One of the best ways to learn about any country is to hike in it. Offering both long-distance and short hikes, France offers a large variety of trail choices to fulfil your outdoor adventure needs.
From the snowy Mont Blanc mountains, to the sparkling seas of the Mediterranean, the awe-inspiring diversity of French landscape is sure inspire and impress you.
If you are feeling lost as to where to begin exploring this beautiful country, we put together a small guide to help you on your journey. From longer treks and short days walks to when to go – we have got you covered.
Hiking in France, your complete guide:
Probably France’s best known hike, the Tour De Mont Blanc is a classic 110-mile hike that circles the Alpine peak of Mont Blanc, the highest peak in Europe. This hike is one of the longer French hikes you can choose to do, and you will briefly cross borders into Italy and Switzerland along the way.
The full Tour du Mount Blanc is a beautiful scenic route, but with over 10 km of accents and descents along the way, it can be a challenging hike.
However, if you don’t fancy conquering the whole strenuous hike it is possible to break the route into smaller sections according to your preference. You can also use public transport and lifts to speed up or shorten your hike.
France is something of a hiker’s paradise. If you are looking for long distance hikes the Grandes Randonnées is certainly worth looking into.
The Grandes Randonnées are a series of long distance walking tracks across France. The GR footpaths aren’t limited to France and weave throughout Europe, mainly found in Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain.
However, exploring incredible landscapes from the Alps to the Brittany coast, arguably the best of GR’s can be found in France.
The GR have coloured coded symbols that mark the various trails – symbols for straight ahead, turn and go back will help you along your way.
Red and white are the colours that indicate the GRs and yellow the PRs (which are the shorter tracks). Be aware that you have to keep your eyes open along the way, so as to not miss some of the markings.
The GR tracks vary in difficulty, from being easy enough for the whole family to much more difficult so that you need a bit of experience before attempting them.
If you are looking for a challenge, the GR20 trail in Corsica is one of Europe’s toughest. Covering 112 miles with 40 000 feet elevation gain, traversing rocks, narrow climbs and steeps descents and as well as areas that you pick your own route, you’ll need some proper motivation and hiking experience to complete the GR20.
Located roughly 105 miles southeast of the mainland, the French island, Corsica is a popular holiday destination due to its geographical diversity and Mediterranean climate.
The GR20 consists of two parts, so you can decide to walk to the whole trail or just a section of it. The northern section is more difficult but is also considered more beautiful, with the southern section less spectacular but slightly easier.
If long, difficult hikes are not what you are after France has ample variety of smaller day hikes by which to explore the country. An interesting day walk that allows you to explore French villages along the way is the Nietzsche’s Footpath.
This short day hike connects the Eze, the medieval village, to the seaside town of Ese Sur Mer. It’s generally easier to go down than up (towards Eze Sur Mer) and the hike will take around 50 – 60 minutes.
Another easier day hike in France is the Cap Ferrat Hiking Trail. The Cap Ferrat is peninsula in the South of France. The trail is 3.7 miles and will take roughly two hours to complete.
Following the coastline of the peninsula, you will experience the beauty of the Mediterranean coastline with the option of a swim at Passable beach at the end.
This obviously all depends on which area you are hiking in. However, the snow-capped Mount Blanc is one of the places that has a limited window of good weather.
If you are planning on tackling this route it is best go between June and September as other times of year, the route can be blocked with snow.
The beautiful GR20 trek is best hiked in late June and early September, as the route is less crowded and the weather is less hot. From November to May there may be snow in the mountains making the trail more dangerous.
If you are looking for a general indication of when to hike in France, the best time to go is in between April and June (spring) or September and November (autumn) as temperatures are cooler and there are fewer tourists. Summer can be hot and crowded, with winter being grey and cold.
However, if you are planning longer more strenuous hikes it is a good idea to do extensive research on both the routes and the weather beforehand to avoid any mishaps along the way.
Mila has been to 5 continents, visited over 40 countries and hiked across some of the most famous mountain ranges including the Andes and the Atlas Mountains. As an AMS sufferer she learned a few techniques to reduce the symptoms and the effects on her hiking adventures.