We can give you advice on what guides and maps to purchase for your journey and answer specific trail questions, but will not plan your trip for you unless you are willing to pay our research fee of $35.00/hour. All research info you receive is via e-mail. Telephone calls, if needed, are extra charges.
Where to Begin
If you do not know where you want to hike in France, we suggest you begin with our Long Distance Hiking Trails map ($12.95) which shows all of the GR (Grande Randonée) trails which you can adapt to however many days you want to hike. Most people choose a region they have been to before and choose a trail within the region. There are over 110,000 miles of trail in France. So, please do not ask us what trail to hike on. That depends on your skill level and what sort of terrain you enjoy (see below Choosing a Route).
We also recommend that your purchase the book France on Foot, the best how-to book on hiking in France with a companion web site (Since this book has recently gone Out-of-Print, we cannot guarantee that a NEW copy will be available. We will offer you a quote with condition and price.). Other excellent resources are Lonely Planet's Walking in France ($24.99) which offers more than 100 days of walking, from easy strolls to multi-day mountain adventures and Walking in France by Gillian Souter ($20.00).
Choosing a Route
When choosing a route, gauge your hiking and backpacking experience, endurance, knowledge, and skill level, as well as having the proper equipment. An alpine route, although beautiful, will have serious physical demands and challenges. If you have not hiked high alpine routes before, choose something less challenging. If you are not equipped physically, mentally, and emotionally, as well as equipment-wise for the alpine environment mountains, don't go there. Choose something simpler such as the flat/slightly hilly Brittany Coastal Trail that follows the north edge of Brittany, often along the seashore, or the GR3 which follows the Loire Valley. A remote route that lacks villages will also require you to camp out and/or use France's rural gîte system. Be prepared for whatever a particular route offers.
If you have questions about a particular route, ask us. We have hiked most of the major trails in France or have information about them.
Choosing maps and trail guides
We can get trail guides for nearly every trail in France. Check out our Trails Guides & Other Resources link. One of the publishers listed there is the FFRP which offers the best trail guides for France. Within this page are other links that will show you specific routes.
If a trail lacks a publication, there is always a map for it. If you can follow a map, you can go anywhere in France without much trouble. Except for the high alpine regions, there are villages and farms all over France. So, if you do get lost, you will eventually find civilization. The above books offer tips as what to do if you get lost.
We have maps that cover all of France ranging in scale from 1:10,000 to 1:3,000,000. Let us know where you want to hike and we will tell you exactly the maps you need for your journey.
Publications in France generally cost 2-5 times as much as the same size book/map in the U.S. So, prepare for sticker shock. But, the purchase of good information is invaluable and the part of the cost of any journey. If you get lost due to lack of good maps/guides, the cost to get rescued will be very expensive. The French will give you a bill.
Getting to the Trail Head
Most trail guides we sell give you instructions on how to get there. Most people fly into Paris and take the train to the nearest rail station, then a bus or rental car to the starting point. Many trails also pass through major cities which makes the access easier, something to consider for your starting point.
Refer to any backpackers how-to book which will note items you need such as compass, first aid kit, extra clothes/food.
Learn a little of the language. It will go a long way in getting what you need and furthering international diplomacy. There are times when we ran out of sunlight and had to ask the nearest farmer if we could pitch our tent in their field. As a result of asking, we often got a room in their house and shared a meal with them. Learn some basic questions and how to pronounce them. You might not understand a thing they say back, but just knowing the questions will help. Most needs are simple: lodging, food, bathrooms, shopping.
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