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On the Right Track

GR Routes, Burgundy, FranceWalking, which includes hiking and rambling, is by far the most popular sporting/leisure activity of the French and as with many things in France, it is well organised. The GR routes, Grandes Randonnées, have been in existence for more than 60 years. Lines are painted on rocks, trees, walls and posts – red and white for hiking routes and red and yellow for GR de Pays which are easier but longer circular routes. One single yellow line marks the shorter PR Promenade et Randonnée routes. Over the whole country, the network of paths offers nearly 180.000 km of routes. The Fédération Francaise de Randonnée Pédestre (FFRP) maintain these paths and markings so that everyone can discover France’s regions and natural history with peace of mind.

Walking in the Morvan Forest, GR13, photo burgundytoday.com Walking in the Morvan Forest, GR13, photo burgundytoday.com Chateau Chalon, Bourgogne Franche-Comté, photo burgundytoday.com

In Burgundy the GR13 passes from north to south from Auxerre to Vézelay, through the Morvan Forest (above left and centre) to Mount Beuvray and on to the south of France. There are many shorter routes zig- zagging across the region, and IGN Série Bleue features 156 different maps on the scale 1:25,000 of each segment which are available from amazon.fr. Some of the more popular areas include Carte de randonnée : Vézelay; Chablis; Nolay; La Charité-sur-Loire; Saulieu - Lac des Settons; Semur-en-Auxois; Mâcon - Cluny - Solutré; Tournus.

In Franche-Comté the GR59 goes diagonally through the centre of the region and takes in many of the highlights. It starts at the Ballon d'Alsace in the Parc Naturel Régional des Ballons des Vosges with spectacular views to the Alps. It will take you to Ronchamp, on to Besançon, Salins-les-Bains, Arc-et-Senans to Dole. After the vineyards of Arbois, visit Château-Chalon (above right) and Baume-les-Messieurs, ending your trip in Lons le Saunier, a 384 km trip.

Also at the Ballon d'Alsace in the Territoire de Belfort, two European trails go through the area - the GR5-E2 and the E5. At the summit, the GR7 and GR59 begin. You can download a selection of hiking itineraries from the Belfort Tourist Office website and if you are arriving by train, it is useful to note that the GR5 passes directly in front of Belfort's two stations, the one in town and the Belfort-Montbéliard TGV station.

Walking and hiking are major tourist attractions in the Franche-Comté and the tourist offices are well geared up with maps and information particularly in Lons le Saunier for the Jura, Belfort for the Ballon d'Alsace and Besançon for the Doubs.

The Topo-guides, published by the FFRP give details of the individual walks, maps, distances between each stage, timing, where to stay etc. in French.

Topo-guides for the region

Auxerre et ses environs à pied : 21 promenades & randonnées – day walks
La grande traversée du Jura... à pied - 30 jours de randonnée
Tour et Traversée du Morvan (see below)

canals, vineyards and the Morvan

There are two guides to walking on the Burgundy Canal, the Canal de Bourgogne, published on Kindle and other ebook formats by Melinda Lusmore. The first covers Migennes to Pouilly-en-Auxois and the second from Pouilly to St.Jean de Losne. Information on where to stay, places to visit en route, transport connections...

Walks around beaune

Walking in the vineyards of Beaune © BIVB MonnierThe Beaune tourist office has a new website with a particularly good user-friendly section on walking routes. There are thirteen suggested itineraries labelled easy, medium or hard, stating the number of kilometres for the loop and the estimated time it will take. In two and a half hours you can take the easy vineyard trail from Santenay to Nolay or for a more difficult walk, the goat trail stretches over four and a half hours. All the suggestions go through beautiful countryside, no matter the weather. More...

Bourgogne Evasion offers half or whole day walking or cycling tours in the vineyards around Beaune, and include a wine tasting en route. Reasonably priced trips with English speaking guides.

France offers the walker National and Natural Parks and sparsely populated areas of great beauty
throughout the country to explore on foot.