Our Choice of Challenging Walking Trip in France
The GR20, which runs through Corsica’s National Park, is one of the greatest treks in France, and has a reputation as Europe’s finest mountain walk. If you fancy a challenge, and are physically prepared to do some serious hiking, you can’t beat the GR20 for an unforgettable experience.
Sarah Quee from Tour Aventure is encouraging; “There is no reason why a regular hill walker shouldn’t do the trail comfortably and confidently, you just need to pack right and be well informed.”
220km of trail runs up and down the mountains of central Corsica, through breathtaking and very variable terrain and sights. Many walkers do a few of the 14 stages over their whole holiday, but the whole thing will take you around 15 days of concentrated walking. Sarah adds, “It is known as the hardest long distance trail in Europe, it takes two weeks to walk and is spectacular. The terrain is very rocky and you are constantly going steeply up or down hill. The GR20 offers challenging walking, and an insight in Corsican mountain life. ”
Whether you embark on the ultimate challenge of the whole route, or limit the experience to a few stages, you will pass through some amazing scenery. Lush forests, snowy peaks, views of the coast, rocky desert scenes, glacial lakes and waterfalls are some of the sights you will encounter on the GR20, and mountain lodges can provide shelter for overnight stops.
Tour operators offer all different options for organising your trip for you, including guided treks, self-guided ones, and services which will transport your luggage to the next overnight stop. Or, if you’re used to this kind of trip and know what to take, you can pack a tent, get over there yourself, buy the right maps (1/100000: IGN TOP100073 “Bastia Corte” GR20 North, and IGN TOP100/74 “Ajaccio Bonifacio” GR20 South), and enjoy the adventure.
Here Are Some More Details from Sarah:
The trail crosses the island diagonally across the high granite backbone of mountains. Most people walk the GR from north to south but we prefer to organise it in the other direction. Doing the trail independently it is not possible to reserve your nightstops in advance. This is why many walkers opt for the guided or self-guided itineraries offered by companies like Tour Aventure, who book all night stops and food along the way and give you access to your main luggage bags where possible.
Equipment & Being Prepared
Choosing the right equipment can also make an enormous difference in making the trip successful. You shouldn’t carry anything you don’t need, ideally a day pack big enough for a picnic, a sleeping bag, some trail food and protective clothing. It is essential to pick the right footwear, you need a super grip sole. More and more walkers do the trail with low cut mountain shoes that are super light and favour a good sole as opposed to hefty ankle protection. Two walking sticks are a help, as much on the up hill as on the steep rough eroded descents, this will preserve your knees. There are plenty of fresh water springs that are safe to drink from so you don’t have to be weighed down with huge quantities of water.
Changing Conditions & Caution
With each valley having its own micro climate, you should be prepared for a whole range of conditions in one day. It is not unusual to experience biting wind, fog and hail, then cross a ridge and drop down to an inviting rock pool with hot, relentless sunshine. There are no poisonous snakes on the island but you should watch out for the roaming pigs, never leave your ruck sack with food lying around always hang it up in a tree.
So, the GR20 is not only an incredible experience, but also teaches a lot to its conquerors. This is more than just a challenge.
By Gemma Driver
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