The Vosges Mountains: what to do, what to see…

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Vosges MountainsNature and Outdoor ActivitiesSporting ActivitiesMountains

Michel Hincker / Istockphoto
© Michel Hincker / Istockphoto

Reading time: 0 minPublished on 29 August 2023

Set at the heart of a remarkable area of outstanding natural beauty, the Vosges Mountains are an essential destination in the landscape of Eastern France. In addition to the superb views, this is also an adventure sports centre and an idyllic world of lakes and thatched houses. The Vosges Mountains offer superb food in a reinvigorating environment that makes it one of the most refreshing destinations in France. 

Lake Gérardmer

This sublime lake of glacial origin, perched at 666 m altitude, is the largest natural lake of the Vosges Massif. With an area of 115 hectares, its depth can reach up to 38 m. It is equipped with a marked hiking trail of 6 km. Many water activities are offered and swimming is supervised from June to September (only at the beach Union Nautique).

The blue line of the Vosges

Well known to the French, the Blue Line of the Vosges, which owes its name to Jules Ferry, represents the border between Alsace and part of Lorraine after they were conquered by the Germans in 1871. The "Blue Line" alone offers three hiking trails of seven to nine days each, with several opportunities loops of two to five days each. In addition to these trails for advanced hikers, there are 38 day trips for walkers of all levels.

Lac Blanc

This high-altitude lake of the Massif des Vosges is located in the municipality of Orbey. The name "The White Lake" comes from the color of the very light sand that lines the bottom. Situated at an altitude of 1055 meters (3,065 feet) at the bottom of a natural glacier, the lake is surrounded by enormous rocks (the most famous hewn into the form of a fortress called Hans Castle) and a fragrant pine forest. A statue of the Virgin perched on Hans Castle stands guard over the lake.

The Haut-Koenigsbourg castle

Visible from afar, the characteristic silhouette of this 12th century medieval castle, fully restored, has reigned over the Alsatian landscape for nearly 900 years. At an altitude of 757 meters (2,171 feet), in the heart of the Vosges forest, the château dominates the wine route, offering a breathtaking panorama of the plain of Alsace, the valleys and swells of the Vosges, the Black Forest and the Alps (when the weather is clear). The interior of the Haut-Koenigsbourg Castle transports you back to the Middle Ages: towers, bastions, dungeon, harrow and drawbridge, all is fit for a king.

The Merelle observatory

You need to boast a lion's heart (and not to suffer from vertigo) to conquer this superb (and quite physical) hike starting from the lake of Gérardmer. The tower—which only 4 people at a time can climb—casts a splendid panorama of the lake. The descent is also worth the price of admission, with waterfalls cascading in the background.

The must-dos of your trip to the Vosges Mountains

• Immersive Nature Camping: Set up camp within the breathtaking landscapes of the Ballons des Vosges Nature Park. This park is a haven for nature enthusiasts, with lush forests, pristine lakes, and diverse wildlife. After a day of exploring the park's trails and observing its natural wonders, you can retreat to an eco-friendly gîte for the night. These eco-gîtes are designed to minimize environmental impact while providing a comfortable and unique lodging experience.

• Nordic Skiing in Ventron: Ventron, a charming village in the Vosges Mountains, is a paradise for Nordic skiing enthusiasts. The area boasts well-groomed cross-country skiing trails that wind through picturesque forests and snow-covered meadows. Whether you're a beginner or an experienced skier, Ventron offers a perfect setting to glide through the winter wonderland.

• Balneotherapy Spa in Ribeauvillé: Ribeauvillé is renowned for its warm water springs, making it an ideal destination to recharge your body and mind. At the balneotherapy spa, you can immerse yourself in soothing thermal waters, which are believed to have therapeutic properties. Indulge in various spa treatments, including massages and hydrotherapy, to truly unwind and rejuvenate.

• Panoramic Views from Spitzkopf: Hiking to the summit of Spitzkopf rewards you with breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. Gaze upon rolling hills, dense forests, and perhaps catch a glimpse of the picturesque villages nestled below. It's an awe-inspiring experience for nature and photography enthusiasts alike.

