Walking vacations in France Overview

The joy of walking is simply about moving on constantly, fuelled by the desire to conquer that next hill, swim in that aquamarine lake, or discover what cove lies beyond the next headland. The list goes on forever in a country with such eclectic landscapes as France. You’re not only open to the elements but also open to the element of surprise. Meadows surrounded by white-tipped alpine peaks, carpets of wild white narcissi filling the air with sweet perfume, or a gushing glacial river timed perfectly to assuage aching feet. Get the most from your adventure with our walking vacations in France travel guide.

Our top Hiking vacations in France

Guided walking vacations in the French Alps

From £829
8 days ex flights
Catered Chalet Based Guided Walking in the Giffre Valley
Small group2021: 21 Aug, 28 Aug, 4 Sep, 11 Sep

French Riviera vacation, walking, culture & cooking option

From 450 to1080
4 days ex flights
Experience real French culture while relaxing mindfully...

Mont Blanc vacation, Tour du Mont Blanc

From US $2179 to US $2249
8 days ex flights
The best of the Tour du Mont Blanc
Small group2022: 14 May, 21 May, 28 May, 4 Jun, 11 Jun, 18 Jun, 25 Jun, 2 Jul, 9 Jul, 16 Jul, 23 Jul, 30 Jul, 6 Aug, 13 Aug, 20 Aug, 27 Aug, 3 Sep, 10 Sep, 17 Sep, 24 Sep, 1 Oct, 8 Oct

Map & highlights

Long waymarked walking routes known as Grand Randonnees criss-cross France – including the GR52 through Mercantour National Park. Mercantour is a lesser-known part of the Alps and offers some of the most spectacular scenery in France. Mont Blanc is the tallest mountain in the range. Intrepid walkers can climb it, although circumnavigating on the classic Tour de Mont Blanc offers plenty of challenge too. Tranquil rural scenes abound in Poitou-Charentes and Provence, with idyllic walks between traditional guesthouses. And if you want to know the real Mediterranean coast, head inland from the Riviera to the mountain culture of the Alpes Maritime.

1. Alps

To describe the French Alps invites every conceivable superlative: titanic peaks, ice-white glaciers and sparkling sapphire lakes, but to see them first hand will leave you speechless. The Giffre Valley, an exciting almost eerie terrain of towering cracked limestone cliffs sits beside champagne Chamonix, the iconic backdrop to 007’s stunt-tastic ski chase; a wonderland of adventure.
Mercantour NP

2. Mercantour NP

Take a mountain train into the other worldly wonders of the Alpes Maritimes and Alpes de Haute Provence, all part of the relatively unknown Mercantour National Park. A popular area for walking with donkeys to carry your bags, you follow in the steps of shepherds who still do the same, along waymarked ways through ancient forest, up rocky inclines, and along icy river valleys.
Mont Blanc

3. Mont Blanc

The highest peak in Western Europe, it has seven main valleys feeding off it inviting some of the world’s finest hiking. It’s covered in snow and ice all year round so, although ascent trips are available, most people hike the Tour de Mont Blanc, a 170km lower level circuit taking you through France, Switzerland and Italy. Because Mont Blanc is a tripartite triumph of nature.

4. Poitou-Charentes

Easy to reach by TGV from Paris, this is the France that French hikers know about, with mild weather, ancient woodland trails, and classy guesthouses. The Pays de Gâtine area, in particular, is exquisite escapism with typical rural scenes, be it ancient farmland, orchid-filled woodland, blissful Beugnon Lake or medieval villages. And a plethora of local wine, toasting fields fecund with local produce.

5. Provence

The Provencal cliché: wafting lavender; stone villages; smiling people sipping wine. It exists, and it is wonderful, but the region is actually very diverse. Discover the limestone escarpments of the Luberon, the Verdon Gorges canyons, the turquoise Lac Sainte Croix or the pine forests leading up to the dustily dramatic Plateau de Vaucluse. And everywhere, Provencal produce to wine and dine upon.

6. Riviera

Walking on the Riviera is the best way to get to know the real Med, maritime and mountain cultures which segue so smoothly here. Hike inland along the lower slopes of the Alpes Maritimes, not pushing up peaks all the time but strolling from one stunning village to another. Or take on stunning headland walks such as the Cap Martin Peninsula or around Menton.

