Posted on 15 September 2021
When listing the best national parks in France, the list is endless. What is undeniable, though, is their stunning beauty and wide selection of flora and fauna that thrives within their boundaries and is under the protected status. To see the national parks at their best, visit from green Spring to orange Autumn, when vivid colours of Mother Nature pave the way to an open-air playground.
Trekking, hiking, bird watching, mountain biking and more is the perfect travel experience. The best national parks sit within the French alps’ area, but many scatter throughout various regions. With natural mountain backdrops and rolling hills, exploring them is the ultimate treat for those who love the great outdoors. So, here are our suggestions for French national parks to put on your bucket list.
Best National Parks in France
1: Protected Vanoise National Park
Sitting in the Rhone Alpes region, Vanoise national park ranks as the best. First opening in 1963, Vanoise is also the most extensive making this park an adventure playground. If you visit in Spring, expect to see various wildlife, including wolves and the lynx. Otherwise, this top spot for mountain biking and trekking in the Alps when the snow melts away is home from home. The best place to stay to explore Vanoise national park is the Val d’Isère or Courchevel surrounding ski resorts. Both have prestigious status, and are a delight all year round.
2: Ecrins National Park
Sitting in the Rhone-Alps and Provence Alpes Cote-d Azure area, the unique Ecrins national park offers up landscapes stretching as far as the eye can see. With over 100 viewpoints to look out over, you go home with award-winning nature photos. Numerous lakes make perfect places for summer or autumn picnics. To make the most of your experience, download their national park app guide to find a great hiking trail or visit one of several information centres within the Park. For places to stay, alpine Les Deux Alpes is close and just 1 hours’ drive away, as is Alpe d’Heuz.
3: Amaze at Le Perche Park
Covering 194,00 Hectares, this is the perfect place to visit on a day trip from Paris city, since Le Perche national park is two hours away. Alternatively, B&B’s within the park add a quaint touch if you want to indulge on the doorstep. What to expect from Le Perche is gorgeous forests with towering trees, and for an additional fee, explore the Courboyer Manor and remains of the Nogent-le-Rotru Châteaux. Horse lovers love Le Perche, thanks to the many riding schools and trails.
4: Mercantour – Alpes-de-Haute Provence
First opening its door in 1979, Mercantour national Park annually hosts 1 million visitors. Covering 700 kilometres, within the park, guests enjoy 372 miles of marked walking trails and 28 quaint villages. Mercantour national park is also about history, thanks to the old churches with murals and Neolithic petroglyphs. Mercantour includes the Alps’ third highest mountain, Cime du Gelas, so that some trails might be demanding on the average walker. In which case, they enjoy several lakes, including Vens, Allos, Lauzanier, and Morgan. Look forward to seeing more than 2000 flower species and stunning animals like the chamois, rare ermine, ibex, the Marcantour marmot, deer, boars, hares, golden eagles, and beautiful butterflies.
5: Incredible Massif des Calanques
Calanques National Park stands out for the beautiful Mediterranean Sea and landscapes and gears up for adventure lovers thanks to numerous activities, including climbing, kayaking, swimming, and hiking. Sitting on the Mediterranean coast in southern France, Calanques national park first gained official status in 2012. Extending over a vast 200 square miles, 33 is land while the rest is the sea. Attractions within the Park include the famous Cosquer cave and Calanque de Sormiou hills, the most popular climbing spots, thanks to the terrain and stunning land and sea views. This beautiful park is 35 minutes drive from the centre of Marseilles.
6: Port-Cros Island Park
Port-Cros national park is vastly different thanks to its remote island location. Sitting within the Iles d’Hyeres island group, in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, Port-Cros was first established in 1963 on a promise that should they donate the island to the French government; they establish a park. Covering 1,600 acres, Port-Cros stretches for 2 miles wide, and the highest point sits at 199 metres, making it tiny but fantastic.
7: Auvergne des Volcans Regional Park
Anyone who loves the great outdoors will fall in love with the beauty of Auvergne national park. Spread around 395,000 hectares, this is Europe’s largest Park and includes numerous dormant volcanoes stretching across a range of 30 kilometres. Given the natural landscapes, don’t be surprised to come across the Vulcania theme park. Otherwise, enjoy glaciers, streams, and four nature reserves. The most popular area within the National Park, especially for views, is Puy de Dome reached via the regular tug train.
8: Wonder of the Pyrenees National Park
First opening in 1967 and covering nearly 500 kilometres, the Pyrenees national park is a stunning display of geography. Sitting along the border with Spain, the Park dedicates itself to preserving biodiversity and ensuring animals reign free with no boundary fences. Scientific studies occur within the park, which is home to many different species of mammals and plants. Meanwhile, the eastern part famously forms part of the Mont Perdu heritage site. As well as observing the wildlife, visitors participate in many hike trails and mountain climbing trails.
9: Cevennes UNESCO Park
Sitting in southern France, within the mountain area of the same name, this park, first established in 1970, stretches across the Lozere, Gard, Ardeche and Aveyron departments. The park officially belongs to the Mediterranean agro-pastoral cultural UNESCO World Heritage site. Cevennes is also famous for the Aven Armand caves within its boundaries. The highest peak is at 1699, but one popular pastime is the long Stevenson route for mountain bikers. Cevennes might be last on our list of the best national parks in France, but do not underestimate its beauty.
Also of Interest
Summer Skiing in France: We all know the French alps is just one big playground during winter. Ski resorts host thousands of skiers who want to experience the vast range of slopes. But did you know, some resorts also open in summer for skiing? Standing at high altitudes, we list the four best to head to from June to September in France.