hikes in France
Ah, France! This beautiful European country is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, and it’s easy to see why. Visitors quickly fall in love with French gastronomy, culture, history, and of course, its marvelous landscapes. France is a remarkably diverse country, offering towering mountains, lush river valleys and gorges, and bucolic rolling hills covered in vineyards. Once you’ve had a taste of all that France has to offer, you won’t want to leave.
France is paradise for adventure travelers, with plenty of exciting opportunities to get out into the countryside and experience the best of its diverse landscape. The French Alps provide some of the highest mountains in Europe and offer countless possibilities for hiking and backpacking in the Vanoise and Mercantour National Parks, or skiing and climbing in Chamonix. But the Alps aren’t the only mountains in France. The French Pyrenees is fast becoming an adventure travel destination, with some beautiful hiking and backpacking trails and a burgeoning ski industry.
Away from the mountains, the French countryside is a delightful place to walk and cycle. You’ll be surrounded by dense forests, green, rolling hills, and sculptured vineyards, and these stunning landscapes are punctuated with romantic castles and picture-perfect villages. Life here moves at a slower pace – simply relax, soak up the atmosphere, and embrace that French joie de vivre!
To help you plan your next adventure holiday in France, we’ve put together activity guides and suggestions for all of our favorite regions. Happy traveling!
15 Greatest Hikes in France
Immerse yourself into French hiking culture, whether you’d prefer to traverse through vineyards, mountains, verdant hills or charming countryside villages. France offers the perfect blend between a refined vacation and a burgeoning adventure scene--so you can truly have it all. We recommend you take your time and truly soak up all that this spectacular country has to offer, while hiking through some of the most notable mountains in Europe.
- Col de Balme: This classic hike starts with a lift to the tip top of the Swiss border, wandering along an easy and gradual path, blooming with wildflowers for much of the summer months.
- Grand Balcon Sud: Prepare for a hiking highlight at the stunning Grand Balcon Sud--Europe’s highest mountain. With an ever changing terrain, from woodlands, to meadows, to rockface, this won’t be a hike you’ll forget anytime soon.
- Cagire Loop: Walk along the highest peaks of the Pyrenees on this challenging hike. Push higher and higher to conquer four distinct peaks or shorter the hike to avoid the hardest sections.
- Pic du Canigou: Tackle this difficult hike with extreme elevation gain, taking you to the top of the sacred mountain of Catalonia. Prepare for a full day adventure that is highly rewarding!
- The Col de Fenêtre: Discover the heart of Mercantour National Park. Walk the Fenêtre pass, which connects the Vésubie to the Italian Val Gesso and keep an eye out for roaming wildlife like ibex.
- Le Mont Mounier: Conquer the highest limestone massifs in the region on this hike. Discover a unique landscape, ranging from lunar limestone faces to rocky switchbacks on the Le Mont Mounier climb.
- Col d’Aussois & Pointe de l’Observatoire: Very popular among the locals, this hike weaves through a unique, rocky landscape where you’re guaranteed to spot a mountain goat or two on your way to the best viewpoint over the Alps.
- Glacier du Grand Méan: Experience a giant glacier up close and personal on this beautiful hike, where chunks of ice float by in the lake. Crowned as one of the best hikes in Vanoise National Park, you won’t want to miss this one.
- Le Chapeau via the Sources de L’Arveyron: Set out on this slightly difficult hike, with high elevation but a gradual ascent. It will all be worth it when you make it to the glacial overlook of Les Grands Morasses and Le Dent du Geant. At the top, there’s even a small restaurant for a meal.
- Mont Né: For families with older children, this mountain makes for a great first foray into hiking. While slightly steep, the path is well-graded and easy to follow for a fun full-day adventure.
- Lac de Gaube: Set out on a family adventure to Lac de Gaube, taking in the pretty, surrounding waterfalls. Touted as the prettiest lake in the French Pyrenees, this sight is set to dazzle.
- La Jonction: Tackle an incredible feat by hiking this once of a kind mountain in Chamonix. Follow the zig-zag path alongside river glaciers to reach the summit to observe a glacial-amphitheatre.
- Fontanalba: Tucked away in Mercantour National Park, hikers who set out on the Fontanalba trail will be rewarded with “the valley on wonders,” an open-air archaeological site open to the public.
- Vallon du Prariond: This hike is relatively short, but jam packed with incredible views. Pass by the rocks of the Gorge of Malpasset, walk through the verdant Vallon du Prariond, then grab a beer at the Refuge du Prariond.
- Sommets des Garrets: Considered the most beautiful hike within Mercantour National Park, this panoramic walk offers incredible views over Lac d’Allos.
When is the Best Time to Hike in France
France is an incredible country for adventurous hikers, but it can also be dangerous at times too. The best time of year for hiking in France is between June and September, as any earlier will leave you in avalanche season among the French Alps. Mountain huts and restaurants will also be open during this period if you’re looking for a longer trek. Overall, September is our favourite month as the crowds begin to disappear and the weather is beautiful.
Best Regions to Hike in France
Those looking for the best regions to hike will be spoilt for choice in France. With multiple stunning trains across the country, we can barely narrow it down! Chamonix and the Chamonix Valley is the original outdoor playground from the French and home of the first winter Olympics in 1924. But perhaps the most famed region is The French Pyrenees, with the tallest peaks for hiking in France, as well as the option to cross over into Spain. Home to more of the Alps and slightly quieter trails, Mercantour National Park, is a less frequented--but beautiful--destination offering fascinating paintings and petroglyphs. While Vanoise National Park is known not only for its outstanding hiking trails, but also great paths for skiing or biking.
Other Activities in France
While most people associate France with the glitz and the glam, it’s an all-round outdoor playground for those seeking adventure. From those looking to live the après ski life, to extreme mountain biking, to climbing some notable faces of the Alps, to cycling along the charming vineyards-- France offers a little bit of everything, regardless of skill level or budget.
France's Adventure Tours
If you’d rather skip the headache of planning your own trip, why not let 10Adventures help? With our wide-range of tours in France, all you have to do is pack your bag—the rest is taken care of! From learning the history of winemaking to completing the epic pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in its entirety, our 10Adventure tour options are guaranteed to be epic and worry-free.
How to Plan a Trip to France
Dreaming of planning your dream hiking vacation in the French Alps? We’ve got you covered with our complete guides on planning a trip to France, outlining the best spots across the country for food and a glass of wine, cozy hotels, and fun activities to fill your day. From Vanoise National Park, to Mercantour National Park, to Chamonix , to The French Pyrenees—we took out all the guesswork, leaving more time for daydreaming.Read More