Self guided or small group?

Wherever you roam – the Loire Valley, Mercantour or Ecrins national parks, Provence, Mont Blanc or the Dordogne – you’ll walk either as part of a small group trip, or on your own with detailed route notes provided by one of our travel companies. For those who enjoy a mix of company on their walks and over dinner every evening, a small group tour is ideal. And with local guides experts in botany, wildlife or geology, they’re a great way to learn. Self guided walks suit confident walkers keen to follow their own schedules – but support is never far away if needed.

Mont Blanc

So huge it falls into three countries – France, Switzerland and Italy – Mont Blanc is not a mountain to be climbed easily. Commitment, crampons and climbing experience are all needed, though you don’t need months of training. Walking in the foothills, however, is another matter altogether. The classic route is the Tour de Mont Blanc: 170km, seven valleys and two weeks. It can be rushed around in six days, but why make a race of it? If you don’t have the time, you can also choose a vacation that will take you to some of the Tour’s highlights, with some serious cols to conquer.

More vacation ideas

Self guided walking vacation in France

From 1100 to1220
6 days ex flights
Idyllic walking in France with great food, wine and ambience
Small group2021: 29 Aug, 5 Sep, 19 Sep, 26 Sep, 10 Oct

French Alps self guided walking vacation

From £629
8 days ex flights
Catered Chalet Based Walking Vacation in the Giffre Valley
Small group2021: 21 Aug, 28 Aug, 4 Sep, 11 Sep

Snowshoeing in the French Alps

From 1295
8 days ex flights
Snowshoeing in the Alps with a high mountain guide

Highlights of Provence walking vacation, France

From US $2249 to US $2649
8 days ex flights
A guided walking vacation through beautiful regions of France
Small group2021: 2 Oct, 2022: 14 May, 4 Jun, 11 Jun, 3 Sep, 17 Sep, 1 Oct

Mont Blanc climbing vacation

From US $3800
8 days ex flights
The exhilaration of summiting an alpine peak
Small group2021: 14 Aug, 4 Sep, 2022: 18 Jun, 2 Jul, 23 Jul, 13 Aug, 3 Sep

Mont Blanc Circuit hiking vacation

From US $2879
15 days ex flights
Probably the most dramatic walk in Europe
Small group2022: 18 Jun, 25 Jun, 2 Jul, 16 Jul, 30 Jul, 13 Aug, 20 Aug, 27 Aug, 3 Sep
Quote. The secret to a great holiday is that it's great for everyone - you, local communities and nature.
Tourist and Masai

More about walking vacations in France

Mercantour National Park

Relatively under-explored compared with other parts of the French Alps, Mercantour National Park flaunts a diverse range of landscapes, from larch forests to Alpine pastures and glacial lakes. The amount of wildlife here may also surprise you: chamois, ibex, marmots, deer, and even a population of wolves. With over 600km of marked trails, the park is superb for walking. Come in spring or autumn, and combine with a few days by the beach or in the mountains afterwards. There’s a range of self guided and small group trips available; families will love the chance to walk alongside their own donkey.

Upper Provence

Van Gogh and Cezanne – among countless other artists – drew inspiration from these landscapes. The sun drenches them 300 days of the year and between June and August, the hills are draped with vivid shades of lavender. This is Upper Provence, and once you get away from the coast and cities, you’ll feel that time is starting to slow down. Walking vacations here follow moderate trails between hilltop medieval towns, mountains scattered with olive trees and charmingly Provencal guesthouses. Les Gorges du Verdon is sure to be a highlight, as is the Valensole Plateau.
[Self guided or small group?: Bocage Normand Tourisme] [Mont Blanc: Jerome Bon] [Mercantour National Park: Itinerance Trekking] [Upper Provence: Francois Philipp]
Photo credits: [Page banner: Nicolas Cool] [Culture or adventure?: Andrew Lawson] [Walking vacations: SNappa2006] [Cycling vacations: Steve Jurvetson] [Activity vacations : Sebastien Bertrand] [Family vacations: Tobias von der Haar] [French Alps: Aurelien Breeden]