How to Hike the GR5, The Grande Randonnée Cinq (Five), through the Alps.

Translations of French Navigation Terms in GR5 Topoguides

By David May

Copyright 2004 - 2017, All rights Reserved
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Table of Contents Links:

General Information:

1. Why the GR5 and GR52?


Who should use this site?

Other Long Distance Alpine Hikes

About the author

2. The Entire GR5, from the North Sea to the Mediterranean (three months) (only summarily described here).

Page describing the Guidebooks and Internet resources for the GR5 from Holland to the Alps.

The Alpine Crossing, from Lake Geneva (Lac Léman) to either Nice or Menton on the Mediterranean. Nice is a 4 weeks walk from Lake Geneva, Menton, almost 5 weeks. I recommend the walk to Menton over the GR 52 variant, if you can possibly find the time.

Types of trekkers - "purists" and "easygoers".

Costs and Budget

3. When to Go and When to Walk

Accommodation: Types and Reservations

Planning your Route

Meeting People

4. Trail Identification and Direction Marks


5. Books, Maps, Internet sites, GPS

Page with English translations of French Topoguide navigation terms.

6. Conditioning, hiking speed, rest days

7. Shopping and Communications

8. Top sights attractions:
Lake Geneva Steamer*;
Dent d'Oche**;
Chamonix area*** (a very slight detour; consider allowing three or more sunny days);
Sospel*and Aspremont* ;
Nice** and Menton**.

9. GR5 access points:

Author's Route Recommendations and Tips for the demanding hiker:

10. Starting Points on the South Shore of Lake Geneva: The official St. Gingolph or Thonon-les-Bains, vis-a-vis my preferred starting point of Evian-les-Bains. Advantages and disadvantages. Getting there. Detouring to visit the Dent d'Oche**.

11. Accommodations from La Chapelle-d'Abondance to Chamonix (or Les Houches).

12. Accommodations and route, Chamonix to Briançon.

13. Accommodations and route, Briançon to Larche: My difficult but thrilling back way out of Briançon.

14. From Larche to the Vésubie Valley.

Recommended for the intrepid: Partially off-trail variation in the northern Mercantour Park to beautifully austere and isolated lakes.

Short-cut to the lower GR5 or GR52, possibly saving a day or more and much more exciting terrain than the official GR5 route

Joining the GR 52 by bus from Nice via Isola 2000 or via Boréon.

15. From the Vésubie Valley to the Mediterranean:

Comparison of the GR5 to Nice vis-a-vis the GR52 to Menton: Two possible endings for your walk.

The GR5.

How to handle the 2,000 meter (6,600 foot) descent from the Valley des Merveilles to Sospel on the GR52.

Don't miss the stupendous GR52 final day from Sospel to the Mediterranean at Menton.

Trail Markings almost everywhere:

 White bar over red Bar continue straight ahead
   As above with white arrow\
 underneath, or white and red arrows turn in direction of arrow(s)
   White and red X bad direction
Trail Markings in Vosges of Alsace, from the Donon to the Ballon d\'92Alsace, differ:
Red bar continue straight ahead
Red bar with arrows turn
Red X wrong direction

French Vocabulary:




Hors GR off the GR trail
Tirets dashes (dashed line on map)
Variante variation
Abri shelter
Gite d'étape communal lodging
  on a road
Refuge communal lodging
  off road
 Chambre d'hôte guest room, bed and breakfast
Hébergements lodging
Revitallement supplies
Car bus
Distributeur de billets (DAB) ATM
Balisage trail marking, waymarking
Cairn rockpile marking trail
Avant before
Devant in front of
Derrière behind
Après after
En face facing you
Plus loin farther than
Jusqu'à, Jusqu'au until
En vis-à-vis opposite each other
De, Du, Depuis from (also de, du = of, of the)
Gauche left
Droite right
Tout droite straight ahead
Quelques some
Mètre meter
Route route
Piste rough dirt road
Chemin  minor road, dirt road
   (empierré)  (rocky, stone-surfaced)
Rue street
Sentier trail
Voie (romaine) way (Roman)
Carrefour, croissement,
   intersection intersection
Pente slope
En lacets in switchbacks
En contrebas de further down than
Sommet summit
Corniche, Falaise cliff
Arète, Crète ridge
Monter climb
Descendre descend
Sud south
Est east
Nord north
Ouest west
Błâtiment building
Église church
Mur wall
Clôiture fence
Pont bridge
Gare railroad station 
   Gare routière       bus station
Traverser, Franchir, couper cross
Emprunter, Prendre take (a road, etc.)
Suivre follow
Poursuivre, Continuer continue
Bifurquer sur branch onto
Tourner turn
Se diriger vers go towards
Déboucher come out (at)
Quitter, Laisser leave
en flanc traversing a slope
Vallon valley
Forêt forest
Ferme farm
Rocher rock
Pierre stone
Clairière clearing
Champs, Pré, Pâturage field, pasture
Source spring
Cascade waterfall
Ruisseau stream
Gué ford
Pas not
Practicable traversable 
Glissant slippery
Piéton pedestrian
Beginners pronunciation: "a" is as in father, "i" sounds like e in he, "o" or "au" or "eau" is like "o", "ou" is like "u". (A "u" is pronounced half-way between u and e.)

"é" or "ê" or "er" or "et" is normally like a in hay;

è is like e in eh, "e with no mark is silent or like in the word the.