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Walking in France

Walking in France

Walking in France

With over 180,000km of designated walking routes, France is one of the best places in the world for a walker to visit. Whether you are looking for a gentle stroll around the streets of Paris, or a more challenging hike thought the Pyrenees, France has a walk which is suited to both your desire and ability.

Walking in France is very similar to walking in England. The IGN maps, the French equivalent to the Ordnance Survey, show all of the designated footpaths in an area. Tourist information centres are also a good source of information, with many providing free walking maps for the local area.

As with the UK, the French have a number of regulations regarding where you can and can’t walk -

Routes marked by the Fédération Française de la Randonnée Pédestre (FFRP)

The FFRP is the national walking organisation of France. It offers a number of routes which cross large areas of the country. The FFRP marks routes with a simple colour scheme denoting the type of route that you are on, and often the direction in which you should be walking. If you come to a cross, this means that you are not to continue in that particular direction. The three types of routes are;

  • Grande Randonnée (GR) – GR routes are denoted by a red and white stripe. They are often long distance routes that cross large areas of the country and its territories. Some of the more popular routes are explored later in this article.
  • GR de Pays (GRP) – GRP routes are denoted by a red and yellow stripe. They are circular walks. Among these is the Ceinture Verte de l’Ile de France, which is a 251km route around Paris. The Ceinture Verte de l’Ile de France is split into 9 stages, each of which can be accessed by rail, so you are able to walk during the day and take in the splendours of Paris in the evening.
  • Promenade et Randonée (PR) – PR routes are denoted by a single yellow stripe. These are most often walks which last only a day or even just a few hours.
Walking Route Signs

Signs along the route clearly show the way

The route markers are usually painted on rocks and trees and should be highly visible. However, it is also worth purchasing an FFRP guide for the walk that you are undertaking. These are available directly from the organisation and cost around 8-15 Euro’s.

Roads

You are permitted to walk alongside public highways in France although you must use the pavement if there is one available.

Private Land

As with the UK, it is trespass if you enter private land without permission. However, many local landowners have agreed certain rights of way to allow walkers to pass through. Look for signs indicating whether you are allowed to cross the land before you enter.

Forest Tracks

Forest tracks may be either publicly or privately owned. Again, look for signs before you enter.

Green Ways (Voies Vertes)

These are often canal paths or disused railway lines. They are open to all traffic except for motor vehicles. They are often a favourite among walkers as they offer a peaceful alternative to walking along the busy roadside.

Coastal and Other Waterside Paths

It is possible to walk along almost all of the coast, with only a few exceptions. Likewise, you may also follow the path alongside a river or canal, even if it crosses private land.

If you are ever in doubt about whether you can walk across a piece of land, it is worthwhile checking locally before entering.

The best routes in France are as varied as the country itself. Of course, for the tourist, the Grande Randonnée routes are probably too long to be attempted in one visit. However, what better than to take in a portion and then return at a later date to see more of this magnificent country?

Principal long-distance hiking trails in France.

GR10 route through the Pyrenees

GR10 route through the Pyrenees

GR2 - From Le Havre, via Paris, to Dijon

The GR2 follows the banks of the Seine, taking in the stunning Rocks Orival and the Benedictine abbey of Saint-Seine. In total, the route measures 852km, which the FFRP recommend will take 43 days to walk in entirety.

GR3 - The Loire Valley trail - From La Baule, to the source of the Loire

The first GR route to be designated in France, the GR3 follows the route of the Loire River for almost 1200km. The route includes the cities of Tours, Guerade and Orleans. It is divided into 52 stages.

GR4 - The Alps-Atlantic trail: from Grasse, in the Alps, to Royan, on the Gironde estuary

As with the UK, it is trespass if you enter private land without permission. However, many local landowners have agreed certain rights of way to allow walkers to pass through. Look for signs indicating whether you are allowed to cross the land before you enter.

GR6 - The Aquitaine-Alps trail, from Ste. Foy la Grande, near Bordeaux, to Saint-Paul-sur-Ubaye

GR6 crosses France from east to west, taking in the magnificent Pont du Gard and Lavercq Abbey. The route offers stunning scenery throughout its length and a variety of terrains.

GR10 - The High Pyrenean trail, following the line of the Spanish border

The GR10 is one of the highest walking routes in France, running along the Spanish border. The GR10 is best attempted in the summer, when conditions are favourable. The route includes several passes which are over 2,000m above sea level and, at one point, it is possible to see France, Spain, the mountains and the sea all from one vantage point.

GR 22 - Mont Saint Michel pilgrimage trail - Paris to Mont St. Michel

The first signpost for this route stands in front of the stunning Notre Dame cathedral in the centre of Paris. The route travels through forests and across aqueducts and immerses the traveller in some of the most stunning and historic scenery in France. At the end of the route, where the river meets the sea, it is possible to see dolphins and seals playing in the water beneath the Mont.

There are a great many other routes available to the walker in France. They cater for the casual walker to the serious hiker and all ranges of ability in between. What you can be sure of is that, if you walk in any area of France, you are bound to encounter delightful scenery, stunning views and buildings rich in history.

For further information you can visit

FFRP – http://www.ffrandonnee.fr – the official website of the FFRP, where you can purchase walking guides and maps and find out everything you need to know about your chosen route.

Greenways of France – http://www.voiesvertes.com – the official website of the greenways of France, where you can find out more about the motor free routes of the country.

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