In the Hauts-de-France it couldn’t be easier to explore, enjoy the peace of nature, reconnect with yourself and forget the daily grind. If you’re not quite sure where to start, here are some ideas to get you out and about.
The Hauts-de-France region has around 112,000 miles (180,000km) of signed and maintained paths. The Grande Randonnée (GR), the Grande Randonnée de Pays (GRP) and the Promenade et Randonnée (PR) long distance routes in particular showcase this hikers’ paradise. There is something here for all abilities – from Flanders’ incredible network of clear markers and waypoints to the GR120 which runs along the coast between Bray-Dunes and Mers-les-Bains. Walk through expanses of forest and 5 regional nature reserves, stroll among remnants of the mining era and the slag heaps of Bassin Minier. It’s easy to discover Hauts-de France step by step!
Then the GR120 is a perfect match with its 176 miles (284km) of paths that follow beaches via the Customs Officer’s path. The Dunes de Slack comprise one of the largest areas of dunes in Pas-de-Calais, close to Les Deux-Caps, where you can walk among pine forests, reed beds and the foreshore. A bit further to the south, between the Somme bay and Marquenterre, get reacquainted with your five senses by taking a night hike with Maxim, a nature guide and Caroline, a sophrologist. Experience a blend of exploration and deep breathing surrounded by the calm and relaxing bay.
Wimereux - Dunes de la Slack © Hauts-de-France Tourisme Stéphane Bouilland
The Mont des Cats, the Mont de Boeschèpe, the Mont Kokereel… To make the most of your walk, take the “points-noeuds” network (walking nodes’ network with red signs) that will take you along “estaminets” (small Flemish-style restaurants) and hop fields!
Compiègne - Beaux Monts Alley © Hauts-de-France Tourisme - Jean-Luc Verbrugghe
If you yearn for large expanses of green canopy, you can find numerous forest walks in this region. Try the Compiègne area for a hike among 37,000 acres (15,000 hectares) – including parks steeped in French royal tradition – or perhaps the local mineral waters of Raismes and Saint-Amand could be just the tonic. Listen to roaring stags in the autumnal forest of Mormal, discover the Royal Chantilly or Ermenonville – places that provided inspiration for the influential philosopher, writer and composer Rousseau and his “Reveries of the Solitary Walker”.
Raismes - Saint-Amand Forest - Wallers © Hauts-de-France Tourisme Sébastien Jarry
The Hauts-de-France is dotted with cafés-rando, or walkers’ cafes. They offer hikers and other passing tourists the chance to take a gourmet break while at the same time meeting other walkers to discuss routes and adventures. There are more than 70 welcome stops like this where you can stop, meet new friends and refresh.
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