Category: GR20

GR20 Packing List

There are some long-distance hikes in which you can get away with carrying stuff you don’t need. Sure, you may find yourself huffing and puffing a little more than you’d…

There are some long-distance hikes in which you can get away with carrying stuff you don’t need. Sure, you may find yourself huffing and puffing a little more than you’d like and your knees might be cranky by the end of the day, but on the whole you’ll be alright. Maybe you’ll even be glad you brought along that collapsible camping tea kettle or extra fancy toiletries (although we seriously doubt it).

The GR20 is not one of those hikes.

Rugged mountains on the GR20 trail in Corsica.

You’ll be thankful you packed smart when you’re up here!

 

Not only is the GR20 very long and physically demanding, but it also has several sections that are quite technical. When you’re awkwardly climbing your way down a steep gully or hoisting yourself up a sheer slab of rock, you’ll be glad to have as light a pack as possible. Indeed, carrying a backpack that is too heavy is a common cause of hikers quitting their trek all together. We’re not telling you this to scare you, but rather we want to spread the word about one of the most important keys to success on this trek-your GR20 packing list.

When packing for the GR20, you need to be ruthless. Leave behind everything except for the absolute essentials, and we promise your trek will be exponentially more enjoyable.  In this post, we’ll share our best advice for on must-have gear, as well as give you our tried-and-true GR20 packing list, organized into helpful categories and suitable for both campers and those staying in the refuges.

What’s in this post:

GR20 Packing Basics

There are limitless ways to hike the GR20; you can carry your own tent, stay in refuges or hire tents, self-cater, eat meals at refuges, hike at a slow pace, double up on stages, and so on. Your GR20 packing list will need to be tailored to your individual itinerary and needs. Someone who is purchasing most of their meals and staying in refuges will have a significantly different kit than someone who is carrying all of their own camping gear and cooking their own meals. Despite all of this variability, there are a few basic truths about packing for the GR20 that apply to everyone. These include:

  1. Keep your backpack as light as possible! (see the next section for more on this)
  2. It is essential to dial in your footwear.
  3. Bring hiking poles and learn how to use them prior to your GR20 trek.

 

Hiker with a backpack and trekking poles on the GR20

Puffy jacket? Check. Trekking poles? Check. Lightweight Pack? Check. Gorgeous scenery? Check!

How much should my pack weigh?

This isn’t easy to answer, since there are a ton of factors that influence how much is too much for any individual hiker. Some things to think about…

  • How fast are you hoping to hike? Generally speaking, lighter=faster
  • Have you completed a multi-day through hike with this specific backpack and this amount of weight before? 
  • Are you injury-prone or do you have any chronic knee, hip, or back issues? 

As a very general rule, campers (with their own tent) should keep their pack weight below 13kg, including food and water. Those staying in refuges should carry no more than 9kg.  If you are backpacking for the first time or have a chronic injury, the weight of your pack should be significantly less than these guidelines.

Generally speaking, less is more. Here’s a few tips for lightening your load:

  1. You only need a couple of shirts. Same goes for underwear and socks. Before you write us off as total dirtbags, hear us out. First, you’ll have plenty of time and sunshine to wash and dry laundry. Second, clothes are heavy, so cutting out everything but the absolute essentials will make a huge difference.
  2. Plan out when/where you’ll restock food provisions and don’t carry more food than you need.
  3. Consider leaving your bulky camera equipment at home. Unless photography is your passion, most smartphones take great photos and save a ton of space and weight.
Hikers on a steep trail.

You’ll be happy to have a light backpack on steep trails like this.

Footwear on the GR20

Traditional hiking boots, hiking shoes, or trail runners will all work for the trail conditions on the GR20, but you need to make sure they will work for you too. This means that you should bring a pair of boots or shoes that you know from experience don’t cause problems for your feet. Ideally, you should put at least 30 miles on them in various terrain and weather conditions to reduce the chance of running into issues on the trail. A nasty blister can be catastrophic on a multi-day trek like the TMB! That being said, you also don’t want your boots/shoes to be too broken in, as you need them to hold up faithfully for many miles of gnarly terrain. I know we’re asking you to work some Goldilocks magic here, but it’s definitely worth it!

