GR 20, Corsica

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One of the best hikes in the world

GR 20

Sometimes called

  • Grande Randonnée 20 (French)
  • Gran Recorrido 20 (Spanish)
  • Grote Routepaden 20 (Dutch)
  • Grande Rota 20 (Portuguese)
  • Fra li monti (Corsican) = “across the mountains”

It’s spelled both GR 20 and GR20. We’ve used both. 🙂

Trek the rocky, rugged spine of Corsica (French: Corse, Ligurian: Corsega)

Europe’s toughest trek250px-Corse_in_France.svg

… The trail (conceived by Michel Fabrikant back in 1970) is long (even if you walk half of it) and tough. Don’t underestimate it! You need to be fit, well trained but most of all you must be highly motivated. …

The path is basic: i.e. there actually is no real path underfoot for 98% of the time. So much that on many occasions if you don’t see the next waymark or cairn you won’t know where to go. Seriously. In addition to that forget the flat path you’re probably used to; most of the time you’ll walk on rugged and tormented terrain, rocks, stones galore, granite slabs … you get the idea. Get used to it. …

The huts are basic. If we leave out the minor exceptions of the decent buildings at Haut Asco and Castel de Verghio, the huts are small rudimentary (some of them) bergerie-style buildings with small suffocating dormitories …

My advice instead is to bring your own tent. …


  • corsicamorenkop one of the best treks in the world
  • 180km
  • 15 days (many hike only half)
  • 19,000m of ascent and descent
  • sleep in tents or mountain huts (refuges or gîtes)
  • hiking permit not required. Reservations for the refuges recommended.
  • hiking possible from early June through mid-October. June might be the best month as water (snow) are more available
  • located west of Italy, southeast of the French mainland, and north of the Italian island of Sardinia


Why We Like This Hike

    • fantastic, high vistas
    • gorgeous ridge walking
    • wine available en route every day
    • when the trail divides, stay as high as you can for best views
    • high adventure with no risk of altitude sickness
    • diverse flowers, birds, lizards, snakes and animals (you might see a mouflon)
    • no mountain climbing gear nor experience necessary
    • starry, starry nights
    • challenging Cirque de Solitude
    • charming Lac de Nino
    • you can “wild camp” (technically illegal) but not policed

  • free cooking facilities available at refuges
  • you can eat at refuges without sleeping there
  • cold showers at most refuges
  • History. French emperor Napoléon Bonaparte was born in 1769 in the Corsican capital of Ajaccio


  • It can be dangerous. Hikers have died.
  • you’ll be scrambling. Bad footing, loose rock and stone and risk of falling is the norm. Only rarely do you find a flat stretch of ground.
  • Very little English is spoken on the GR20. You’ll need at least a smattering of French to survive.
  • things go wrong: forest fire, flooding, storms, snow and ice. Be prepared for anything. Crampons and ice axes are needed some months of the year.
  • route finding is difficult enough when skies are clear, never mind when you are walking in the clouds.
  • Many love the refuges. We don’t. Sure you can hike without carrying shelter or much food, but they are problematic: noisy, crowded, filled with drunk snorers, bed bugs (at times). Potentially unsanitary.
  • some shelters (for example Ascu Stagnu) have electricity so you might be able to charge electronics
  • toilets and showers are basic. Be prepared to “sit in the woods”
  • I tented every night in my lightweight Hubba. Others use even lighter (bug proof) bivy bags.  Most of the refuges offer rental tents. Personal shelter gives you more freedom to decide where to camp. Privacy. Solitude. But be prepared in case of severe mountain storms.
  • lightning storms frequently drive you off the heights by afternoon.
  • Refuge de Carrozzu campsite was swarming with ants when we were there
  • logistics can be disrupted due to labour strikes (e.g 2005)
  • trip reports mention midges. We saw none while we were there. We did have swarming ants — the tent kept them out.
  • don’t leave any food out. You might attract dogs, farm animals, foxes or even wild boar
  • treat ALL water. Corsicans often pump directly from streams so ALL water is suspect due to heavy grazing. Water is scarce, as well, especially late in the season. Fill 3 litres / person every time you get the chance.
  • camping Gaz and white gas are available as stove fuel. But we couldn’t easily find Butane / Propane threaded canisters popular in North America. Happily, at most refuges you can cook on gas stoves for free.
  • July and August can be VERY HOT. And crowded.
  • though trails are blazed with white stripe over a red stripe, you still get lost quite often. It’s necessary to backtrack many times a day.
scrambling the Spasimata slabs

