With over 12,000km of trails, deciding where to hike in France can be a daunting task. Luckily, we’ve put together our top 12 hiking trails so you can get out there and start exploring.
Hiking in France might make you think of conquering snow-capped mountain peaks with crampons and ice axes. But, there are hikes for all abilities in every variety of terrain and landscape – from historic beach walks to treks through cavernous gorges and hikes past picturesque villages. France really has it all.
So, discover our top 12 hikes and get ready to explore France on foot (it’s the best way if you ask us!). Take on coastal trails along the French Riviera, follow in the footsteps of pilgrims, and soak up the scenery in hidden valleys. It’s all here for the taking – and hiking.
France is home to an extensive network of hiking trails that span the entire length of the country. Your mind may go right to the Alps, but with the Pyrenees, the Southern Alps, and plenty of coastline and countryside to get lost in, you’ll find hidden gems in every corner. So let’s get into the good stuff!
Top 12 hiking trails in France - quick navigation
The best time to hike anywhere in France is late spring and early summer (around May or June) or in the autumn. Temperatures average around 20 degrees celsius during these periods.
September and October are particularly great for the mountains – the trails are quieter, but it’s still sunny with warm temperatures. Hike any sooner than summer in the mountains (such as early spring), and you’ll find many paths are blocked because of snow or cordoned off because of avalanche risk.
As with any hike, check the impending weather before you start your journey. Some of our top hikes in France are at altitude and extremely exposed – not where you want to be if a thunderstorm or a snowstorm sets in.
Few other countries offer such a wide variety of well-marked and accessible trails as France. You’ll find a mind-blowing 60,000 kilometres of Grand Randonée, a network of long-distance footpaths and hiking trails. So, you’re sure to never run out of options.
All Grand Randonée routes are referred to as GR paths and use red and white blazes on stones, posts, and trees to show you the way. Local trails are known as Sentier de Promenade et Randonée, or PR trails. These are much shorter distances and use yellow bands to show you the way.
Most marked trails in France (over 120,000 kilometres in total) run through villages – perfect for a pit-stop, a night’s rest, or sampling the local wine! Let’s look at our top trails below.
Trail Length: 170km in total
Difficulty: Intermediate - Advanced/Expert
Best For: Those after a challenge
Region: Chamonix, French Alps
Mont Blanc: the highest – and most legendary – peak in Europe. At an altitude of 4,810 metres, ascending to the peak is not for the faint-hearted – or anyone with vertigo.
But, before you discard Mont Blanc as a hike only for serious mountaineers, there are sections you can conquer via shorter treks. This is the Tour du Mont Blanc: an array of hiking trails covering 170 kilometres across three countries (France, Italy, and Switzerland).
The whole Tour du Mont Blanc makes a loop trail in Mont Blanc’s shadow and takes an average of 66 hours or 11 days to complete – or just 22 hours if you’re part of the annual marathon. However, you can choose shorter trails with differing start and end points throughout.
Pick your starting point in France (such as Les Houches or central Chamonix) and stop at a refuge for a night if taking on a multi-day hike. Many refuges also offer home-cooked meals and coffee if you need to refuel.
With so many trails to choose from, it can be tricky knowing where to start. Discover some of our favourite Tour du Mont Blanc routes below:
– Le Chemin des Rognes – If you’re after incredible views the whole way through, tackle this challenging route that starts in Bellevue and ends in Baraque des Rognes. It takes three to four hours to complete – or longer if you stop to take in the stunning scenery (we don’t blame you!).
– Glacier d’Argentière – This 10-kilometre loop will give your legs a serious workout. It’s a 980-metre ascent to mind-blowing panoramas at the top. Take the Grand Montets cable car and stop in at the Refuge Chalet du Lognan or the Refuge d’Argentière to rest the legs along the way.
Trail Length: 4.1km
Best For: Seeing a natural wonder of the world
Region: Occitanie, Pyrenees Mountains
There’s nothing quite like returning from a few days of annual leave and announcing you’ve hiked in a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Choose the Cirque de Gavarnie, and that’s precisely what you can say.
Cirque de Gavarnie is a highlight of the Pyrénées National Park. The glacier-formed limestone rock walls stand at a staggering 1,700 metres, enclosing the small valley like a natural amphitheatre. The result? One of nature’s most spectacular and unique creations.
If you’re after something gentle, take an easy one-hour loop walk that starts in the small village of Gavarnie. There’s virtually no incline during this hike – the only thing likely to raise your heart rate is the incredible scenery.
TLC might have said, ‘Don’t go chasing waterfalls’, but we have to disagree. You just HAVE to see the Grande Cascade, Europe’s tallest waterfall. This tiered waterfall drops for over 400 metres and tumbles from snow-capped summits. It’s a sight that’s 100% worth seeing.