In terms of other specifications, we feel that the only other must-have is a good, grippy vibrum (or similar material) sole for steep descents and loose paths. Otherwise it’s up to personal preference when it comes to how much ankle support you need, waterproof versus quick-dry, sturdy versus lightweight, and so on. I hiked in non-waterproof trail runners, while Ian used traditional hiking boots and we were both very happy with the results. Some people argue that trailrunners can’t withstand the wear and tear of the rough conditions of the GR20, but I didn’t have any issues in this regard, and I was grateful to have comfortable, reliable footwear.

Hiking boots

Your trusty boots are one of your most important pieces of gear.

You’ll also want to make sure you have some good socks. Socks are one of those rare things in life where you really do get what you pay for, and high quality socks can be a game changer. Once again, try to do some hiking in a few different types to figure out how what you like in terms of thickness, cushion, and height. We love merino wool for its quick-drying and anti-stink qualities.

If you’re blister prone, consider trying sock liners. Many hikers swear by them. Other tried-and-true blister prevention tactics include putting bodyglide on potential hotspots or wearing toe socks.

Trekking Poles

BRING THEM. Enough said. Seriously, these are a total game-changer on a tough trek like the GR20. You (and your knees) will be so glad to have them on steep sections. Make sure your poles are lightweight and collapsible, as you’ll need to stash them frequently on scrambling sections that necessitate having your hands free.

Backpacking backpack

The type of pack you’ll need for the GR20 will depend on your individual itinerary.

Backpack

The same rule for shoes applies to backpacks: make sure you complete several hikes with your bag packed the same way (and with the same weight) you’ll carry on the GR20. Also similar to shoes, backpacks need to be broken in through use, and your body needs to get used to the feeling of wearing it for extended periods of time. In terms of size, most campers will need between 45 and 65 liters. Those staying in refuges will find that 30-40L is perfect. If you’re purchasing a new one, most good outdoors stores have experienced staff that will help you find the right fit and style for your needs. Bonus points if the pack has a system for quickly stashing your trekking poles!

Don’t forget to bring a pack cover (included with many newer backpacks) to protect against rain. This is an absolute must-have.

Battery Backup

If you plan on using your phone as a GPS to navigate along the GR20 (which we highly recommend!), it’s imperative that it stays charged. Even if you’re not, you’re likely to have something that necessitates having a full battery. Some refuges will allow you to charge electronics (sometimes for free & often for a small fee), but this certainly isn’t a guarantee everywhere. Carrying a small battery backup or one of these nifty portable solar panels will give you a little more freedom and peace of mind.

Cell phones charging

Charging electronics can get a little crazy on the GR20, if you’re lucky enough to find somewhere that’ll even let you.

 

Hydration Bladder

Corsica can get extremely hot in the summer months, and you are more than likely to face some sweltering temperatures while hiking the GR20. You should plan on drinking upwards of two liters of water per day- indeed some hikers will need three or even four liters on long, hot day. Staying adequately hydrated is crucial for this trek, as the heat and the physical exertion can take their toll. Although there are water refill points along most stages of the hike, these are not always the most dependable or conveniently located. Instead of relying on spotty water sources, we strongly recommend that you fill up a large hydration bladder with all of the water you’ll need before setting out for the day. We love using our 3L Platypus hydration bladders because they make it easy to fill up on larger quantities of water, their handy straws promote more frequent and efficient hydration while hiking, and they allow you to carry the weight in an optimized way against your back.  We definitely feel that a good bladder is an essential item for the GR20.

 

Sunset at Refuge d'Ortu di u Piobbu

You can choose to bring your own tent or use hire tents like these on the GR20.

 

Camping-Specific Gear List

If you plan on camping along the GR20, there’s a lot more gear you need to think about than just your hiking basics. Don’t worry though, we’ve got you covered!

Use this camping gear list in conjunction with the personal items list, miscellaneous list, and men’s or women’s clothing list to put together your perfect kit.