Tom Fordyce in The Guardian:

… The Cirque de la Solitude is the most notorious single section of the entire GR20. People are so scared of it that they huddle in petrified groups the night before, exchanging horror stories …

Happily, I found the Cirque reasonably easy.

Cirque de la Solitude by uhasemann


  • no cost for hiking
  • camping at the refuges averaged 7€ per person in 2017
  • accommodation & food prices vary. It’s not inexpensive.
  • aside from refuges, there are some bergeries (farmhouses) that often offer camping as well as homemade cheese, bread, charcuterie and other foodstuffs. Camping at bergeries averaged 8€ per person in 2017
  • Food is basic. Good. But expensive. Still — on a trek this rugged and long — it’s better to carry more Euros, less food.
food on the GR 20
Meandering Mayans
  • breakfast & evening meals can be purchased by anyone at most refuges
  • staples (e.g. bread, pasta, cheese, tins of ham and tuna) are available. Drinks include coke, wine & beer.
  • SPAR supermarket in Calenzana takes credit card. Most everywhere else, especially on the GR 20, cash will be required.
  • Chris Molloy (logistics & costs 2010)


Two sections: the northern (Calenzana – Vizzavona) and southern (Vizzavona and Conca). Vizzavona is considered the middle as there is a train station. Hikers can start or end half the route there. Some recuperate and/or resupply in Vizzavona. (Cam Honan: “You can supplement your supplies at Asco Stagu, Castel di Verghio, Bavella and do a full resupply at Vizzavona.”)

The northern half is considered the more difficult because of steep and rocky paths. But the south is difficult, too. Don’t underestimate.

Daily stages according to corsica.forhikers:

Refuge d’Ortu di u Piobbu
Refuge de Carrozzu
Refuge d’Asco Stagnu (Haut Asco)
Refuge de Tighjettu
Bergeries de Ballone (alternative to Tighjettu)
Refuge de Ciottulu di i Mori
Castellu di Verghio (alternative to Ciottulu di i Mori)
Refuge de Manganu
Refuge de Pietra Piana
Refuge de l’Onda
Bergeries de Capannelle
Col de Verde (alternative to Prati)
Refuge de Prati
Refuge d’Usciolu … new refuge before d’Asinao added

UPDATE 2013 from Roger WB Gaff:

Between d’Usciolu and d’Asinau refuges there are now three possible overnight places if a walker wanted to break the long stage. At Bergeries de Bassetta, Matalza and at Bergeries Croce.

Refuge d’Asinao
Col de Bavella (alternative to Paliri)
Refuge de Paliri

Possible side trips: Monte Corona (2144m), Monte Cinto (2706m), Monte Rotondo or Ritondu (2622m), Monte Renoso (2352m), etc.
My side trip to the summit of d’Oro.

Trekking Guides

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

Some offer luggage transfer.


  • The easiest, cheapest way to get to Corsica is by Air. Try EasyJet first. There are airports in Ajaccio (SW), Bastia (NE), Calvi (NW) & Figari (S).
  • Personally I enjoyed taking the overnight ferry  Nice Corsica, saving the cost of accommodation both ways. There are many other ferry options.
  • in Calvi I liked the inexpensive Hotel du Centre
  • transportation 17km Calvi to the trailhead at Calenzana is by inexpensive “school bus” or taxi (37EU in 2011)
  • As of 2010, advanced reservations for refuges via the GR20 Booking System (French) is supposed to be compulsory. See the GR20 Accommodation Brochure (PDF in French) for details. Since we were tenting, we made no reservations. And could decide on our route day-by-day. Normally there’s room to squeeze one more  tent into the walled compound, even if you arrive late in the day.
Mangaru Refuge

