The Best Outdoor Backpacking Places To Visit In France

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Hiking France
Image by Coline Buch on Flickr

When searching for amazing trails for backpacking or hiking, France is definitely one of your best options. There are beautiful scenery and legendary cities and intriguing trails in France that you may not want to miss out on. You’ll want to explore the beautiful trails and forever remember when you go backpacking in this beautiful country. Below are the some of the best places to visit in France.

Admire The Le Cirque de Gavarnie

Located in central Pyrénées, southwestern France, the Cirque de Gavarnie is one of nature’s most remarkable creations. This cirque is referred to as a rocky cliff face or wall that forms a curved amphitheater. It is 800 meters wide on the deepest pint and about 3,000 meters wide at the top. The rock walls that surround it are up to 4,900 feet above the floor of the cirque.

Hiking France
Image by Coline Buch on Flickr

Here, several waterfalls tumble down and together they create the rushing Gave River. This includes the highest fall in France; la Grand Cascade de Gavarnie. This waterfall plunges 1,385 feet and has been described by Victor Hugo as “The Coliseum Of Nature.” This name was given due to its colossal size and horseshoe shape, resembling an ancient amphitheater.

The Hiking Trail

The Le Cirque de Gavarnie Trail ascends progressively and is fairly easy, with about one-and-a-half-hour hike one way. Donkeys and horses are available for hire if you prefer that mode of travel. There is a casual restaurant at the top. It is a great spot for a drink or meal as you gaze up at the enthralling cirque and try to count the numerous waterfalls in front of you. You can continue onward from there, following a rugged, rocky trail, to get a closer look at the base of the falls. This takes about 40 minutes, and you might get wet. There are also several passes and clefts between the peaks that form the rim of the cirque. The largest is La Brèche de Roland, at 9,200 feet above sea level.

There are a lot of hikes of different difficulty levels to be done in the area. The most popular one is La Brèche de Roland, which is 2,807 meters, starting from the Col des Tentes. Even though this hike has a considerable number of climbs of about 650 meters, this hike is good for very experienced hikers as the second half is on steep ground with rubble. It also includes a tricky stream crossing and some relatively easy scrambling.

Climb The Tour de Mont Blanc

The Tour du Mont Blanc is one of the most popular long-distance hikes in Europe. It circles the Mont Blanc Massif, covering a distance of roughly 110 miles with 6.2 miles of ascent or descent and passes through parts of Switzerland, Italy, and France. At 15,777 feet, Mont Blanc is the tallest peak in Western Europe. Also, it’s ranked 11th in the world in topographic prominence. The whole Massif Du Mont Blanc extends for about 25 miles and has 11 summits.

Backpacking France
Image by Richard on Flickr

Tour de Mont Blanc is considered one of the classic long-distance hiking trails. The circular route is normally hiked in a counter-clockwise direction. Usual start points are Les Houches in the Chamonix Valley or Les Contamines in the Montjoie Valley in France. The route passes through seven valleys around the Mont Blanc Massif, and ends in either the Arpette or Trient valley in Switzerland, depending on the route you take.

Some of these take the valiant hiker onto paths requiring greater fitness, awareness, and skill. Others provide fewer demanding options, which are often quicker than the accepted route but provide lesser viewpoints onto the mountain ranges. Adequate mountain hiking experience is vital here because mountain weather can change very rapidly.

Hike The GR20 Trail

One of the most famous and toughest long-distance hikes in Europe is the legendary GR20 trail. Also known as GR footpath, it runs diagonally from north to the south, down the middle of the Mediterranean Island of Corsica, France. The trail is about 180 kilometers long with 12,000 meters of elevation gain. It is clearly way-marked throughout, and it takes eleven to fifteen days to complete this trail. Even though the GR20 doesn’t require any climbing techniques, perfect fitness level and confidence in walking over a variety of rugged terrain is necessary. The trail consists of two parts; the northern part and the southern part.

GR20 Trail In France
Image on Wikimedia Commons

The northern part is the most difficult part of the trail because of its steep and rocky terrain. However, the views are absolutely breathtaking. Here, you can enjoy panoramic views of the mountain tops that are super spectacular. The summit is a good place to soak in the rewards of all the hard work getting to the top. The northern part starts in Calenzana and ends in Vizzavona.

The southern part is not as tasking as the northern part and the view is not as great. However, you still get a good look at some impressive meadows. The southern part starts from Vizzavona where you find Le Vizzavona; a hotel and restaurant with fantastic food that changes with the seasons.