Our most recommended piece of camping gear: Freestanding Tent

In all honesty, we did not actually bring a freestanding tent with us on the GR20. We’re still using our trusty Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight, which has lasted us nearly a decade and hundreds of nights out in the backcountry. We typically recommend this tent wholeheartedly for any backpacking trek, due to its high quality design and affordable price tag. Even though we love this tent dearly, there were countless times we wished we had a freestanding tent on the GR20. This is because the ground at most camping areas consists of very hard-packed dirt, making it virtually impossible to get a stake in. Additionally, it can be very challenging to find an even surface to pitch your tent on, and sometimes you’ll realize you need to move it once you’ve already erected it. Unlike with a traditional tent which you have to completely break down to move, a freestanding tent allows you to simply pick it up and put it anywhere you please. Freestanding tents give you the ability to shake out all of the dirt, rocks, and grass that you’ll inevitably track in much more easily than with a traditional tent. And one last reason? Many freestanding tents are designed so that you can pack up the tent while the rain fly remains erected- a complete lifesaver on wet mornings. We met dozens of hikers along the GR20 who were using the MSR Hubba Hubba and absolutely loved it. This is arguably the best backpacking tent on the market right now.



ItemOur recommended gear 
TentMSR Hubba Hubba Backpacking TentThe MSR Hubba Hubba 2 is the best overall tent you can buy, and the freestanding features are perfect for the GR20.
Sleeping bagMarmot Trestle 30A 30° F or 0° C sleeping bag should keep you plenty warm on the GR20.
Sleeping pad Nemo Astro Insulated Sleeping PadThis is a must-have for side-sleepers! Even if you're not, this is one of the most lightweight and comfortable sleeping pads out there. It held up well on the hard and rocky conditions of the GR20.
PillowTherm-a-Rest pillowA camping pillow can be great when you're spending 14+ nights sleeping in a tent, but this is an optional item for those looking to save weight.
StoveMSR Pocket Rocket StoveIan has used this stove for nearly a decade and highly recommends it! A stove isn't 100% necessary on the GR20, as the refuges provide gas cooktops, but it can be nice to have.
Backpacking potGSI HaluliteFor those planning to cook their own meals this pot will serve you well.
UtensilsMSR Deep Dish plate , MSR Stainless Steel mugHumangear Spork Best $4 you will ever spend!
Plate/Bowl/MugMSR 2-person mess kitWe find this bowl and mug combo to be light, durable, and perfect for camp dinners.

NOTES FOR CAMPERS:

  • If you plan on camping in hire tents, you do not need to carry a tent or sleeping pad, as those are included in your rental. You do, however, need your own sleeping bag.
  • If you plan on self-catering most of your meals, you should bring your own pot and utensils. Many refuges provide pots, pans, plates, cups, etc, but there is no guarantee what you’ll find at any given place. Nearly every refuge has a gas cooktop that you can use, so it’s not necessary to bring your own stove and fuel unless you don’t want to wait in line at the cooking area. You do, however, need to supply your own lighter/matches.

Refuge-Specific Gear List

If you’re planning on sleeping in refuges, gites, and hotels along the GR20, you can keep your pack relatively small. However, there are some specific items you’ll want to make sure you pack. While you don’t need much, there are some essentials that you’ll be glad to have for these communal accommodation situations. Use this list in conjunction with the other lists (except for the camping gear list) to ensure that you’re well prepared for your GR20 adventure.

Note: there are some repeats on this list that we’ve also included on the other lists. However, we wanted to highlight items on this list that are especially important for anyone who is staying primarily in dorm-style accommodation.

Our most recommended piece for the refuges: Eco-Friendly Bedbug Spray

We’re not trying to scare you, but the reality is that bedbug infestations are very common in the GR20 refuges and gites. Besides being pretty gross, bedbugs can really put a damper on your trek by covering your body in uncomfortable bites and getting into all of your clothing and gear. Many hikers swear by using a bedbug spray like this Eco-Friendly one to keep the nasty little buggers at bay. This spray comes in a 3.3 ounce travel-friendly bottle and doesn’t have a strong scent. While it may not reduce your risk of bedbugs entirely, it’s definitely worth a shot!