Trail Length: 5km
Difficulty: Intermediate - Advanced/Expert
Best For: Ocean views
Region: The French Riviera
The Nietzsche Path is next on our list, moving from the mountains to the sea. This steep hillside hike is on the French Riviera, offering stunning panoramas of the Med. Don’t be fooled by the dreamy seascape, though – this is a challenging trek with a steep stone stairway winding through the overgrown hillside.
You’ll start in Eze, a medieval village 400 metres above sea level, before making your way to Eze-sur-Mer, a section of town by the sea. The entire hike takes around 1.5 hours and can be done the reverse way – i.e. starting at Eze-sur-Mer and climbing up to Eze (also known as the ‘eagle’s nest’).
Take your swimming stuff! If you’re ending the hike at Eze-sur-Mer, you’ll want to jump into the blue waters of the pine-tree-backed beach – a well-deserved treat after a hike in the heat.
Trail Length: 180km
Best For: Long-distance hikers
We couldn’t write an article about hiking in France without including one of Europe's most well-known and toughest long-distance trails: The GR20. Venture across the entire island of Corsica on this hike filled with rocky hillsides, wild gorges, and scarily steep scree slopes.
This technical trek runs north to south, straight down Corsica's middle and takes 11 to 15 days to finish. While physically demanding (with over 10,000 metres of elevation), the GR20 is also remote – perfect for fuelling that sense of adventure. Don’t worry, though – there are rustic huts and refuges along the trail for shelter from bad weather or for overnight stays.
Take a break and visit Le Vizzavona, a hotel and restaurant where the north and south sections meet. Indulge in their delicious food choices that change from season to season, or give your feet a rest by booking a room.
Trail Length: 176km
Best For: Hardcore hikers
Region: Oisans, French Alps
The GR54 is one heck of a hike! Apart from Mont Blanc, the Massif de Écrins is France's highest and most admired mountain group – and it’s here you’ll find one of the country’s toughest alpine treks. For this hike, you’ll be amongst tumbling glaciers, jagged rock spines, steep inclines, and more.
Even the most experienced hikers will find this challenging – the terrain is demanding, with 12,800 metres of elevation gain across high cols. And, you’ll also have to carry everything you need in one pack for 10-12 days.
The hike begins in the centre of Bourg-d’Oisans, which you can easily get to from Grenoble via the Transisère 3000 bus. Once on the hike, stay in huts along the way or take just your tent and camping stove.
Don’t miss out on the superb view overlooking the Valley of La Grave. You’ll be able to soak it all in from a suspended footbridge. This is a hike for the bucket list – and for telling the grandkids about.
The Étape 2 stage finishes at La Grave, where you can head into the legendary village for a beer on the terrace. Don’t forget to replenish your food and water reserves here – your next few hiking days will be in total autonomy amid the summits and valleys.
Trail Length: 25km
Best For: Following in pilgrims’ footsteps
Region: Pyrenees Mountains
Why not follow in the footsteps of pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago? This trail – also known as the Way of Saint James or the Chemin de Compostelle – was one of Europe’s most famous medieval pilgrimage routes for reaching Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Today, it is still insanely popular with pilgrims and hikers.
Route Napoléon is one of the most difficult sections of the Camino de Santiago. You’ll start in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, a picturesque Basque town with red-shuttered houses and cobbled streets, and make your way through the Pyrenees Mountains.
You’ll ascend around 700 metres during the hike, tackling steep gradients and technical terrain. Then, you’ll descend for five kilometres, finishing at Roncesvalles in Spain, a historic village with an authentic pilgrims’ hostel and convent.
Look out for little plaques along the way with scallop shells. This is the symbol of Saint James’ pilgrims.
Trail Length: 7.6km
Best For: Exploring a unique slice of landscape
Region: Arcachon Bay area
Wanting to swap rocky paths for sandbanks? Head for the Dune du Pilat, Europe’s tallest dune. This 2.7-kilometre sandbank sits alongside changing tides and fresh sea breezes, meaning it’s constantly shifting shape.
Our favourite hike takes you on a 7.6-kilometre loop trail around the dune. Looking for thigh burn? Ascend to the top if you want a challenge.
At 100 meters high, the Dune du Pilat offers incredible views of the Arcachon basin in one direction and the Bay of Biscay in the other. If you’d rather not hike straight up, there’s a staircase for easier access.
Hike the dune at sunset! Trust us: those panoramic views become even better when joined by red skies and dreamy sunset afterglows.
