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Five French hiking spots that are accessible from Paris

The Local France
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Five French hiking spots that are accessible from Paris
French climber Jeremy Bonder transports a mat on his back before a demonstration of his skills at bouldering -a form of rock climbing that is performed on small rock formations- in the Fontainebleau forest some 70kms from the French capital Paris (Photo by Philippe LOPEZ / AFP)

If you're in Paris and fancy a short hiking trip - either for just one day or a weekend - here are a few options to choose from that won't involve too much travel.

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France has a lot of great hiking spots - its two most famous mountain ranges, the Pyrenees and the Alps, both have high altitude hiking trails that offer magnificent views. The Jura, Vosges and Massif Central mountain ranges typically follow when it comes to French hiking recommendations.

But if you're in Paris, you have other options that are much closer. While you may not be able to scale anything near the size of Mont Blanc, there are still plenty of hiking and walking options in close proximity to the capital.

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GR 2024 - the Paris loop

Perks of hiking this trail - If you want an easily accessible hike, then the GR 2024 is the best option. It was created to promote the upcoming 2024 Olympic Games, and essentially it follows the edges of the city. You can start at any exit point of the city - whether that is Porte de la Villette, Dorée, Vanves or Maillot.

The full trail counts up to 50km, so it is somewhat physically strenuous, though you are not obligated to do the full thing. 

The path links up with the other 7 GR (trails) that come through the city of Paris - the GR 1, GR 2, GR 22, GR 14, GR 14A and GR 655, passing through 70 of the city's green spaces and parks. 

A screenshot of the path from the Mairie de Paris website.

Drawbacks - Of course - with this trail, you won't be leaving the city so if you are looking to get out into nature and escape Paris, then this is not the option for you.

READ MORE: Ten of the best day trips out of Paris

How to get there - Start at any exit point of the city. You can find more information on the town hall website here.

The forest of Fontainebleau 

Perks of hiking there - The state forest of Fontainebleau is actually France's second-largest state owned forest - at 22,000 hectares - and its the largest in the Paris region. As such, you can be certain to have plenty of options when it comes to hiking and walking paths. It is also one of the most popular bouldering locations in the world, so if you are a fan of climbing you should definitely pay the forest a visit.

If you enjoy history you can also stop by the Château de Fontainebleau. It is the namesake of the forest, which was originally a royal forest, prized by the kings of France for their hunting expeditions. The castle itself is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

A popular hiking circuit is the "Gorges de Franchard", taking you by one of the oldest fountains in the forest.

Drawbacks - If you are looking for a location with some elevation, unfortunately Fontainebleau might fall short of expectations. The area ranges from 42m above sea level to 150m, maximum. Fontainebleau can also draw crowds, as it is one of the best known hiking spots outside of Paris.

How to get there - Depending on your choice in transport, it will take you between 40 minutes and an hour and 20 minutes to arrive from Paris. By train, you can take the Transilien Line R directly from Gare du Lyon - which takes about 40 minutes and typically runs nine times a day. If you have a rail card that includes all five zones of Île-de-France, you can use this to swipe on and off the Transilien. You can also drive - the distance is approximately 70km, which you can count on taking about an hour and 20 minutes (depending on traffic). 

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There is even a secret stop in the middle of the forest - the line R reportedly stops at a 'ghost station' early in the mornings on weekends in between the stops 'Bois-le-Roi' and 'Fontainebleau-Avon'.

Vexin regional natural park

Perks of hiking there - Located between Paris and Normandy, the Vexin park is a mix of forest and agricultural space. From valleys to meadows, wooded areas and rivers, the Vexin regional natural park is a great way to enjoy the Seine Valley and breathe fresh air away from Paris.

It is ideal for both hiking and cycling, and it is not far from the town of Auvers-sur-Oise, which is where Vincent van Gogh lived for a period of time. He painted several famous works, such as the 'Church at Auvers' while staying in the town.

Drawbacks - As it is not very far from Paris, the Vexin natural park is not mountainous, so if you are looking for a hike with serious elevation climb, then you may be a bit disappointed. There are some rolling hills, however, which can offer lovely views over the valley.

How to get there - Depending on your preference for transportation, it will usually take between an hour and an hour and a half from central Paris. You can take the Transilien Line H from Paris' Gare du Nord, which stops at Auvers-sur-Oise and takes a little over an hour; or you can take the Transilien Line J from Paris Saint-Lazare. 

You can also take the RER A, and then switch onto a bus at Gare de Cergy-Le-Haut with line 95-23 - this option is closer to an hour and a half distance from Paris.

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The park is over 65,000 hectares in size, so you can enter from several different locations. If you are driving from the city centre of Paris, it will typically take around an hour and a half (Auvers-sur-Oise is almost 30km from Paris city centre).

Rambouillet and Vallée de Chevreuse

Perks of hiking there -  The Chevreuse valley, to the south of Paris, has something for everyone. If you are looking for a more strenuous hiking option close to Paris, then the Chevreuse Valley might be your best bet. The "90 bosses et des 500 arpents" trail is a 55km course that in total accumulates 2,000 metres of elevation. You can see the trail below.

For those seeking a more calm walk through the forest - you might consider hiking around the Étang d'Or (Golden Pond), which is known to be home to grey herons. This path follows the GR1 - a hiking trail that goes around the edges of Île-de-France.

You can also visit the Château de Rambouillet, a 14th century castle surrounded by forest.

Drawbacks - The valley is known for having lots of hills - so expect a decent amount of up and down. If this is not what you are looking for, consider sticking to paths along the lakes and ponds.

How to get there - Generally, this journey will take between 40 minutes to an hour and a half. With public transport, you can take the RER B from Paris directly to the Saint-Rémy-lès-Chevreuse station. The journey takes around 40 minutes from central Paris. By car, the drive to the Chevreuse valley takes about an hour and 15 minutes, depending on traffic. 

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You might also consider going directly to Rambouillet, in which case the car ride will be about one hour and 30 minutes, while the train ride - the TER from Montparnasse - will take around 40 minutes.

Morvan regional natural park 

Perks of hiking there - Located in between Paris and Lyon, you can get to the Morvan regional natural park in under three hours by train from Paris, and in that time you will be able to enjoy thicker forests and better elevation than much of the forests surrounding Paris. Known for its lush green colour, the park's peak is Haut-Folin, standing at 901 metres.

From camping and cycling to swimming in nearby lakes, the Morvan regional natural park has plenty to offer. One recommended hike for those coming from Paris (who are low on time) would be the "Boucle du Morvan par le Lac du Crescent" - about 16km driving-distance from the Gare de Avallon, which is where you would arrive if you take the TER from Paris Bercy station.

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Drawbacks - This journey is a bit further from Paris. It could be manageable, but probably not for just a day trip unless you are really dedicated. That being said, if you are looking to feel the escape from the big city and hike in a more remote, rural area, then the Morvan is one of the most accessible options from France's capital. 

How to get there - You can take a TER train from the Paris Bercy station to the Gare de Avallon in Burgundy. The journey is about two hours and 40 minutes in length. By car, from the centre of Paris, the ride is closer to two hours and 50 minutes (but most likely, with traffic, you can count on closer to three hours). 

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