Hiking Rural France on a Day Trip from Paris

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Hiking trails near Paris

 Discover Rural France

It never fails to amaze me how profonde – how deeply, relentlessly rural – France can be as little as one hour away from Paris.

"An open field along a hiking trail in Etrechy like hiking rural France near Paris"

Today’s walk – which features some pretty and prosperous farms, some new, some hundreds of years old – could serve as a perfect introduction to the charms of rural France for visitors who want to see more of the country than the Eiffel Tower and the interiors of the Louis Vuitton shop on the Champs Elysees, but want their experience wrapped into an easy and convenient day trip from Paris, without the need for sitting on a train for half a day.

"Farmyard with horses along the hiking trail in Etrechy like hiking rural France near Paris"

Go hiking rural France on a day trip from Paris.

Take a RER Line C train from the Gare d’Austerlitz or the Bibliothèque Francois Mitterrand (easier to reach by Metro from downtown Paris) in the direction of St. Martin d’Etampes and leave the train at Etrechy.

Once out of the train station, turn left down the Boulevard de la Gare, which eventually changes its name to Avenue d’Orleans. Then, turn right into Rue Jean Moulin and immediately left into Rue de la Butte Saint Martin, past a complex of sports fields and indoor tennis courts.

"Trail markings for the Etrechy hiking trail near Paris"

Behind the last house on that road, turn right into a footpath and briefly afterwards left (following the white-and-red trail markers) into a dramatic rock strewn landscape. This is actually the best part of the walk – not least because it provides a rugged contrast to the rural idyll that is to follow.

"The stony hill of the Etrechy hiking trail near Paris"

The way out of the forest, however, gets a little tricky.

After crossing a sandy, prairie-like clearing, we found ourselves in a glade with no sign of where to go, suspecting that the line of trees they appeared to have felled quite recently had probably carried the trail markers.

"Crossing a sandy field to the continuation of the hiking trail in Etrechy"

In the end, we decided to walk downhill, straight ahead, in the direction of the farm that we could see underneath the hill, and this eventually allowed us to rejoin the trail.

"Down the hill of the the hiking trail in Etrechy near Paris"

Soon after, you will run into the first of a series of prosperous farms that are scattered along the trail. Continue walking straight through it. This is a public road even if it may not always look like one, and turn right before the owners’ near-palatial residence, thus leaving the GR11 (with its red-and-white trail markers) that continues straight ahead.

"An old barn along the Etrechy hiking trail"

Continue all the way to the small village of Vaucelas.

"A picturesque farmyard in along the Etrechy hiking trail near Paris"

At the intersection inside the village, cut to the right – a particularly picturesque farm will soon appear on your left – and, after about 500 metres, left into the woods. (The town you can see in the valley below is Etrechy, of course.)

"Town of Etrechy near Paris seen from the hiking trail"

Out of the forest, continue down to the country road and turn left. Continue straight ahead on to the footpath where the road makes a turn to the left. Pass underneath the high-voltage power line, and then, after a short distance, turn twice to the right in quick succession, followed by a left and a right turn.

"A big farm along the Etrechy hiking trail near Paris"

This may sound a little difficult – even confusing, perhaps – but let me add that the trail is, overall, excellently marked. Usually in France, trail markers can be a bit of a problem, sometimes even a bit of a mess. But on this walk, you often feel that somebody has really gone out of his or her way to make things easy for you.

"Trail markings for the Etrechy hiking trail on a stone set on the ground"

Where there are no trees or lampposts, they have sometimes rammed dedicated beams  into the soil to hold the markers or have painted the markers on stones on the ground.

Hikers do not get such assistance in many other places in France, believe me. Maybe it’s because Etrechy is such a prosperous little town that they can afford this level of attention to detail, or maybe it’s because the mayor (or one of his predecessors) is himself a dedicated hiker, who knows.

Continue on this path until you meet the street, the Route du Bas Vaucelas. Turn left and when you hit the main road, the D148 aka Route de Chauffour, turn right heading into Etrechy centre.

