Six days backpacking the peaks and refuges of Corsica's GR 20

Hiking Collection by Hillary Allen

The GR 20 is known as one of the most difficult through hikes in France, if not Europe, traversing the island of Corsica from north to south. You can do the hike either way, but the official route traverses north to south, starting with the more technical side of the island first.

This route is typically done in about 14 -16 days (komoot.com/collection/276), averaging a single stage per day. The stages are broken up by mountain refuges along the route, providing much needed camping spots, food and water.

I decided to tackle this backpacking adventure in just six days, averaging three stages per day. I carried all my own gear (tent, bivvy, sleeping bag, stove, food and clothes), using the refuges to refuel along the way. I also took a few variant routes along the way, which I've detailed in the relevant Tours. Sometimes adding on a bit extra is well worth it!

This trail is extremely technical and demanding, so good navigation skills, fitness and technical skills are required. Having said that, it's an amazing adventure and well worth the effort! Be prepared for mind-blowing mountain views, challenging ridgeline hikes, wonderful hospitality and the many refuges along the route, and hopefully some mountain wildlife too.

On The Map

Tours & Highlights

    13:43
    17.1 mi
    1.2 mph
    9,350 ft
    5,475 ft

    I decided to backpack the GR 20 in Corsica, France, over just six days, averaging about three stages a day.The northern part of the trail starts from Calenzana and is more technical than the southern part.I started the challenge with a big day, with over 3000 meters of climbing (9,350 ft) over steep, rocky, technical terrain.After this first day, I stopped near the refuge in Asco.

    11:55
    16.0 mi
    1.3 mph
    6,550 ft
    6,650 ft

    The second day was incredible. This section of the GR20 is different than years past; instead of going through the Cirque de la Solitude (now closed after some dangerous rockfall), the GR 20 route passes by Monte Cinto, the highest point on the island. Of course, you don't have to tag the summit as part of the through hike, but I couldn't resist! The trail to reach the summit of Monte Cinto is a meandering, boulder-hopping, steep trail but well worth the detour. Bivouac de Tighiettu is a great refuelling spot after the descent from Monte Cinto. To reach the next refuge (Refuge Ciottulu) is a beautiful section and a steep, punchy climb. I continued on after Refuge Ciottulu, along a beautiful river, carving perfect swimming pools in the rock.My stopping place for the night was at Castel de Vergio, where I found a nice Gite and grocery store for the night.

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  • 12:20
    21.3 mi
    1.7 mph
    7,000 ft
    5,700 ft

    The third day started with a flat section and nice gentle climb before a nice descent to Lac de Nino there were horses as part of a wildlife reserve.The Bergerie Vaccaghia is worth the stop (for the cheese) before the first refuge and climb up to Bocca Soglia.Bocca Soglia is a favourite of mine from the whole GR 20. After descending to the next refuge, I took a variant of the GR 20 (marked in yellow) staying high on the ridge before descending to Refuge de L'Onda.I climbed up a bit further from the refuge to find a nice spot for sunset and a bivvy.

    12:52
    24.7 mi
    1.9 mph
    6,375 ft
    6,425 ft

    This was a great day! Lots of beautiful views, and we had some rain here, but it came with Salamanders!We took a variant down into Vizzavona (right before Cascades des Anglias).Then there was a nice climb and descent to the next refuge and a pretty long section and climb up to Refuge de Prati.

    08:24
    15.7 mi
    1.9 mph
    3,375 ft
    4,300 ft

    This day was a shorter one, but simply wonderful. Starting from Refuge de Prati, we had a wonderful view of the sea, and the first feelings that the trip is coming to an end.The route continues up from here, climbing along a beautiful ridge with views of the sea, and the waves of mountains covering Corsica.After topping out at Monte Formicula you descend to Refuge d'Usciolu, a wonderful refuelling spot (fresh fruit here), before continuing down and a little up to some wonderful Bergeries.Bergerie de Croce is worth the stop, and where the tour ended this day.

    10:52
    20.2 mi
    1.9 mph
    4,600 ft
    8,500 ft

    This was our last and final day to finish the GR 20. It started with a climb from the Bergerie de Croce to a beautiful sunrise before descending to Refuge d'Asinau. There was no food at Refuge d'Asinau (they were saving it for the people staying there) so we continued on to Aiguille de Bevella.We took the variant to climb up to Aiguille de Bevella, a really popular alternative that's worth the climb. The normal GR20 circumnavigates the Aiguille de Bevella massif, without climbing up and over it like the variant does.There are chances to refill water and food as you cross the road before continuing to the last refuge (Refuge de Paliri) as we headed south. The final stage to Conca is still rocky and technical, with a steep downhill to the end.

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    6
  • Distance
    115 mi
  • Duration
    70:05 h
  • Elevation
    37,250 ft

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