New 3,000km hiking trail takes hikers through ‘hidden’ France

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An adventurer has developed a hiking trail that crosses France through its most breathtaking mountain ranges, from the Vosges in the northeast to the Pyrenees in the southwest.

The 3,000 km HexaTrek includes 136,000 vertical meters and lasts three to five months.

Inspired by American trail running

Founder Kevin Ginisty quit his big data job six years ago before touring New Zealand in a van and hitchhiking in Scandinavia.

The 32-year-old Frenchman, who lives in Chamonix, was mainly inspired by the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), retracing the entire west coast of the United States, which he traveled between Patagonia and Canada in 2020.

This trek included 17 days without seeing another human. “I had a lot of time to think about why we didn’t have a similar track in Europe,” he said.

He was speaking to The Connexion by phone from a restaurant somewhere near the Gorges du Tarn, 51 days after the start of the inaugural trek, which was due to arrive at the German border in late October.

“There aren’t a lot of big towns nearby, so we’re happy to find pizza, water and a coke,” he said as he sheltered from the heat of the aftermath. -midday.

People want to go on long hikes for personal reasons

His idea struck a chord – 200 people were walking the road with him.

A crowdfunding campaign, which ended in October, raised more than €52,000, exceeding the initial goal of €6,000.

“I thought I was the only one crazy enough to want to cross France on foot,” Mr Ginisty said.

Although the trail is divided into six stages, he said most people want to do it all in one go, that’s the spirit of the ‘thru-hike’, where backpackers do hikes like the PCT of end to end.

At least half of those on the inaugural ride had quit their jobs or taken a sabbatical, he said.

“Most of them were fed up with their jobs, struggling to recover from a relationship or had experienced a family tragedy.”

The age of those leaving in June ranges from 22 to 64.

Although there is no rock climbing, it is also not a walk in the park. Most will average about 1,000 meters in elevation per day.

“The best physical preparation is to walk the first two weeks at your own pace, because your muscles will grow automatically,” Ginisty said.

The trail poses no risk to nature

Critics say HexaTrek will bring more disruption to the natural environment, a claim the creator rejects.

“Even on the GR10 (a trail in the Pyrenees) we saw maybe 100 people in a month. Few people go on long hikes. On the other hand, many come by car and walk for an hour.

Read more: France’s national parks warn visitors to respect flora and fauna

The trail also goes beyond the most popular destinations.

In the first month, they passed hikers from San Francisco, Germany, and Belgium doing the trail in the opposite direction.

“They all said they would never have been on the trails of central France without HexaTrek,” Mr Ginisty said. “It’s a pleasure to see people discovering this somewhat abandoned part of France.”

The mobile application and signage guide hikers

Due to the risk of snow, those wishing to embark on the entire trail are advised to leave between May 15 and June 1 if heading south, or between June 15 and June 30 if they are heading north.

The route is available for free as a GPX file which can be used with apps and GPS devices.

Much of the crowdfunding went towards creating the HexaTrek mobile app, which shows areas suitable for camping, shelters, water and supply points along the way, as well as must-see villages and landscapes.

The app costs €9.90 for each step.

The money also enabled HexaTrek to become a non-profit association.

During a hike, Mr. Ginisty placed signs every 10 km.

As HexaTrek connects 47 existing trails, hikers will mainly follow the red and white markers of the Grande Randonnée (GR) trails.

“We didn’t invent anything. We took what was already there because it was already amazing,” Mr. Ginisty said.

“The important thing was to create a community, a name and a sense of belonging.”

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