Hikers in France will be amazed by what they see. France has a trail to match every mood, moment and level of ability, from the last Ice Age eruptions to azure rivers corkscrewing through deep canyons. Our favorite French hikes include Provence's sun-kissed countryside and the wave-hammered beaches of the Basque Country.

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Sentier du Littoral, French Basque Country

Best coastal day hike

25 km, 5 hours, easy.

The coastline of the French Basque Country has beaches smashed by Atlantic waves, rocky coves, countryside blanketed in maquis and fishing villages below high cliffs. The Sentier du littoral is a path that leads from Bidart to Hendaye via Saint-Jean-de-Luz and back again.

There are many highlights. St-Jean de Luz, Socoa's 17th-century fort and the dramatic cliffs of the Corniche are just some of the sights you can see. The view of the Jaizkibel mountain range, the granite crown of Les Trois Couronnes and the peak of La Rhune can be seen from the south.

In summer, make sure you bring plenty of sunscreen and water and walk in the early morning or late afternoon to escape the midday sun.

Hiker on the Robert Louis Stevenson Trail approaching Chasserades in the Cevennes, Lozere, France
The Chemin de Stevenson Trail is a peaceful wander through lovely French countryside © Jon Sparks / Alamy Stock Photo

Chemin de Stevenson, Cévennes

Best hike for rural romance

270 km, 2 weeks Moderate.

A love letter to Scottish author, Robert Louis Stevenson, who trekked across the Cévennes in 1878 with his stubborn donkey Modestine, this hike is one of France's most classic. Stevenson wrote a book called Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes. The rural French dream is to travel from the forests of the Cévennes across the ragged granite Mont Lozre massif into the rolling farmland and valleys.

The trail goes from Le Puy-en-Velay to Als through forested ravines, rolling cornfields, and ruined chteaux.

The scenery builds like a drumroll as the sunsets give way to nights spent camping or sleeping at simple rural gtes. The park is home to a number of mammals and birds.

The burly Scot and his mule found the climbs a bit of cake, but several ridge ascents turned what would otherwise be a gentle walk into a more challenging hike. You can either hike the full route or tackle one of the individual sections.

A hiker crosses rocky terrain near Lac Blanc, Chamonix, France
Lac Blanc is a vision of Alpine perfection © Josef Schafnitzel / imageBROKER RF / Getty Images

Lac Blanc, Chamonix

Best hike for mountain fiends

The distance is 7 miles and it takes 5 hours.

It is more convenient to take the cable car. The hike from Argentire to Lac Blanc is for hikers who think it is cheating to stand eye to eye with one of Europe's most impressive mountains without breaking a sweat.

It is all uphill from the start in Tré-le-Champ in Argentire with more than 1000m of rocky and rugged ascents to negotiate. You can see Mont Blanc and the Aiguille du Midi from the Lacs des Chéserys.

Mouflon, golden eagles and ibex are some of the animals that thrive at these craggy heights. Stay the night at the refuge du Lac Blanc and get to eat the icing on the cake.

You will need a head for heights, a good level of fitness and good timing for this one, as you are dealing with Alpine terrain. You can only access the trail during the second half of June through to September, but before or after that, you will have snow to contend with.

Trekking on the GR20 trail in Corsica near the Aiguilles de Bavella hiking towards Refuge d'Asinao
The GR20 in Corsica is rightly regarded as one of Europe's most challenging trails © Alex Treadway / Getty Images

GR20, Corsica

Best hike for the sheer challenge

180 km in 2 weeks.

The GR20 in Corsica is said to be the most epic trek of its kind. This two-week, into-the-wild, no-holds-barred, knee-crunching monster of a trek frightens even the most ardent and experienced hiker. There is a hike on a Mediterranean island where most people come to chill on the beach.

It's also a beautiful thing. From deep ravines to glaciers, from granite crags to wind-battered craters, the island from Calenzana to Conca has a lot to offer. This is one of Europe's toughest trails, with lots of steep climbs, exposed scrambles and slippery crossing that will make you curse and crave more.

