Among the long-distance hiking trails that criss-cross France, the oldest is the GR 3. It follows the course of the Loire, one of Europe's last wild rivers and a UNESCO World Heritage site, for 1,300 kilometres (807 mi). Starting from Mont Gerbier de Jonc, where the river originates, the route winds through diverse landscapes and regions before reaching the ocean. From the Massif Central to the Atlantic, this trail passes through the magnificent Loire Valley with castles that delight hikers of all ages.
In this Collection, I invite you to follow the course of the river for 180 kilometres (112 mi). In the first stage, you’ll leave Angers to join the GR 3 on the left bank of the Loire. With the river in sight, you'll proudly travel through lands where vines stand. In Anjou, wine flows like a river. Every Tour is an opportunity to meet the locals of these wine-growing lands. Take a break at a restaurant or visit a winegrower's cellar to taste the delicious wines – in moderation!
Along the way, you'll come across beautiful villages such as Thoureil and Montsoreau and medieval towns such as Saumur and Chinon. Adults and kids will both be amazed by the châteaux, fine buildings and fortresses overlooking the Loire, Thouret, Vienne or Cher rivers. The GR 3 also includes plenty of nature on its itinerary. Beyond the waterways, you’ll walk through the immense forests of Marson and Chinon.
At the end of this Collection, you'll discover the city of Tours, which has a train station in the centre. You can extend your stay to explore all the subtleties of the metropolis. Saint-Gatien Cathedral, Place Plumereau, Saint-Martin Basilica and Château de Tours are just a few of the city's picturesque must-sees.
To get to Angers, you can take the trains that serve the capital of Anjou from all over the UK. On the return journey, you can hop on a train from Tours (or Saint-Pierre-des-Corps) to London, Manchester or Edinburgh. Also note that the towns of Saumur, Chinon and Azay-le-Rideau have their train stations. Regular daily trains serve all stations in this Collection.
In this section of the GR 3, you'll find a generous range of accommodation. Gîtes and inns are plentiful in the towns but less so in the villages. If you prefer to wild camp, it's up to your instincts to find the right spot to pitch your tent in the hollow of the Loire or the shade of the forest. Don't forget that an excellent wild camper leaves no trace and respects nature and the local people.
This section of the GR 3 can be walked all year round, but the trails are most pleasant from early spring to mid-autumn. Remember to bring appropriate clothing for both cold and rain. The wind can hide the heat in summer, so remember to cover your head and stay hydrated regularly.
Enjoy your trip!
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Last updated: October 12, 2023
Plan your own version of this adventure in the multi-day planner based on the stages suggested in this Collection.
Here you are at the start of a new Collection on the GR 3 which runs along the Loire rivers of the river designated as one of the "last wild rivers in Europe". From Angers station located in the city center, a little more than seven kilometers separate you from the GR 3 which you catch up with at a place…
At the start of this second stage on the GR 3, you leave Saint-Rémy-la-Varenne by the south, on small bucolic paths which inscribe the landscapes of vines in the sumptuous flow of the Loire. Quickly, you catch up with the village of Thoureil, labeled Small City of Character. Behind its beautiful tufa…
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For this third stage, you leave the picturesque Cunault for paths that zigzag between the Loire and the hills. After the village of Chênehutte, you go back inland through the large forest of Marson. This large green lung that breathes to the east of Saumur is home to the GR 3 as well as a racecourse…
At the start of this fourth stage, you leave Saumur by the walls of its magnificent medieval castle. If the occasion is right, give yourself the opportunity to visit it. Its park unfolds a marvelous fresco on the city and the Loire Valley.
You then leave Saumur via its heights. Along the way, you look…
In Montsoreau, you begin this fifth stage on the banks of the Loire. Here, I suggest you leave the GR 3 for a few moments to go up the course of the river to its confluence with the Vienne.
Between Montsoreau and Candes-Saint-Martin, you discover what I consider to be one of the most beautiful banks of…
With its 28 kilometres, this sixth stage is one of the longest in this Collection on the GR 3. You leave Chinon by a pretty balcony path which opens up a wide panorama of the city and the Vienne valley.
The rest of your route progresses in the heart of a forest environment. Shortly after the town, you…
To start this seventh stage on the GR 3, I suggest you visit the castle of Azay-le-Rideau and its iridescent gardens. Count between one and two hours for the whole thing. Then, before leaving the city, stop at the Saint-Symphorien church. Recent renovations have revealed old frescoes long stolen.
At the start of this eighth and last stage of this Collection on the GR 3, you leave Savonnières by the banks of the Cher. Along a path shared with the Loire à Vélo, you can take advantage of the various picnic areas to rest or observe the various birds flying over the river.
At noon, do not hesitate…
Hiking Collection by Jack Wolfskin
Hiking Collection by komoot
Hiking Collection by Tamara (wandert)
Bike Touring Collection by Belén Castelló (belletoscan)