Can I go walking in France? Travel and trekking in Summer 2020

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Walking, trekking and other outdoor activity holidays in France – travel, accommodation and other facilities are open and possible, but with certain restrictions. This page will help you find up-to-date information for walking, trekking and other outdoor activities during summer 2020.

Updated 29 June 2020

General travel requirements and restrictions

It is no longer necessary to demonstrate that your journey is essential, and no additional form of authorisation is required to enter mainland France from the UK or European Union. Tourists and second homeowners are able to return, transport options permitting.

From July 1, border restrictions for countries outside of the European Union will slowly be lifted especially for countries which have the epidemic “under control”, although currently there is currently no more information available for non-European tourists.

Visitors from the UK can visit under the new 'air bridge' scheme, however if infection rates escalate, then quarantine measures will be reintroduced.

La Grande Casse, in the heart of the Vanoise, reflected in a lake on the way to the Refuge du Plan du Lac (Day 13 of the GR5)
La Grande Casse, in the heart of the Vanoise, reflected in a lake on the way to the Refuge du Plan du Lac (Day 13 of the GR5)

How to travel to France

Eurotunnel - Le Shuttle
For full current information and links to required forms and documentation.

Flights to France
Flights to France continue to operate, however there are restrictions, and you should check with your chosen airline to ensure you have everything you need.

Ferries from UK
P&O ferries travel advice

DFDS ferries travel advice

Ferries to Corsica
Masks, social distancing and other restrictions – latest from Corsica Ferries
.

Covid-19 and public transport

Masks must be worn at all times when using public transport, both in the UK and in France.

Further information can be found here regarding public transport, quarantine and self-isolation.

A pleasant little lake sits on the grassy Col des Thures high above the Vallée Étroite. Seen on a variant route of the GR5 trek through France.
A pleasant little lake sits on the grassy Col des Thures high above the Vallée Étroite. Seen on a variant route of the GR5 trek through France.

France is a fantastic destination for walking, trekking and cycle touring, offering high adventure in the Alps, Pyrenees and Corsica, as well as gentler options in regions such as the Auvergne, the Robert Louis Stevenson Trail (Feb 2021), Provence and Dordogne. For cyclists too, there are a range of options to suit everyone.

Perhaps Chamonix is the best known town in the french alps, where the Tour of Mont Blanc and the Walker's Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt begins. There are also other options for Mont Blanc Walks nearby, as well as a host of Chamonix Mountain Adventures including cycling, MTB, climbing and via ferrata.

Other areas of the Alps are attractive simply because they are quieter – the Tour of the Queyras, the Briançonnaise, the Haute Savoie and further north into the Vosges and Jura. Nestled between the Queyras and the Haute Savoie you will find the beautiful Vanoise National Park (2021) and the Maurienne, and the challenges of the Tour of the Oisans GR54 just to the south. For a flavour of the entire French alpine chain, then the GR5 has to be the ultimate four-week trek.

For those looking for ideas elsewhere, the Pyrenees can often offer beauty and solitude, across which the GR10 links the Atlantic with the Mediterranean on the French side of the range. Shorter treks in the Pyrenees are also possible, as are day Walks and Climbs in the Pyrenees.

For cyclists, the range of options range from the beautiful and gentle Canal du Midi and Canal de la Garonne, to the more lengthy and challenging routes following great rivers – the Moselle, Rhone and Loire.

Take a ferry to Corsica and more options present themselves. You will have heard of the GR20, perhaps the most challenging trek in Europe, but there are easier and shorter options, including Short Treks in Corsica (March 2021).

News from a Chamonix mountain guide:

"Hotels are open - just half. No Breakfast provided. Social distancing. Same with those refuges who are opening. Mountain groups no more than 9
with a guide. Can't provide picnics for them - get their own. Chamonix tourism down 60% this summer is estimated!" 23rd June 2020.

Many walkers, particularly French, manage fine along the GR5 without maps, relying on signs and markers (Col du Vallonet, Day 22)
Many walkers, particularly French, manage fine along the GR5 without maps, relying on signs and markers (Col du Vallonet, Day 22)

How will Covid-19 affect mountain huts and refuges?

The following is taken directly (and translated) from the FFRP (Fédération Française de la Randonnée Pédestre)

The Covid-19 pandemic is not expected to affect the 2020 summer season of mountain huts, although there will be important changes. They will once again be able to welcome hikers as of mid-June, on condition that hikers respect a specific health protocol. The latter provides general principles, established at the national level, adapted to each refuge by consultation between its guardian and its owner. Here are the main points to understand :

  • The capacity of refuges is lower than normal due to the social distancing required (no mixed groups on the same table or the same dortoir etc.)
  • Reservations are compulsory, otherwise the guardian is entitled to refuse a hiker.
  • When booking, each hiker must provide their identity and contact details, to allow traceability in the event of contamination, and to sign a charter engaging their responsibility (this should be downloaded and printed before you leave, and handed to each guardian)indicating compliance with the refuge protocol. Protocols may include restrictions in some areas, one-way movement through corridors and stairs etc.
  • The guardian will not provide a blanket or quilt, pillow or sheet. The mattress will be covered with a plastic sheet which can be disinfected after each use. This means that you will need to carry a sleeping bag. Face mask, gloves and slippers should also be carried by each hiker (as well as your own alcoholic sanitising gel).

To find out more about the protocol in force at any shelter or refuge you intend to stay at, ask the guardian.

Find out more:

FFCAM (French Federation of Alpine and Mountain Clubs): ffcam.fr

SNGRGE (National Union of Guardians of Refuges and Stopover Lodges ): Sngrge.fr

Map of all French refuges

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