All the walking itineraries

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The Grande Traversée du Jura on foot

Grande Traversée du Jura à pied - ©Mélanie Masson – CRT Bourgogne-Franche-Comté

Recently, my boyfriend mentioned that I had started pacing around our small Paris apartment and that I was spending an increasing amount of time in the Walking section of Decathlon. Because he knows me so well, and because he also fancied it, he took the lead last weekend and announced enthusiastically « Darling, it’s time to stretch our legs out in the country! Grab your walking boots and backpack; we are off to do the GTJ! »

GT what? The GTJ or Grande Traversée du Jura is the top itinerary for those who want to explore the Jura Massif on foot (among other things!). All in all, it stretches for 400km, so isn’t something you do on a whim. For our first attempt my boyfriend opted for the light version, over a long weekend. It’s the perfect way to stretch those legs and dust off your walking boots that have been sitting in the wardrobe all winter long (they are well used in summer; we love the great outdoors!)

We’re off tomorrow! I just can’t wait to get there and experience all those wide-open spaces, beautiful landscapes, valleys, remote areas and greenery. A chance to broaden my horizons when it comes to nature, which since our move to Paris has been limited to a pot of basil on the windowsill…

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Don’t miss along the trail

  • Saint-Point lake; peaceful, wild and reinvigorating. Motor-boats are not allowed, only sail boats, fishing boats, ducks and swans.

  • The Fort de Rousses where thousands of wheels of Comté cheese are matured. Here you will discover just why this cheese is so unique and so good.

  • The Parc du Haut-Jura visitor centre, a visit that is highly recommended if you have children with you.

The Via Salina

La Via Salina - ©Mélanie Masson – CRT Bourgogne-Franche-Comté

For a short time now I have had family connections with the town of Besançon, but I could never go and spend a week’s holiday with my in-laws without taking my hiking poles and walking boots. The opportunity to kill two birds with one stone is too good to miss.

I took advantage of this to try out a section of the Via Salina! Salina, as in salt… it is bizarre because you could never say that this region was near the seaside. In fact, during the XIX Century salt was produced and extracted from underground here. It was a veritable buried treasure. I learned all of this on my walk! The trail is so well thought-out.

Setting off from Arc-et-Senans I went on to pass two great sites associated with the history of salt: the Saline Royale salt works is an incredible building. Imagine an industrial site that looks like a mini-Versailles…except without the gilding and the feasts. Then there is Salins-les-Bains, a pretty little spa resort where my wife joined me for a relaxing soak at the new thermal baths. I decided that on our next trip I would carry on along the trail to Switzerland (Berne). I just need to convince my in-laws to let me go yomping off for a whole week.

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Don’t miss along the trail

  • The Saline Royale salt works in Arc-et-Senans help you to understand the history of salt in the region

  • Salins-les-Bains where salt is everywhere; in the town’s name, its history, its heritage, beneath it and in its waters, where you can enjoy a dip at the new thermal baths.

  • Ornans where you can go with the flow on the banks of the River Loue and then admire some canvases by Courbet at a museum dedicated to this local boy.

The Smugglers’ Trail

Les Chemins de la contrebande - ©Mélanie Masson – CRT Bourgogne-Franche-Comté

That’s it; we have crossed over to the other side Céline! The other side of what asks my friend? Of the border, actually! It is not surprising though, because in the heart of the Jura Massif there isn’t a great difference between Switzerland and France. On one side there are green meadows and tree-lined ridges, whilst on the other side…much the same thing.

Even if we didn’t notice, it was worth mentioning this crossing because it was so powerfully symbolic of smugglers that were much like us! I think that makes us smugglers, of sorts! In fact we are simply a couple of walkers along the Bricotte, a trail that was once used by the so-called Bricottières, women who risked their lives to smuggle a variety of merchandise to ensure that their families could survive. With my back pack fully equipped for 5 days of walking, I think that is challenging enough! I can’t imagine just what those brave ladies had to endure!

Nowadays there is no longer any risk involved and the trail is perfectly safe, with no danger of being arrested by customs officers. There is just the pleasure of walking and, to make it better still, the echoes of local history.

