advice – the GR20 trek in Corsica

by Rick McCharles, editor of besthike.com

I’ve hiked many of the best treks of the world. The GR20 compares favorably with the best of the best. But it’s very physically challenging, in fact the toughest hike I’ve ever done.

Read my 7 day trip report.

» day 1 | day 2 | day 3 | cirque | day 4 | day 5 | day 6 | day 7 | advice |

For me the start was extremely grueling. But at the summit of Mt. d’Oro, last day, I was feeling terrific.

Rick McCharles

If YOU are interested in taking on the “toughest hike in Western Europe”, here’s my advice.

Browse the best websites in English:

Corsica.forHikers.com/gr20
le-gr20.com/gb
• Wikipedia GR20

Order one or both of the two best Guidebooks in English:

• Trailblazer Corsica Trekking GR20 by David Abram (2008)
• Cicerone GR20: Corsica: The High-level route by Paddy Dillon (2010)

Both those books describe the trek north to south, but there’s no real reason you couldn’t do it in the opposite direction, leaving the most spectacular and difficult sections to the end.

I also bought Lonely Planet Corsica as a travel guidebook, but was less impressed than usual. The long predicted decline in quality of LP may be proven by this edition. If you are only going for the GR20, you may not need anything more than a trekking guide.

There are no dedicated “hiking maps” for the GR20 that I saw in 2011. The guidebooks are sufficient if you are going to stay on the main trails.

The trail is possible from early June through mid-October.
Best month to hike is June when water (and snow) is more available.

July and August can be VERY HOT. And crowded. Lightning storms frequently drive you off the heights by afternoon.

Keep to the highest (most difficult) route as much as possible.

Due to the wonderful climate, I’d recommend you sleep in a tent. Those can be rented at Refuges, but it’s safer to carry your own. I refused to stay under roof, myself. Refuges are noisy, crowded and unsanitary. That’s just me. Most hikers seem to like them.

Very little English is spoken on the GR20. You’ll need at least a smattering of French to survive.

My biggest mistake was carrying too much food and liquid. My pack was too heavy. Instead I should have carried more Euros and simply bought meals along the way at Refuges.

Most do this adventure independently, but you can sign on with a guiding company. Try …

• Walks Worldwide
• KE Travel Adventure

The easiest, cheapest way to get to Corsica is by Air. Try EasyJet first. Personally I enjoyed taking the overnight ferry to and from the island, saving the cost of accommodation both ways.

Questions? Suggestions?

Leave a comment if you’ve done the GR20 and have advice to add.

9 thoughts on “advice – the GR20 trek in Corsica

  1. Hi Rick, I enjoyed reading your commentary about your experience. I did the northern section back in July 2010 and the southern section in June 2011. Another piece of advice you might want to add is: treat the water. Very often the Corsicans pump their water directly from nearby streams so the water “might” be infected due to the heavy grazing. I’m speaking from personal experience 😦 (at the time I was taking from granted all water sources were safe. I was wrong). I also shot 2 55-minute documentary films about my adventures on the GR20 (one of them is featured on the main gr20 page of corsica.forhikers.com/gr20). If you feel like it I’d appreciate if you would check them out. And I’d be honored if you would add them to your gr20 info page. Thank you
    Michele Custodero

  2. thank you for this very interesting day to day feed back and experiences. I’m going there early sept 2013 and this gives me a good idea of what to expect. I better get my hiking shoes on and start training…. Good job!

  3. I did the GR20 in two parts (South in 2010 , North in 2011), and to this day it’s still my favourite trek.
    The southern part is much easier than the north, and there are multiple water sources (we never used filters) along the way, but I found the north part more beautiful and rewarding.
    Since we were native french speakers (but not from France, a big plus if you want to get friendly with the refuge keepers), it was very easy to get friendly with other trekkies. And since everybody starts and ends the day in the same place, you get to talk about your experiences in the evening in the campings.

    I agree that some of the refuges are filthy though. This is why we (and almost everybody else) sleps in Balonne instead of Tighjettu and in Vergio instead of Ciottulu di i Mori.
    Oh, and staying at Londa is a must : the camp keeper makes the best lasagnas in the world (with cheese from his own goats).

  4. I’m considering doing this hike during late September, early October. I don’t want to be carrying all my food for the entire length and haven’t been able to find a definitive answer as to when refuges selling food and water close for the season. Do you know this information or have any advise about the quantity of food needed to complete this if refuges are closed.
    Thanks

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