How to Hike the GR5, The Grande Randonnée Cinq (Five), in the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Lorraine, the Vosges, and the Jura.

Trail guides (Topoguides) and Internet Maps for the pre-Alps GR5.

By David May

Copyright 2004 - 2017, All rights Reserved
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Table of Contents Links:

General Information:

1. Why the GR5 and GR52?

Difficulty

Who should use this site?

Other Long Distance Alpine Hikes

About the author

2. The Entire GR5, from the North Sea to the Mediterranean (three months) (only summarily described here).

Page describing the Guidebooks and Internet resources for the GR5 from Holland to the Alps.

The Alpine Crossing, from Lake Geneva (Lac Léman) to either Nice or Menton on the Mediterranean. Nice is a 4 weeks walk from Lake Geneva, Menton, almost 5 weeks. I recommend the walk to Menton over the GR 52 variant, if you can possibly find the time.

Types of trekkers - "purists" and "easygoers".

Costs and Budget

3. When to Go and When to Walk

Accommodation: Types and Reservations

Planning your Route

Meeting People

4. Trail Identification and Direction Marks

Gear

5. Books, Maps, Internet sites, GPS

Page with English translations of French Topoguide navigation terms.

6. Conditioning, hiking speed, rest days

7. Shopping and Communications

8. Top sights attractions:
Lake Geneva Steamer*;
Dent d'Oche**;
Samoens*;
Chamonix area*** (a very slight detour; consider allowing three or more sunny days);
Briançon**;
Sospel*and Aspremont* ;
Nice** and Menton**.

9. GR5 access points:

Author's Route Recommendations and Tips for the demanding hiker:

10. Starting Points on the South Shore of Lake Geneva: The official St. Gingolph or Thonon-les-Bains, vis-a-vis my preferred starting point of Evian-les-Bains. Advantages and disadvantages. Getting there. Detouring to visit the Dent d'Oche**.

11. Accommodations from La Chapelle-d'Abondance to Chamonix (or Les Houches).

12. Accommodations and route, Chamonix to Briançon.

13. Accommodations and route, Briançon to Larche: My difficult but thrilling back way out of Briançon.

14. From Larche to the Vésubie Valley.

Recommended for the intrepid: Partially off-trail variation in the northern Mercantour Park to beautifully austere and isolated lakes.

Isola 2000 short-cut to the lower GR5 or GR52, possibly saving a day or more and much more interesting terrain than the official GR5 route

15. From the Vésubie Valley to the Mediterranean:

Comparison of the GR5 to Nice vis-a-vis the GR52 to Menton: Two possible endings for your walk.

The GR5.

How to handle the 2,000 meter (6,600 foot) descent from the Valley des Merveilles to Sospel on the GR52.

Don't miss the stupendous GR52 final day from Sospel to the Mediterranean at Menton.

For those who wish to walk the entire GR5, below is a list of guidebooks and Internet sources of maps that I don't cover in the other pages of my site.

I have personally walked only some small sections of the non-Alpine GR5, in the Vosges. For that reason I offer no advice on routes or tourist sites.

Maps are impractical:

It is completely impractical to use small scale hiking maps (1:25,000) for a week or longer hiking trip on the GR5 (though such maps may be useful when you want to explore a small region not included in a trail guide). For example, the GR5 through Alsace requires four IGN maps costing a total of €48, while the trail guide costs €15.39 and takes up less space. Even when a trail guide does not exist, small scale maps are impractical. Lorraine has no Topoguide, but the cost for the 10 needed maps exceeds €100.

Use Trail Guides when they exist:

The maps found in trailguides are much more convenient than any other options, and together with the other information in them, allow not only navigation, but also the planning of overnight stops. The trail guides for the entire non-Alpine GR will cost you about €80 (2017) plus shipping costs (if you don't buy them in stores along the way). As these guides are written in Dutch and French, I have compiled lists of the basic geographic and directions found in the guidebooks and their English equivalents: See here for Dutch. See here for French. For more complete vocabulary lists, purchase pocket dictionaries or use Internet translation apps.

Netherlands GR5 Trail Guide:

Lange Afstad Wandelpad 5.1/GR5: Kustpad - Deel 1: Sluis - Hoek van Holland, Hoek van Holland - Bergen op Zoom. ( “Long Distance Walking Trail 5.1/GR5. Coastal Path Section 1, etc.). This trailguide covers both the southernmost part of the Netherlands coastal walking trail (which in part is also the GR5, and the separate part of the GR5. The GR5 in the Netherlands starts at Hoek Van Holland and continues to Bergen op Zoom. Written in Dutch, it was published in 2014, and costs €16.90. It's available at webshop.wandelnet.nl, bookstore piedaterre.nl and other Netherlands bookstores. This part of the GR5 runs in a southwesterly direction along or nearby the Netherlands coast, and then southeasterly to the Belgian border.

