he still keeps on. On this route, and mostly before getting to the Galion River, at the bottom of the waterfall, there are superb trees with impressive roots and buttresses. If I am not mistaken, it is an Acomat Boucan, a classic tree of the region. It can measure more than 40m in height and is recognizable thanks to its gigantic external roots! By the way, I have not done it in French Polynesia, but I have promised myself to shoot a complete photographic report of Guadeloupe’s fauna and flora. It will always be interesting to show you all the richness of this beautiful island.
A last rope fixed on the rock allows us to happily go down to the Galion river’s crossing. With a baby, you would have to be careful here. With Louis (6 years old), everything goes smoothly. The area is really beautiful and worth a stop to enjoy the atmosphere. You are reaching the end of the hike since there is only the final climb left, and it will not take more than 15 minutes to do. In any case, the downhill slope stops here as the trail climbs back up during the final section. We ford the river and head upstream to take some pictures. We can admire a splendid waterfall a few meters high which flows along the rock in a kind of Tahiti waterfall shower atmosphere. We can also see another waterfall slightly further upstream.
We keep on hiking the end portion by taking the staircase which climbs on the opposite slope (roughly, just in front of where you arrived). Other magnificent trees, impressive in their size. After a few minutes, we can already spot the majestic Galion waterfall, at a distance and between the trees. On my first visit, I stopped here with Louis, as he was showing signs of tiredness and it was getting rather late. I didn’t want to take the risk of coming back at night since I didn’t know how much time I had left. The waterfall view is magnificent and Louis is amazed. He even helps me set up my tripod to take some long shots with my 70-180mm telephoto lens since I am too far away to shoot with my wide angle.
We keep on walking on the end portion of the path. I arrive at the foot of a small basin and the mountain I will now have to climb thanks to a rope fixed, once again, on the rock. It looks recent, which is reassuring, so I go forward with my tripod and camera on the shoulder. According to the weather, there may still be slipping risks. Right now, the weather is fine yet not superb. I climb thanks to the first rope which brings me to a first flat spot from which we already have a sumptuous view over the waterfall. The sun is here, too bad. I keep on climbing the rock thanks to a second rope which leads almost to the foot of the waterfall. A few meters to go and here we are at the foot of the waterfall, impressive with its 40m high.
I feel the weather is going to get better. I settle down quietly with my tripod for a session of long exposures, waiting for the sun to come out. The place is really quiet, not one sound, except for the waterfall of course. The water falls at the foot of a wall where there is a small pool, not deep enough to bathe in but good enough to soak your feet. My first pictures are already quite good, but I’m still waiting for the sun.
And here it is! The weather is getting better revealing a blue sky with the sun shining on both the cliff and the waterfall. It’s immediately much better for pictures! I admit I have time since Louis is back to school, so I settle down for a good half hour with my tripod trying to find original perspectives for my shots. I move from spot to spot at the foot of the waterfall which splashes me partly. Fortunately, I have a cloth to wipe the lens and filters. In short, here are some pictures that I am quite satisfied with. I let you judge and tell me in the comment section!
I finally decide to pack up and go back quietly through the return path. On the way, I meet some people working on the trail (a company employed by the Guadeloupe National Park). They tell me they are there to repair, maintain and improve the difficult parts of the trail. That’s great. A nice discussion with one of them will allow me to learn more about the surroundings and life here.
The way back is a little bit harder since you will only go uphill. During my passage with Louis, I had to carry him a little to help him because he had enough. Coming back on my own, on the way back, I could feel the weather getting cloudy. It did not fail, and I got showered towards the ends, fortunately, at the Pas du Roy. For photographers (and even others), it’s a really good idea to bring a K-way or poncho for the rain, and ideally something to protect your bag.
Finally, do end your hike with a swim in the Yellow Baths, above the parking lot. At the time we walked there, there were not many people, but I suspect the site may become crowded during normal times (outside of Covid lockdown), including people just coming to bathe here without hiking (which we have done on occasions). In any case, taking a ¼ of an hour to dive in the baths and relax feels really good. We almost had to shout Louis out of the bath. That’s how good he felt in it! I have to say that with the relatively cool temperature at this altitude (900m), the water is really warm.