You will draw water from springs and sleep in mountain refuges. People may turn a blind eye if you are discreet and go by sunrise. It will break your back and soul, but you will love this walk forever.

Trekkers on the famous Tour du Mont Blanc route in France
The Tour du Mont Blanc is one of France's most famous Alpine routes © Vitalalp / iStockphoto / Getty Images

Tour du Mont Blanc, France, Switzerland, Italy

Best long-distance hike

Moderate-challenging 180 km, 10 days.

The long-distance Tour du Mont Blanc takes you through some of the most jaw-dropping scenery in France, Switzerland and Italy as it circumnavigates the Mont Blanc mass. The trail twists up to sky-high passes, glaciers and wild rivers, and plunges you into remote, beautiful valleys and meadow.

It's almost as good as the views if you spend a night camping under the stars or digging into a warm meal in a hut on a mountain. You'll enjoy sunrises and sunsets and the chance to see altitude-loving wildlife.

The tour is a summertime endeavor, accessible from late June to early September, but come prepared for wild weather at all times. Bring warm layers, waterproofs and solid boots if you don't need technical gear.

The trail is best started and finished in Les Houches so that you can acclimatize to the harder climbs towards the end. It's important to plan as the mountain huts get booked out.

Walkers in an ochre landscape on the Sentiers des Ocres near the village of Roussillon, France
Rust-colored landscapes await on the Sentiers des Ocres near Roussillon © Telly / Shutterstock

Sentier des Ocres, Roussillon

Best hike in Provence for families

1.5 km is easy.

The canyon in Roussillon in Provence feels like the American Wild West, with its spectacularly eroded rock formations blushing a color chart of reds from dusky pink to rusty terracotta.

This former quarry was once an important center for the ochre mining industry, but now it's the cinematic backdrop for a short but lovely circular trail, which weaves through a desert-like landscape of cliffs and ridges.

There are information panels that give the inside scoop on local plants and wildlife. You will get dusty if you wear white clothes. The route can be walked from February to the end of the year.

Stairs leading down towards the Puy de Dome volcano, France
The Puy de Dôme volcano just calls out to be climbed © Florian Leoty / 500px

Puy de Dôme, Massif Central

Best volcano hike

Moderate for 6 km and 112 hours.

The area that makes up France's midriff is often overlooked by hikers. There are sleeping volcanoes that blew their top more than 7,000 years ago. The countryside is covered in green and can only be seen on foot.

The Chane des Puys, a 25 mile string of cinder cones and lava domes, is a UNESCO World Heritage listed site. Puy de Dme is the tallest building in the world.

The Chemin de Muletiers is a short, steep old mule trail that hikers can take up to reach the summit. Pilgrims used to reach the Gallo-Roman Temple de Mercure at the top of this trail. The view from the summit is uplifting and spans across a landscape of volcanoes.

A grand view over the Gorges du Verdon, France
The Gorges du Verdon offers some of France's most spectacular views © Lottie Davies / Lonely Planet

Blanc-Martel Trail, Gorges du Verdon

Best canyon hike

Moderate for 10 miles.

One of France's most stirring natural wonders is the Gorges du Verdon, where limestone razor cliffs overlook the Verdon River as it carves its way through the Alps. The canyon is quiet and peaceful in the early morning, but you can hear the sound of a golden eagle wheeling overhead.

You can see the canyon from many viewpoints and picnic spots, but the best way to see it is by hiking the Blanc-Martel Trail, which goes through the gorge and down to the river. Later, the route sneaks along trails scored into the high canyon walls, sometimes dipping into a tunnel and sometimes going across a bridge. There are steep descents and ascents thrown into the mix for a day-long adventure.

The hike is point-to-point so you need to think about transportation. You can take a shuttle bus back to the trailhead if you start at Chalet de la Maline in La Palud-sur- Verdon. The gorge gets so hot in the summer that you should bring plenty of sunscreen and water.

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