France is one of the world’s most visited countries—a fact I’m sure you’re already aware of. While Paris is by far the top destination for tourists, there’s so much more to France than its capital!
In fact, France has some amazing hiking trails that will take you through some of its most beautiful scenery. In this post, we’ll tell you about a few of the most emblematic hiking routes in France.
Travel Tip! Before we get started, some practical information. If you’re from a visa-exempt country for the Schengen Area, you don’t need a visa to visit France for up to 90 days per 180-day period—long enough for all the routes mentioned below. From late 2023 however, visa-exempt travelers will need an ETIAS to travel to France. The ETIAS is a new travel authorization similar to the U.S. ESTA. Travelers of other nationalities need a Schengen visa.
Now, time to take a look at these epic hiking routes in France!
Tour du Mont Blanc
The Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB) is an iconic 170km long trek through the French Alps. It takes about 10 days to complete, and it’s not for beginners—but if you’re up for a challenge, it’s well worth it. The route passes through France, Italy, and Switzerland and features some of the most beautiful scenery in Europe.
The route also has several different variations with different starting locations in France. You can also use public transport and lifts at some stages to shorten the trail.
Passing through 3 different countries with high altitudes and 60 hours of walking, this is a fairly strenuous tour best for experienced hikers.
Queyras Regional Nature Park
There are lots of hiking routes to choose from in Queyras Regional National Park, including some suitable for beginners and families. One option is a hiking route around Lake Saint Anne. Starting in the village of Fond de Chaurinoide, in the South of Queyras Regional National Park, you’ll head through woods to Lac Saint-Anne, the largest in Queyras. It’s a moderate 6 km hike that takes just under 3 hours to complete.
An easier option is the Lac de Roue route. Taking just 1 hour 25 minutes, it’s a popular 4.5 km circular trail. You’ll see lots of wildlife and pretty landscapes along the way. It’s also dog-friendly with some off-lead areas.
The Pyrenees Way
The Pyrenees Way (GR10) traverses the Pyrenees mountains from France to Spain. It starts in Hendaye, France, and ends in Banyuls. It takes most people around 55 days to complete this mammoth hike, more experienced hikers may be able to complete it in as few as 30.
To hike this trail you must obtain a guidebook for your chosen section if you don’t have one already. Taking on the Pyrenees Way is not for the faint-hearted, if you’re even considering this hiking trail, make sure you prepare well and know exactly what you’re letting yourself in for!
The Cathar Way (GR367) runs through the Languedoc-Roussillon area of southern France. The route takes around 2 weeks to complete with lots of fantastic scenery along the way.
The Cathar Way follows the history of the Cathars, which flourished in this part of France during the Middle Ages with its own culture and beliefs. Highlights along the 260 km route include Montségur, Roquefixade and Foix, and Quillan.
Chemin de Stevenson
The Chemin de Stevenson (GR70) also known as the Robert Louis Stevenson Trail, is a long-distance footpath running around 225 km through Haute-Loire, Lozère, and Gard in France. It follows the approximate route described by Rober Louis Stevenson in his book Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes in 1878.
You’ll see breathtaking scenery as you walk through mountains and valleys filled with lakes and forests. The trail has sections that are challenging, but there are also many places where you can stop for a break. The path crosses through small villages with bakeries and cafes where you can get some food or coffee. There are also mountain refuges along the way where you can stay overnight if necessary. There are plenty of places to camp along the way too.
This hike takes place in Provence on Mont Ventoux, which is just over 1,909 m high. It’s most famous among cyclists, but you can also climb it on foot.
This route provides stunning views but be sure not to get lost—there are few places where hikers can find shelter if they need rest during their journey up or down the mountainside! Also, be prepared for the weather, Mont Ventoux is known as the ‘wind mountain’ for a reason, with winds at the top reaching a top speed of 300 km/h!
Be Prepared for Your Hiking Adventure
Here are some top tips when planning your French hiking trip.
Tip #1 Choose the right trail for you
When planning a trip, it’s important not to be over-ambitious. Even if you’re generally fit and active, long hikes such as the ones we’ve mentioned here are a challenge. If you’re not an experienced hiker, choose a shorter and easier route to get started.
Allow yourself plenty of time to complete your selected route so have a chance to take in the scenery and get plenty of rest.
Tip #2: Pack everything you need
A good pair of shoes, a water bottle (water is available at many trails), sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat are the essentials. You’ll also want a map and or/guidebook so you stay on the right track. Consider how much food you need to take, and check where there are places to stop for refreshments along the way.
If you’ll be sleeping in a tent along the route, make sure you have everything you need to camp.
Tip #3: Time your hike well
Most hikers will tell you that springtime is ideal for hiking in France, between April and June, thanks to the pleasant temperatures. Fall is another good option. The best time to go does depend on the route you’ve chosen, make sure you have all the information you need before you get planning your trip.
We hope we’ve encouraged you to add hiking in France to your European bucket list! Whether you are an experienced hiker or are just starting out on your journey, there is something for everyone to enjoy here. Remember, you can always just walk a section of the hiking trail instead of the whole route.
The country is full of history and culture, so make sure to take your time exploring each region before moving on to the next one!