Going hiking in France? France definitely isn’t a country that comes to mind when you think of hiking. It’s quite densely populated, so it stands to reason that many people would skip it when mapping out their next hiking trip. But, France has its own collection of beautiful natural scenery and rich historic hotspots, meaning that you can keep France on the list for your next trip.
With all this said, we’ve set aside a list of the 15 best hikes in France, so you can experience more than just a patisserie – instead, immersing yourself in the best natural landscapes and preserved histories the country has to offer.
Hiking in France? Here Are The Best Hikes in France
The Jura Mountains
One of the best hiking areas in France is the Jura mountain range. This is a pretty general region, as the Jura Mountains stretch for over 250km along the shared border between France and Switzerland. There are dozens of trails ranging in length and difficulty level – whether you want a full-blown trek or a gentle ramble. You aren’t limited to walking, either: there are routes geared specifically towards mountain biking, road biking, and horseback riding.
There is a wide range of landscapes for you to choose from – valleys, alpine lakes, waterfalls, gorges, and even bogs (be careful here).
Location: Franche Comté
Insider Tip: Don’t miss out on picturesque nearby villages, such as Château-Chalon, Baume-les-Messieurs, and Dole.
Dune du Pilat
You wouldn’t think of France as a country with sand dunes, but you’d be surprised. The Dune du Pilat is France’s tallest dune (implying there are more!) and is located on the Atlantic coast. This area is peaceful and calming, with an almost lunar-like quality that makes it a sight for sore eyes.
It’s right on the edge of the coastline and stretches for 3km, meaning that the views are pretty incredible. It’s a tricky climb to the top (7.5km up and down), but definitely worth the trek. It’s moderate in difficulty, but you’ll be happy you did it once you arrive. This is one of the best hikes in France for views!
Insider Tip: The nearby trail around Arcachon Bay is another must-see.
This legendary hiking trail is one of France’s best-known trails, and it’s pretty popular with seasoned hikers. It’s located on France’s southeastern island of Corsica, and the long-distance trail is sunny and hot in the warm months—a true Mediterranean hike. It’s a spectacular 180km in length and will take just shy of two weeks to complete. It starts/finishes in Calenzana in the north and Conca in the south.
Insider Tip: Weather-wise, June through late October is ideal, but skip July and August if you want to avoid crowds.
This spot looks like it could be somewhere in the wild tropical gorges of Asia – but in fact, it’s in Provence. The river canyon is among the most popular in Europe thanks to its dramatic mossy rock walls rising out of clear turquoise waters. You can explore the gorge in a kayak or canoe, but there are also walking trails; these will, of course, give you better views.
In particular, the Martel trail has one of the better routes. It takes around six hours to complete one way, so this could be done as an overnight hike, or you can arrange for pickup at the other end.
Insider Tip: Make sure your walking shoes have treads for this route.
We love any hike that starts with a cable car ride. For the one that takes you up to Lac Blanc, you’ll get some pretty incredible views. When you get off the cable car, the trail doesn’t waste any time in getting steep, so be prepared for a strenuous uphill journey. The beautiful lake view at the end is worth it, though.
The full hike is actually on the shorter side—it can be done in less than three hours. If you do decide to draw it out and spend more time taking in the scenery, there is an overnight shelter. It does fill up quickly, though, so if you plan to stay overnight, be sure to call ahead and reserve a spot.
Location: Chamonix, Haute-Savoie
Insider Tip: Rocks can be loose, so a hiking stick might be a good idea.
High Pyrenean Trail
This one is a doozy, but definitely one of the most incredible hikes on the list. It stretches from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean and roughly follows the border between Spain and France. It’s an insane 800km in length, so most people will choose to do a portion. Doing the full trek in one go would take around a month and a half.
The end and starting points are Hendaye and Banyuls-sur-Mer. It’s a moderate to challenging route, but still doable by intermediate hikers if broken up into digestible sections. This is a haven for wildlife (marmots, vipers, griffon vultures, eagles, and falcons, to name a few), and you will pass through mountain passes, gorges, and verdant valleys. This is a challenging route with lots of factors that can affect your journey, so do as much research as possible before setting out.
Location: France/Spain border
Insider Tip: Find villages along the route for resupplying on resources. Overnight shelters average around €15 per night.
Cirque de Gavarnie
If you want to go hiking in France you have to try this one. This route is also situated in the Pyrenees Mountains but is a complete 180 from the High Pyrenean Trail. Instead of the gargantuan route, it’s a short hike that’s even suitable for small children. The incline is pretty minimal, but the views are still astounding, so you get the best of both worlds – especially if you’re traveling as a family.
The scenery is rocky, towering, and impressive: you’ll see glacier limestone rock and pass alongside beautiful clear waterfalls like the Grande Cascade – the tallest in Europe. You’ll start in the village of Gavarnie, past the village’s city hall and horse stables, and along the path that follows a gentle stream. The park is small, with no urbanization, making it relaxing and more of a stroll than a hike.
Insider Tip: If you’re more into a challenge, take the turnoff for the Brèche de Roland mountain pass.
Alpage de Blaitière
This is a short and enjoyable hike in France. It recently reopened to the public in 2015, managed by a young couple. The trail starts from the Grepon village car park, and it’s a very short and pleasant walk – less than 2km.
It’s a beautiful route of rugged mountain terrain and verdant valley views. At the end of the trail is the best part – the alpine pastures (Alpage), full of cows and goats. This is where you will be greeted by the management couple, who offer delicious local meals. The hike is open until the end of October each year.
