Discover rocky pinnacles, winemaking villages, glacial lakes and waterfalls on this stretch of the GR5 trail through Vosges and Jura
Forming a natural upland barrier in north eastern France, the Vosges and Jura run in a roughly north-south direction, along which lies a section of the GR5 long-distance walking route, one of the great walking routes across Europe.
Just north of Strasbourg you will find the quiet Northern Vosges Regional Park, while at the southern extent of this section of the GR5 the route passes through the Haut-Jura Regional Park to arrive at Nyon on the shore of Lake Geneva. Between these two points there are castle ruins on rocky pinnacles, the enchanting winemaking villages of Alsace, hilltops and glacial lakes of the Vosges; the gorge and waterfalls of the Doubs, outlook points over the Jura plateau and the impressive cliffs of Mont d’Or.
You don’t have to commit to walking the entire 518km from Schirmeck to Lake Geneva as there are some excellent opportunities to create shorter circular routes and day walks in the region, allowing for a flexible itinerary and easy route planning.
Prioritising an independent and distanced trip is easy in this relatively remote corner of France, with good accommodation options and excellent camp sites, however wild camping regulations vary between different communes with the usual proviso that wild pitching, even outside restricted areas, should be discreet and away from roads and houses.
The food and wine specialities of the region show both German and French influence. Specialities include sausages, hams and other cured meats, trout, snails and many speciality cheeses. White wine produced in Alsace is delicious, while the Jura has a distinctive more yellow-coloured wine.
One of the more interesting short sections of the GR5 route lies between Ribeauvillé and Mittlach, a stretch of 54km, taking between three and five days to complete. Beginning in Ribeauvillé, with its timber framed houses dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries, the route climbs and dips through woodland, visiting Aubure, the largest village in Alsace. World War I trenches, munitions stores and rusting barbed wire are reminders of how this ridgeline was an important defence line.
Described in their guidebook to this part of the GR5, authors Les and Elizabeth Smith enthuse about the landscape; “Beyond Col du Calvaire the path emerges from the cover of the trees onto the hautes chaumes (high pastures), with excellent views. From here the landscape of the central Vosges can be appreciated, dominated by forested ridges with a scattering of villages in the valleys between.
“For many kilometres between Col de Calvaire and Col de la Schlucht the path runs along the edge of cliffs with a series of lakes situated just to the east. Although there are some short, steep climbs, the walking along the ridge is easy.”
If you prefer more solitude, the section to Brévilliers from Thann is less accessible, and less visited. With rail connections from the start and finish, it’s an attractive area of lakes, woods and small villages, taking about three days, with sparse, but good accommodation.
Choosing the Vosges and Jura region for your next holiday in France is something you are unlikely to regret, as you become familiar with this open and interesting landscape, refreshed with good food and wine!
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