France has 11 national parks: the Vanoise and Port-Cros were the first, created in 1963. Then came the Pyrenees in 1967, the Cevennes in 1970, the Ecrins in 1973, the Mercantour in 1979, Guadeloupe in 1989, Reunion Island and Guyana in 2007, the Calanques in 2012 and finally the Forêts National Park .
In this Collection, I take you to the newest. Over seven stages and 400 kilometres (248.5 mi), you explore the Forêts National Park, the only national park north of the Loire River.
Located between the Seine and the Rhone rivers, the Forêts National Park encompasses the north-eastern part of the Côte d'Or department and a large part of the Haute-Marne department. You visit the cities of Châtillon-sur-Seine, Arc-en-Barrois, Châteauvillain, and Auberive, situated within the national park’s immense forest.
The emblem of the park, a black stork, calls the deep forests home, nesting in large trees near wetlands. There are about a hundred tufa swamps, characterised by springs that form limestone concretions. The park is incredibly diverse, with forest cats and the biggest orchid in France, the Venus hoof. Its flowers' big yellow labellum evokes the shape of a shoe, after which it’s named. It is very rare and nationally protected.
On the first four stages of this adventure, I invite you to discover this little-known park. The last three stages reveal the Haute-Saône, a department that is rarely visited. During this week of exploration, you cycle through remote areas, ride along beautiful paths and small deserted roads and discover amazing places such as the Vix treasure in Châtillonnais Museum or the beautiful cities of Langres and Luxeuil-les-bains.
This itinerary is perfect for bikepackers and gravel enthusiasts as you ride along forest roads. The route is not particularly difficult: some days have hardly any climbing and the distances are not too long so you have plenty of time to observe the natural sights and architecture along the way.
I recommend discovering this beautiful national park and these off-the-beaten-track departments from late spring to autumn. Don't forget your waterproof gear either – we are in the north of France after all.
I made sure that each stage ends in a small town, so you won’t have a problem finding accommodation, except for stage 2 when you have to camp.
I chose the city of Montbard as the starting point as it’s well served by public transport.
The GPS route ends at stage 7 at the SNCF station of Lure, which is located on the doorstep of the Vorges and the Jura Mountains. You can easily continue your adventure and discover these wild regions of France or return to your starting point by train.
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Last updated: January 17, 2022
Plan your own version of this adventure in the multi-day planner based on the stages suggested in this Collection.
This first day begins at the Montbard SNCF station.
This well-connected town in Burgundy has many tourist assets. Besides a beautiful city center, Montbard is linked to Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon naturalist, mathematician, biologist, cosmologist, philosopher and French writer who died in 1788…
Today will be full of emotions! I invite you to start the day with a visit to the Pays Châtillonnais museum, which houses a real archaeological treasure.
The treasure of Vix has made the city famous, and you will quickly understand why when admiring the princely tomb of the Lady of Vix, its gigantic Etruscan…
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You are now entering the very heart of the National Park of Forests. The few rare villages that you visit today, such as Les Goulles or Arc-en-Barrois, are only very sparsely populated.
A "green" day awaits you. Very beautiful gravel paths are also on the program and give this day a little air of adventure…
You leave Chateauvillain along the northern part of the deer park. It will be another beautiful day of discovery of the national park.
It has within it a hundred tuff marshes. The latter are characterized by the presence of petrifying springs generating calcareous concretions. These are very fragile environments…
It's an easy day ahead of you: you will evolve in the plain between the Vingeanne river and the little-known canal of Champagne and Burgundy, while following the official route of Véloroute 53 from the Marne to the Saône .
Between kilometers 22 and 25, the route makes a slight detour to take you through…
You will follow the Saône all day, and in doing so benefit from very beautiful bucolic landscapes. Between Gray and Vesoul, the Haute-Saône department turns out to be very pleasant to explore.
These 70 kilometers will be done without any difficulty, because you will remain at almost the same altitude…
For this last stage, you leave Vesoul to go first to Luxeuil-les-Bains. In addition to the presence, as its name suggests, of thermal baths where you can possibly come and relax, the city has many Renaissance houses, the most beautiful of which is undoubtedly the so-called house of François Premier…
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