Insider Tip: Don’t leave without getting some locally-made cheese.
Luberon Mountain Trails
Lubéron National Park is a UNESCO heritage park in Provence. Throughout the park’s territory, there are trails that connect you with some of the country’s oldest and most beautiful villages. In particular, one of the nicest routes starts in a medieval hilltop village (Gordes) and continues for 10km until it reaches the ‘perched village’ of Roussillon at the top of a cliff.
The photos you will get here are stunning (think ochre-toned buildings against verdant clifftops), so be sure to bring your camera.
Insider Tip: Try to end your journey in this area in Lourmarin – a beautiful small town with cafés, restaurants, and boutiques.
Western Front Battlefields
This is an important historical site. The Western Front is the name for a 650km stretch of land between Switzerland and Belgium, and the area in France was where most of World War II’s fighting took place. France’s portion of this route showcases the still-preserved trenches of the war, where you can actually walk in the exposed subterranean dugouts and imagine what it may have been like at the height of the war.
It’s a sobering experience for sure, but something you should do if in the area, to pay homage to the lives lost in the name of freedom. You’ll even be able to see decades-old scars of bullets and shells.
Location: Picardy, Somme
Insider Tip: You’ll get the most info out of a guided tour.
Le Chemin des Rognes
This hike is part of the Tour du Mont Blanc, the full extent of which goes through France, Switzerland, and Italy due to the mountain being situated right near a corner where all three countries meet. The Chemin des Rognes is but a portion, starting in Bellevue and finishing in Baraque des Rognes. It’s pretty difficult, but you’ll be able to get one of the best views of Mont Blanc itself (the tallest peak in West Europe) and of the surrounding Chamonix Valley.
Though only around five hours total, this is a more challenging hike to undertake, particularly in poor weather. You’ll want to avoid it entirely if rain or snow is forecasted since more treacherous parts of the path become dangerous in unruly conditions.
Location: Savoie & Haute Savoie
Insider Tip: Keep your eyes out for alpine ibex, native to this area.
The Napoleon Route is a portion of the Santiago de Camino, an ancient pilgrimage route to take pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela in Spain – the final resting place for the Apostle Saint James. The Napoleon route is one of the more challenging legs of this journey, but also one of the most worthwhile.
It begins in St-Jean Pied de Port – a beautiful medieval village with cobblestone streets and preserved architecture – and continues for 27km into Roncesvalles in Spain. If you make it all the way to the finish line, check out the Roncesvalles convent.
Insider Tip: Look for the tiny seashell plaques (the symbol of Saint James), and you’ll know you’re following the trail.
Le Mont St-Michel
This is another pilgrimage trail, but you don’t have to be religious to appreciate the beauty of the route. This is a great day hike and one of the most beautiful places in the country. At only 6.5km and less than two hours, it begins in Bec D’Andaine and finishes at the Mont St-Michel, a winding, castle-like city structure that appears to rise right out of the water.
The city is connected to the mainland by a simple land bridge that disappears at high tide, so the island commune (and thus the hike) can only be done at low tide. Be sure to ask a guide if you’re unsure about timing, as getting caught in the rising tide can be extremely dangerous.
Insider Tip: Don’t miss the Abbey.
The Nietzsche Path
This isn’t an easy hike in France, but the views are jaw-dropping, so we like to think it evens out. Look for the medieval clifftop village of Eze, shrouded in olive groves and oak trees and overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. On a clear day, you can see all the way to Corsica, France’s Mediterranean island.
This hike is challenging, with exceedingly steep areas – including a stone staircase that winds up the hillside. It isn’t a long hike, however, only around an hour and a half. It ends at Eze-sur-Mer, a charming coastal town with restaurants, cafés, and boutiques to explore. The hike can be done starting at either end.
Location: French Riviera
Insider Tip: Don’t miss the ever-popular beach if you want to take a dip.
Robert Louis Stevenson Trail
A must hike in France for literary fanatics, the Robert Louis Stevenson Trail maps the route that this famous author took in 1878 that eventually inspired his first novel – and his most famous works thereafter, including Treasure Island.
The route starts in Le Monastier and ends in St. Jean du Gard. It’s definitely a lengthy trek at almost two weeks to complete, but it’s a fairly easy path with little to no incline and a well-marked trail. You can always do a section of the trek if the full route is too much. Look out for statues and figurines commemorating this famous author.
Location: Massif Centrale
Insider Tip: Overnight accommodations are possible along this route.
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What to Pack For Your Hiking Trip to France
You’re going to need something to carry your belongings in while you’re traveling around Europe in the winter. Even if you’re not doing extensive hikes you need at least something small for day trips. My favorite daypacks are from Camelbak.
I ALWAYS have a down jacket with me when I’m traveling in the winter, fall, or even spring. Sometimes even the summer depending on where I’m at. They aren’t just good for hikes, but doing anything outside and great for nighttime in Europe.
Down jackets pack up light and small so there is no reason NOT to have one in your bag. Seriously it could save your life in a bad situation. We wrote a whole post on our favorites (hint –Feathered Friends, Arc’Teryx Cerium LT Hooded Jacket, Patagonia Down Sweater, REI Coop Down Jacket)
Please consider purchasing a travel water bottle before your trip! We hate to see one time use plastic bottles ending up in the ocean. The tap water is so good here – seriously please don’t be one of those tourists that buys plastic water bottles. It’s a waste of money and plastic!
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