"Entering the town of Etrechy near Paris"

The village of Etrechy is a bonus at the end of your journey. If you are old enough to have watched TV in the 1970s (as I am), it may remind you (as it reminded me) of the French village of Clochemerle, the (fictitious) setting for a celebrated BBC TV comedy of manners, based on Gabriel Chevallier’ satirical novel of the same name. (Just don’t look for the public urinal!)

"An old man sitting on a bench in front of the City Hall of Etrechy"

It is certainly worth a look and provides the perfect finish for a trip into the deep, rural heart of France.

21 comments to Hiking Rural France on a Day Trip from Paris

  • That is such a sweet thing you did, Margret and I’m glad you had a lovely hike. A belated birthday greeting to your partner and hope our other hikes and walks would give you both more pleasure.

  • I presented this rural hike to my partner as a birthday present and on a lovely, mild weathered, sunday we set off. We had planned to buy provisions in Etrechy, silly tourists!, but at least the bakery was open on a sunday so we bought a baguette and water. We got a little bit confused at times, almost missed Vaucelas as we believed it to be a farm but came across a lovely couple on a sunday stroll from Etrechy who guided us to go a short distance back to see the tiny village. We had printed out youre instructions without pictures but i’m pretty sure that having the pictures as well would have been helpful. At the end of the day we were very happy, it was a lovely hike and a well appreciated birthday present. Thank you :-)

  • Ines

    That so funny as I am from Etrechy but leave in London… I didn’t realised how nice this walk could be…

  • This is a 5-6 mile hike and mostly flat, Marge.

  • Marge Brennan

    Hi Michael,

    Can you tell me how many miles and how long this hike took you? I’ll be staying in a small town called Montesson in mid-August and plan on finding some day hikes to do. This looks interesting.


  • Brad Patterson

    Brilliant. Was looking for exactly this and a 1-min google search leads me here. Thank you Michael.

  • That looks like a fantastic hike! What a great way to get a sense of the less “touristy” places around Paris.

  • Laura

    I’m not much of a hiker–(ahem)didn’t know I have French blood running through my veins! But these pictures of your hike are captivating–seemed like scenes plucked out of a movie set! Your site is a must-see for Hollywood set designers and location specialists!

  • Shanna, there is a hiking trail just behind the Chateau de Versailles. That’s how easy it is to go day hiking near Paris. Thanks for dropping by.

  • Thanks, I never associated hiking in the countryside and a visit to Paris on the same day! I will look into this next time we are in Paris (sometimes it would be nice to to escape the city for a little while).

  • Thanks Dave. Well, the Parisians are not much into hiking. We’ve not encountered many on our Paris forays and we certainly get funny looks from people we pass by (“These people must be crazy, walking instead of taking the car or the train” look).

  • Great and very useful post Michael. I know some people in Paris I’ll pass this onto. They’re always saying they don’t know where to go for hikes nearby. And they’re French!!

  • Thanks, Mary. That’s my aim, to get people out of the rut of sight-seeing and shopping, particularly if their visit to Paris is more than 3 days.

  • Your recent posts on rural France are certainly making these quaint villages look so appealing for day trips from Paris. Thanks for sharing this beautiful part of France.

  • What an amazing hike! You’re right–people don’t think of France much past the big city borders. I’d love to explore rural countryside someday.

  • We were shocked at how rural France is very near Paris! I love it, actually. Etrechy looks like another wonderful French village.

  • The path looks pretty steep at that one point. I like the diversity of scenery and trails on this hike as well as the nice village of Etrechy.

  • That’s what I love about Europe- in such a short space of time you can totally change up your environment. This hike looks particularly laid back and lovely.

  • Anna

    I really like the atmosphere of these small villages, and the fields surrounding the town. The peace of mind could be found on these ways away from the rush of the city.

  • Jeremy Branham

    Looks like an awesome hike! Never would have thought this to be only an hour away from Paris. Definitely the type of hike I would like to do.

  • wftristan

    This looks great – love the last photo with the guy just sat there – totally changes the photograph


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