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Don’t miss along the trail

  • Tackling the Echelles de la Mort stairs that demonstrate the risks once taken by the smugglers

  • The Tourbières du Jura is a rare and fragile ecosystem that recalls the tundra

  • The Saut du Doubs, a mini-Niagara in the heart of the Jura Massif

The Échappée Jurassienne trail

L'Echappée jurasienne - ©Mélanie Masson – CRT Bourgogne-Franche-Comté

Setting off from Dole (just 2H by TGV from Paris, where we live) we reached St Claude fifteen days later after having walked the Échappée Jurassienne trail for 300km across the Jura Massif. Quite an epic journey! Actually, it was a comfortable epic journey, staying at beautiful gîtes and travelling light with the help of a luggage transfer service (16€/bag/stage). We didn’t want these 15 days in the great outdoors to turn into a bad remake of Into the Wild.

In the Jura we expected it to be cold – the village of Mouthe is nicknamed Little Siberia – but we experienced a heatwave! In order to avoid the worst of the heat we set off early every morning. On top of that, the Jura reserved a few refreshing stops for us: the Tufs and Hérisson waterfalls where we could dip our toes, the lakes of Chalain and Ilay for a reinvigorating swim…

But the Jura isn’t all about water! During those 15 days we crossed forests, vineyards (we couldn’t resist buying a bottle of yellow wine), remote areas and, of course, the mid-mountains. And to think we were worried it might get a bit monotonous….

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Don’t miss along the trail

  • Baumes-les-Messieurs where you can discover three sites in one: abbey, remote nature site (a natural cirque so typical of the Jura) and waterfall

  • The Pic de l’Aigle belvedere, where you can enjoy a view in cinemascope of three of the Jura’s natural lakes.

  • The Hérisson waterfalls are, quite simply, not to be missed.

The Way of St James (the German Way)

St Jacques, voie des allemands - ©Mélanie Masson – CRT Bourgogne-Franche-Comté

I have never been one for big sporting exploits. Adrenaline is not for me. It’s not my idea of fun to put your body through all that tortuous effort. Nevertheless, I did feel like setting myself a challenge…in a more laid back way. I wanted to get away from it all without taking on an extreme sport, which isn’t really my style.

That is why I thought about a walking tour. I am an occasional rambler, so the transition seemed ideal. Whilst looking around I discovered that the Way of St James passed near to where I live (I’m from Belfort).  The adventure to Compostela, without the need to go too far, would be perfect for my initiation into walking tours.

So, would this week between Belfort and the Haute-Saône be physically demanding? I would say yes and no… Yes in the sense that during the walk the state of my body did concern me. As my sole form of locomotion and my only companion (I set off alone), I knew I had to take care of it, treat my injuries (blisters were my great obsession), feed it and rest it properly!

But apart from the physical endurance, this itinerary did let me do one thing: escape from it all, just a short hop from home! It’s really easy to cleanse your soul like this. You just need good boots, a bit of courage and, above all, the desire to make the most of yourself.

Don’t miss along the trail

  • Belfort with its monumental Lion sculpture roaring at the top of the cliff of the citadel.

  • Citeaux Abbey with its architecture and its cheese that has been produced since 1925

  • Beaune , whose reputation goes before it

The Via Francigena

After the Way of St James, we absolutely wanted to do the Via Francigena, the other great pilgrimage route of the Middle Ages that goes from Canterbury to Rome. Why do we have such a passion for these great trails? It is quite hard to explain, especially as we are not at all religious. Although it doesn’t have anything to do with religion, believe me when I say that walking over 1000km does take on a spiritual dimension. It becomes something that transcends and transforms you.

Setting off from Reims we are currently on the hillsides of the Loue Valley, a succession of incredible landscapes. The health and fitness aspects of walking are quite forgotten when you have the chance to pass such beautiful locations.  Your mind is clear and you allow nature and the silence to work their magic.

It is only later in the evening that our body remembers. Sore muscles, blisters and aches that we had totally forgotten when we were walking suddenly resurface. But we are certainly not masochists! We don’t go walking just to suffer! We always make a point of seeking out comfortable gîtes as we are not too keen on listening to our neighbours snoring in a dormitory! At 60 years of age we like a bit of comfort.

