France is crisscrossed by thousands of miles of well-marked and maintained trails. Markings are called "blazes" and you'll see the colored stripes painted on trees or on asphalt roads.
You can walk just about anywhere in France on a path. Here are the three trail types you'll find there:
- The long paths of France are called sentiers de grande randonnee (GR followed by a number, i.e. GR 7) These can connect to international paths at the border of France, and usually traverse long distances over the entire country, border to border.
- Regional paths (GRP). There are roughly 25,000 miles of these in France. They cover regions and are marked with yellow over red blazes.
- Local paths (PR). Paths that leave from the outskirts of towns to another town or historic site, marked with a single blaze.
Maps for Walking France
The best maps for walking are provided by The Institut Géographic National (IGN), France's national survey agency.
IGN green maps (scale - 1;100,000) can be useful for planning, but you'll want to buy the very detailed the IGN 1:25,000 blue series for serious walking.
IGN maps aren't commonly available in the US. They are easily purchased in newsstands and tobacco stores in France, however. While visiting Tournon-sur-Rhone we bought the IGN blue map called Carte de Randonnee Tournon-sur-Rhone in a small shop for around 8 Euro. It was detailed enough to show all structures and trails we wanted to take, and also showed some of the names of the vineyards.
(If you are determined to get a map in advance, it seems possible to order one from the IGN web site.)
If you're a casual walker like I am, just grab an IGN Blue series map in the village you're in and take off for the countryside. There are worse ways to see France.
Note: For walking in Ireland, see check out what Hiking Ireland is like.
You'll find lots of practical information that will prepare you for your journey.