With over 60,000 kilometres of GR (Grand Randonnée) routes, visitors can explore France at its finest. And with an enviable coastline, two epic mountain ranges (the Alps to the east, the Pyrénées to the south) extinct volcanoes and lush green countryside, Frances natural beauty is generally missed by visitors.
Whether you want to explore circular walking routes you can complete in a day or hit the national walking trails for a multi-day hike, France offers walking opportunities that appeal to trekkers of all levels.
In this article, we have chosen 10 stunning hikes that offer something of interest to all types of people.
Tour Du Mont Blanc
With an altitude of 4,810 meters, the legendary Mont Blanc is Europe’s highest peak – and one of the most impressive massifs to explore. There’s no doubt that Tour du Mont Blanc walking trails will be an experience to remember.
Having said that, the walking trail is not easy. Whilst the trail is not particularly dangerous or tricky and can be completed by hikers of all levels, it’s a strenuous climb. You need to be physically and mentally prepared for this challenging hike. However, there are shorter hikes.
The hiking trails on the Tour du Mont Blanc cover 170km. It takes 10 or 11 days to cover the entire circuit. Some of the most popular starting points are Chamonix, Courmayeur and Les Houches.
The GR 20, Corsica Regional Park
Regarded as one of the most challenging hikes in Europe, the GR20 traversing Corsica Regional Park covers 180 km /110 miles and takes between 12 to 16 days. The start and end trail points are Calenzana in the Balagne region and Conca near Porto Vecchio.
Tackling the GR20 requires a high level of fitness, hiking experience, the right equipment and a good head for heights. Only one in three hikers that start the trail complete it. If you don’t feel as though you are ready for a double-digit day hike, you can access GR20 at Vizzavona, around half way and head towards Conca – the easier end of the trail.
The northern part of the trail is characterised by jagged peaks with near-vertical drops and butt-clenching descents. Whilst the views are stunning the environment can be intimidating for some people. You need a good head for heights.
Towards the southern parts of the trail, you can explore forests and come into contact with rivers and pools. This part of the trail is not only less challenging but there is more diversity in the landscape and brings you into contact with the beauty of nature.
The Pilgrim’s Trail, Mont St. Michel
The Pilgrim’s Trail to Mont St. Michel is one of the most popular in France due as much to its historical reference and its charm in equal measure. Starting at Bec d’Andaine, the 6.5km hike takes you through forests, over rivers and across the sands of Bay of Mont St. Michel to the 11th Century Abbey.
This trail only takes around 2 hours to complete but can only be accessed during low tide. Mont St. Michel’s Bay has one of the highest tides in Europe. High tides are typically between 8pm and 8am. On the horizon, to the west, you can see where the bay meets the Atlantic.
As the name suggests, this route has been the focal point of pilgrims since the Benedictines moved here in the 8th Century. Aubert, a bishop of the nearby hilltop town of Avranches, claims he was instructed to build a church on the island by St. Micheal. The Abbey became a centre of learning for some of the sharpest minds in Europe.
Lower Gorges du Verdon
The trail to the Lower Verdon Gorge is an alternative and quieter route than the more popular Basses Gorges du Verdon. Surrounded by a charming forest and shimmering turquoise waters, the natural beauty is a haven for hikers.
You can find the trail just beyond the impoundment of Quinson just outside the village. If you’re arriving from Montmeyan, the trail starts just before you reach Quinson. The starting point of the trail is just before the bridge a couple of meters away on the right-hand side. Follow the signs marked with a horizontal yellow line. This indicates the short hike.
The 9.7km loop trail is considered a moderate walk and takes approximately three hours to complete. Some parts of the path may be closed to protect the preservation of bats that inhabit the area. A visit to the charming village of Quinson is also an option. History buffs will be delighted with the Museum of Prehistory.
Cirque de Gavarnie, Parc National des Pyrénées
Hikers visiting France shouldn’t miss a visit to the Parc National des Pyrénées (National Park of the Pyrenees Mountains) – a UNESCO World Heritage Site. One of the highlights is the Cirque de Gavarnie walking trail.