 

ItemOur recommended gear 
EarplugsMack's EarplugsThe perfect defense for that snorer next door!
Sleeping maskAlaska Bear Sleeping MaskPerfect to block out light while sleeping in refuges.
Sleep sheetVumos Sleep SheetIf you sleep warm, you may want this in addition to your sleeping bag for the nights when you need a lighter option.
Sandals/SlippersCrocsBoots cannot be worn inside the refuges, so you'll want something to wear indoors. While not the most stylish, Crocs make the perfect refuge shoes!
Sleeping BagMarmot Trestles 30Sleeping bags are required in all of the refuges. This one should keep you plenty warm, without being too heavy.
Bedbug SprayEco-Friendly Bedbug SprayBedbugs are a common issues in many of the GR20 refuges, but they don't have to be a nuisance if you're prepared.
Refuge de Carozzu GR20

Every refuge is unique, but you can expect them all to be quite cramped…er, cozy.

 

Personal Gear List

Whether you’re camping or staying indoors, these items are must-haves for your GR20 packing list. While we’ve included some toiletries that are absolutely essential for this trek, we’ve left it up to you to determine your personal list of additional self care items (comb, toothbrush, prescription medication, etc).

Use this list in conjunction with the camping gear list OR refuge-specific list, and the miscellaneous and clothing lists to build your perfect GR20 packing list.

Our most recommended piece of personal gear: Headlamp

As we discussed in our trip report, we firmly believe that getting an early start each day is one of the most important keys to success on the GR20. The Corsican mountains and valleys can get unbearably hot in the afternoon sun, making it so that you’re exerting yourself more than necessary on terrain that is already challenging without adverse weather conditions. Additionally, in the summer months especially, the threat of afternoon thunderstorms is very real and should not be taken lightly. It’s of utmost importance that you’re off the high, exposed peaks and ridges before the storms move in. So why am I going on and on about all this in relation to a headlamp? Because there will be days on the GR20 where you need to pack up and get on the trail before daybreak, and hiking in the dark can be slow, frustrating, and dangerous without a good headlamp. Our Black Diamond Storm headlamps were absolutely invaluable on those early mornings; they are lightweight, long-lasting, have adjustable brightness settings, and they’re totally comfortable. Trust us on this one, you don’t want to leave for your trek without a good quality headlamp.


 

ItemOur recommended gear 
Multi-toolGerber Suspension Multi-PlierPerfect for cutting cheese and bread, repairing gear, and a million other purposes!
First-aid kitAdventure Medical KitsA good backpacking first aid kit is essential. You hope to never have to use it, but will be glad you have it when you need it.
Camel BakPlatypus 3L Hydration BladderWay easier than a water bottle! We suggest carrying a 3 liter version.
Pack-coverSea to Summit Pack coverThis is a truly essential piece of gear given how hard it can rain on the GR20! The best pack-cover we've ever used.
Men's backpackOsprey Atmos 65LWhile backpacks are a very personal item, we find Osprey to make by far the most comfortable packs on the market.
Women's backpackOsprey Aura 65LOne of our favorite features of Osprey packs is the 'anti-gravity' mesh. So comfortable!
Trekking polesBlack Diamond Trail Trekking PolesEssential for long downhills!
Travel towelSea to Summit Drylite TowelGreat to have in huts and campsite showers.
HeadlampBlack Diamond Storm HeadlampGreat headlamp with long battery life and adjustable brightness.
Dry bagsSea to Summit Ultra-Sil dry bagsKeeps your clothes and other items dry in a downpour!
SunscreenWe recommend a waterproof sport version with SPF 30 or higher.
Toilet paperAs any hiker will tell you, it's always better to be prepared! Most of the bathrooms you'll find along the GR20 don't provide toilet paper.
Hand SanitizerMost bathrooms on the GR20 also don't provide hand soap.
Extra BatteriesIt's a good idea to have a few spare batteries for your headlamp, should you need them.

Miscellaneous Gear List

These odds and ends are the unsung heros of the GR20 packing list. From getting your stinky shirt clean to keeping your phone charged, these items help your trek run smoothly. Make sure to use this list in addition to the other categories to complete your GR20 kit.

