I started writing this article mostly for myself about a week before the end of confinement. I wanted to come up with a long enough list of places I could go to with my kids or even alone (if that’s ever possible) where we can enjoy the wonders of the region but still keep social distancing. (If you’re reading this in 2050, we were all locked in our houses for two months, just google COVID-19).
Gironde is one of the most beautiful departments in France with an impressive number of hiking options. You can discover the parks and lakes around Bordeaux metropole or combine your trips with some heritage in Entre Deux Mers, or the vineyards of Saint Emilion.
There are long hiking trails for fit walkers and shorter ones for families with kids. I had so many ideas that I just had to come here and share them with you. I included hiking trails from every part of Gironde to give a big landscape variety.
Hiking in Bordeaux Metropole
Let’s start with destinations closer to Bordeaux and its suburbs. There are dozens of big and small parks in the metropole that can be perfect for a nice and easy hike, so you don’t even need a car to be able to enjoy the green areas of Bordeaux.
The ones I particularly love are Parc de l’Ermitage in Lormont, Parc Majolan in Blanquefort, and Parc Bordelais in Bordeaux. There are of course many more green and lush places in the city and I’m working on an article with the full list which will be published soon. But for now, I wanted to introduce you to a few great hiking trails in Bordeaux Metropole through which you can discover the towns and forests surrounding the city.
Au fil de l’eau bourde – From Talence to Gradignan
I live in Talence so the first one on the list is close to my home, a 5km trail through some of the green areas of Talence and Gradigan. It’s important to mention though that while most of your hike is going to be accompanied by green scenery, this is not a classic nature trail, meaning that you will have to walk through some urban areas to get from one location to another. Having said that, it’s a beautiful path and you will be surprised by some of the parks and monuments located in the footsteps of Bordeaux.
The starting point is Bois de Thouars, a forest located on the border of Talence and Gradignan (it’s recommended to enter the forest from Avenue de Thouars in Talence). Don’t be in a rush here, take your time strolling around the lake, it feels more unspoiled here than many of the other lakes in the area.
From this point, you can follow the markup of GR® métropolitain throughout the entire route. But just to make sure you’re in the right direction, here are a few interesting points you should check on the way.
From the forest cross the bridge of the rocade (highway) to get to Gradignan (you should reach rue de Bénédigues in Gradignan). After a few more minutes walk, you’ll be on rue Saint-François-Xavier and will enter a green area that follows the Eau Bourde, a little stream of the Garonne river.
Your second destination on the trail is Parc de Pelissey in Gradignan. From there continue along the Eau Bourde to enter one of the biggest parks in this town – le Parc du Moulineau. This park is a gem for kids. Not only can they enjoy a big playground but it’s also home to the Maison de la Nature that inhabits nearly 50 different animal species from rabbits to the black and white goat of the Pyrénées. The animal park is unfortunately still closed due to Covid 19, but that should not bother you to enjoy the vast green Parc du Moulineau (or Le parc René Canivenc by its other name).
When you leave le Parc du Moulineau continue along the stream to get to Parc Mandavit. From here you will continue to the last destination of this trail – le Parc de Cayac, a historic monument on the Saint-Jacques de Compostelle pilgrimage road. From here you can take bus line number 10 to get back to the Thouars forest.
There’s also an option to continue to another 9 km hike through Gradignan. You can find more info about this and other hiking trails in the Metropole here.
Réserve écologique des Barails
If you prefer to forget that cars exist for a couple of hours, this next trail is for you! I’m happy to introduce you to the Réserve écologique des Barails, a beautiful natural reserve spreading over 156 hectares which also includes the beautiful Parc Floral of Bordeaux.
Located in the North of Bordeaux (the Bordeaux Lac district), it’s actually the biggest green space in Bordeaux. The reserve consists of different parts each with their own characteristics: the forest, the park, the meadows, the wetlands, and the ecological corridors. It’s so rich in nature that most visitors don’t cover it in one visit.
There are three entries to the park. If you enter through Entree bois you’ll have the pleasure to discover more than 6km of hiking trails in the beautiful green forest. Enter the entree roseraie (next to the Golf de Lac) and you can enjoy a beautiful flower park with more than 500 varieties of roses.
The reserve is also perfect for an easy stroll with kids and in fact, it was the first place I took mine after the deconfinement. Before heading there check out the information about the different entrances and parking on the official site of Bordeaux.
