France may be known for the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, and frog legs, but it also boasts beautiful natural landmarks and parks. Plantie has gathered the top ten hiking spots in France to help you plan your post-quarantine trip!
Normandy, France – 3.8 miles round-trip
Mont St-Michel is the pride of Normandy. Founded in the eighth century, it was one of the largest pilgrimage monuments for Christianity. There are two facets to this trail. Those more interested in history and the medieval times can walk towards the medieval monastery, a beautiful Gothic abbey that has been standing since 1523. Those more inclined towards nature can head towards the Couesnon River. During low tide seasons, tide pools are formed.
French Alps – 3 miles round-trip
This hike begins with a ride in a cable car to the town of Léognan. From there, one can begin a short but beautiful hike with many waterfalls and mini glaciers along the route. On a clear day, Mont Dolent can be seen in the distance. The name of this hike is taken from the glacier at the peak. This is one of the largest glaciers in France and can be best described as a flowing “river of ice”.
Alpage de Baitière
Chamonix, France – 1-mile round-trip
Alpage is French for “Alpine Pastures” which is fitting for this beautiful bright green hike. Juxtaposed against the emerald grass are tall chiseled mountains. The hike itself is fairly short but that does not make the end any less rewarding. At the end of the train is the town of Alpage de Baitiere, which, true to its name, is home to cows, goats, and sheep. The town is also known for its local cheese. This hike is perfect for those who want to leave the city and explore the rustic, idyllic aspect of the French countryside.
Cap Roux and the Esterel Rocks
Cannes, France – 4.5 miles round-trip
This hike has it all when it comes to spectacular views! A hiker can see the blue of the Mediterranean Sea on one side and the Mercantour snow alps on the other. Close to the coastline are the titular Esterel rocks. These rocks are of volcanic origin, hence their vivid red coloring. After hiking, one can go down to the coast and enjoy the views of the cliff while soaking their feet in the remarkably blue seawater.
Baudon Peak from Peille
Peille, France – 4.5 miles round-trip
This hike, while short, is a rocky one and is perfect for those who enjoy a rock-scramble. Whilst scrambling up boulders, you can see the beautiful French Riviera and the Mediterranean. The hike will take you through olive groves and medieval buildings, and depending on the time of year, even sheep herds! The hike starts in Peille which is a medieval village, with many of its old monuments recovered and on display.
Puy de Dôme
Auvergne, France – 3.3 miles round-trip
Did you know that France is home to more than 11,000 volcanoes? These volcanoes are different from the explosive, tall cones that most people think of. The volcanoes in the Chaines du Puys region are dome volcanoes; they are dormant and far from any tectonic plates. Puy de Dome is the tallest of the 80 in this chain. At the top of the dome is a large observatory and a fantastic view of the town below. There are also remains of a large Roman temple thought to have been for the Sun god Mercury. From Puy de Dome, it is possible to hike to the other volcanoes in the chain!
Mare à Mare Sud
Corsica, France – 47 miles end-to-end
This hike is breathtaking. You get to walk through the mountain villages of Alta Roca, with oak trees and chestnut forests on the route. Deer and hogs roam wildly, and it is not uncommon to see sheep herds. Halfway through the hike, one can stop at the Altarania ruins and take in the beautiful old French architecture and reconstructions.
Robert Louis Stevenson Trail/GR70
Le Puy en Velay, France – 140 miles end-to-end
Robert Louis Stevenson, better known as the brilliant mind behind the novels “Treasure Island” and “Kidnapped,” also traversed through France on foot with only his pet donkey. He wrote his first work based on this adventure called “Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes.” He is considered a pioneer in the field of literature based on the great outdoors, and this hike shows us why. You can walk through volcanic plateaus, forests, and medieval villages, and at the end of it lies a beautiful medieval castle.
Corsica, France – 112 miles end-to-end
This hike is broken into two sections; the northern section is more difficult but significantly more beautiful. The terrain in this section is quite rocky with little accommodation for the rugged terrain. Along the way, one can rest in various mountain huts, hostels in the mountain villages, or pitch a tent. Thankfully, all this effort is worth it just for a view of the beautiful wildlife and clear starry skies! The hardest and most famous part of the GR 20 is the Cirque de la Solitude. One will climb up an 800 m rock face, and climb back down 300 m, with only the assistance of some old chains. However, many consider the Cirque as the highlight of their GR20 hike so do not let it scare you off!
Tour Du Mont Blanc
Chamonix, France – 110 miles end-to-end
Mont. Blanc is the tallest mountain in Western Europe with an elevation of 15,700 feet.
This hike will take approximately 10 days. Also, Throughout the hike, there are various hostels and mountain huts for you to rest and take a break, meaning you do not have to carry tents. There is also little forest cover to obstruct the view of the glaciers and mountains. This hike also takes you through Italy and Switzerland with lots of historic villages to explore. However, if this hike is too long for you, there are options to only hike parts of the trail!
These are the best hikes that one can explore in France. Keep in mind that the levels of difficulty are subjective so be careful on whichever hike you choose. Enjoy the fresh air and take in the culture while staying safe!