France is crisscrossed by over 61,000 miles of trails and walking paths--most prominently, the GR network. Known as the Grande Randonnée system in France, each of these long-distance hiking trails crosses not only much of France, but also connects to counterparts in neighboring countries. Marked with a white stripe over red stripe blazes, these trails make for some of the best hiking in Europe.
This is one of the most popular long-distance hikes in Europe. Strictly speaking, the GR 5 starts in Holland, crossing through Belgium and Luxembourg before entering France. The entire trail is roughly 1,500 miles long. Hikers interested in the GR 5 can stick strictly to the French part, which crosses much of the eastern part of country from north to south. The scenery is truly breathtaking. Starting near Nancy, the trail runs through the Alsace-Lorraine region, and then up and over the French Alps before coming to a halt on the Mediterranean at Nice. The hardest part of the hike is in the Alps, where ups and downs of 4,000 feet in one day are not unusual.
GR 223 and 21
The GR 223 is a coastal path running through Normandy, making it an ideal route for those who might want to combine a good hike with some historical exploration. A good starting point for the 223 is at Mont St. Jean, widely considered to be among the best medieval religious buildings in France. Following it along the coast will take you through hedgerow-lined pastures, castles that were fought over in the Hundred Years War and the beaches of the 1944 D-Day invasion. Where the 223 comes to an end at Dieppe, it hooks into the GR 21, which continues along the chalk cliffs until it reaches Le Havre.
The GR 10 is the west-to-east footpath that runs along the Pyrenees Mountains, paralleling the Franco-Spanish border. As with the GR 5, some parts are demanding and feature ascents or descents of up to 4,000 feet in a single day. The trail extends over 530 miles. It's another of the great hikes in France, covering the entire expanse of the high mountain scenery of the Pyrenees. It can also be combined with other trails, since the north-to-south trails of the GR 7, 8, 36 and 65 all intersect the 10. These cross the Franco-Spanish border, so a hiker could do part or all of the 10 and then turn into Spain.
Article Written By Edwin Thomas
Edwin Thomas has been writing since 1997. His work has appeared in various online publications, including The Black Table, Proboxing-Fans and others. A travel blogger, editor and writer, Thomas has traveled from Argentina to Vietnam in pursuit of stories. He holds a Master of Arts in international affairs from American University.