Our most recommended piece of miscellaneous gear: Battery Backup

Chances are, you’re getting out on the trail to get a break from the constant demands of screens and technology and that’s wonderful. However, don’t underestimate the importance of having a charged cell phone on the GR20. Your phone can be your navigational device, your camera, your guidebook, and your notepad all in one. Charging opportunities are extremely limited along the route, so a battery backup can be an absolute lifesaver. This one is dependable, relatively small, and can fully charge your phone 1.5-2 times between charges. Check it out here:


ItemOur recommended gear 
GuidebookThe GR20 Corsica: Complete Guide to the High Level Route (Cicerone Guides)A must-have resource, and also available digitally to save weight in your pack!
EarplugsMack's EarplugsEssential for sleeping in huts, but we also love using them in the tent at crowded campsites.
Sleeping maskAlaska Bear Sleeping MaskPerfect to block out light while sleeping in refuges or campgrounds.
Travel adapterAll-in-one Travel AdapterGreat for all of your travels.
Digital watchCasio digital watchWe recommend a simple digital watch to keep track of hiking times.
CameraSony a5100 mirrorless cameraOptional item for the photography lovers. Consider using your phone to save weight.
Battery backupAnker PowerCore 10000Great for charging electronics when you don't have access to an outlet.
Biodegradable soapSierra Dawn Campsuds Outdoor SoapPerfect for doing the dishes or washing a few clothing items.
Plastic Bags- quart, gallon, and garbage bags. We used these constantly for everything from storing trail mix to keeping our sleeping bags dry. A must-have for backpacking.

Gite U Fagone laundry

Pack light- you’ll have plenty of opportunities to do laundry along the GR20!

 

Women’s Clothing

When you’re wearing the same clothes for over two weeks in various weather conditions and while doing some serious trekking, it is imperative that those clothes are comfortable and high quality.  Although your individual preferences may look a little different, this list is an excellent starting point to ensure you’ve got all the essentials. Plus, if you’re anything like us, you have no idea how many pairs of socks to bring. This list is also a handy (and experience-backed)  guideline for quantities of items such as shirts and socks.

Emily’s favorite piece of clothing: Altra Lone Peak Trailrunning Shoes

I recently became a believer in hiking in trailrunning shoes. For ages, I had happily hiked in my Keen Targhee boots (which I still enthusiastically recommend, especially for those with wide feet), but after a chronic injury and ensuring research to try to alleviate it, I decided to make the switch. I can confidently say that I don’t think I’ll ever go back to boots (except for on an extremely wet and  boggy trail like the Coast to Coast). I am completely in love with my Altras for a number of reasons. First, they held up to the gnarly conditions of the GR20, and that is no small feat. Additionally, I was grateful for the wide toe box that kept my feet very comfortable, while still feeling supported in the shoe. The zero-drop structure took some adjusting to, but now my feet and leg muscles are stronger and more stable as a result. These shoes are incredibly lightweight, yet I had no issues carrying a large pack while wearing them. The outsole is made of a very grippy rubber and has large lugs to keep you feeling confident on steep and loose terrain. I hiked hundreds of miles in these shoes this summer, in a variety of landscapes and weather conditions, and I never got a blister. Although they are not waterproof, I have come to prefer that, as I like quick-drying and breathable over something that traps moisture for days. If you’re looking to switch to the dark side, I highly recommend Altras as your first trail shoe!


