5 spectacular French national parks to visit

5 spectacular French national parks to visit

by Stacy Roman
Stripes Europe

Synonymous with the glamour of Paris and rolling vineyards through Epernay and Alsace, there is no shortage of fantastic sights to see in France. For nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts, a stop at one of the French National Parks should definitely be on your list. Grab your hiking boots and get ready to explore these five amazing spots.

Calanques National Park. Just south of Marseille is a pristine coastline embedded with limestone cliffs and outcroppings. Calanques National Park boasts plenty of craggy inlets and hidden coves. Picture-perfect vistas offer a glimpse of turquoise waters and wildlife. During the summer season, the park is closed to vehicular traffic due to an increased risk of fire danger. Plan a visit for early spring or fall to take advantage of good weather and lower visitor numbers.

Fôrets National Park. The newest addition to the park system in 2019, Fôrets National Park crosses into both the Champagne and Burgundy regions in northeastern France. As its name suggests (“fôrets” is French for forests), this huge swath of protected land covers a dizzying array of trees and forests and is also one of the largest national parks in Europe. More than 2,000 kilometers of trails and paths wind their way through towering trees and bubbling brooks.

Port-Cros National Park. As a small archipelago along the French Riviera between Marseille and Cannes, this park is a great day trip option. The park encompasses two primary islands – Port-Cros and Porquerolles. A plethora of hiking trails outline the pirating past of Port-Cros, while paths lead through the isolating and peaceful wetlands of Porquerolles. Crystal-clear azure waters teeming with sea life extend 600 meters from the beaches and are protected by the national park designation.

Pyrénées National Park. This breathtaking national park is located in the central Pyrenees along the Spanish border and is adjacent to Parque Nacional de Ordesa y Monte Perdido on the Spanish side. Steep mountain cliffs lend themselves to roaring, tumbling waterfalls. Perfect for outdoor adventures year-round, both hikers and skiers will delight. Be sure to hop on the Petit Train d’Artouste. This vintage cable car was once ferried workers to the hydroelectric dam on Lake Artouste nearby. The six-mile journey takes you on a perilously narrow trek on one of Europe’s highest railways.

Vanoise National Park. Designated in July 1963, the original French national park is situated in southeastern France near the Italian border. Vanoise National Park is comprised of immense massifs piercing the sky. The sheer cliffs peer down into the deep valleys carved by glacial rivers running between them. With more than 1,000 documented species residing in the park, it’s easy to spot marmots, lynxes and wolves.

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