An ancient city with origins that go back to Roman times and even before, Lyon is also known as the capital of French gastronomy and one of the best places in France, if not the entire world, to try incredible French cuisine. Sampling the best brunch in Lyon is a culinary experience not to be missed!
Famous for its medieval passageways, its connection to the silk trade, and its annual Festival of Light, Lyon is also a city with important connections to the early history of film. With so much to do in Lyon, you may be surprised to find that this major French city offers an alternative to Paris that doesn't get nearly the visitor numbers the French capital does.
Lyon is a fantastic city to explore, but if you're a nature lover, you may be curious about what lies outside the city. Located where the Rhône and Saone rivers meet in the Rhône Alpes region, Lyon offers varied landscapes ideal for hiking. Exploring the country around Lyon will help you more deeply understand this underrated region of France, and you'll be able to optimize your trip by exploring the hiking trails in the area.
Of course, a hiking trail is no place for heavy bags. Drop off your belongings at a Bounce luggage storage in Lyon, and you'll be ready to set off on a French hiking adventure you won't soon forget.
Our Top Hiking Trail Picks in Lyon
Odeon de Lyon - Cathedrale St Jean Loop
You don't need to leave the city of Lyon itself to get some decent walking done. In fact, wandering around the city is one of the best things to do in Lyon, as it will let you browse the interesting stores, take some great photos, and enjoy the generally good weather of the south of France. Plus, in this historic city, there's always something new around the next corner.
This looping trail covers around five and a half miles through the heart of the city. The route takes you past many important historic monuments, making it a great way to get a better sense of the history of this iconic destination. The paths are easily accessible and suitable for all hikers, so long as you can handle the distance and the roughly 600 feet of elevation gain you'll encounter.
Starting at the Odeon de Lyon, the ancient Roman theater that rises on a hill above the city, you'll travel to the beautiful church of Notre Dame de Fourvier. From there, head downhill through the ancient rose garden to Place des Jacobins in the heart of the city. Then, travel through the old heart of the city and along the medieval corridors known as traboules until you reach the Cathedral of St Jean. From there, it's a short but somewhat demanding walk back uphill to the ancient Roman settlement. If you get tired, it's easy to find buses that will take you back up to your starting point, and there is also a funicular railway to make things easier. As a self-guided tour of the most important historic sites of the city, it's also one of the best free things to do in Lyon.
Sentier de l’homme et du fleuve
Located just to the south of the city, the village of Vernaison can be reached by train or bus, and you can learn more about how to get around Lyon here. The village is charming enough by itself, but the main attraction is access to this waterside walk. The path runs along the Rhône river, and the relatively flat terrain makes it a popular place to ride a bike as well as to hike. If you're looking for peace and tranquility in the French countryside, you're guaranteed to find it here. And with only three kilometers of relatively flat terrain, this is one of the most accessible hikes around Lyon.
Sentier des Rapaces
Often, one of the best things about exploring hiking trails is a chance to come across native wildlife in its natural habitat. Departing from the village of Saint-Cyr-au-Mont-d'Or on the northern edge of Lyon, this route takes you around Mont Verdun to a height of 625 m or 2000 feet above sea level. Along the way, you'll see a wilder side of the country and get the chance to spot birds of prey that live in the area, including ospreys, kites, and short-toed eagles. The path is well marked, with plenty of signs that will teach you more about the ecology of the area. The elevation of this route makes it better suited for intermediate hikers than beginners, but it's a great way to get out of the city and see the more natural side of France without having to spend hours on a bus or in a car.
The name 'biezen' refers to a canal that once brought water to a mill in this area outside Lyon. Between the towns of Chassieu and Décines-Charpieu, this hike lets you explore the green countryside of the region. A short hike over relatively flat terrain, it's a great choice for families, with lots of playgrounds along the way. It's also reachable by bus from Lyon, so it's a good choice for beginner hikers just looking to get out of the city and enjoy one of the best country walks in the area.
Sentier de la clef des Champs
Reachable by bus route C10 from Central Lyon, this trail offers a great place to relax and take a hike without going far from the city. The two-kilometer loop trail is almost completely flat, so it's a great option for those who don't have too much experience of hiking but would still like to stretch their legs in natural surroundings. This area is heavily agricultural and produces a lot of the produce that makes the cuisine of Lyon so internationally renowned. You also get an incredible view over the Rhône valley, so it's a great trail to explore if you want to see more of the Rhône Alpes without taxing yourself too much.