+ d’infos sur la Via Francigena

A ne pas manquer sur le parcours

  • Le château de Champlitte

  • Le tunnel de Savoyeux

  • Les gorges et sources de La Loue immortalisés par un certain Gustave Courbet

The Way of St James – GR 654

©Mélanie Masson – CRT Bourgogne-Franche-Comté

I usually organise my holidays well in advance, but I must admit that this time it was all a bit last minute…In the end,  that worked to my advantage. Allow me to explain. It was impossible to find accommodation that suited me in one of my regular « spots » (In my case that usually means the Atlantic coast). So I said to myself: why not try something different? And that is how I ended up in Burgundy-Franche-Comté with just a backpack and a walking map…

I parked the car in Vézelay (it would have been a shame to pass without stopping), and I set off on my « pilgrimage » :o) Yes indeed, for those of you who don’t know, there is a pilgrimage route that starts in Vézelay and goes all the way to Santiago de Compostela. Well, I didn’t go all the way down to Spain but, over 15 days, I think I must have done just less than 300km… For a novice like me, that is quite a feat! But it is quite easy to do, and there’s no shortage of excuses for stopping. There’s a truly incredible heritage just waiting to be visited! So much so that I’m not sure if I won’t do this « last minute » thing again :o)

Don’t miss along the trail

  • Visit the hill of Vézelay, listed as World Heritage

  • Cross the Morvan and its undulating landscapes

  • Visit the priory church of Charité-sur-Loire

GR Tour du Morvan

GR Tour du Morvan ©Mélanie Masson – CRT Bourgogne-Franche-Comté

Personally, walking is not really my thing… But when you’re married to a woman who loves it, you make a few concessions, of course… And can you guess where she took me this time? To Burgundy-Franche-Comté, in the Morvan! You must be saying to yourselves: poor guy…double trouble!! Well guess what?… Not at all! I would even go so far as to say it was one of the best trails I have been (practically) forced to do :o. I wouldn’t exactly say that I loved it (let’s not exaggerate), but there are so many things to see that you never get bored…

Without being in the high mountains, in the Morvan you climb a bit and you quickly come across some incredible views. And the added bonus (in any case, I appreciated it) is that there is always a lake or a river nearby…When the sun beats down or the temperatures rise (even in the shade of the trees), enjoying a little paddle is a great boost!! :o) I have to admit that when it was time to jump in the car and go back to our apartment I had a thought… It would have been nice to stay

Don’t miss along the trail

  • Kicking off your boots and paddling in the gorges of the River Canche

  • Climbing Mont Beuvray and enjoying the view of the Morvan

  • Making a little « culture » stop at the abbey of Pierre qui Vire.

The GR2

Le GR2 - ©Mélanie Masson – CRT Bourgogne-Franche-Comté

We had just finished our mid-term exams when a few of us friends decided to spend the New Year together as a treat. But not a boozy evening, where we have more regrets than memories. No, we wanted something to mark the occasion, that would let us spend some time together and that we would remember for a long time to come…So, why not a week of walking? (I’m not sure whose idea it was, but we were all in agreement!)

Six days later, there we were in Dijon, backpacks full, ready to head off on the GR2… We didn’t just choose this at random, but because it allowed us to head back towards Paris! Off we went on a gentle walk for 8 days, following the River Seine… We had great fun, we arranged some laid-back evenings by the fireside, we shared a dormitory at youth hostels…Honestly, we didn’t stop laughing all the way (well, I have to admit that I had a little wobble on the 3rd day…I’ll put that down to a lack of fitness :o), we saw so many things…I think I (and all my friends too) will remember this trip for a long time!

Don’t miss along the trail

  • The Medieval village of Saint-Seine L’Abbaye

  • The sources of the Seine and the Ignon rivers

  • The site and the resurgence of the River Douix at Chatillon-sur-Seine

The Way of St James – Gy/Vezelay

Chemin de St Jacques, liaison Gy-Vezelay - ©Mélanie Masson – CRT Bourgogne-Franche-Comté

I’ve needed a change of scenery for a while now…walks in the great outdoors are my thing, and Paris is not great for that at the moment! :o) I decided to take matters in hand and called a friend of mine who lives in Avallon (in the south of the Yonne) to ask if he would put me up for a weekend…

OK! Off I went, walking boots on my feet (more or less) and I bombarded him with questions. What is there to see? Where is best to stretch your legs? Will you come with me? He suddenly got a bit worried! :o). But the more we discussed it, the more convinced I was that he could be persuaded to come along ;o) The upshot was that we both ended up on the banks of the Cousin (the river…nothing to do with family: o) for an escapade to Vézelay.

It was a walk that combined nature and culture in equal measure and took us all day (a few climbs…we had to experience the « eternal hill » :o). This walking trail is a real treat for the soul and for the legs. And I’m sure that there are other « gems » to discover… We can check them out tomorrow.

A ne pas manquer sur le parcours

  • Gray, a small town of character

  • Rosières casttle

  • The Medieval town of Semur-en-Auxois