GR 53

November is not my favorite month of the year.  Sure, there’s Thanksgiving and the beginning of Christmas, but there’s also wind, dry brown landscapes, short days and a feeling of being “in between” the better parts of the year.  Albeit, November was the month we found ourselves on the 53.  It had been a long summer and fall.  Two tired retailers just wanted to walk.

Having just finished a guided group in France and having 10 more days at our disposal as well as being well-versed on the Grand Randonee (GR) system of trails, we decided to take our chances on the little-known GR53 located in the upper region of Alsace.  It was just a short rain ride away.

We needed three things:  a well-marked trail, a trail that wouldn’t be covered in snow and lodging.

We found exactly what we were looking for.

The GR53 began in Wissembourg practically touching the German border before running south along the crest of the northern Vosges Mountains.  Waymarking, done by the local Vosgian Hiking Club, proved to be excellent.  The walking was easy underfoot with lots of November leaves.  The days were brisk and comfortable and the fall color, though not at its height, lingered on the trees.   In many ways the area was reminiscent of western Pennsylvania.

The GR53 abounded with history, making the trail not just an outdoor experience, but a place of learning.  From just about anywhere along the low, tree-covered mountains were chateau ruins in the distance.  Remainders of the Marginot Line, France’s ill-fated defense against the Germans, lined the trail.

Lodging along the route was particularly enjoyable as we discovered the french meuble, a private house or apartment normally rented for a week in high season.  In November, it was easy to book for a single night and proved to be an excellent value.

Our celebrity status of being the “first Americans” almost everywhere we went was an advantage.  It’s fun to go where people like you.

All in all this was an excellent route in a relatively unknown part of France as well as being easy to accomplish- even in the month of November.


Like so many of the trails that I’ve listed, this one won’t thrill you with it’s majestic mountains or even it’s charm.  But I loved it.  I especially loved the woodsy paths.  I loved the ease of lodging and the fact that we were not competing with any other tourist.  I’d do this trail again in a heart beat.