How to choose a hiking route in France

The beautiful days are back and after weeks of confinement, you have only one desire: to find your ideal hiking route to reconnect with the great outdoors. US too ! But as you know, a savvy hiker is worth two dollars so here is some advice before you set out on the peaks and lakes.

T1 or T5? Choose the level of hiking that suits you.

            Going on a hike is good. Going on the right hike is better. To avoid the disappointments of a too easy hike made for a family ” after the meal, with the parents, the young children and the dog running in the direction  ” as one of my guides said, it’s good to choose a hike that suits you.

Mountain rating - Long hike difficulty
Example of a T3 passage – Choose your hiking route

            Here, we will talk about the most common quotation and that we find on Whympr , that going from T1 to T5. The Fédération Française de la Randonnée Pédestre offers a different rating of the routes but less frequently encountered.

T1 – Hiking: the trail is very well marked from start to finish, the terrain is flat, the risk of falling is excluded. Orientation is not a problem. The exit can be done hiking shoes.

T2 – Mountain hike: the route is not interrupted but the risk of falling is not excluded because the terrain can sometimes be steep. It is recommended to wear hiking boots and have the basics in terms of orientation.

T3 – Challenging mountain hike: The route can experience interruptions, you may have to look for it, like here . Some passages can be exposed and may require the help of the hands (lifeline). You can come across some snowfields (easy to cross) and exposed scree with risk of falling. High-top mountain shoes compulsory to ensure a safe ascent and descent. Having the habit of reading terrain and recognizing stable and unstable rock is a plus. If this is your first hike, go with a local!

T4 – Alpine hike: the route is interrupted several times and the terrain is quite exposed. You will come across steep slopes for which you will have to come well equipped: rigid shoes are strongly recommended. Pay attention to your route on the way up so as not to waste time in the event of an urgent descent if the weather catches you by surprise.

T5 – Challenging alpine hike: markings are becoming increasingly rare and you will spend more time off-trail than on a defined trail. The terrain is exposed and steep, you will come across sloping rocks. If you are prone to vertigo , do not venture there because some passages are easy climbing (2 or 3 maximum). In terms of equipment, tie-in is not necessary but be sure to take crampons. There is a risk of falling – especially in crevasses – and avalanches.

Red, white, yellow: the markup of a hiking trail.

Once you’ve chosen your difficulty, you need to know how to recognize the markup to be sure you don’t get lost.

Hiking route sign - find your way in the mountains
Example of a long-distance hiking trail – GR

GR, GRP, PR: what’s the difference?

            The best known white and red symbol is that of the GR, which means long-distance hiking route . It marks outings that can last from several days to several weeks, taking you from one region to another. Among the most famous, we find the GR 20 which takes you through Corsica or the GR 5 , which takes you from the North Sea to the Mediterranean via the Grande Traversée des Alpes .

            Yellow and red are the colors of a GRP, the great country hike . GRP trails are generally shorter than GR and guide you within the same region.

            A simple yellow line marks a walking and hiking route (PR). Identified by a name and a number, it will take you on small local loops.

            In all cases, the logic of the signage remains the same: if the markup is horizontal, you are on the right track. When there is a cross, you are going in the wrong direction. You will find these markings on panels or painted on trees, rocks, walls of shelters and sheepfolds… so keep an eye out!

            Fairly obviously a PR trail will be easier than a GR but that doesn’t mean you won’t find a GR trail for beginners.

Now that you know the rating and the difference between the different trails, you have to ask yourself the question of the duration of your outing to properly prepare your bag!

A few hours, a day or more: adapt your bag!

            If you are a seasoned hiker this will only be a reminder, if you are new to hiking, do not skip this section!

            Whether it’s half a day or a full day, we can’t say it enough, don’t forget your water, if only for a three hour trip. It may be your first hike but certainly not your first physical effort: you know your usual water consumption. Assume that it will be more important in the mountains, between heat, effort and perspiration, your body will need to hydrate regularly. For a few hours, plan to have at least two liters of water: as long as the drop is intense and exposed to the sun in midsummer sweating could play tricks on you.

Camelbak-type water bottles or bags, it’s up to you to decide what is most comfortable for you. Find out about drinking water points before you go, especially for a long day trip.

            The effort in the mountains will also draw on your sugar reserves, you will want to provide yourself with hiking food. So make sure you have granola bars, dried fruit or chocolate (preferably dark) on hand. Ask the hikers around you: they must have already felt the immediate effect of fast sugars when a climb started to get difficult.

            For lunch, avoid foods that are too salty (such as crisps): they will quickly make you thirsty and will not hold your stomach. Choose tomatoes, apples and a pasta salad prepared the day before: you will hydrate yourself and fill up on slow sugars.

            Finally, the weather . An easy hike can quickly become very complicated in rain and thunderstorms. The weather can change very quickly and you better be prepared: take a windbreaker to stay dry during the downpour.

2L of water, a picnic and groceries, a dry clothing, a windbreaker, a small first aid kit, a charged phone and a good mood: everything fits easily in a 30L bag .

For outings over several days, we will soon write an article devoted to treks: equipment and preparation whether for one night or more.

            The hike should be fun so go at your own pace and don’t be afraid to turn around. Whether you don’t feel good or you have misjudged the effort, feel free to come home. The mountain will always be there, whether it’s the next day or the next year.

Remember to warn relatives or neighbors before leaving and inform them of a return time slot. Risk always exists in the mountains, be careful. You can find here our article on good mountain practices.