Mont Saint Michel Trail

Also known as the Pilgrim’s Trail, the Mont St. Michel Trail is a historic route that religious pilgrims have walked since the Middle Ages. This makes it one of the oldest, most scenic, and best hikes in France. The 6.5-kilometer hike begins at Bec d’Andaine, France, and crosses directly across the sands of the Bay of Mont St. Michel. Needless to say, this trail can only be hiked during low tides because the Bay of Mont St. Michel is infamous for its notorious tides, which are known to be the highest in Europe. The hike across the bay is approximately two hours and it brings you straight to the island of Mont St. Michel, which has less than forty-five permanent residents. The land is mostly dominated by Abbey.

Travel Through Dune du Pilat

The Dune du Pilat is a big lump of sand located on the eastern side of Arcachon Bay, which is on the western coastline of France, in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region. Dune du Pilat or Pyla, as called by locals in French, is the tallest sand dune in Europe. This enormous sand dune is approximately 500 meters wide, extends for nearly 3 kilometers, and stands 107 meters tall. The sand is a moving natural phenomenon, creating a giant wall between the ocean and land. The Dune du Pilat is free to access for climbing and is open all year round, 24 hours every day.

Dune du Pilat, Places To Visit In France
Image by Dennis Jarvis on Flickr

The walk from the main car park is only about 400 meters. About 250 steps have been built on one side to make it easier and more accessible for those who can’t manage walking up the dune in a freestyle fashion. Dune du Pilat is an amazing place for nature walks and sightseeing. Due to the windy sky, you can spot some native species of birds like Kentish plover swimming in the air.

Visit The D-Day Beaches, Normandy

If you are history toned or simply interested in the events that have shaped this area, this is a trail that may very well move you to tears. Although it’s an 80-kilometer walk plus its span of coastline, it is certainly not as strenuous as other choices. This hike is one of the most important and one of the best hikes in France due to its important historical significance.

D-Day Beach, Places To Visit In France
Image by Dennis Jarvis on Flickr

One of the most extreme fights in World War II took place here when Allied Forces invaded France to fight against the Germans. Tremendous casualties occurred on both sides. That day is now referred to as Doomsday or D-Day. It was the beginning of the end of the nations that fought in World War II against the Allied Forces — Axis’s claim to power in Western Europe.

Even though it’s a simple walk, it is far more advisable to go on a guided hike. This ensures that you are able to glean as much history as possible during your hike, and you will be able to see places such as the Pegasus Bridge on Sword Beach or the somber field of the white crosses that keep watch over Omaha Beach.

Hike The Robert Louis Stevenson Trail: GR70 Trail

GR70 Trail, Places To Visit In France
Image by Tim Berger on Flickr

The Robert Louis Stevenson Trail, also known as the Chemin de Stevenson or GR70 is a long-distance footpath that runs for approximately 225 kilometers through the French departments of Haute-Loire, Lozère, and Gard. This beautiful trail was named after the famous author of the book “Travel with a Donkey in Cevennes,” Robert Louis Stevenson. So if you are a literature fan, this may appeal to you. This trail follows his steps as he journeyed there himself in 1878.

The trail starts from Le Monastier-Sur-Gazelle to St. Jean du Gard. This is a very easy trail but it may take as long as 2 weeks to complete. Many hikers begin at Le Puy-en-Valey and walk to Le Monastier-Sur-Gazelle via a section of the GR430.

Explore The Verdon Gorge

Verdon Gorge is very beautiful because it has a lot of hiking options and beautiful scenery to choose from, it is also known to be the most versatile trail due to this. This trail allows a wide range of backpackers to explore it. The Gorge Rim is a five-day hike but if you like a shorter journey, the lower part is just a day hike. The Gorge is located in the southeastern region of France (Alpes-de-Haute-Provence) and is a beautiful river canyon—25 kilometers long and 700 meters deep. Moreover, it is made from the Verdon River, and its turquoise green color is intriguing.

Verdon Gorge, Places to Visit In France
Image by Miguel Virkkunen Carvalho on Flickr

The most impressive part is between the town Castellane and Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, the river cuts through to form a ravine which is 700 meters deep between the limestone. You can drive around the rim, hike, or rent a kayak and travel on the beautiful river.

If you have chosen France as your next hiking destination, then you have made a good choice. If you haven’t or you are still thinking about it, STOP THINKING, JUST GO! You are sure to be amazed by the rich culture and intense history. Furthermore, you will be mesmerized by the landscape of one of the world’s most beautiful countries.

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