Setting out from the tiny village of Gavarnie, the loop trail is accessible to walkers of all levels. The trail starts just after the Hotel du Cirque where you will find a stream. Up ahead you will see a soaring limestone rock 1700 meters high.
Along the trail, you will find multiple waterfalls cascading from the snow-topped summits which hit heights of over 3000 metres. The most impressive waterfall on the route is the Grande Cascade, the tallest waterfall in Europe which tumbles from a height of 400 metres.
Robert Louis Stevenson Trail, Le Monastier, Cevennes
Following in the footsteps of the famous Scottish author, Robert Louis Stevenson brings you into contact with the epic landscape described by the writer in his book Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes. It’s interesting to note that Stevenson chose to come here because it was the only region in France where Protestantism prevailed after the 30 years war in which the Vatican attempted to stamp out Protestant Reformation.
The iconic trail takes you from Le Monastier to St. Jean du Gard passing through a handful of pretty villages and quaint hamlets. Here you can meet friendly locals offering delicacies such as truffles, honey, cheese and olives.
The most impressive part of the trail, however, cuts through the eastern part of Ardeche National Park and brings you into contact with the Cevennes Mountains. It would take two week to complete the trail in its entirety but there are several one-day trails that range from easy to moderate.
Sentier du Littoral, Antibes
The narrow coastal trail of the Sentier du Littoral is one of soother’s France’s hidden gems. Starting from Antibes, the 2-hour trail from Bidart to Hendaye via Saint-Jean-de-Luz brings you into contact with some delicate stonework and stunning views looking out across the Cote d’Azur.
As you pass through narrow alleys lined with ritzy habitats, you get a feel for Mediterranean life. Stop and admire the brickwork and photo opportunities at the lookout points and coves where you can hear the calm waters slushing against the rocks.
Cirque De Saint-Même, Chartreuse Regional Park
The Chartreuse Regional Park is a diamond for hikers that don’t have much experience. The trails are easy to moderate and require minimal effort but bring you into contact with steep cliffs and narrow paths. In other words, you get a feel for trails that are more challenging without actually feeling challenged.
Among the highlights is the Cirque De Saint-Même, a 10km/6m hike starting from Saint-Pierre-d’Entremont. The trail starts from the waterfall a few hundred metres from the car park and takes between two to three hours to complete. For a longer hike, take the path to Pas de la Mort. This will extend the trail by an additional three hours.
But most people prefer the shorter trail so they can spend more time exploring the pine forest and splashing in the serene pools which shimmer beneath the soaring rocks. Alternatively, visit in the wintertime to admire the spectacular scenery provided by the glacial waterfalls that have turned into frozen ice.
Aiguilette des Houches, Domancy
Domancy has several iconic walking trails, but Aiguilette des Houchesis rated the best. This incredible hiking path takes you into the heart of the mountains where you will be greeted by the snow-capped behemoth that is Mont Blanc.
Starting from Parc de Merlet, this loop trail takes you through the enigmatic forest to Bel Lachat refuge until you reach the pretty meadows of Carlaveyron to get the Aiguillette des Houches. The return route takes you passed the charming chalets of Chailloux valley.
Although this is an easy walking route, it does bring you to some narrow spots which can be dizzying if you don’t have a head for heights. But don’t worry, there are handrails and cramp-ons to help you pass safely.
Alpage de Blaitiere, Chamonix
Better known for its ski resorts, the Alpage de Blaitiere is a 7.1km loop trail nestled in the pleasant valleys of Chamonix-Mont Blanc. The rolling hills and alpine pastures will no doubt remind you of The Sound of Music – and the hills are alive; mostly with cows, goats and other farmyard animals.
Setting off from the Grepon car park, this 2-hour walk provides stunning views of the enigmatic mountain range and brings you out in Alpage de Blaitière-Dessus where you buy local wine and cheese.
Download the Sweatcoin App
What are your favourite walking trails in France? If you’re heading to France or anywhere other hiking trails, don’t forget to download and activate the Sweatcoin app.
The Sweatcoin app has a built-in pedometer that counts your footsteps and converts them into a digital token (SWC) that can be used to purchase merchandise from over 300 online retailers.