Whether taking a half-day hike or week-long trek, a well-marked trail is essential for every hiker. In France 180,000 km of hiking and walking routes are numbered and clearly designated by different colors. These are known as Sentiers de Grande Randonnée, and are generally marked on maps as well as being recognizable by a red and white logo marked GR. The hiking routes are complemented by an extensive network of self catering accommodations called gîtes and mountain refuges providing inexpensive but comfortable accommodation. A Guide des Gîtes de France is available from bookshops.
Walkers and hikers take to the road on weekends or on vacation. They criss-cross the forests and pastures, follow the coastlines and traverse the countryside of France. Several of the routes are just outside of cities such as the forest of Fountainbleu or the farmland around Vexin in the Ile de France. And there is always the option to explore the streets and gardens of Paris. On foot, the neighborhood and obscure locales of Paris can be visited on a more intimate basis minus the métro and traffic.
The Féderation française de randonnée pedestre (the French Hiking Federation) has an immense amount of materials including a collection of 200 guides and IGN maps. There are certain routes that the experienced hiker will consider to be “musts”: the GR 5 also called the GTA—“grand traversée des Alpes,” cuts through the Alps from Lake Geneva to the Mediterranean; the GR 9 outlines the western edge of the Alps; the GR 20 cuts a diagonal through the mountains of Corsica; the GR 34 follows the coast of Brittany; the GR 3 goes along the banks of the Loire River; the GR 10 travels from one side to the other of the Pyrénées and finally, the TMB—“Tour de Mont Blanc” so famous that it doesn’t have a number!
You can plan your own hiking tour, or you can chose one of the many hiking tour packages which can be booked through travel agencies or on the internet. Among these package tours are: Best of the Pilgrim Route and The Vineyards and Burgundy Villages tour.