Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Grande Randonnee walks in France - fabulous trail walking holidays

Looking for some top adventure? – wonder what your hiking friends are talking about when they mention GRs?? (jeee….air – for the unitiated!!)…Look no further….

Right back in the early 1900s, a chap called Jean Loiseau apparently created the forerunner to the GRs in his so-called “highways for walkers”, but it wasn’t until after WWII that the French Touring Club and the Alpine Club joined forces to enable people to be able to get out on the hill. Hard to imagine but paid holidays were only first offered from the mid 1930s, so with increased freedom and time post war – and yes – the demand was there!

The first offering was, surprisingly, the GR3 (the Parisians keeping the iconic GR1 & GR2 numberings for the capital’s prestige!). This was a shortish continuous routes up near Orleans. Over the past 60 odd years the numbers have now grown to some 369 – with perhaps the best known being the tough GR20 in Corsica, and straying into the European arena, the GR5 (E2) which starts in Belgium and finishes on the coast on the French Riviera.

If you’re looking for a walking holiday in France with a purpose, rather than just enjoying all the natural splendour on offer and enjoy the sun also, you could do worse to come down to PACA (Provence, Alpes, Côte D’Azur), and the Alpes-Maritimes which is traversed by no less than six GR routes, and 800 kms of great tramping

Here we go – in numerical rather than recommendation order….

GR 4 Haute Provence to the Gorges du Verdon by way of the Alpes-Maritimes from Puget Théniers to Grasse.

GR 5 Tinée to the Vésubie... and to Nice
Hits the A-M at St Dalmas le Selvage in the Tinée to Saint Dalmas de Valdeblore and then the Vésubie to Levens through the Niçois back country to get to Nice. A side walk is possible to the GR 52 and the magnificent Vallée des Merveilles (
Valley of Marvels or Wonders) in Saint Dalmas de Valdeblore and the GR 510 towards Utelle.

GR 51 Balconies of the Mediterranean...parallel to the coast this magic route follows some of the E7 – Zagreb to Lisbon.

GR 52 Vallée des Merveilles (Valley of Marvels or Wonders). Don’t miss the famous Vallée des Merveilles in Mercantour via Saint Dalmas de Valdeblore, following the Bévéra to Menton.

GR 52A The GR52s little mighty sister, what a panorama over the Mercantour...heads west to east from Entraunes to Tende, passing by spacebetween’s base in Berthemont les Bains.

GR 510 The Moyen Pays - from the Italian border to St Cézaire sur Siagne through eight valleys - the Roya, the Bévéra, the Vésubie, the Tinée, the Cians, the Var, the Estéron and the Siagne

If this little lot doesn’t whet your appetite – don’t forget there is the Grande Traversée des Alpes, and the Via Alpina.

The Grande Traversee have just brought out new documentation for 2012.

Spacebetween who specialise in accommodation and walking holidays in the Mercantour can offer advice on tackling the local GR's, and there is also plenty of information on search engines.

The photo is taken in GranParadiso in Italy - in fact - but that's another story


  1. Hi, I've done a week of trekking in your area for the last 2 years (Tende - Nice 2011 & Parc Mercantour 2012) I'm starting to plan for this autumn. I'm thinking of the gr510, maybe heading west from Luceram for a week, but I'm struggling to find information online. I usually camp, but try to plan to try to have the option of staying in villages with accommodation in case weather turns bad. Do you know of any guides to accommodation along the gr510? Do many people actually walk this path, or is it just a line on a map? Thanks for your help!


    1. Hi Keith - very interesting to see your post - most trail walkers who come here opt for the 5/52/52a - the 510 is lovely walking country but possibly a bit thin for decent accommodation for wet weather fall back - I need to re-visit - and think of stayovers.....if you have done same yourself let me know......there is also another new GR introduced with Marseille being the city of culture this year.....otherwise there is plenty more to see here in the Mercantour - I'm sure! soon Liz

  2. - there's also this new GR linked to Marseille being the european city of culture this year- enjoy