Highlight

The Most Spectacular and Challenging Running Trails in Southern France

by On May 12, 2017

The most incredible and challenging French running trails are located in the mountainous regions of southern France. Although there are thousands of trails to choose from, ranging in distance and difficulty levels, the majority of the trails are extremely difficult

The Most Spectacular and Challenging Running Trails in Southern France

The five regions with the best selection of running trails in Southern France are Aquitaine, Languedoc-Roussillon, Rhône-Alpes, Midi-Pyrénénees and Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur. All regions include small villages rich in medieval history, architecture, art and culture. Mountain running trails in these regions will take you through lush forested valleys leading to snow-packed mountain peaks.

If you are planning a trail running excursion to Southern France, it is best if you plan your running itinerary well in advance. Although the Alpes and Pyrénénees cover a large distance, each region is easily accessible by train. A rental car will provide you with more flexibility when visiting small villages in the regions.

IBARDIN – PENAS DE HAYA (3 Couronnes) en Boucle

The Most Spectacular and Challenging Running Trails in Southern France

Photo Credit: wlaps.com

Distance: 30.223 km
Difficulty Level: Difficult
Location: Near Ollette, Aquitaine
Attractions: Ollette, a small village rich in medieval history is home to some of the best vineyards in the area. Be sure to sample Bordeaux wines, especially Médoc and Saint-Emilion, which can be found in local restaurants and wine shops.

GT-Circular zona Midi

The Most Spectacular and Challenging Running Trails in Southern France

Photo Credit: 123RF

Distance: 46.236 km
Difficulty Level: Difficult
Location: Near Borce, Aquitaine
Attractions: Borce is a small village close to Bayonne, along the Basque coast. Medieval cathedrals and more than 1,000 chȃteaus are located in the area.

Maratá del Capcir

The Most Spectacular and Challenging Running Trails in Southern France

Photo Credit: 123RF

Distance: 41.457 km
Difficulty Level: Difficult
Location: Near Les Angles, Languedoc-Roussillon
Attractions: Les Angles is the beginning point for several steep and rugged running trails coursing through the region. This trail has steep inclines and very narrow paths. Be cautious of damp conditions on the valley floor caused by melting snow and ice.

Thués-Entre-Valls-Gorges de la Carança-Estanys de Carança-Thués-Entre-Valls

The Most Spectacular and Challenging Running Trails in Southern France

Photo Credit: Fran Izquierdo

Distance: 33.989 km
Difficulty Level: Moderate
Location: Near Thués-Entre-Valls, Languedoc-Roussillon
Attractions: One of the easier trails in the region, you will be able to run at a moderate pace while exploring the wonders of nature including waterfalls and fresh mountain streams. After running the trail, you may relax in one of the many outdoor restaurants in the small village. Several small hotels and hostels are also located close by.

Also read:  How Not To Run A Marathon: 10 Tips You Won't Read Elsewhere!

GAVARNIE-GRAND TOUR DU MONT PERDU

The Most Spectacular and Challenging Running Trails in Southern France

Photo Credit: 123RF

Distance: 43.999 km
Difficulty Level: Very difficult
Location: Near Gavarnie, Midi-Pyrénénees
Attractions: This winding, steep and narrow trail starts in the valley floor and leads to Mont Perdu, known in English as the “Lost Mountain.” The small village of Gavarnie is the starting point for multiple trails in the area. The charm and culture of region can be found in local restaurants, hotels and historic sites.

Gavarnie, Soques Por la cima del Vignamale

The Most Spectacular and Challenging Running Trails in Southern France

Photo Credit: 123RF

Distance: 51.740 km
Difficulty Level: Very difficult
Location: Near Gavarnie, Midi- Pyrénénees
Attractions: Another spectacular trail beginning in Gavarnie, you will run through lush valleys before ascending high mountain peaks. You will have panoramic views of unique flora and fauna, as well as wildlife indigenous to the region. A relaxing meal and a glass of wine from one of the local restaurants will be a welcome treat after your challenging trail run.

Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc

The Most Spectacular and Challenging Running Trails in Southern France

Photo Credit: Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc

Distance: 165.39 km
Difficulty Level: Experts only
Location: Near Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, Rhône-Alpes
Attractions: Chamonix is one of the most breathtaking areas in Southern France. Although this running trail is among one of the most difficult, there are hundreds of trails beginning in the town of Chamonix and leading to the snow-capped and icy peaks of the French Alps.

Chamonix-Arolla (Haute Route) in 3 stages

The Most Spectacular and Challenging Running Trails in Southern France

Photo Credit: 123RF

Distance: 90.365 km
Difficulty Level: Difficult
Location: Near Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, Rhône-Alpes
Attractions: After negotiating this difficult incline-trail, take time to tour the village of Chamonix, the oldest ski resort in France. Multiple running trails of varying distances and degrees of difficulty begin in Chamonix. Most trails are rated for experienced runners due to the steep inclines and snow encrusted surfaces.

