The best 7 national parks in France

France is a very attractive country, a region privileged by its geographical situation that gives it a great climatic and geological diversity. This variety paints a surprising natural mosaic, where many ecosystems coexist and will never cease to amaze us.

From the Alps peaks to the marshes of the Mediterranean coast, more than 20% of the country’s surface is protected by National Parks, which provide a unique opportunity for hikers to be able to be marveled by such beauty. This is only in mainland France, without taking into consideration the overseas territories.

Therefore, from Walkaholic we suggest a visit to the 7 most amazing National  Parks of France: any of them deserves by its own merit to be an unforgettable part of your life experience.

Cévennes National Park (Occitania – South of France and Auvergne)

With great geographic, climate and geological contrasts, this region of 90,000 hectares between Lozere and the department of Gard has been protected since 1970. It has 5,000 kilometers of trail to travel by foot, bicycle or on horseback.

Hiking in the National Parks of France
National Park of Cévennes / Photo by Ancalagon, License (CC BY-SA 3.0)

This park holds a Nature Festival from May to October, with more than 500 free activities to discover the natural wonders of the region. Do not forget to visit it and spend the night in its gîtes or guest houses, to recover strength after a good walking day.

Écrins National Park (Auvergne and Provence)

Declared in 1973 and located in the region between the North and South Alps, this park holds 150 summits at more than 3,000 meters above the sea level and 11,000 hectares of glaciers. Some areas are only accessible by foot, so hiking is the sport of choice, both in winter and summer.

Hiking in France Écrins National Park
National Park of Écrins (Auvergne and Provence) / Photo by CLAUDE PERSO, License (CC BY-SA 2.0)

With an abundant fauna of golden eagles, marmots and ibexes, the park also has guided excursions and places of interest such as the town of La Grave, a kilometer and a half from the Meije peak, declared one of the most beautiful places in France.

A must-see is also the Route des Savoir-Faire de l’Oisans, to understand the beauty of mountain life.

Vanoise National Park (Savoy)

Really close to Italy in the Alps, this park has the honor of being the first recognized by the French government in 1963. It stretches between the valleys of the Maurienne and the Tarentaise, and has numerous peaks above 3,000 meters.

Hiking in France Park of the Vanoise
Park of the Vanoise / Phot byClark Weber, License (CC BY-ND 2.0)

This park is also the largest ibex reserve in France, also rich in eagles, chamois, marmots and bearded vultures. With 500 kilometers of roads, hiking is the fundamental activity here.

Vanoise abounds in addition to beautiful glaciers, whose study can be spent a good time in the interpretation center Glacialis, in an old presbytery. A visit to the glaciological path of the Champagny-le-Haut valley, suitable for the whole family, is included in this visit.

For the convenience of hikers who like to go through several stages, the Park puts shelters at disposal as the refuge Le Bois Gate in Champagny-en-Vanoise. For the more experienced, they can always face the challenging Glacier´s lap of Vanoise.

Calanques National Park (Provence)

Named for the white stone mounds of the Calanques, rising from the Mediterranean Sea almost opposite Marseille, this national park stands out for the many activities that can be done on its premises.

Calanques National Park hiking France
Calanques National Park/ Photo by Imath, License (CC BY 2.0)

It is a meeting place for scuba diving, rock climbing, sea kayaking and, of course, hiking.

But hikers will prefer the path from the cove of Port-Miou to that of En-Vau. The very starting point is full of history, because in the deep waters of Port-Miou there are supposed to be more than 500 sunken ships.

From the Old Port of Marseille or from Cassis there are excursions to admire the calanques, and both places are good for spending the night. Even so, do not forget to reserve a table in a calanque to enjoy the scenery, a dip in the waters of the Mediterranean and a delicious Provencal meal.

National Park of the Pyrenees (Nouvelle-Aquitaine and Occitania – South of France)

Since 1967, this National Park protects hundreds of years old trees, glaciers, lakes, pastures, torrents and mountainous cirques that take the breath away from any nature lover.

Pic du Midi d'Ossau National Park The Pyrenees France Hiking
Pic du Midi d’Ossau / Ph Manel, License (CC BY-ND 2.0)

 

In all its extension it never descends below 1000 meters sea level, with its maximum height at 3.298 meters.

It includes a central zone, a periphery of the valleys Aspe, Ossau, Azun, Cauterets, Luz – Gavarnie and Aure and the national nature reserves of Néouvielle and Ossau, the latter famous for being a nesting place of griffon vultures. Although, the whole park is natural home  of capercaillies, chamois, marmots, bears of the Pyrenees and lammergeyer.

For those who love summer hiking, one of the most surprising routes is the GR10, which crosses the park connecting the Atlantic Ocean with the Mediterranean Sea.

Port-Cros National Park (Provence)

This protected area since 1963, between Marseille and Saint-Tropez, has as its places of interest the islands of Porquerolles and Port-Cros in the central zone, and Levant in its peripheral zone.

Hiking in France, National Park Porquerolles
Porquerolles / Photo by akunamatata, License (CC BY-ND 2.0)

It is rich in natural landscapes, which include cliffs and beaches, as well as impressive terrestrial and marine fauna and flora.

The best times of the year to visit the islands are spring and autumn. Hikers will be amazed in Porquerolles, with 51 kilometers of marked trails, while Port-Cros has the appeal of its five forts that can only be explored by foot.

Mercantour National Park of (Provence and Cote d’Azur)

Created in 1979, between the Mediterranean Sea and the Southern Alps, this National Park has olive groves, mountain pastures, larch forests and snowy peaks full of beautiful scenarios.

National Park of the Mercantour, France-Hiking
National Park of the Mercantour/ Photo by Jacques Dufrenoy, License (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Do not miss the valleys of Merveilles and Fontanalbe, where you can enjoy an outdoors prehistoric museum with more than 36,000 rock engravings from the Bronze Age.

The lodges of the Park pride themselves on their quality and promote sustainable tourism, without damaging the magnificent natural environment that surrounds them.

Of course, these 7 French Natural Parks are just some of the wonders that the Gallic country keeps for hikers. If your favorite park is not listed, we encourage you to tell us your experiences in a comment, so that the whole community benefits from your experience.

Who knows? Maybe one of these days we meet each other visiting one of these beautiful Natural Parks.

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