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13 January 2020
Move aside, Swiss Alps...it’s time to focus the spotlight on the equally-as-impressive French Alps for a while. We’re not diminishing the stunning magnificence of the Alps in Switzerland. But we are pointing out that hiking in France is the ultimate way to access over 5,000 of the best trekking tours and hiking vacations in Europe.
With 4,000+ short hiking trails, 400+ long-distance trails, and 580+ pilgrim trails to choose from, you certainly won’t be bored while hiking in France. We’ve laid out some of the best of these with this trekking map of 15 can’t miss hikes in the French Alps and other parts of the country.
Hiking Corsica’s GR20 is an amazing way to experience the rugged outdoors of France. The 112-mile trail winds through the mountainous center of this Mediterranean island. To complete the entirety of GR20, you’ll need to set aside at least a week. Less experienced hikers tend to take longer than this, but it’s possible to finish the GR20 in as little as 7 days.
You can either start the trail in Calenzana in the North or Conca in the South. The GR20 hiking season runs from June to October, but if you want to avoid the crowds, avoid hiking this in July and August. Although GR20 is considered a rugged terrain, most hiking levels can get it done.
Hiking in the Luberon isn’t necessarily for the most serious trekkers, but it’s an amazing choice if you’re looking for family-friendly hiking trips in France. The trails here connect small villages in the countryside, some even passing through farms, vineyards, and orchards. There are a few GR trails that pass through Luberon, including 6, 9, 92, and 97.
If you’re looking for a long-distance hiking trail in Luberon, our suggestion is GR97. It’s 106 miles from start to finish with a maximum elevation of about 3500 feet. You can also combine it with other GR trails to see more of Luberon, but this will require more time.
The Grande Traversée des Alpes starts in Ecrins National Park and passes through Queyras and Mercantour parks along the way. Some of the most stunning scenery of the French Alps can be seen along GTA, but don’t expect it to be easy. This strenuous hike takes an average of 12 days, following a network of GR trails through rugged alpine terrain.
GR54 is relatively similar to the Grande Traversée des Alpes, passing through all the stunning glory of the Ecrins National Park. This is the largest park in France that boasts the highest elevation, making it one of the more challenging multi-day treks in the French Alps. It’s possible to do the full hike in 10 days, but there’s also a 6-day trek that focuses on the southern portion of Ecrins.
Another one of the most popular hiking tours in France is the journey along the longest and largest glacier in France, Mer de Glace. MDG is located at the southern end of the Mont Blanc Massif in Chamonix Valley. Glacier hiking comes with a unique set of challenges and requires the appropriate gear, and this one is no exception.
If you’re new to glacier hiking, the best time to visit is during the summer months when there’s no snow on the surface of Mer de Glace. The best way to experience all the MDG has to offer is by hiring a guide for the day. This way you’ll be able to explore everything that the hike has to offer, from ice caves to glacier lakes.
Haute Route is one of the most famous hikes in the Alps. If you want to go from hiking in the French Alps to hiking in the Swiss Alps, this is the best way to do it. This journey takes trekkers across the Alps from Chamonix in France to Zermatt in Switzerland, taking most hikers an average of 11 days to complete.
This is one of the most remote hikes in the Alps, so don’t expect to sleep in a hotel or B&B along the way. Haute Route is all about getting in touch with the great outdoors, exploring 10 out of the 12 highest peaks in the Alps. Many hikers refer to this as the trek of contrasts since it includes everything from green meadows to snowy mountain peaks.
Named after the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, this next one is an easy path that passes from Èze-bord-de-Mer to Èze-Village. It's only 2.6 miles, but the short distance is not short on stunning views. There's a lot of traffic on this trail, especially in the summertime, so don't expect to have it all to yourself.
The main attraction of Nietzsche Path is the garden at the top. There’s a small entrance fee to get in, but it’s definitely worth checking out. After you’ve stopped to smell the roses, feel free to extend your hike to other trails in the area, but don’t forget to explore Èze-Village before heading back home.
