Off we go, with Sally the three-legged rescue dog showing fine form


We’ve joined a group of like-minded folk in the Luberon who like exercise and hiking trails. Tuesday mornings are the time to strap on the walking shoes, pack up the bottled water, whistle for the dogs and set off for a pre-designated meeting spot to explore the countryside either on a GR or a PR. More French gobbledygook? You bet, more classification, more filing.

France is a country well equipped with long-distance footpaths or hiking trails. There are over 180,000 kilometres of walking trails, crossing the country in all directions; but it is in the areas of rural France that the paths are most numerous, and most popular. These are known in France as “Sentiers de grandé randonnée”; as with main roads, there is a national network, and the 35,000 km of marked and signposted footpaths that make up the main network are designated by numbers, preceded by the letters GR.

Besides GR paths, there are also PR paths, “Chemins de petite randonnée”, marked trails that are most suited for local hiking, and not necessarily connected to any GR routes. GR routes are marked (on trees, posts, stones, etc) by a short red band above a white band. PR routes are marked with a yellow band. In addition, many French communes or communities have set up their own marked footpaths independently of the national network. All in all, the choice for ramblers, walkers and serious hikers is immense.


In this, our first GR, we started out from the reservoir at St Saturnin-des-Apt – the ruins of the ancient chateau are in the background


A stunning view of the Luberon valley. The reddish cliffs that you see in the middle of the picture are the famous Roussillon ochre deposits


Walking is on rural roads, footpaths and some rocky patches. Nothing that needs a rope and chains, though!


The GRs are for nature lovers and those of us who never tire of the sights. Here we are ending our GR with a stroll through the back streets of Saint Saturnin


Most of the major long-distance trails run through villages where hikers can find accommodation in bed and breakfasts, “gîtes d’étape” (rather like small hostels), campsites or small hotels. Before setting out on a long distance trail, it is essential to study the route carefully on detailed maps, and check the accommodation available.

Over the rooftops of St Saturnin

All French tourism bureaus will give you details of the local GR and PRs.



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