• Extreme Canyoning in Seebach: If you're an adventure seeker, don't miss the opportunity to go extreme canyoning in Seebach. Descend through narrow canyons, rappel down waterfalls, and navigate challenging natural water slides. This thrilling activity promises an adrenaline rush like no other.

Paragliding above Treh-Markstein: Soar like a bird and enjoy a bird's-eye view of the stunning Vosges Mountains by paragliding above Treh-Markstein. With experienced instructors and modern equipment, this adventure offers both exhilaration and serenity as you float above the landscape.

• Snowshoe Trek at Lac Blanc Ski Resort: Lace up your snowshoes and embark on a trek through the pristine winter landscape of Lac Blanc ski resort. This activity allows you to connect with nature in a peaceful and meditative way, as you explore snow-covered trails and enjoy the tranquility of the snowy forest.

• Ice Climbing with Axes and Crampons: For the ultimate winter challenge, try your hand at ice climbing. Armed with ice axes and crampons, you can ascend sheer ice walls in the Vosges Mountains. It's a physically demanding yet rewarding adventure for experienced climbers seeking a unique thrill.

• Jardin de Berchigranges: Find solace and inspiration in the Jardin de Berchigranges. This meticulously designed garden is a sanctuary of beauty and tranquility. Stroll through lush gardens, admire colorful blooms, and take a moment to reflect amidst the serenity of this hidden gem.

• Spa Retreat in Plombières-les-Bains: Plombières-les-Bains is known for its historic spa resorts. Treat yourself to a spa day that includes various treatments such as massages, facials, and mineral baths. Reconnect with your inner self and emerge refreshed, rejuvenated, and ready to explore more of the region.

Roam through the natural park of Ballons des Vosges

Lovers of nature and wide open spaces will be at home in this immense territory, created in 1989 by the initiative of the Grand Est and Bourgogne Franche-Comté regions. The park includes 198 municipalities spread over four departments: Vosges, Haut-Rhin, Territoire de Belfort and Haute-Saône. It covers 2921 square kilometers (1128 square miles), from the valley of Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines to the gates of Belfort and Luxeuil-les-Bains. A key player in the preservation of heritage, the Ballons des Vosges Regional Nature Park also contributes to the economic dynamism of this mid-altitude territory.

Cross-country skiing fans: head for Ventron

At the gates of Alsace in the heart of the Massif Vosgien, discover Ventron, a small family resort of stunning greenery at 640 meters (3000 feet) of altitude. The ski resort "Ermitage Frère Joseph," located 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) from the city center, offers more than 120 kilometers (74 miles) of trails marked by the Club Vosgien. From the family-friendly walk (La Cascade du Cuisinier and Ermitage Frère Joseph ski resort) to more advanced hiking trails, there is something for everyone here!

Relax at a warm-water spa in Ribeauvillé

Between a few days of natural exploration and physical activities in the Massif des Vosges, come take a break at a warm water spa in Ribeauvillé and take advantage of relaxing in full view of the surrounding châteaux. With two interior and one exterior pool at 34°C (93°F), five well-being cabins, a hammam, sauna, jacuzzi and solarium, the spa was designed to let in as much light and feeling of the surrounding environment as possible.

Reach the heights of the Spitzkoepfe

Experienced mountaineers can access the natural climbing site "Spitzkoepfe" by road at Metzeral. This unaccompanied and unequipped adventure playground is composed of granite ridges and has only a few rings. This climb is only accessible to experienced mountaineers, but the rewards are worth the effort: a jaw-dropping view of Lake Fischboedlé. Warning: check the weather before embarking.

Stretch your paragliding wings above the Treh-Markstein

If rock-climbing has not satisfied your search for thrills and breathtaking views of the Vosges mountains, you can also admire lakes and mountains from the air during a paragliding flight. Local free flight schools offer a variety of starting options, including discovery flights, two-seater runs and introductory courses. It's a bucket-list view of the Hautes-Vosges of Alsace!

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