Tour de Caire Gros depuis Saint Martin Vésuble

The Most Spectacular and Challenging Running Trails in Southern France

Photo Credit: Desdanova

Distance: 32.026 km
Difficulty Level: Difficult
Location: Near Saint-Martin-Vésubie, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur
Attractions: This small village is a starting point for visits to Arles, Avignon, Cannes, Nice and the French Riviera. Many local restaurants feature fresh seafood, along with exquisite Bordeaux wines. As several running trails originate from the village, maps are available in most local establishments.

Also read:  Want to Make History? Take Part in the 10th Singapore Sundown Marathon

Gourdon-Voie romaine – Colle des Rouges – Plateau de Vavillere – Gourdon

The Most Spectacular and Challenging Running Trails in Southern France

Photo Credit: 123RF

Distance: 17.751 km
Difficulty Level: Moderate
Location: Near Gourdon, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur
Attractions: Gourdon, a charming town, is the starting point of close to 50 running trails in the area. Several small hotels and local restaurants cater for runners and tourists alike. Gourdon is a short bus ride from the historic village of Vence, which is a mere 20 km from Nice.

Great Places to Visit in Southern France

Aquitaine

The Most Spectacular and Challenging Running Trails in Southern France

Photo Credit: 123RF

Situated along the Atlantic Ocean and the Pyrénénees, Aquitaine is the former home of a kingdom and duchy established during the middle ages. Bordeaux, the capital of the region, is known as one of the finest wine countries in the world. Running trails are accessible from Pessac and Bayonne.

The most notable areas in the Aquitaine include Saint-Jean-de-Luz, Biarritz and prehistoric caves in the Dordogne region. Les Grottes des Lascaux, discovered by a group of young boys in 1940 features prehistoric drawings and paintings on cave walls.

Languedoc-Roussillon

The Most Spectacular and Challenging Running Trails in Southern France

Photo Credit: Chensiyuan

The Languedoc region includes cities of Narbonne, Nimes and Perpignan. The area spans a large coastal area surrounded by sandy beaches and four-star resorts. The Valleys of the Cervannes include wooded rural running trails with breathtaking views of the coastline and surrounding mountains. One of the notable attractions is Carcassonne, a fortified walled city built in the medieval era. The city, built within massive stone walls is home to an exquisite Gothic cathedral. Within the city itself, narrow streets and passageways lead you to local shops, intimate restaurants and unique hotels.

Midi-Pyrénénees

The Most Spectacular and Challenging Running Trails in Southern France

Photo Credit: 123RF

A trail running experience in this region would not be complete without a visit to Cahors, the heart of French wine country. Built during the middle ages, the small city is home to the Valentré Bridge the Tower of Pope John XXII and the Arc de Diane, remnants of ancient Roman baths.

Also read:  A Trail Runners Guide to Five Dangerous Animals in Malaysia

You must visit Lourdes, the most famous religious pilgrimages in the world. Once a small village, Lourdes has been transformed into a city visited by close to five million tourists and pilgrims annually. Situated in the foothills of the Alps, Lourdes is a sacred Catholic shrine, known as a sanctuary for miraculous healing. According to local history, Marie-Bernadette Soubirous was visited by the Virgin Mary on at least 18 occasions in 1858.

Rhône-Alpes

The Most Spectacular and Challenging Running Trails in Southern France

Photo Credit: 123RF

After running the difficult trails in this region, you must spend time exploring the charming resort city of Chamonix, which borders France and Italy. Chamonix is home to hundreds of running trails of varying distances and difficulty levels. As you will be running in incredibly steep terrain, make sure to take time to ride the cable car lift to the Aiguille de Midi to view the highest mountains in Europe. The famous restaurant at the top of the Brévent cable station features traditional French cuisine and the best wines of the region. Be sure to visit the Mer de Glace, the infamous ice cave built from the largest glacier in France.

Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur

The Most Spectacular and Challenging Running Trails in Southern France

Photo Credit: 123RF

Spanning the coastline of the French Riviera, this region is close to Italy. Significant cities and villages in the area include Aix-en-Provence, the former papal territory of Avignon, Arles, Nice and the remote village of Vence.

Try Trail Running in France

It is impossible to provide a list of the most incredible and challenging running trails in the South of France. There are thousands of trails to choose from. Before you start your trail running vacation, be sure to map your trails methodically and carefully so you will be able to experience the best mountainous trails in Western Europe.

When selecting your trails, be sure to allow sufficient time to visit the sites in the region. Most noteworthy visitor sites in the regions are accessible by train.

After exhausting as many running trails as you can handle in each region, you should take at least a couple of days to explore the countryside, local villages, medieval architecture and religious shrines.

Vicky Lauran is an Australian competitive athlete who is always trying to push herself to the limit. A certified holistic life coach, she also has 8 years' experience as a power yoga instructor and holds a degree in sport science. She loves bringing what she knows and learns to the community through this magazine and hopes to help everyone to the road to happiness.

Location
Singapore
No. of Posts
20
Join the Discussion