I’m coming to the end of this walk. I hope you liked it, and that the story and pictures will make you want to go there! If you are looking for an easier hike, yet still nice, here is the Saut du Bras du Fort, in Goyave.
The walk in a nutshell
- Difficulty level: medium, a lot of roots and rocks to climb, and wet areas where it will be necessary to wet your shoes sometimes.The last climb is a bit technical with 2 rope passages.
- Duration: 3 hours (variable according to your level)
- Length: a roughly 5.5 km round trip
- Type: round trip
- Ideal: eating at the ford can be very nice
- Season: it depends. For example, the rainy season makes the waterfall stronger.
- Remember: Poncho/K-way, shoes are mandatory, mosquito repellent, protection for your backpack.
Below is an interactive map showing the Chute du Galion hiking area. You can use this map to check out all the hikes in the area, the ones we have already done and the ones we plan to do soon. We also wrote a page summarizing all the hikes in Guadeloupe.
You can also download the GPS track (.gpx) of the Chute du Galion hike, by clicking on the following link :
What to do in the area?
Of course and as you can imagine, I have not yet had the opportunity to do all the walks in the area. There really is a lot of choice for all levels, or almost. Starting from the Bains jaunes:
- The hike to the top of La Soufrière (the most famous)
- The hike to the top of l’Echelle (you can go there through the Galion waterfall trail via “la Citerne” or la Soufrière),
- The hike to the first Carbet Falls. It is longer and harder than by simply going through the second Carbet Falls (I’ll tell you more about it later),
- The tops of Carmichaël, Morne du Col and the Grande Découverte sector,
- Further north, explore the beautiful Moustique Canyon with its amazing water crossing!
Practical information – What you need to know about the Great Galion Falls hike
As usual, I will tell you everything you need to know about the practical aspects of the hike.
How to get to the Chute du Galion and find your way around?
My usual quick recap. Of course, you will have to go to the island of Guadeloupe first. I’ve been using the Skyscanner flight comparator for more than 10 years now and it always allows me to find great prices.
From France, there are direct flights from Paris of course, but also from Lyon and Bordeaux. If you are flexible on travel dates, which is always advisable to find cheap flights, you can find flights at 350€ round trip for January for example (it’s the good season too). I suggest you look at this link to find the cheapest flights from France to Pointe-à-Pitre. You can choose between several airlines (Corsair, Air France, Air Caraïbes). From the US, you have direct cheap flights from New-York. The same goes from Montreal (Canada).
Once there, you will have to rent a car to get around during your vacation.
As far as the site and the start of the hike are concerned, it all depends on where you come from. If you decide to stay a few days in the area, I suggest you find an accommodation on the heights of Saint-Claude. I’ll tell you more about it below.
From the city of Saint-Claude, it takes about 15 minutes to go up to the Parking des Bains Jaunes, where you will have to park. Here is the route.
A quick reminder. If you have a smartphone, you can:
- Install the Maps.me app to get offline maps during your entire stay. These are not hiking maps, but general maps. Note, however, that you will find a lot of trails on it and can still use it to find your way!
- Install the app “Rando Guadeloupe” (Android / Apple) which can help you find hikes on the island (even though I hope you will find the hikes thanks to our blog, lol). Internet connection required, except for maps downloaded offline beforehand.
Where to sleep in the area?
There really is something for everyone here. I don’t know them personally, but I got good feedback from:
- Les Cycas: a beautiful lodge in the middle of nature, in the Matouba district
- L’hôtel Saint-Georges: a rather good reputation for those who prefer hotels (on the heights of Saint-Claude),
- The guest house Habitation La Reine du Camp: a nice room in a house with a seaview, at the foot of the volcano
I’m coming to the end of this article about the Chute du Galion hike. I hope I have succeeded in giving you the motivation to go and discover it! For those of you looking for a much easier and more accessible yet still nice walk in the area, I suggest you go for a family walk at the Bassin bleu.
See you soon,