France has more than 100,000 kilometres of walking trails. From short trails for local hikes to long-distance footpaths like the renowned Grande Randonnée (GR) network, France is a walker's paradise. The following are 10 top trekking and hiking areas across the country of France.
If you are in good physical condition then you can hike all year round. If you prefer the "nice and easy" method, then it is best to do mountain hiking in the summer.
Tour du Mont Blanc
The Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB) is the obvious starting point. The iconic trail winds its way around a 170 km stretch of some of the most beautiful and stunning landscapes. It takes seven to ten days to complete the hike, and in the process crosses the borders of Switzerland and Italy, in effect circling Mont Blanc, before it ends in France.
Beautiful and rugged, this area of France is well-explored and rich in history, but still has not lost any of its charm or allure. The cemeteries is why you will probably visit here, but also be sure to visit the undulating coastline and vast stretches of sand.
Dune du Pilat
Europe's tallest sand dune is here. Located on the Atlantic coast of France, the Dune du Pilat is an original and unique landscape. It stretches out around 3 km, and offers expansive views across the Arcachon basin. Although it is not an easy feat to climb the dune - it certainly is a good reason for visiting. However, you also don't want to miss the trails surrounding the Arcachon Bay.
Cirque de Gavarnie
Located in the Pyrenees mountains is the Cirque du Gavarnie. Cirque is a geological term for high-altitude, natural mountain basins or bowls, that are carved from ancient glaciers. Cirque du Gavarnie is among the most famous examples, and at its centre boasts the largest waterfall in Europe. The views are indescribable, which is why hikers frequent it all year long.
Luberon mountain trails
One of the most delightful spots in France is Luberon Natural Regional Park. The trails wind through beautiful hilltop Provence villages that offer views of the famous red Luberon rocks, olive groves, and vineyards. Although the region's most renowned village is Gordes, Roussillon is equally as charming. In general, these trails are good for every walking ability, and best of all, you will encounter along the way everything from prehistoric caves to hundred-year old chapels.
Gorges du Verdon
One of the dreamiest spots in Provence is the Verdon Gorge. The crystal clear turquoise water, complemented by stunning vegetation and rocks, make the river canyon among the most popular in all of Europe. Although the gorge can also be explored by kayaking and cycling, the most diverse vantage points are offered by trekking.
The Jura Mountains
Appearing to go on forever, the wooded rolling hills of the Jura Mountain stretch for around 250 km across the Switzerland-France border. To see everything that this area has to offer, including picturesque villages, gorges, lakes, and waterfalls, be sure to explore its walking routes.
In terms of hiking trails, it can be easy to overlook the Loire Valley, however, the region in the Northern part of France - renowned for its serene villages and fairy tale castles - is outstanding for hiking. The routes start here at 3 km, however if you are a long-distance trekker - there is the GR3 - which follows along the Loire river roughly.
Mont Saint Michel trail
Mont Saint Michel, similar to the Loire Valley, in its own right is popular, which is why its winding trails do not get as much attention as they possibly deserve. The Pilgrims' Trail is one of the top and easiest walks in France.
High Pyrenean Trail
Potentially the most stunning trail of all, the high mountain route of the the Haute Randonnée Pyrénéenne (HRP) is located between the Mediterranean and Atlantic. The hike is definitely not for the feint of heart, and can take nearly 45 days to complete - also making it among the most rewarding.