This trail guidebook, as well as the subsequent guidebook for Belgian Flanders, gives directions for the trail in both directions on each page: For example, page 105 covering Bonnelaan - Hoek van Holland Haven, gives directions starting from Hoek van Holland on the lower part of the page, while a column on the right side of the page has photos from the route and information about sights.

Thus GR5 walkers will read at the bottom half of each page, starting with page 105 (map 34) and continuing backwards through the book until page 73 (map 23) (a costal walk of 50.5 km), then continue on the top half of the pages from page 109 (map 13 gray) to page 137 ( map 25 gray) (an inland walk of 53.3 km). The maps are very clear, 1:25,000, showing ANWB signpoasts, and places to eat. No information on lodgings is included. An average walker could easily cover the 100 kms within five days or a week.

Belgian Flanders GR5 Trail Guide:

It is important to understand that there are two parts of Belgium – Dutch speaking Flanders in the north; and French speaking Wallonia in the south. Each tends to treat the other as a separate country. Two different GR5 guidebooks exist – one for each area.

The Netherlands (Holland province) lies to the north of Flanders, but also, at the eastern edge of Flanders is a southwards jutting peninsula of the Netherlands that abuts Germany to the east and just touches Wallonia to the south. This narrow (5 to 15 miles wide) southern-jutting “peninsula” contains the important city of Maastricht. The Flanders GR5 trail guide covers the part of the GR5 that passes briefly back into the Netherlands near Maastricht, and then back into Belgium to the border of Wallonia.

The GR5 trail guide Nordzee - Middellandse Zee - Deel Vlanderen (GR5 - North Sea to the Mediterranean Sea - Flanders Section) (2017) covers the GR 5 from Bergen op Zoom on the Netherlands border to Eben Emael at the border of Belgian Wallonia. It is available from the publisher, , http://www.groteroutepaden.be/nl/product/12/nieuw/gr-5-noordzee-middellandse-zee---deel-vlaanderen.html, and also from the above mentioned Amsterdam bookstore and other bookstores. Price € 18.

This190 page trailguide to the GR5 is full of photos and commentary on tourist sights. Its 54 1:25,000 maps cover the 246 km route to the border of Wallonia, with indications of cafés, food shops, picnic tables, and so on. Overnight stops are suggested, usually 18 to 21 kilometers (11 to 13 miles) apart. On parts of the trail where dogs are not permitted, alternative dog-friendly routes are shown. No information on lodgings is included. The top half of each map description page is for walkers from northwest to southeast, the usual direction of walking the GR5, while the bottom half of the pages, in reverse page order, covers the opposite direction.

Belgian Wallonia and Luxembourg GR5 Trail Guide:

The guide book Mer du Nord - Mediterranée - Wallonie et grand-duché de Luxembourg (North Seas - Mediterranean - Wallonia and Luxembourg) covers the GR 5 from Flanders to the border of France. It can be purchased from from the publisher, Les Sentiers de Grand Randonner in Belgium: grsentiers.org for €16.00, or for a slightly higher price from the groterroutepaden.be site above (the title on that site is shown in Dutch but the book is in French). This part of the GR5 runs mainly south-southeast.

In French, this 160 page GR5 guidebook is written for walking from North to South (as are all the subsequent GR5 trail guides). Points in the description are numbered, but the maps are in the back of the book, and they are only 1:50,000, although printed at very high resolution, making them less useful for navigation. Fortunately, as elsewhere, the GR5 route is well marked. The maps have information on sights, cafés, markets and various types of accommodation. A large section gives phone numbers and addresses for all types of accomodation, from hotels to campings. There is also a listing of trains and buses. The total walking distance in Wallonia and Luxembourg is 360.6 kms, perhaps an 18 day to three week walk.

The GR5 in Lorraine, France

I cannot locate any current guidebooks for the crossing of France, from the border with Luxembourg to the Vosges mountains of Alsac. The 2009 Topoguide for Lorraine is out of print and used copies sell for nearly €200. I do provide, below, information about online maps of the GR5 route in Lorraine.

This part of the GR5 runs south-southwest until almost Nancy (the capital city of Lorraine) and then turns east and then southeast until the border with Alsace. The route is quite circuitous for the first 140 km. As the crow flies it is only 85 kilometers. As the crow flies, it is only about 130 km all the way to crest of the Vosge Mountains. Walkingon the GR5, it is very roughly 310 km.

The GR5 in the Vosges Mountains (Alsace):

The GR5 heads due south in Alsace. The FFRP boutique.ffrandonnee.fr sells the French Topoguides for the GR 5 through Alsace, and through the Jura to Lake Geneva (Lac Leman) (and for the Alpine crossing), as do many bookstores in France such as Au Vieux Campeur in Paris.

For Alsace, the trail guide (Topoguide) (in French) is called Traversèe du Massif des Vosges (The Traverse of the Vosges Mountain Chain) – 185 pages. Coverage of the GR5 portion of the traverse starts on page 85, and goes from north to south. Like all recent Topoguides it has 1:25, 000maps with detailed information on walking times and distances between points, information on lodgings and caf'és and food shopping, and viewpoints. Price €15.39.