ItemOur recommended gear 
Underwear (2-3 pairs)ExOfficio Women's UnderwearVery packable and easy to wash on the go!
Socks (2-3 pairs)Darn Tough Micro Crew SocksIn our opinion, these are the best hiking socks available. Your feet will thank you!
Sports Bra (1)Brooks Women's Rebound Racer Sports BraThis is the most versatile, comfortable, and high-quality sports bra that Emily has found on the market.
Long sleeve base layer (1)Smartwool Women's NTS Mid 250 CrewA great merino wool base layer for chilly mornings.
Short sleeve hiking shirt (1-2)Smartwool Women's Merino Short SleeveMerino wool is perfect for backpacking. Lightweight, quick drying, and odor resistant.
Leggings or hiking pantsprAna - Women's Halle Roll-upStylish, lightweight, and great to hike in.
Running shorts (1 pair)Lululemon Run Speed ShortsThese shorts are so comfortable, packable, and quick-drying, that Emily didn't even feel the need to buy hiking-specific shorts.
Down jacketPatagonia Down SweaterLightweight, super warm, and packs down small. This jacket was perfect for this kind of trip!
Rain jacketOutdoor Research Helium II JacketA high-quality all-weather jacket that packs up small.
Rain pantsColumbia Storm Surge pantsOPTIONAL: Great for those heavy downpours, but arguably not worth their weight on the GR20
Hiking boots/Trail ShoesAltra Lone Peak Trail Shoes
or
Keen Targhee II Mid Hiking Boot
While Emily still highly recommends these Keens for those looking for traditional hiking boots, she recently switched to hiking in Altra trailrunning shoes and absolutely loves them.
SunglassesSuncloud Loveseat Polarized SunglassesGood quality sunglasses are essential when you're in the mountains all day. And these are stylish too!
Underwire/standard bra(1)After a long day of hiking in a sweaty sports bra this can be a welcome relief to change into.
GlovesSmartwool Liner GlovesPerfect for cold evenings and scrambling on frigid rocks early in the morning.
HatHeadsweats Performance Trucker HatHelps keep the strong Corsican sun off your face.
Sandals/Camp shoesChaco Z1Super comfortable around camp with great support.
BandanaIs everything from a small towel to extra sun protection.
BuffBuff Original Multifunctional HeadwearNice to use for sun protection or to keep your ears warm in chilly temps. Also makes a great headband.

Men’s Clothing

When you’re wearing the same clothes for nearly two weeks in various weather conditions and while doing some serious trekking, it is imperative that those clothes are comfortable and high quality.  Although your individual preferences may look a little different, this list is an excellent starting point to ensure you’ve got all the essentials.

Ian’s most recommended piece of clothing: Smartwool T-Shirt

After years of hiking and traveling in synthetic tech tees, switching to Merino wool was a major upgrade. Like synthetic materials, Merino is quick-drying and moisture-wicking, but unlike the synthetic materials I can hike in it for days without any funky smells. When I did need to wash it, it would be dry and ready to wear again no time at all. Plus, I find it to be more comfortable and stylish, since it looks just like a normal t-shirt. This was convenient for times when I wanted to wear it off the trail. Smart wool makes an all around great shirt that is well worth the price. Check it out here:


 

ItemOur recommended gear 
Underwear (2-3 pairs)ExOfficio Men's Give-N-Go Boxer BriefHighly recommended! You can bring 2-3 pairs and wash them easily in sinks or showers. A must!
Socks (2-3 pairs)Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew Cushion SocksIn our opinion, these are the best hiking socks available. Your feet will thank you!
Long sleeve base layer (1)Smartwool Men's NTS Mid 250 CrewVery versatile mid-weight base layer
Short sleeve hiking shirt (1)SmartSmartwool Men's Merino Short Sleeve shirtMerino wool is perfect for backpacking. Lightweight, quick drying, and odor resistant.
Hiking pants (1)Prana Brion pantsThese are great for hiking and also look great walking around town!
Hiking shorts (1)Prana Brion Hiking ShortsAwesome shorts that are great for hiking.
Down jacketPatagonia Down Sweater HoodySuper warm, and super packable.
Rain jacketOutdoor Research Men's Helium II JacketA good rain jacket is a must! This one packs up small and light.
GlovesSmartwool Merino Wool Liner Gloves Perfect for cold evenings and windy ridges.
Rain pantsMarmot Precip PantsOPTIONAL: These can be amazing for those heavy downpours, but are arguably not worth the extra weight.
HatHeadsweats Performance Trucker HatHelps keep the strong Mediterranean sun off your face.
Sandals/Camp shoesChaco Z1 sandalsSuper comfortable around camp with great support.
Hiking bootsSalomon Men's X Ultra 3 Mid GTX Hiking BootSuper comfortable and super waterproof! These held up well to the gnarly trail conditions on the GR20.
SunglassesSuncloud Mayor Polarized SunglassesGood quality sunglasses are essential when you're in the mountains all day. And these are stylish too!
BandanaIs everything from a towel to extra sun protection.

