Some points of reference before you start
It will take around 20 days if you want to cover the entire Grande Traversée des Vosges at once. But rest assured, this hike can be easily adapted to shorter hikes or day trips. The 19 stages are accessible from any of the 10 TGV stations or 15 bus lines that mark out the route.
Since 2019, the Grande Traversée des Vosges à pied (on foot) has been certified as one of the Leading Quality Trails - Best of Europe. This label guarantees hikers a successful experience, especially thanks to the specialist infrastructure. Across its 430km, the Grande Traversée des Vosges offers hikers all the beauty and richness of the Vosges, in a mosaic of landscapes and soils.
In the immense forests of the Northern Vosges
The Grande Traversée des Vosges begins in Wissembourg, in the far north of Alsace. From here, you enter the Regional Natural Park of the Northern Vosges and its dense forests. In the middle of this wilderness, the route takes in the ruins of fortified chateaux, generally built on spurs of pink sandstone. The citadels afford magnificent views of the Vosges and the Palatinat. Don’t miss the Chateau de Fleckenstein, an impressive fortress which almost seems to sail on an ocean of green.
Along the trails of the central Vosges
The second part of the Grande Traversée des Vosges begins in Saverne. The landscapes gradually diversify and, arriving in Ribeauvillé, you overlook the slopes of the Alsatian vineyards. This section of the hike links several historic places: the Donon, a 1,000m summit on which are the remains of a large Gallo-Roman temple; the terrible Struthof where, during the Second World War, the westernmost concentration camp of Nazi Germany was built; and Mont Sainte-Odile, an elevated spiritual site in Alsace. Each of these emblematic places offers a sumptuous view over the plain of Alsace and the Vosges mountain range.
The Hautes Vosges in all their splendour
This third section of the Grande Traversée is undoubtedly the most spectacular of the hike so far – firstly, for its natural landscape. The mountain forests are home to iconic wildlife such as the lynx and capercaillie. Higher up, you reach the stubble fields, an area covering the Vosges ridge between 1,000 and 1,400 metres. It’s not uncommon to see Vosges cows here which, in summer, produce a sweet milk used to make the famous Munster cheese. The stubble is also the natural habitat of chamois, which hikers can observe in the rocky areas of Hohneck and Martinswand.
A must: stop off at one of the Vosges farm-inns
True institutions on this side of the Vosges, farm-inns are run by mountain farmer families and welcome hikers to their tables. The dishes served are made using farm produce. You can expect to have the famous ‘marcaire’ meal, consisting of a piece of meat pie as a starter, followed by pork neck served with roïgabrageldi (braised potatoes) before ending with a piece of farmhouse Munster to enjoy with a glass of Alsatian white wine. After all, hiking works up an appetite!
The Grande Traversée continues with the climb of the Grand Ballon – the summit of the massif, which rises to 1,400m – and then the crossing of the Vieil Armand. This First World War battlefield still carries the memory of the battles that took place there, through the trenches and fortification structures still visible. The final stages of the hike take you to the Ballon d’Alsace, whose descent will signal the exit from the mountain environment. The GR5 then winds towards Belfort and its citadel, marking the end of the Grande Traversée des Vosges.