The Camino de Santiago is an ancient pilgrimage route that was established in the 9th century. Many hikers assume that the CDS is one long trail, but it consists of many routes throughout Europe. One of them is the Camino Francés, which is the most famous of the CDS routes. If you choose to do the whole thing, you're looking at a full month on the trail (at the very least).
Out of all the hiking tours in France, Camino Francés offers the most variety. It’s totally understandable if you don’t have a full month to spend on the trail, which is why the Classic Camino Last 100km is a better choice. It takes about 7 days to complete and travels from Sarria to Santiago de Compostela.
Sentier Blanc-Martel is a point to point trail located in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur of southern France. It’s not a super long hike, but it’s typically rated as challenging. It’s commonly referred to as the Grand Canyon of France since the entire trail follows the canyon views of Verdon River. It’s a full-day trek with lots of narrow paths and steep stairwells.
One thing to keep in mind about Sentier Blanc-Martel is that this is a 7.9-mile point to point trail, which means you’ll end up 7.9 miles from where you started. Unless you’re willing to double the journey and walk back to your car on foot, you’ll have to catch a taxi or bus back to the parking lot. Be sure to bring some cash if you want to avoid hitchhiking back to the car.
Le Chemin des Rognes is a part of the Tour du Mont Blan hiking trail system. It offers picturesque views of Chamonix Valley, the Aravis Mountain Range, and the Aiguille du Midi. When it comes to summer hiking in the French Alps, adding this 3-4 hour hike to the bucket list a must. Every history-loving hiker embarking on Tour du Mont Blanc will love Le Chemin des Rognes.
Lac Blanc is the most well-known hike in Chamonix, and it's another major highlight of the Tour du Mont Blanc hiking trails. Whether you add this to your full Mont Blanc itinerary or just spend the morning hiking Lac Blanc is up to you. This trail features the classic high-mountain panoramic views that all hikers strive for.
If you're doing this as a single-day hike, you'll start by taking the lift to get to the top of L'Index. Once you're at the top, just follow the signs to the Lac Blanc trailhead. Definitely plan on wearing proper hiking boots - this is a rocky route, and it's easy to get distracted by the mountainous panorama, so shoes with proper ankle support are essential.
Trekking vacations to France almost always include historical outings. Even if you don’t consider yourself a history buff, exploring the D-Day beaches of Normandy is an eye-opening experience that will shed some light on France’s past. Walking along the beaches here isn’t anything like the strenuous mountain hikes of the French Alps. But it’s still worth every minute of your time.
The 5 Normandy beaches stretch across 50 miles of coastline. You won’t be walking all 50 miles in one day, but there are walking tours you can sign up for that will spend 5 to 6 days exploring the area. This may not be the best place to take in stunning alpine views, but it’s the ultimate hiking outing for history lovers, families, or anyone looking for an easy walking tour in France.
Mare a Mare Sud is another hike on the island of Corsica, but unlike the GR20, this one takes you from East to West rather than North to South. This is an easy sea-to-sea route that can be completed in 5 days. You can hike the Mare a Mare Sud any time throughout the year, but it’s the perfect choice for anyone traveling to France in the spring or fall.
The Pilgrim's Trail spans 155 miles, connecting Winchester Cathedral in England to Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy. This long-distance footpath is a top pick for those who can't handle rugged mountain peaks or plunging valleys. The UK section of the trail is more popular, but if you're looking for hiking in France that is suitable for most skill levels, this is a good one.
Many of the trails we've covered so far have been a part of the Tour du Mont Blanc hiking circuit. But if you want to take you hiking in France Alps to the next level, why not embark on the full Tour du Mont Blanc trek? This is one of the top long-distance treks in all of Europe, circling all the way around the Mont Blanc Massif. If you're feeling brave, you can do it on your own, but the more popular choice is to hire a professional to guide the 8-10 day trek.
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