Lac Vert photo courtesy of Chamonix-Mont-Blanc Tourism Office
Crisp, cool autumn air makes for prime hiking conditions. And, not to mention, the colors cast over the mountains at this time of year make for immaculate views. The country’s diverse landscapes, from towering peaks to enchanting forests, provide the perfect backdrop for an unforgettable experience.
While France is a year-round destination for outdoor enthusiasts, there’s something special about lacing up your hiking boots and hitting the trails during this captivating season. Here are ten of the best places to hike in France in fall, each with its unique charm.
1. Mont Blanc Circuit
The Mont Blanc Circuit is a crown jewel among European hiking destinations. This iconic trek encircles Western Europe’s highest mountain, Mont Blanc, showcasing the breathtaking landscapes of France, Italy, and Switzerland. The vivid contrast between the snow-capped peaks and the golden forests that surround them is nothing short of enchanting.
2. Chamonix Valley
Chamonix Valley, nestled beneath the massive Mont Blanc, offers a plethora of hiking trails filled with stunning alpine scenery that are particularly mesmerizing in the fall. The vivid autumn colors highlight the charming chalets and quaint villages that dot the landscape, creating a picture-perfect hiking experience.
3. Fontainebleau Forest
Just a short drive or train ride from Paris, Fontainebleau Forest is a tranquil haven for those looking to escape the city for a moment. This enchanting woodland comes alive in autumn with a dazzling array of colors. Oak, beech, and chestnut trees dominate the landscape, creating a magical tapestry of reds, oranges, and yellows. The forest is also dotted with boulders, making it a paradise for both hikers and rock climbers as well.
4. Creuse Forests
Located in the Limousin region, the Creuse Forests are an unspoiled treasure. As autumn unfolds, these ancient woodlands become a symphony of rustling leaves, with their vibrant hues contrasting with green coniferous trees reflected in the still waters of numerous ponds and lakes. Plus, keep an eye out for nuts and mushrooms to forage along the way…
5. Via Podiensis
For those seeking a spiritual connection with nature, the Via Podiensis, part of the Camino de Santiago, is the way to go. The trail stretches from Le Puy-en-Velay to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, taking visitors and pilgrims through diverse landscapes, charming villages, and historical sites. The autumn months provide a serene journey along the pilgrimage route, providing a calming backdrop for introspection and reflection.
6. Aspe Valley
Nestled in the Pyrenees, the Aspe Valley hike consists of mountain vistas, tranquil meadows, and charming stone villages. In the fall, the valley is bathed in a warm, golden light that makes every step a captivating adventure. Daredevils, be sure to explore the Chemin de la Mature, a trail carved into the mountainside that provides stunning panoramic views.
7. Lac Blanc via the Massif des Aiguilles Rouges
The path to Lac Blanc via the Massif des Aiguilles Rouges takes hikers through lush alpine meadows that transform into a symphony of autumnal colors opposite Mont Blanc. The pièce de résistance is the turquoise waters of the lake which reflect the vivid hues of the surrounding trees, creating a surreal scene.
8. Lac Vert in Passy Haute-Savoie
Lac Vert is a hidden gem, and a must-visit destination for easy hiking in the Haute-Savoie region. The lake is aptly named for the stunning waters that reflect the emerald-green color of the surrounding trees. As autumn takes hold, the forest transforms into a kaleidoscope of warm hues, casting a rainbow of reflections on the calm, mirror-like surface of the water.
9. Dent d’Orlu via the Massif du Vercors
The Dent d’Orlu trail through the Massif du Vercours is a popular hike in the Alps that takes visitors through pristine alpine meadows. In autumn, the landscape is transformed into a striking palette of deep reds and vibrant oranges, awarding hikers with well-deserved views during a challenging trek – particularly for those experienced climbers who decide to brave the demanding ascent to the peak.
10. Lac du Crozet via the Massif de Belledonne
The Massif de Belledonne, also located in the French Alps, is a stunning sight that was a former shepherd’s path. The trail leading to the serene Lac du Crozet winds through lush, green meadows that gradually give way to a spectacle of fall foliage in later months. This hike provides a breathtaking, almost surreal atmosphere.
Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or a casual stroller, these ten destinations offer unique and enchanting experiences to indulge in towering alpine peaks and serene woodlands. Next time you’re in France at this time of year, consider lacing up your hiking boots, grabbing your camera, and prepare to be captivated by the extraordinary beauty of autumn on the trails.