The GR5 Trail - Vosges and Jura

Schirmeck to Lac Léman, and the GR53

By Les Smith, Elizabeth Smith

Guidebook to a 687km (427 mile) trek through eastern France, traversing the Vosges and the Haut-Jura plateau. The route follows the GR53 from Wissembourg to Schirmeck, before picking up the central section of the GR5 from Schirmeck to Nyon on Lake Geneva, taking in wooded and grassy hills, river gorges and fascinating castle ruins.



Spring to Autumn, although a late spring may see snow lingering on some of the higher stretches.


Wissembourg, Saverne, Schirmeck, Ribeauvillé, Villers-le-Lac, Les Rousses, Nyon


A well-waymarked route, suitable for any reasonably fit walker. On some stretches, it may be necessary to drop off-route a short distance to obtain food or accommodation.
Must See

Must See

The quiet Northern Vosges, with castle ruins on rocky pinnacles; the enchanting winemaking villages of Alsace; the hilltops and glacial lakes of the Vosges; the tranquil gorge of the Doubs, and the spectacular Saut du Doubs waterfall; outlook points over the expansive Jura plateau; the impressive cliffs of Mont d'Or
18 Apr 2017
17.2 x 11.6 x 1.3cm
  • Overview

    This guidebook describes a long-distance walking route through the delightful Vosges and Jura. Situated in France near the eastern border, the three regional parks of the Ballons des Vosges, Northern Vosges and Jura Mountains boast verdant forests, striking rock features and low rounded summits offering spectacular views. Yet, in spite of their extensive network of well-maintained paths, they are not high profile tourist destinations. This walk offers a chance to uncover the hidden secrets of this fascinating area, from its rich wildlife to ancient ruins.

    Starting in Wissembourg at the northeastern tip of France, the route follows the GR53 southwest to Schirmeck, before picking up the central section of the much-celebrated GR5 (which runs from the Hook of Holland to Nice) between Schirmeck and Nyon on Lake Geneva. The scenery is as varied as it is beautiful, from the tranquil forests of the Northern Vosges to the impressive river gorges of the Jura, from long-forgotten castles to the charming half-timbered villages of old Alsace. Well within the capabilities of any moderately fit walker and clearly waymarked, the entire trek takes five to six weeks, although it could also be walked in stages.

    The guide presents the route in 11 chapters, which in turn are broken into short sections of a few hours each, allowing for a flexible itinerary and easy route planning. There are also suggestions for shorter circular routes making use of sections of the GR53/GR5, as well as an overview of other long-distance routes in the region. A summary of local history, plants and wildlife and delicacies can be found in the introduction and appendices offer details of facilities on route and full accommodation listings. With clear route description and a wealth of information to help plan your trip, this comprehensive guide is an ideal companion to discovering this interesting and varied route.

  • Contents

    Why visit the Vosges and Jura?
    When to visit
    Local transport
    Food and drink
    What to take
    GR system and waymarking
    Safety and health
    Telephones and internet
    Using this guide
    The GR53 Wissembourg to Schirmeck
    Section 1 GR53 Wissembourg to Niederbronn-les-Bains
    Section 2 GR53 Niederbronn-les-Bains to Saverne
    Section 3 GR53 Saverne to Schirmeck
    The GR5 Schirmeck to Nyon
    Section 4 GR5 Schirmeck to Ribeauvillé
    Section 5 GR5 Ribeauvillé to Mittlach
    Section 6 GR5 Mittlach to Thann
    Section 7 GR5 Thann to Brévilliers
    Section 8 GR5 Brévilliers to St-Hippolyte
    Section 9 GR5 St-Hippolyte to Villers-le-Lac
    Section 10 GR5 Villers-le-Lac to Les Hôpitaux-Neufs
    Section 11 GR5 Les Hôpitaux-Neufs to Nyon
    Short walks along the GR5/GR53

    Appendix A Long distance routes in the Vosges and Jura
    Appendix B Route summary tables
    Appendix C Facilities table
    Appendix D Useful websites
    Appendix E Accommodation

  • Updates
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    May 2019

    In Section 9 of the book, the hotel at 'La Rasse' is now closed. Best alternative at present is off-route across the border in Switzerland, as mentioned in the text.
    In Section 7, there can be a problem if the Rouge Gazon hotel is closed in early season, as there are few other accommodation options. It might be worth contacting the gite at Belacker and the hotel on Ballon d'Alsace in order to get through the section.

    Thanks to David Keithlin for raising these points.

  • Reviews
    This trekking guide from Cicerone has, as usual, all the comprehensive information about long distance trails that this publishing house is well known for.

    This trekking guide from Cicerone has, as usual, all the comprehensive information about long distance trails that this publishing house is well known for. The trail itself is divided into eleven sections and there follows a useful section of short walks along the GR5/GR3, being eight in all, and varying in length from six to twelve miles.

    The route commences in the Northern Vosges Regional Park, north of Strasbourg, and finishes in the Haut-Jura Regional Park bordering Lake Geneva. The note on camping commends French sites generally, but warns that wild camping regulations vary be-tween different communes. There is the usual proviso that wild pitching, even outside restricted areas, should be discreet and away from roads and houses.

    The guide lists the relevant maps required at the beginning of each section and, help-fully, there is a list of possible stockists in the Appendix. Each of the eleven sections of the walk is divided into bite sized chunks with detailed descriptions of the route and things to note along the way. Each chunk varies between two and five miles or so and, of course, should be read in conjunction with the map. The sections seem to be between thirty and forty miles each and are accompanied by the relevant guide map in the book. An ascent chart is included at the beginning of the book.

    For those interested, there is an Appendix showing the other long distance routes in the area of the Vosges and Jura, which include the GRs 31 and 32, the GTJ and the GR 39. Other appendices give a route summary table and a facilities table together with a list of useful websites.

    The prose is easy to read and set out in a straightforward way, the route details kept separate from incidental information. The book is the normal Cicerone guide size of 12x17cm.

    Sean Putnam, Backpack

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Smith Les

Les Smith

Les lives in Perthshire, Central Scotland, with easy access to the Scottish hills. His first long distance walks were within the UK, but since then he and his wife have ventured along several of the more challenging European long distance trails.

View Articles and Books by Les Smith
Smith Elizabeth

Elizabeth Smith

Elizabeth graduated in geography many years ago, and has long enjoyed walking in the hills, whether at home in Scotland or further afield. Long-distance trails give her the opportunity to appreciate the wider context of the landscape, and the flexibility given by camping allows her to reach places away from the beaten path.

View Articles and Books by Elizabeth Smith