France boasts over 100,000 km of walking trails. From long-distance footpaths, such as the famous Grande Randonnée (GR) network, to shorter trails for localised hiking, the country is a walker’s paradise. Here are 10 top hiking and trekking spots from all across France.
Tour du Mont Blanc
We’ve got to start off with the Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB). This iconic trail traverses some of the most stunning landscapes over a stretch of 170 km. The hike, which takes seven to 10 days to complete, crosses the borders of Italy and Switzerland, circling Mont Blanc in effect, before finishing in France.
The Luberon Natural Regional Park is a pure delight. The trails here weave through pretty, hilltop Provence villages with views of vineyards, olive groves and renowned red Luberon rocks. Although Gordes is the most renowned village in the region, Roussillon is equally disarming. These trails are generally great for all walking abilities, and the best part is you’ll come across everything ranging from hundred-year old chapels to prehistoric caves en route.
This is what the tallest sand dune in Europe looks like. Situated on France’s Atlantic coast, the Dune du Pilat is a unique slice of landscape. Stretching out for approximately 3 km, and offering extensive views over the Arcachon basin, climbing the dune – though this is no easy feat – is definitely a good reason to visit. However, the trails all around the Arcachon Bay shouldn’t be missed.
The Cirque du Gavarnie is situated in the Pyrenees mountain range. Cirque is the geological term for natural, high-altitude mountain bowls or basins, that have been carved out by ancient glaciers. The Cirque du Gavarnie is one of the best-known examples of these, and boasts Europe’s largest waterfall at its centre. The views here are pretty hard to describe, which is why it is frequented by hikers all year round.
The Verdon Gorge is a dreamy spot in Provence. The turquoise crystal clear water, complemented by dramatic rocks and vegetation, make this river canyon one of the most popular in Europe. Although you can also explore the gorge by cycling and kayaking, trekking offers the most varied vantage points.
This Mediterranean trek – also called the Balcony of the Côte d’Azur – runs from Menton to Marseille along the GR51 route. The full trail passes through some of South of France’s finest spots including picturesque hilltop villages, pine woods by the sea, and plateaus with mountain views. Depending on where you are in the region, you can get on the trail from different points.
Rugged and beautiful, this well-explored area of France is steeped in history but hasn’t lost any of its allure. You’ll probably be here for the cemeteries, but make it a point to also check out the vast stretches of sand and undulating coastline.
The Jura Mountains seem to go on forever, however, these wooded rolling hills stretch for about 250 km along the France-Switzerland border. Make sure you explore the walking routes to see all that this region has to offer, including waterfalls, lakes, gorges and picturesque villages.
The Loire Valley can easily be overlooked when it comes to hiking trails, however, this region in the North of France – known for its fairy tale castles and serene villages – is excellent for rambling. The routes here start from 3 km, but if you’re more of a long-distance trekker, you can take the GR3 – which roughly follows the Loire river.
Like the Loire Valley, Mont Saint Michel, too, is popular in its own right, which explains why its circling trails have gone somewhat unnoticed. However, The Pilgrims’ Trail is one of France’s top walks, as well as the easiest.
Possibly the most dazzling trail of the lot, the Haute Randonnée Pyrénéenne (HRP)is a high mountain route, between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. This hike is not for the fainthearted, and can take almost 45 days to complete – which also makes it one of the most rewarding.