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 showcases the the 120 kilometres (75 mi) from Saint-Étienne-de-Tinée to Briançon from south to north. From a town located at the gateway to the Mercantour, you discover the romantic mountains that flourish in the Ubaye and Queyras ranges.
From the upper Tinée Valley, you follow the section of the GR 5 known as the ‘GTA - Grande traversée des Alpes’. After the magnificent landscapes in the north of the Mercantour National Park, you discover high lands of sublime beauty. In this unspoilt part of the Alps, the peaks above 3,000 metres (9,840 ft) tower over the Ubaye Valley, which gave its name to the massif.
Between a horizon sometimes decorated with the slender curves of the Écrins or the discreet silhouette of Monviso, you continue towards the Queyras. In my opinion, it’s one of the best preserved massifs in France. Much appreciated by hikers and other mountain enthusiasts, this range is not yet under the strain of mass tourism. In this protected area, tranquility accompanies your efforts, as you explore its passes and summits.
You can reach Saint-Étienne-de-Tinée by bus line 91 of the Lignes d'Azur regional network, which leaves from Nice. In Briançon, at the end of this section, you can continue your GR 5 adventure or return via the railway station. Trains to Valence and then to Paris or Marseille serve the town every day.
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 trail's can sometimes 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 those who like to carry a bit of literature in their backpack, I can recommend a book that is not very mountainous, but which followed me during my crossing of the Alps: ‘Robinson Crusoe’ by Daniel Defoe, published in 1719. I really enjoyed reading this book because the loneliness that Robinson experienced on his island becomes, in certain points, comparable to the solitude that a hiker may feel in the mountains.
Have a good trip!
For the first part of the GR 5: komoot.com/collection/1995325
For the third part of the GR 5: komoot.com/collection/2010042
In this Collection, I sometimes refer to my own travel experience which you can read about (in French) here: simonwicart.com/voyage/en-route-sur-les-gr-francais/ubaye
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Last updated: June 6, 2023
Plan your own version of this adventure in the multi-day planner based on the stages suggested in this Collection.
Here you are back on the magnificent paths that make up the immense GR 5. This time, starting from Saint-Étienne-de-Tinée, you are about to attack a steep mountain. The serenity of the Mediterranean far behind you, steep and challenging lands now await you.
At the exit of the village, you begin a beautiful…
During this second stage, you head towards one of the many exit gates of the Mercantour National Park. But also, you are about to discover, in my opinion, one of its most beautiful facets.
Just at the exit of Bousiéyas, you attack a steep climb towards the pass and the Camp des Fourches. This area with…
Get recommendations on the best single tracks, peaks, & plenty of other exciting outdoor places.
At the start of this third stage, do not hesitate to fill your backpack with food since you will not find any more shops before Ceillac at the end of stage 5. Indeed, only the lodges and inns will be able to supply you.
As soon as you leave Larche, you begin a steep slope before entering the majestic…
This fourth stage, between Fouillouse and Maljasset, is one of the most relaxing stages of the GR 5 in the Alps. After Fouillouse, you descend into the magnificent Ubaye valley. The stage, short with a slight drop, invites you to rest. Enjoy the different corners of the river to stop and enjoy a good…
At the start of this fifth stage, you embark on a steep climb towards the Girardin pass which marks your entry into the Queyras regional natural park. After a technical and trying climb, the panorama on arrival becomes even more appreciable. This is your high point for the day, so feel free to take a…
This sixth stage is a vast exploration of the preserved gardens of Queyras. This regional natural park, which takes its name from the Gallic tribe of the Quariates, welcomes you throughout the day.
In Ceillac, you follow the Cristillan towards the slopes which rise up to Col Fromage. Again, beautiful…
You have arrived at the seventh and final stage of this section of the GR 5, between Saint-Étienne-de-Tinée and Briançon.
At Lac de Roue, enjoy the serenity of the place before folding your camp. Tonight, you will find the tumult of a big city. You take the direction of Brunissard, a pretty little hamlet…
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