About Hiking in Provence
Provence is a truly beautiful place to head out for a walk or hike. With the abundance of walking and hiking trails you can pop your shoes on and head out to explore the coastline, vineyards or mountain peaks, the choice is endless.
The beautiful scenery and breath-taking views, the (usually) beautiful sunshine and blue skies providing excellent weather and the well maintained footpaths and signposts will show you on your way, making a walk or hike in Provence a lovely experience. You can include a coastline in your walk, some historical monuments or do a tour of some of the prettiest villages.
Walking and hiking in Provence gets more and more popular each year but you will still find that the trails are quiet and sometimes you may feel like you have the route and beautiful views to yourself, with only the wildlife around. There really is so much to offer walkers and there are routes suitable for beginners right through to more advanced walkers.
The huge Provence area means you can always experience something new, with different views or terrain, on your walk or hike. Heading up into the mountains of Mont Ventoux, Luberon, Verdon or the Alpilles you can challenge yourself to a mountain hike. Alternatively you can go for gentle walk in Aix en Provence, Avignon, Arles, and Saint Remy de Provence, or explore the small and quaint Provencal villages and vineyards. There is simply something for everyone to enjoy.
The best time of year to hike in Provence is spring, or at the end of the summer season into autumn, when the temperatures are cooler and the crowds have started to disappear. Spring is a great time to go for a hike as the wildlife really comes alive, flowers bloom and the landscape takes on a striking greenery. Winter is also a good time to set off on a hike as the cooling temperatures mean you can tackle something slightly more challenging. Summer tends to be extremely warm and dry, with some hiking routes closing due to fire risk. If you do want to go on a hike in the summer then set off early in the morning when it is cooler, take lots of water and refreshments, and choose a shaded route.
Walking trails & routes
We have compiled a list of hiking routes, ranging from very gentle village walks, to walks where you can enjoy the coastline and the more challenging mountain hiking trails. The paths are normally very well sign posted and well maintained so you can set off on a number of trails feeling safe. Check out our Hiking Routes page for detailed routes and information.
The Federation Francaise de la Randonnee Pedestre are the official body who make sure all the paths and trails are well maintained, signposted and safe, ensuring that you can enjoy your walk or hike whilst being as safe as possible. Despite the excellent upkeep of trails and signposts sometimes vegetation covers markings, paint may fade and there may be long stretches where there are no signposts at all. It is always worth having a good map, to make sure you follow the signposts and that you do not trespass on private property.
There are different types of trails in France that are marked with different colours on trails and maps so it is worth being aware of these before embarking on a walk or hike. The national trails (GR trails) 'Sentier de Grande Randonnee' are the long distance system of hiking trails and are marked with red and white. Another is the 'Sentier de Grande Randonnee de Pays' (GRP) that are regional long distance trails and are marked in yellow and red. Local trails tend to be shorter walks or day walks called 'Les Sentiers de Petite Randonnee et de Promenade' (PR) and are indicated usually by yellow but can be seen in other colours if there are an abundance of them.
Also see: Walking Routes in Provence
National parks routes
The national park and mountains in the Luberon regional park are a fantastic place to go for a hike or walk. Expanding across a large area (155,000 acres) and created in 1977 the park is protected, preventing more tourist development and presrving the historic villages. In the north part of the park you will find the wild and high mountains and Vaucluse hills, and in the south you will find the beautiful Grand and Petit Luberon mountains, with oak and pine covered hillsides.
Inside the Luberon valley you get the historic villages which have been preserved due to poor soil and poverty leading to migration to the cities, keeping the villages in stunning historical condition. As well as the wonderful lavender fields, vineyards and cherry orchards that you can explore.
Parc Naturel regional du Verdon
Another amazing Nature park, protected since 1994, it covers 180,000 hectares of land and includes some of the most beautiful landscape and scenery in Provence. Made up of the Verdon canyons, Gorges du Verdon and 5 artifical lakes created by EDF along the Verdon rivers. The spectacular Gorges du Verdon are natural canyons that have been formed by the river Verdon breaking down the limestone rock throughout the years providing stunning landscape and dramatic scenery, making it a great place to set off on a hike or walk. A diverse range of flora and fauna can be explored and discovered across the expanse of this natural park, whilst from the mountain peaks you can look out over the stunning views of vineyards, villages and Provencal landscape.
Mont Ventoux is the highest mountain point in Provence with the summit reaching 1912m. Located in the north from the Parc Naturel regional du Luberon, this mountain peak is the highest in the range of wild northern hills and is visible from much of the surrounding countryside and afar. Also known as 'The Bald Mountain' due to the lack of trees or vegetation on the top of the peak, and is often compared with the landscape of the moon. From the top of the you can experience the beautiful views over the alps including views of Mont Blanc, the Ecrins and more. A range of trails running in all different directions makes this mountain a hikers dream. With snow on the peak in the winter, until summer hits, and the cherry blossom beginning to bloom in April Mont Ventoux is a truly wonderful place to explore.
Provence Cities & Towns
Provence has a number of exceptionally beautiful, historical and interesting cities. Including the bigger cities and towns of Avignon, Aix en Provence, Arles, Saint-Remy de Provence and a whole range of smaller villages. The history and past of the cities can be seen in the architecture, the buildings and much more. Any walk or stroll around these cities are sure to make for an interesting tour. Try a walk around Saint Remy de Provence located in the heart of the Alpilles you can explore the Roman village located on an old archeological site, or walk around Avignon exploring the Palaos des Papes or Pont Sain Benezet the possibilities for city and town walks are endless in Provence.
Also see: Nature Parks in Provence
Although the footpaths are very well maintained and signposted, you should always exercise caution when venturing into nature.
Before you embark on any activities in Provence you should remember that you are likely to encounter more rugged terrain than you are used to at home. For that reason it is particularly recommended that you:
- Are as physically fit as possible - Ensure you are fully aware of your limitations and of those accompanying you (children and elderly people).
- Are appropriately equipped - Choose sturdy footwear with ankle support, warm, water repellent clothing (even if the sun’s been beating down for days), sun cream, sunglasses, map, plenty water, food and snacks, first aid kit....
- Check your itinerary with the Tourist Office - Even the easiest and best marked trails can present unexpected hazards such as rock slides.
- Allow plenty time for your chosen route - Additionally, leave an extra margin in case of incident. Let someone know where you are going and when you expect to be back. Nightfall may take you by surprise so it is wise to carry a flashlight.
- Stay on the marked trails - This is especially important on steep slopes or precipices. Never take short cuts as doing so causes erosion, channelling the rain water and resulting in deterioration of the trails that are so hard to maintain.
- Check the weather forecast - It is always advisable to check the weather forecast before setting off as this can greatly affect your walk or hike.
- Respect the environment - The surroundings here are breathtakingly beautiful but the balance of nature is very fragile. In order to maintain the beauty of Provence; don’t light fires, ensure you take your rubbish with you, leave the flowers for others to admire and avoid making excessive noise that may disturb the wildlife.
- Ensure your dog is kept on a lead where necessary - Look out for signs requesting that you keep your dog on a lead. Some areas are prohibited to dogs altogether. which is done to protect local wildlife.