The GR 5, commonly known as the ‘Europe Trail’, covers 2,600 kilometres (1,600 mi) from Nice in the south of France to Rotterdam in the Netherlands. Through majestic mountain ranges, such as the Alps, the Vosges and the Ardennes, the trail, which was first marked out in the middle of the last century, offers an eclectic panorama of the entire western continent.
This Collection details the 120 kilometres (75 mi) of this beautiful itinerary on a south to north journey from Nice to Saint-Étienne-de-Tinée. From the picturesque beaches of the Mediterranean to the rugged peaks of the French Alps, passing through the heart of the remarkable hinterland of Nice, you discover a region that combines culture, nature and tradition.
Leaving Nice, you start the section of the GR 5 known as the ‘GTA – Grande traversée des Alpes’. The rough topography in the valleys of the Bévéra, the Var or the Tinée are a good introduction to the more strenuous hikes found on the great massifs that follow on the GR 5.
If the hinterland of Nice embraces the Mediterranean, the Mercantour National Park welcomes you with steep and often rocky slopes. All along the way, villages and hamlets with bucolic charm dot the valleys. Saint-Dalmas, Saint-Sauveur or Roya make for excellent adventures.
The route starts from Nice’s station, which is easily accessible from Marseille and Paris. TER and TGV trains are regular. In Saint-Étienne-de-Tinée, you can continue on the GR 5, or return by bus line 91 of the Lignes d'Azur regional network. In the stage descriptions, I detail the possibility of using public transport if necessary.
On this section of the GR 5, you’ll find plenty of accommodation options. There are many gîtes and inns in the towns and villages. In the high mountains, alpine huts are common. Depending on the season, the trails can fall victim to its popularity, so advance booking is recommended. It’s worth bearing in mind that some shops are only open from mid June to mid September. Whatever the season, research the route and plan well in advance.
If you like sleeping under the stars, take your tent or even a tarp. Wild camping is tolerated from sunset to sunrise, as long as your pitch away from building and respect the natural environment by leaving no trace. A wild camp or three in the rarified mountain air should offer you, on clear nights, an unrivalled celestial display.
I recommend this part of the GR 5 for the summer and autumn, as it includes a number of passages in the high mountains, above 2,000 metres (6,550 ft) in altitude. Therefore, make sure you’re aware of the conditions. It’s common for the passes and summits to be snowed in at the beginning of summer. Also, keep in mind that summers can be very hot: don't hesitate to take several litres of water with you.
Finally, for French-speaking literature lovers, I invite you to discover the excellent ‘Les brumes du Mercantour’, by Jean Siccardi, published in 2009. The novel tells the story of two young shepherds of the famous massif, ready to do anything to leave their pastoral life.
Have a good trip!
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Last updated: July 25, 2023
Plan your own version of this adventure in the multi-day planner based on the stages suggested in this Collection.
Here you are launched at the start of a great and mythical roaming, a transverse road several thousand kilometers long which connects the Mediterranean to the North Sea.
For this first step, I suggest you start from Nice train station, easily accessible from Paris. Do not hesitate to take a day to stretch…
At the start of this second stage, you will definitely enter the Alpine foothills. Shortly after Levens, you cross the Vésubie to attack a steep ascent. Along the elevation gain that registers your shoes, the landscapes open up to you. The Mercantour mountains, with verdigris hues, spring from the ground…
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With its 26 kilometers and almost 1,700 meters of elevation gain, this third stage is the most demanding of this Collection.
From Utelle, you immediately climb towards the eponymous brec. I suggest you take a detour there since the view is panoramic. Do not hesitate to enjoy it while catching your breath…
This fourth stage, shorter and less demanding than the last, invites you to relax. Departing from Saint-Dalmas-de-Valdeblore, treat yourself to a café on the terrace to taste the pleasant life that flows in the foothills of the Mercantour.
On your way, you head towards La Bolline and Rimplas, two very…
For this fifth stage, get ready to register a strong drop. Indeed, despite its almost thirteen kilometers, you are about to climb 1,400 meters of elevation gain. Also, you end the stage in a refuge. If you wish, take advantage of the shops in Saint-Dalmas-de-Valdeblore to fill your backpack with snacks…
During this sixth stage, you leave the Longon refuge to take your first steps in the high mountains. Quickly, you gain an altitude of over 2,000 meters, along the Mont des Moulines and the Monts Démants. At this height, and for the pleasure of your eyes, the landscape is drastically transformed into…
Here you are on the seventh and last stage of this first section of the great GR 5. In the direction of Saint-Étienne-de-Tinée, you climb one last time to get to Auron, the famous resort of Saint-Étienne. On the way, when the woods part, pretty views of the Tinée are offered to you.
At the end of a long…
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