Looking for the best French trekking holidays? France is a huge country with 35,000 km of long distance trekking trails. So, to help you narrow down the choice we’ve pulled together the top 10 treks in France.
From the sparkling slopes of the Alps to the rustic quaintness of Brittany. And from the picturesque Pyrenees to crag crossing in Corsica. France has an embarrassment of trekking riches.
This top 10 treks in France is a blend of officially-categorised walking paths that criss-cross the land. They seem almost to have been custom designed to show off the land of Magritte and Renoir.
There are three types of trail in France:
These different trail types often intersect each other. There are also other types of path you’ll come across that are suitable for bikes, horses and motorised vehicles. Some paths are not categorised at all.
Here’s a selection of the best French trekking holidays to help inspire your Gallic wanderings.
Hard stomping and haute cuisine
The GR10 loops 866 kilometres across the north Pyrenees and is remote enough to be relatively free of crowds. You’ll get to see vistas that epitomise the region, such as the soaring, triangular 8,215-foot Pic d’Anie.
There are also a generous helping of alpine hamlets en route. These often offer traditional places to stay. Sea-level hikers needn’t worry about acclimatization – GR-10’s elevation is mainly between 1500 and 2000 metres and reaching a maximum of 2500.
If you want to rest up for a few days there are numerous gites d’etape along the way. They usually serve regional dishes so you can gorge yourself on delicacies as like authentic Basque soup and poached trout. All just to keep the energy levels up of course.
Most classic of Alpine treks
From one magnificent range of mountains to another. You’ll need endurance to complete the Haute Route (High route). Plus a certain degree of athleticism for crossing the many mountain passes along the way.
The Haute Route starts out in Chamonix, France and its 180 kilometres takes 10-12 days. It passes through the breeze-tickled forests and shapely slopes of the French and Swiss Alps before finishing in Zermatt, Switzerland.
As its name implies much of the route is high. In fact it traverses 10 of the 12 highest peaks in the Alps. The highest point is just below 3000m and with at the average altitude there is 25% less oxygen, so hikers should start slow to acclimatise.
While the entire trek is not in the French Alps nearly everyone begins in Chamonix. Making it one of the top 10 treks in France.
In the Footsteps of the Pilgrims
In the Middle Ages, the 140-mile St Giles Way was one of Europe’s most important pilgrimage routes. Heading from Le Puy through the Central Massif it finishes in Saint Gilles not far from the Mediterranean coast.
The bucolic trackway of this inn-to-inn trail takes you through antique villages. It includes a spectacular volcanic spread and a schist valley to die for.
There are popular eight night tours that include decent dorm accommodation, English-speaking guide and three hot meals a day. There’s also luggage transfers although there is a 16 kilogram limit per person.
One of the best French trekking holidays if you are looking for something challenging but not too tough.
Mountain scramble: Toughest trek in Europe
Corsica is world-renowned for being the birthplace of Napoleon. It’s also home to the sublime GR20 mountain trek. This is as close as you can get to alpine adventure without actually getting the ropes out and climbing.
You’ll need technical ability and strength to negotiate the lofty pinnacles and some treacherous sections. The scenery is stunning with incredible views to the coast.
The 180 kilometre trail has 12,000 metres of ascent and takes around 15 days. It is difficult and you need to be in good fitness. It is well worth joining a guided trip for this such as those offered by Tracks and Trails.
The wonders of the Emerald Coast
The ancient home of the Breton tribe is also home to a remarkable 2000 kilometre looping GR34 trail that follows the Brittany coastline. Trek through historic farms, along the justly-named Emerald Coast.
You’ll pass the sky-hugging Mont St Michel and can explore the back alleys and smuggler’s cottages of St Malo. You can get the ferry from Portsmouth to St Malo which is very convenient.
Altitude is never above 150m so there are no serious climbs. You can start at either end at or just take on a section of it. This trail doubles as a cycling course, meaning that the ground is flat and non technical. Easily one of the top 10 treks in France for less experienced hikers.
A week (or two) in Provence
Oceans of purple lavender, 400-year-old orchards, vineyards and truffles. These are just some of the charms you’ll stumble upon when trekking in Provence, the Garden of France.
Many classic treks cross the Haute Provence and you can link them together. For example, the GR4 from Entrevaux with the GR6 all the way to Saint Paul sur Ubaye. Along the way you’ll pass the Verdon Gorge and Lac de Ste Croix and much more.
The attractions in Provence are cultural as well as natural. Visit the khaki hued town of Vaison la Romaine. The hilly district of the town hides the ruins of an Roman coliseum, amphitheatre and bridge. Stock up on saucisson, herbes de Provence and local soft cheeses in the market.
Taking in the Sea Breeze
St Tropez is one of France’s loveliest beach resorts – and plushest. The jewel-like sea and toadstool-shaped pine trees make for first-rate scenery. Meaning watersports in St Tropez are pretty special.
Sentier du Littoral only takes a weekend. It is a light and relaxing walk intended for beginners who want to soak up the sights. There are no long ascents, technical trails or tricky obstacles.
Be sure to stop off at a cove or two and plunge into the bath-warm sea. Bring a snorkel and mask for added enjoyment – you might even spot a sea bass. One of the best French trekking holidays for beach life.
Central France messenger route
The 700 kilometre Equi Vauban trail passes through beautiful Morvan National Park. It was originally used by messengers working for the King’s military architect.
It’s a mildly undulating and well-marked path that winds past the gorgeous Chateau of Bazoches. This elegant 17th century castle boasts an authentic sundial from the period and several thousand books in its handsome library.
As the name implies Equi Vauban is also popular as a horse riding route. So for a different option ride the trail like the messengers of old. If experienced you can ride solo or go accompanied by an expert guide.
Trek the length of France
Possibly the most impressive trail in France begins in Hoek in the Netherlands. It passes through Belgium and Luxembourg then heads south all the way to the Mediterranean. GR5 roughly follows the eastern border of France for just shy of 1,500 kilometres.
It follows the most mountainous parts of France. Crossing the Lorraine plateau, Vosges range, Jura mountains and the Alps. There are more than twenty cols higher than 2,000 metres and more than half the time in France is spent above 1,000 metres.
Probably the most challenging route it deserves a spot in the top 10 treks in France. Just the Alpine portion from Geneva to the coast takes five weeks. The full route from the Netherlands takes on average three and a half months.
This is not just the best French trekking route but one of the top long distance trails in the world. The mountains and highlands it crosses are stunning and you experience so much variety along the way.
We hope you found the top 10 treks in France useful and interesting. Be sure to check out our trekking discounts as you could save a fortune on your next adventure.