Hiking the Loire Valley GR3 trail is the focus of this article, but let’s start by placing the tour in its wider geographical and cultural context. The Loire is France’s longest river at 1,012 kilometres or 629 miles. Our hiking tour takes place along a section of the Loire that is referred to as The Loire Valley: the middle stretch in central France that spans 280 kilometres or 170 miles in length.
Hiking the Loire Valley GR3 trail takes you along a section of this Loire Valley, considered affectionately as the ‘Cradle of the French language’. The ‘best’ French is considered to be spoken here. So if you are looking for a ‘sejour linguistique’ to brush up your fluency, you might like to consider Tours as a study location.
Hiking the Loire Valley GR3 trail
Garden of France
Noted for its bijou historic towns, impressive architecture and fine wines, the Valley was added to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites in 2000. It is said to offer “an exceptional cultural landscape of great beauty.” The climate of The Loire Valley is favourable most of the year, the river acting as a moderating influence on the climate of the region. The temperatures can be cool in spring, while summers are hot, but moderated by Atlantic breezes.
Loire Valley wine
The architectural heritage in the form of chateaux, ornate gardens and troglodyte dwellings is also covered at length in our trip dossier. You get to visit the best of them, eight castles in total, during our ten-night/nine-day hiking extravaganza. The Château de Montsoreau is the only château to have been built in the Loire riverbed and the only one to be entirely dedicated to contemporary art.
On-foot is best
You are walking in and around the confines of a relatively-wide river valley. There is one deviation (on the Loire Chateau Walks tour only) in order to be able to enjoy the fruits of Chenonceau. This majestic castle and gardens lie on the banks of the river Cher. You also get to stride out across countryside to enjoy villages located around the Loire’s hinterland and its tributaries of La Vienne and Indre.
Chateau to chateau via fine villages
The views are pleasant, sometimes fascinating, but rarely as spectacular as the ones you associate with walking at altitude in remote France. For that you need to raise the physical challenge a notch or two, with the attendant and considerable elevation gains and losses.
Left bank is better
Having walked both options, we prefer to stick with the traditional route – which also enables you to visit the impressive Chateau de Chaumont, which the ‘new’ version misses out as it runs along the opposite side of the river.
The trail you follow continues to be waymarked in red and white flecks, although you may see it indicated intermittently as the GR655. This demarcates the Via Turonensis (or the Tours / Paris route), one of the four northern pilgrimage routes to Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle in France. The most serene and oldest route, it was historically the most frequented.
Hiking the Loire Valley GR3 trail or ‘normal service’ is then resumed from Amboise onwards, with you walking the ‘current version’ of the GR3 trail thereafter. All is explained in our industry-leading walking notes. Bonne route et bonne balade !
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To hike the Loire Valley GR3 trail, please see:
Click to visit The French Hiker’s Guide to Holidaying in the Hexagon and France self-guided walks, trails, trips, places & themes.