France is criss-crossed by a staggering 120,000 km of waymarked hiking trails called sentiers balisés which cover every type of terrain in every region in the country.
Grandes Randonnées long-distance hiking trails
Probably the best known hiking trails are the sentiers de Grande Randonnée, long distance walking tracks. Each trail is identified with a number and prepended with the letters GR. These trails are marked out using red and white stripes on trees and rocks, etc.
Some are many hundreds of kilometres long, such as the GR5 which starts in the Netherlands and goes through Belgium, Luxembourg and the spectacular Alpine scenery of eastern France, before ending up in Nice.
Others include the GR3, which goes through teh Loire Valley; the GR4, which meanders through the massif Central; the popular GR10, which runs along the Pyrenees from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic Coast; and the challenging GR20, which runs down Corsica’s mountainous spine.
Grandes Randonnées de Pays multi-day loop hiking trails
The Grandes Randonnées de Pays (GRP) trails are marked out with yellow and red stripes, usually go in some sort of loop. They allow intense exploration of one particular area and usually take from a few days to a week.
Sentiers de Petites Randonnées day-hike trails
Shorter day-hike trails are known as Sentiers de Petites Randonnées (PR) or Sentiers de Pays. In the main these are circular so you end up back where you started.
Other types of trails include Balades Découvertes, which are generally straightforward walks of just a few hours or less, and Chemins de Halage, which are towpaths built in the days when canal barges were pulled by animals walking along the bank.
The Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur region of the South of France has literally thousands of kilometres of waymarked hiking trails to explore. Several long distance GR routes criss-cross the region and a great number of shorter hiking trails provide access to stunning landscapes. With over 300 days of sunshine per year, steep rocky terrain, natural swimming holes and ancient hilltop villages, the South of France is a hiking paradise.
Fantastic hiking trails wind their way up and around the mountains near Mont Blanc and criss-cross the national parks. Amongst them, world-renowned long distance walks such as the Tour du Mont Blanc and the Chamonix to Zermatt Haute Route should be on every keen hikers bucket list, whilst the famous GR5 which spans four countries traverses the entire French Alps.
The communications arm of the French Forestry Commission, the IGN, has hundreds of hiking routes with maps and detailed info (in French) on its website.