Often called Europe's Grand Canyon, this 2,000-foot-deep limestone gorge pinches together so closely in some places that the 30-foot-wide Verdon River reaches from cliff to cliff. In 20 miles of hiking, we were forced to wade or swim the river about 15 times, floating our packs across. The water is pleasant, but beware water releases from the upstream hydroelectric dam. Tent camping is not allowed, but we bivouacked with pleasure. Contact: Parc Naturel Regional du Verdon, 011-33-4-92-74-63-94; www.parcs-naturels-regionaux.tm.fr/lesparcs/verdc_en.html.
Southeast France's Gorge Du Verdon provides backpackers with miles of narrow canyon walls, river wading, and strenuous hiking.