Local Information

  • the GR network is maintained by the Fédération Française de la Randonnée Pédestre (French Hiking Federation)
  • PGHM are the Mountain Rescue gendarmes in Corsica.  They can be called on: 04 95 61 13 95.  Other emergency numbers include: 18 (fire brigade), 17 (gendarmes), 15 (emergency doctor service), and 112 (the euro mobile help number). Mobile phones do not work over much of the GR 20, however. Check at the refuges.

Best Trekking Guidebooks

Most books describe the trek north to south, but there’s no real reason you can’t do it in the opposite direction, leaving the most spectacular and difficult sections to the end. Be sure to get the most recent edition.

Best Travel Guidebooks

Best Maps

A guidebook is sufficient if you are going to stay on the main trails.

  • GR20 – Across the Mountains of Corsica Federation Francaise de la Randonnee Scale: 1:25,000 / 50,000

GPS files for download

Online Maps

Best Web Pages

Best Trip Reports


Click PLAY or watch Corsica GR20 North: Memories of a trekker on Vimeo.

Click PLAY or watch Corsica GR20 North: Memories of a trekker 2: Return to the island on Vimeo.


Cam Honan GR20

Check our blog for posts tagged “GR20”.

Questions? Suggestions? Leave a comment on this page. Our editors will reply.

13 Replies to “GR 20, Corsica”

  1. Hello,
    Between d’Usciolu and d’Asinau refuges there are now three possible overnight places if a walker wanted to break the long stage. At Bergeries de Bassetta, Matalza and at Bergeries Croce.
    Coming up from the South this summer I checked out Croce and regained the GR using the track to the old Bergerie Cavallara and then NE on a track.
    All three seem to be linked to the ‘normal GR’ by a new waymarked route from the col above Asinau through to the area around Bocca di l’Agnonu…..travelling from the South.

  2. My wife and I would like to hike the GR20 last week of September/First week of October. Trying to understand if the huts will be open with food at this time, and any experience with the weather. Comments appreciated. Cisco and Roadrunner

  3. I completed the GR20 in July 2015 and would say it was one of the best experiences in my life! I went south to north. There was some amazing scenery, abysmal weather, awesome people and some truly memorable hiking. This year I hope to tackle La Haute Route. My advice would be be prepared for early starts to avoid the afternoon showers. There were some nice spots on route to camp in the wild, including in some abandoned bergeries.

  4. Hiked North to South in June 2015. As far as I know, Le Cirgue is now closed due to last summers accident. The GR20 now crosses Monte Cinto instead.
    Furthermore, Refuge d’asniau has burnt to the ground as of March 24 2016.

  5. The GR20 sounds awesome! One of my favorite parts of hiking the Appalachian Trail was the presidentials in New Hampshire. Scrambling over the ridge lines. Plenty of elevation change, and gorgeous views as a reward for each ascent. Miss it so much!

    My french is horrible right now, but this hike (along with circumnavigating Monte Blanc) are on my bucket list now, so I guess I better get studying!

    Thanks for the detailed overview! Planning will be quite a bit easier.

  6. Not recommended unless you like crowds. Very popular, especially with French people and there’s real competition in the evening for tent spaces. The local sheperds take advantage of hikers and charge you insane amount of money for bread, cheese and saucisson (dry sausage). Try the GR10 in the Pyrenees instead. Beautiful and less crowded.

  7. Hi, awesome page! just wondering because I’ve read differing reports. If you plan on camping, do you need to make a reservation for tent space at the refugee? I know wild camping is not allowed (right?)

    1. When I was on the GR 20 people were not reserving for TENTS. There was plenty of space at each campsite.

      Wild camping is NOT allowed. I did so anyway a couple of nights when it was convenient. As the terrain is wide open there are not that many discrete spots.

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