Floirac – fil vert – the green path
Le Fil vert on the right side of the river has more than 25 km of hiking to offer, passing through Parc des coteaux, the green space that encompasses most of the parks of Floirac, Cenon, Lormont, and Bassens. There are numerous hiking trails you can do here, depending on what part of “rive droite” you want to discover. You can see some of the trails here.
In this article, I’ll focus on hiking in Floirac and Boulac, a trail called Boucle de Floirac – Bouliac, which starts at Parc Castel in Floirac. The park itself is very cute with an impressive chateau, which is the starting point of your walk.
Before you start the green path you can climb to the heights of the park to see the “belvédère” for a nice view. Then go down again to find the green loop path (boucle vert) in the le Chemin de Montagne.
After about 500m take a left on the main street (Chemin des plateaux) that you will have to follow to reach le Domaine de la Burthe, the biggest park of Floirac. Enter the park through Chemin de Beaufeu and follow the red and white markup in the park, this will lead you to Ruisseau de Jacotte (a little stream of water). You will then have to go down under the highway to cross to the next town – Bouliac. Continue following the markup until it leads you to the next destination – le Bois de Loc Boué in Bouliac.
The final destination on this route is the 12th-century church of Saint-Siméon. From here you can start your way back to Floirac. To avoid repeating the same path, you can take a different route through rue de Bourg.
Before leaving rive droite you can also take a walk on Quai Deschamps and enjoy the beautiful view on the Garonne river.
The Saint Emilion region
Discover the lamprey capital of Gironde – Sainte Terre – 6.4 km
I’m sure that many of you are familiar with the beautiful Saint Emilion region. Even if you haven’t had the chance to do any hiking there, most of you living here had the chance to drive through the stunning vineyards of the famous wine region.
This trail, however, is different from the usual view you see from Saint Emilion as it goes along the Dordogne river. This is a good opportunity to learn about another product the Saint Emilion region is famous for, the lamproie (lamprey in English).
The little village of Sainte Terre is the capital of Lamprey. Start your tour from Église Saint-Alexis, the church of Sainte Terre and walk on Rue du Parlement until you reach the river. Take a nice long stroll along the river until you reach the prohibited area sign, then turn left with the path. Follow the path until you reach the town again and then turn left on Rue du Parlement to reach the town center.
On normal days you can also visit the Lamprey’s garden, a small park and the museum of lamprey, however, I believe that it’s still closed for visits. You can see the map of the trails with the points of interest here.
The chateaux and restaurants are still closed, but once they’ll re-open I really recommend combining this hike with a visit to a winery or a nice meal in one of the villages around Saint Emilion. If you want more information on what to do in Saint Emilion, check out my article with everything you need to know about visiting this beautiful village.
Entre Deux Mers
Boucle de Rions – heritage and hillsides
Entre Deux Mers is one of the most beautiful parts of Gironde. An abundance of medieval villages scattered along the Gironde river, centuries-old historic monuments, wineries and a lot of nature makes it a perfect place for day trips from Bordeaux. And above all, it’s also a great region for hiking with several paths mixing heritage and nature. Today I want to focus on hiking around one of my favorite towns in the region – Rions.
Rions is a small medieval town on the hills on the banks of the Garonne river that played an important role in the Hundred Years War and was occupied by England during the 13th century. Even if you come here specifically for hiking, don’t be in a rush and take some time to admire the beautiful houses with old shatters and the colorful flower pots decorating the narrow streets of the village. After you got inspired by the beautiful architecture we can start the hike. Leave the city center following rue Lavidon, through Porte Lavidon, and enjoy a pleasant 4.5 km path with a stunning view of the Garonne hillsides and vineyards. You will enter back through the most impressive gate in Rions, Porte du l’Hyan, the only gate that was kept fully preserved to this day. Before you leave, visit the old ramparts of the city, built in the 14th century and restored in the 18th century. You can find the map and all the details here
The South of Gironde
Hostens is one of the highlights of the South Gironde region. Domaine des Lacs d’Hostens is located at the heart of the Landes de Gascogne forest (50 km from Bordeaux) and offers some of the best hiking trails you can find near Bordeaux. The Domain consists of five different lakes with plenty of water activities as well as hiking trails, mountain bike trails, and more. If you’re after a good hike, head to the second lake, Lac du Bousquey. On the way you can see horses, butterflies and other wonders of nature. There are three trails in the Domain of Hostens: 8, 11 et 16 km long so there is something for both fit walkers and people who just want to enjoy a relatively short walk in nature.