Another of the great hiking trails in Lyon accessible via public transit, this loop trail in Curis-au-Mont-d'Or covers around five miles with a thousand feet of elevation gain and loss along the way as it brings you back to your starting point. A site of interest along the way is the ruined building that gives the trail its name, but the main attraction is the serenity of the surrounding woodland and the views over Lyon and the surrounding countryside. If you're looking to get away from it all without traveling too far, this is a fantastic area to explore and take a walk where you won't find too many other visitors.
Twelve minutes by train from Central Lyon, the station of Albigny-Neuville is the gateway to a great adventure. Mont Thou dominates the landscape around Lyon, and climbing the mountain will give you both a decent physical challenge and the reward of an incredible view. The trail up the mountain also takes you through the varied landscapes the Rhône Alpes are famous for, so this is definitely one that avid hikers shouldn't miss. The six-mile trail covers around 1300 feet of elevation gain and loss, and there are lots of stairs along the way, so it's best suited to intermediate or better hikers. Along the way, you'll explore mossy forest paths, open fields, meadows, an old quarry, and charming French villages. Bring a picnic lunch and plan to enjoy it from the mountain summit, where you'll have incredible views over the Rhône valley and the city of Lyon itself.
Passerelles de la Vorla Loop
Another great hiking area for nature lovers, the Pasarelles de la Vorla Loop circles Lake Eaux Bleues. This lake is a fantastic place to spot wildlife, especially both resident and migratory birds that call these wetlands home. The loop around the lake covers eight miles, and the well-marked trail is almost completely flat, making this a great option for those looking to get some easy hiking done with the family.Château de la Trolanderie Loop
Located in the Mont Thou area, this loop trail covers over six miles with an elevation gain of 1181 feet. As a result, you'll need a fairly decent fitness level to take this trail on. However, the views from the mountain over the river Saone and the city of Lyon make it well worth pushing yourself, and since this trail is accessible by public transit from Lyon, it's all the more tempting to get out there and explore one of the region's best hiking trails.
Parc Naturel Regional du Pilat
There are so many great hiking trails in and around Lyon that you don't need to go far to get some exercise on your trip. But if you really want to explore the wild side of France, it's worth considering taking the one-hour drive south to Pilat Natural Regional Park. Covering 72,000 ha, this impressive park contains landscapes that vary from mountain to valley to farmland to orchard and just about everything else. It's also home to charming villages, ancient castles, and the remains of one of the richest Roman towns in all of France.
In this large park, your hiking options are virtually limitless. Whether you want to explore ancient ruins, climb mountains for incredible views, or visit quaint villages, you'll be able to do it here. Those looking to challenge themselves should attempt the Circuit du Pilat, a 17-mile trail over rough mountain terrain with a demanding elevation gain of nearly 4500 feet.
Parc Naturel Regional du Massif des Bauges
Head East from Lyon, toward the towering spires of the Alps, and after just under two hours, you'll reach the Massif des Bauges Natural Regional Park. You'll know you've left the gentle terrain of the Rhône Valley behind the moment you see those sky-piercing mountains, and you'll also know that you're in for a wilderness adventure that compares with any France has to offer. With more than 300 miles of hiking trails to explore, this mountain park offers everything from easy walks to demanding multi-day hiking expeditions, so no matter what level of hiker you are, you'll find something suitable here.
Easy Hikes in Lyon
The rolling countryside surrounding Lyon makes it a great place for easy hikes. The Sentier de la Clef des Champs is an unchallenging but nevertheless rewarding walk in the countryside that's suitable for all the family. Likewise, Biezen is an ideal location for family excursions, and the Passerelles de le Vorla gives you the chance to see some impressive wildlife without having to travel to the ends of the earth to do it.
Intermediate Hikes in Lyon
If you prefer more of a challenge during your trip to Lyon, you're in luck. The area around the city offers a range of more challenging hikes that can please those who want to push themselves. The climb through the city to the Odeon du Lyon is enough to get your heart racing, and several trails on Mont Thou are easily reached from the city but will make you feel like you've journeyed a long way away.
Difficult Hikes in Lyon
If you really want to push yourself, you may have to travel a little further from the city to do it. However, within two hours' drive from Lyon, both the Pilat Natural Regional Park and the Massif des Bauges boasts an astonishing range of hiking trails that will test even the most avid hiker. If you really want to get some miles behind you, it's well worth making the journey out to these mountain parks to lose yourself in the grandeur of the Alps and take your hiking to the next level.
Whatever level you hike at, you'll have a much easier time if you drop off your bags at a Bounce luggage storage location. Don't forget your hiking boots as you explore this charming French city, and don't miss out on the chance to see the wilder side of France.