Walks in the Jura

The department of the Jura is situated in the south of the Franche Comté region, bordering Switzerland to the east and the rather better known region of Burgundy to the west. It is often thought of as an area which is untypical of France, perhaps because it did not come fully under French rule until 1674.

Today, the inhabitants of the Jura take pride in their local produce, which includes ‘apellation contrôlée’ designations for wine, cheese and even chickens, and their beautiful unspoilt scenery. It is easy to see why the area is described as ‘le pays qui respire’ (the country with breathing space). 

The Jura provides a wide variety of walks which are suitable for all types of visitor. There are the long distance footpaths which traverse the area (GR5, GR 59, GR559 and variants) and many local tracks (PR) which can take you through the mountains of the Haut Jura, round the lakes and waterfalls of the Pays des Lacs, through the vineyards of the Revermont and the wetlands of the Jura Bressane. En route you will discover typical villages (both Chateau Chalon and Baume-les-Messieurs figure in the list of the most beautiful villages in France) and stunning geological features (caves, reculées, combes and cluses) 

The Jura is rich in wildlife. Chamois can be seen in the mountain area and birds of prey such as buzzards and peregrine falcons are common sights. You may even be fortunate enough to sight the extremely rare little bittern but this may require rather more sitting by the ponds in the Jura Bressane, than walking.

As we write this at the end of March 2010, after a seemingly endless winter the woodlands are just coming to life and are carpeted with oxlips, primroses, wood anemones and wild violets. Later on there will be gentians and banks of thyme and marjoram.  

The walks we have done for Walkingworld are listed below. The best maps for these walks are IGN TOP 25 series
3226ET Lons - Le Saunier Poligny (walks 5223 and 4631)
3326ET Champagnole - Lac De Chalain. Pic De L'Aigle (walks 5086 and 5085)
Maps can be bought in supermarkets, bookshops and Journaux although they are only likely to carry a small range for their local area. To get them in advance try Stanfords. If you have Memory-Map IGN maps are available in the same way as UK OS maps. The 'Department' number for Jura is 39 (you'll need this to get the right map). This is the best way to see the Walkingworld routes printed on a map, as downloadable maps from the site are not available.

It would be easy to combine 4 or 5 days walking in the area with more general tourism and relaxation.

The Lac de Chalain is a good place to swim once the weather warms up. The plage de Doucier is quiet during the week but has facilities and pedalo hire. For a wider range of water-based activities there is also the plage du Domaine de Chalain near the main campsite. It is also possible to canoe down the river Ain, Canoevasion in Pont de Poitte and Magiciens d’Eau at Pont du Navoy offer a range of different length excursions.

The Haut Jura area is a national park and offers many different types of outdoor activities. In winter the ski resort of Les Rousses (comprising the 4 villages Les Rousses, Prémanon, Lamoura and Bois d’Amont) has Alpine and Nordic skiing and lots of raquette (snow-shoe) tracks. Depending on the winter you can frequently ski up to Easter. At the moment the resort is on a high, as it is home to the 2010 gold medallist for Nordic combined and a Paralympic triple gold medallist in alpine events (they were both in the same class at Bois d’Amont school). In addition Les Rousses is hosting both a departure and arrival for the 2010 Tour de France. www.lesrousses.com gives information on activities in the area.

It is also possible to canoe down the river Ain, Canoevasion in Pont de Poitte and Magiciens d’Eau at Pont du Navoy offer a range of different length excursions.

Another way of discovering the Haut Jura is to take the train along the Ligne des Hirondelles which makes it way from Dole to Saint Claude along a series of spectacular viaducts. More information can be found at www.lignedeshirondelles.fr

The main town of the department is Lons le Saunier. Although small it has a pleasant centre with a range of independent (and therefore more interesting!) shops and restaurants. There is also a thermal establishment where you can indulge yourself in a dip in the spa waters and have a mud wrap, which works wonders for aching muscles. Booking ahead is necessary in the summer. The town was also the birthplace of Rouget de Lisle (author of La Marseillaise) and the Laughing Cow (La Vache qui Rit) - they both have their own museum!

No visit to the Jura would be complete without visiting a wine producer. The whole of the area around Lons has many small producers but to taste the famous Vin Jaune it is best to go to Chateau Chalon. Whilst you are tasting, do not forget to try Cremant du Jura (a quarter of the price of champagne and rated highly by the Guide Hachette) and Macvin which is the local aperitif of choice.

The local cheese producers are called Fruitières and produce Comté, Morbier and Mont d’or (which can only be sold between October and April!) - many of them offer visits.

The second department of the Franche Comté is Le Doubs and both Besançon and Arc et Senans are UNESCO world heritage sites.

For those wanting to stay longer the Jura is little more than an hour’s drive from the famous vineyards of the Cote d’Or and the charming town of Beaune. A similar distance to the southwest is the lively town of Chalon-sur-Saône (check out what it has to offer by visiting www.chalon-sur-saone.net and the winegrowing area of the Maconnais which is also famous for its historic abbeys and churches.

Keep a look out for the listing of walks in this wider area as we roam further from home this summer.

A convenient place to stay covering all the options would be John & Carolyn Scallan’s B&B at "Le Bourg" 71330 Sens-sur-Seille www.bandb-burgundy.com

The Jura is green and has fantastic rivers and waterfalls-guess why! However summers can be very warm (be sure to take water and a hat with you) and winters very cold. Be prepared for variety and you will have a great time.

We have already mentioned wine and cheese but we could not end without mentioning Poulet de Bresse – a chicken so famous it even has its own motorway service station. It has a red comb, white feathers and blue legs and when eaten in sauce vin jaune aux morilles is possibly the most delicious thing in the world. Bon appétit!

If you would like to check out information on walks etc before visiting you can contact us through the Walkingworld website.

Janet and Alec Tice



You can use these pages to browse for walks in specific regions, counties and areas. It is a good idea to narrow down your search to the most local area possible, as the list of walks for larger areas can be very long. An alternative way of searching is to use the Find a Walk tool.

We would like to include a short article for each of the areas on these pages. If an area has no article and you can send us a few hundred words about the area, pointing out its key attractions and other useful information, we would greatly appreciate it.