In Hostens you will also find one of the best beaches in Gironde, this one located on the shores of another lake, the lake of Lamothe. So if the weather is good this would be the best way to end your hike.
Lac Vert and Lac Bleu
I really love hiking around lakes! I think that water in combination with the greenery around it gives it a very meditational vibe 🙂 Luckily there are a few beautiful lakes around the area where you can have a lovely walk and admire the colors of the water. The first one is Lac Vert (the green lake) in Canejan and the second one is Lac Bleu (the blue lake) in Leognan, both located about 15/20 minutes’ drive from Bordeaux. Their names derive from the color of the water and they are both stunning.
Did you know that the largest man-made forest in Europe is located just an hour’s drive from Bordeaux? The huge Landes forest has a few hiking trails, one of them starting in Saint Symphorien, a village located about 50 km south of Bordeaux. The route starts from the center of Saint Symphorien, which by itself is not very interesting. But it’s nice to dedicate a few minutes to see the town hall, the gothic Saint Symphorien church, and the cute little Maison Cammunale, which was built during the great depression. To start the walk, leave the city center and walk about 5 minutes on Cours de Verdun until you reach Le Chalet Mauriac. In this house the famous novelist, Francois Mauriac used to spend his vacations as a child. The chateau itself is probably closed right now, but the nice park around it might be open.
Your next destination is Moulin de Marian, an old windmill standing close to the Hure river. This is a nice walk that should take you about 30 minutes. From here continue on the path until you reach the department route number D220. Don’t turn to D220, instead continue straight on D115 until you reach Landes de Lassus, turn left here. Then continue north until you get to l’Atelier des Chemins de fer économiques de la Gironde. The building, built in the 19th century is a testimony of what was one of the main economic activities of this village. The site was closed in 1978 but you can still see some of the machines they used back then. You are now almost back to the center of Saint Symphorien, where our tour ends.
One of my favorite hiking places in the region is Lanton on the Arcachon bay. There are of course many other great places for a promenade around the Bassin but I love the fact that you rarely see any people in Lanton and that the drive is not very long. You can start your walk from Plage de Suzette, which is a little port with a few restaurants on it, from there just follow the trail surrounding the little port. If you’ve ever been to the Bassin d’Arcachon you know that the view changes a lot depending on the tide. This trail goes along the bay and that’s why, depending on the time you arrive, it may feel like walking along the beach or in an apocalyptic desert. The scenery and tranquility are just magical and it’s less than an hour from Bordeaux!
To discover more places in Bassin d’Arcachon go to my article about the best day trips to Arcachon Bay.
Ville d’Hiver in Arcachon
Here’s an idea for those who like urban trails. The touristy city of Arcachon currently feels very different from its usual lively vibes. Tourists are yet to flood the region and the restaurants will stay closed until at least June. Why not use this opportunity to discover the beautiful architecture of ville d’Hiver in Arcachon city. The winter city of Arcachon was mainly built in the 19th century and among its 300 villas, you can find some architectural treasures. Here are a few villas you don’t want to miss: Teresa, Toledo, Brémontier, Trocadero, Alexandre Dumas, Bayard, and Athena. Before you go, don’t miss the beautiful Parc Mauresque which separates the winter city from the summer city. If you can read some French, here’s a site with a short history of the most famous villas in the winter city. For more info on what to do in Arcachon city check out my article about Arcachon.
There are of course many more hiking routes in the region. We are surrounded by forests, lakes, parks, old villages, and a lot of heritage, so there’s an endless amount of ideas for a walk. But I wanted to release this article as soon as possible so you can start enjoying the weather and the deconfinement. I will add more ideas for walks in this article in the next few weeks, so I invite you all to return to this page. If you enjoyed reading the article, you can always share it with friends and make them go on a hike instead of the crowded city center 🙂
Before I go, I just wanted to let you know about all the other places you can get my information about traveling in Bordeaux and the Southwest of France.
- My Travel in the Southwest of France Facebook group – where people from all over the Southwest of France share their favorite places to visit in the region.
- My Facebook/Instagram pages where I share almost all my travels and experiences in the region on a daily basis.
- Newsletter – I decided to go on a little break with my emails during the confinement being that most of the content there is about villages, restaurants, museums, and heritage sites, which is not content anyone currently needs. But I’m coming back with my weekly emails soon so you are all welcomed to join me there – subscribe here.