Best National Parks in France

Best National Parks in France

Often overlooked in favour of popular tourist haunts like Paris and Bordeaux, the national parks of France have mostly been the stomping ground of local hikers and mountaineers. That said, alpine and coastal parks like Calanques on the French Riviera and Vanoise in the heart of the Alps are finding themselves ever more attractive to nature-loving globe trotters. And it’s not hard to see why: France’s national parks offer acres upon acres of diverse unspoilt nature just a short drive away from popular towns and cities. Beyond the eleven national parks, there are also countless protected regional parks, meaning that quite literally wherever you land your feet in France, you’re sure to have nature at your fingertips. And let’s be honest – after living off wine, bread and cheese for a little while, it might be high time for a walk in the park. Keep reading to discover our roundup of the best national parks in France.


  1. Vanoise National Park, Rhône-Alpes Region
  2. Calanques National Park, Provence Region
  3. Port-Cros National Park, Provence Region
  4. Forêts National Park, Burgundy-Champagne Border
  5. Les Cevennes National Park, Provence Region


Vanoise National Park, Rhône-Alpes Region

Admire Alpine Flora and Fauna in the Snowy Mountains of the Alps

We thought we’d kick off our roundup of the best national parks in France in a more than fitting way: France’s very first national park. A hop, skip and a jump away from major resort towns like Chamonix, the Vanoise National Park, which dates back to 1963, is one of the finest pockets of wilderness in the French Alps. Talented mountaineers flock here to scale the more than 100 snow-capped summits stretching over 9,800ft into the sky. Those among us with less of a penchant for serious mountaineering can enjoy leisurely guided hikes through striking valleys (emerald and floral in summer, icy white in winter), around teal lakes and up to glaciers. For a less Into the Wild-style adventure, head to popular ski resorts like La Plagne and Les Arcs to skip the hill climb with a good-old chair lift or explore the park’s many alpine villages, such as Pralognan and Aime. Vanoise also has a particular draw among nature lovers thanks to its dizzying diversity of flora and fauna – keep an eye out for unusual animals like the ibex, chamois and marmot, as well as colourful flowers like orchids, roses and edelweiss (July and August are particularly floral months). For a change of pace, we can whisk you off to nearby Chamonix to admire the spectacle that is Mont Blanc (the highest mountain in Western Europe) away from the crowds.


Calanques National Park, Provence Region

Swim, Sail and Hike Your Way Along the Mediterranean Coast

The Calanques National Park encompasses a 200-square-mile expanse of picture-perfect coastal gems between Marseille and Cassis – we’re talking huge limestone cliffs soaring out of calm turquoise waters, tiny ocean inlets with white-pebble beaches and mile upon mile of well-marked trails hugging the coast. While most travellers head to Calanques from bustling Marseilles, we’d recommend basing yourself in the tiny nearby port village of Cassis for a quieter, more intimate feel. From here we can arrange for you to climb aboard a ‘pointu’ – a traditional wooden sailing boat of the Caribbean – to set sail for some of the park’s hidden gems, with stops for swimming and picnicking offshore. After a day of exploring the impressive coastal wilderness, head back to Cassis to spend a night in one of our favourite properties: a luxurious 1877 mansion overlooking the sea in one direction and the striking Cap Canaille, one of Europe's tallest cliffs, in the other.


Port-Cros National Park, Provence Region

Live the Simple Life on the Serene Car-Free Island of Port-Cros

Not too far along the French Riviera from Calanques is another slither of coastal paradise under national protection: the Port-Cros National Park. Famous for being the oldest marine park in all of Europe, Port-Cros is all about slowing down and enjoying nature in all its glory – stroll along one of the island’s many coastal paths, sail to tiny crowd-free beaches with crystal-clear waters and dive beneath the surface to admire some of the 180 species of fish that call Port-Cros home. The island is also a treasure trove of historic and cultural heritage – you can hike to Roman remains and military forts or dive down to ancient ship wrecks. Infrastructure is very limited on the island, so we recommend heading back to the mainland as the sun starts to set across the Med. We can arrange for you to stay in a beautifully-renovated 18th-century farmhouse set among olive trees, cedars and cypress trees, and extended by 86 acres of pristine vineyards. And finally, if you’re wondering why two of the best national parks in France are less than two hours apart by car, the answer is simple: the Côte d’Azur is just that exceptional.


Forêts National Park, Burgundy-Champagne Border

Meander Through Towering Pine Trees in the Heart of Culinary France

If you find yourself travelling through the regions of Burgundy and Champagne, our bet is that you’ll be treating yourself rotten to the finest wine, cheese and bread you can get your hands on. And why not? You’re holidaying in the region that produces France’s best wine. That said, if you’re in the mood for a leisurely walk to counteract some of the treats, then look no further than France’s newest national park: the Forêts National Park. Wholly dedicated to the region’s ancient pine trees, the park features over 120-miles worth of well-marked hiking trails winding through diverse ecosystems and historic towns bearing traces of their Templar and Cistercian heritage. We can arrange for you to stay in nearby Dijon and to extend your culinary adventure with a trip to a food market with a local guide – sample the town’s most prized export, Dijon mustard, as well as gougere pastries and local gingerbread.


Les Cevennes National Park, Provence Region

Let Your Adventurous Spirit Run a Muck in this Haven of Outdoorsy Fun

Perhaps the wildest and most rugged of all the national parks in France, Les Cevennes is a nirvana for outdoorsy adventurers with an eye on getting lost in the lap of nature – think sweeping granite gorges, fast-flowing rivers and acres of lightly forested pastures punctuated by rocky outcrops. For an extra thrill, our team of experts can arrange canoeing and mountain biking, as well as canyoning, rock climbing and even paragliding. Leisure-lovers and culture-buffs are also easily catered to thanks to the presence of charming hilltop villages with well-preserved traditions. We’d recommend staying in the nearby city of Nîmes, which, nicknamed the ‘Rome of France’, is awash with beautifully-preserved medieval architecture. We can arrange for a private driver to whisk you off to the park when you fancy, which takes just under two hours.