It takes about 70 hours from the start at the Col d’Engin, massif du Donon, to the end at Fesches le Chatel, not counting any stops, to walk the 282 kilometers— thus at least ten days, o rmore likely, two weeks, or more if you take some rest days and sightsee.

The GR5 in the Jura:

The trailguide for this part of the GR5 is called La Grande Traversèe du Jura...à pied (The Grand Traverse of the Jura...on foot) (185 pages). Price: €15.39. This book covers several GRs. Coverage of the GR5 begins on page 113, at Nomay, slightly overlapping the coverage of the Vosges book, then after page 119, joins the coverage of the Grand Traverse of the
Jura (GTJ) on pages 39 through 83. However the GR5 and the Jura Traverse Trail diverge here and there, and the GR 5 eventually branches off., The segment to Nyon (on Lake Geneva) on pages 165 to 167. Diverrgences are also covered in separate sections. Total distance of the GR5 in the Jura is roughly 280 kilometers, so roughly 70 hours of actual walking time will be needed, perhaps requiring two weeks.

The main part of my site covers the GR5 trail guides in the Alps here.

The total walking distance from Holland to Lake Leman, by my approximate calculation: 1,521 kilometers (945 miles). Walking time, not including rest days, at 20 kilometers per day: 76 days or about two and one-half months.

GR5 Maps on the Internet

I have searched through a long list of phone applications for something suitable for on the trail navigation, to no avail. The only exception to this could be for Flanders on the wandelnet.nl (in Dutch).

Interactive internet maps for the entire route, using Open Street Maps cartography, are available for the entire GR5. The easiest way to access these is on the site page hiking.waymarkedtrails.org. Entering GR5, and perhaps a region, in their search box, will access the entire trail. You can view the route at any level of enlargement. (See "Reference" below for links to the actual Open Streets Maps.)

For the Lorraine (as far along the GR5 as the village of Gondrexange – the first 250 miles of walking) and the Jura, but not for the last 70 or so miles of Lorraine or for Alsace, the Internet site geoportail.gouv.fr has more detailed maps than the above-mentioned waymarkedtrails.org site. To use this site, enter a town near the GR5, for example Metz. An aerial view appers. (If the screen is dimmed, click "acceder a la faq", and then use the browser back button.) Select the blue square labelled "cartes" on the upper left of the window, and in the information that appears on the left click "Voir tous les fonds de carte." Then select "Carte topographique IGN". On the topographic map that appears, you will find the GR5, not far NE from Metz . You can move the map to any area you are interested in. If you click on the wrench you will find as a choice "Afficher des coordinés". You can then read the coordinates of any point on the map, and if you wish, use these in a GPS to guide your walk.

( If you are using a portable device, you can eliminate the aerial view layer, thus saving much data and battery use: Click on the stack of papers on the upper right, then click on the cog to the right of the aerial thumbnail, then click on the garbage can).

These sites, as all browser mapping sites, bring up a separate page for each map position, and extensive use can quickly drain your phone battery. As a strategy, therefore, I think that one should rely upon way-marks and signs along the GR5, and use the Internet maps only for planning, for a daily overview, or if one is lost or needs to find services near the route.

I believe, however, that guidebooks are worth it, whenever available, for their easy to read maps and for their listings of of services.

Reference — Open Street Map relatioms for many parts of the GR5

You can use these instead of the waymarkedtrails site, if you prefer.

Nederlands kust pad deel 1: http://www.openstreetmap.org/relation/1757323

http://www.openstreetmap.org/relation/3020780

Belgian Flanders: http://www.openstreetmap.org/relation/3228570...3121667

Wallonia: http://www.openstreetmap.org/relation/3228573#map=14/50.6024/5.7257&layers=N

Luxembourg: http://www.openstreetmap.org/relation/2790499

Lorraine: http://www.openstreetmap.org/relation/2029679#map=16/49.2656/6.3469

Alsace (Andlau south): http://www.openstreetmap.org/relation/3228570 No link for the first part of the GR5 in the Vosges.

Jura http://www.openstreetmap.org/relation/6095322

Alpine Traverse http://www.openstreetmap.org/relation/2704286#map=15/44.2523/6.9283&layers=N

Other information on the Internet

From the site groteroutepaden.be in Antwerp,Belgium you can download gps coordinates for the above section: http://www.groteroutepaden.be/en/getfile/GR5170529_16129.gpx/bestand.html

For a list of GPS waypoints and photos of almost the route, see the site (in Dutch) gr5.info. This site, the creation of Iwan Oprins, details the stages of his walks on the totality of the GR5 between 2001 and 2009. I do not know if his waypoints are sufficient, together with signs, to guide a GR5 trip. His photos — though unflattering (fuzzy, dark and undersaturated)–– do give an idea of the terrain and scenery of almost the entire GR5. The GPS waypoints and the photos are organized by each day of walking (83 days to Lake Leman, 1 day to cross, 45 days to Nice).