Trail Length: 8km
Best For: Stunning views at the summit
Region: Chamonix, French Alps
On this hike, you’re bound to say ‘wow’ before stepping on the trail. That’s because the Lac Blanc hike starts with a ride up the Télécabine de la Flégère, offering spectacular scenery.
The Lac Blanc hike is around 500 metres above the main Tour du Mont Blanc trail and takes about two to three hours to reach the top. You’ll ascend the steep path to the summit, where you’ll feast your eyes on the incredible beauty of Lac Blanc: glacial lakes surrounded by the snow-capped mountains of Mont Blanc and the Aiguilles Rouges.
If you fancy a night by the lake, there’s the Refuge du Lac Blanc, a small shelter for overnight stays. Make sure you call ahead to book, as the shelter is regularly fully booked. But who can blame anyone for wanting to stay in a location like this?
If you want to make a full day out of this hike, choose the longer Lac Blanc route from Tré-le-Champ above Argentière. You’ll discover larch forests and adrenaline-pumping laddered sections.
Trail Length: 16km
Best For: Adventure junkies
Traverse limestone canyons, tackle steep descents, pass wild swimming spots, and cross through tunnels. Nope, we’re not talking about a scene from Tomb Raider or Indiana Jones here – we’re describing the heart-pumping Blanc-Martel Trail in France’s deepest gorge.
This hike is for experienced trekkers only. You’ll hike for approximately six hours from start to finish (and that’s only one way). If you’re looking to complete the trail in one hit, we definitely recommend pre-arranging transport to pick you up at the trail's end (your legs will be jelly!). Of course, that’s only after you’ve had a well-deserved drink in the village of Rougon.
The Verdon Gorge offers other hiking options if you’re after something less extreme. And, if you’re more of a water baby, you can kayak, boat and paddleboard through the gorge on the stunning turquoise-green waters of the Verdon River.
Bring a flashlight or head torch for the tunnels. You don’t want to make this already-tough trail even harder by feeling your way through the darkness!
Trail Length: 80km
Best For: Historical significance
The Normandy Beaches might not be the most taxing hike on our list, but it comes top for being the most moving. This is where one of World War II’s most prominent battles took place when Allied forces invaded German-occupied France. When the fighting was finally over, the sheer number of fatalities and casualties led to it being known as Doomsday, or D-Day.
The magnitude of the battle meant it was the beginning of the end for Germany’s reign power in Western Europe. This importance of the Normandy Beaches means it’s one of the top must-do hikes in France – if not the world.
With 80 kilometres of coastline, you can walk the stretch independently. However, we thoroughly recommend going on a guided hike. That way, you get all the historical details and significant landmarks pointed out. These include the Pegasus Bridge on Sword Beach or the poignant field of white crosses keeping watch over the landing area at Omaha Beach.
Trail Length: 6.5km
Best For: A hike with a difference
Cross the sands of the Bay of Mont St. Michel on The Pilgrim’s Trail, and you’ll follow the same historical route walked by religious pilgrims since the Middle Ages. This makes it one of the most ancient and scenic hikes in France – and one we couldn’t miss off our list.
The low-tide walk across the bay takes about two hours, where you’ll reach the island of Mont St. Michael and the famous Abbey. We highly recommend booking a guided walk, as you don’t want to misjudge the tide and get caught out!
Watch out for the quicksand! Nope, we’re not just throwing another Indiana Jones reference at you. Quicksand is just one peril pilgrims faced on this journey – and even more of a reason why you should book a guide for this tour.
Trail Length: 5km
Best For: Feeling like you’re in another world
Region: Provence, Southern France
The Parc Naturel Régional du Luberón is another UNESCO-listed area, home to 60 protected sites. Our favourite? The Provenzal Colorado, one of nature’s top highlights. You'll feel like you’ve stepped into France's Wild West.
As soon as you arrive, you’re greeted with red and orange cliffs that rise in the distance. Their colour is from ochre mined here by ‘ocriers’ from 1871 to the late 20th century. It’s hard not to think of Colorado’s orange and red rock formations (hence this hike’s name).
Discover the Chimney of the Fairies (ochre towers), the White Desert, and the Sahara. This circular hiking trail offers different scenery – one minute, you’ll be in the ochre wilderness, and the next, on a rocky moonscape.
An important tip for all our top hikes is to bring reliable hiking shoes. However, you’ll definitely need them for this trek, as the rocks can get incredibly slippery after rainfall.
There’s no disputing that France is a hiker’s paradise. There’s really something for every type of hiker, adventurer, and explorer – from gnarly multi-week hikes at altitude to mellower trails through natural phenomena.
There are enough marked trails around France to keep you busy for years to come – and make sure your step count goes off the charts. But for now, it’s time to grab your gear and get out there.