 

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The GR20 Sud: Trip Report

In this post, we’ll share our experiences from the southern half of the GR20. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out the first half of this two-part series,…

In this post, we’ll share our experiences from the southern half of the GR20. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out the first half of this two-part series, in which we documented the good, the bad, and the ugly of our adventures hiking the infamous GR20 Nord. Read on to get an idea of what it’s like to trek the challenging and beautiful GR20 Sud.

 

Mountain views along stage 10 of the GR20

The southern half of the GR20 may have gentler landscapes than the north, but the views are just as beautiful!

 

Stage 10: Vizzavona to Bergeries d’E Capanelle

Total time: 4:30

After a rejuvenating rest day spent basking in the sun at the Cascades d’Anglais and being force-fed Corsican delicacies by the amazing owners of Casa Alta B&B, we were excited to get back on the trail. We made quick work of the steady, wooded climb out of Vizzavona, after which the trail hugged the hillside for much of the remainder of the stage. The hike wasn’t too taxing, although the final, sweaty climb up to the Bergeries d’E Capanelle wasn’t the most fun at the end of the day. 

When we got to E Capanelle, we were confused about where to camp. (By the way, the bergeries is also known as Gite U Fagone, just to further everyone’s confusion). We knew we could camp at the bergeries, but the guidebook also claimed you could camp for free next to the dilapidated PRNC refuge located up the hillside. After a very difficult conversation (in which my sorry French skills really proved the true extent of their horribleness), we pieced together that we couldn’t camp for free anywhere in the area so we better pay up and pitch our tent before all the spots got taken. Indeed, the small camping area was filling up quickly so we headed up the wooded slope to find a spot. 

Refuge de Capanelle

The PNRC Refuge de Capanelle.

 

Upon locating a good place to pitch, we were greeted by a large snake. After further inspection, we discovered that there was not one, but two very big, very gross snakes hanging out right next to where we intended to place our tent. Nervously jumping at every twig and root on the ground, we made our way to a different spot, leaving that one for the local residents. 

Snakes and confusion aside, Bergeries E Capanelle ended up being a nice place, although strange things continued to occur throughout our time there. To be fair, we witnessed one of the biggest full moons of our lives that evening, so that may have had something to do with it. One very odd aspect was the Refuge E Capanelle, adjacent to the Bergeries. We wanted to use the refuge’s cooking gas, so we decided to hike up there for dinner. Despite the fact that you can pay to sleep there, the place has a very creepy, abandoned feel to it. The tiny building was dark, dirty, and totally empty when we were there, although the gas tank was full enough for us to cook our pasta. Graffiti covered the walls of the kitchen and trash was strewn about the common room. Not wanting to hang out there too long, we hightailed it back down to our campsite as soon as we finished eating. 

Gite U Fagone laundry

Despite its quirks, we couldn’t deny that the Bergeries E Capanelle boasted a very impressive laundry line!

 

The second oddity occurred sometime during the night. We were woken by the sound of footsteps very close to our tent. We sat up, tensely listening as we heard what sounded like someone or something very big snapping twigs as they made their way through the forest and between the tents. After scanning the darkness, we finally deduced that it was cows. Cows had wandered into the campsite and were walking through the tightly packed tents and trees! Breathing a sigh of relief, we popped our ear plugs back in and were sound asleep in no time. 

 

Stage 11: Bergeries d’E Capanelle to Bocca di Verdi (high-level variant)

Total time: 7 hours

Still feeling bolstered by our rest day and the clear weather, we decided to take the high-level variant for Stage 11. This route takes hikers over the summit of Monte Renosu and along-you guessed it!- a rocky ridge before dropping down to Bocca di Verdi. The climb up to the top of Monte Renosu wasn’t particularly strenuous or technical, and we had the summit to ourselves to savor the excellent views in all directions. After we reached the top, the real challenge began.

Unlike the main route of the GR20, this variant was not well marked at all. Because it involved several tough sections of scrambling, it was especially hard to follow the trail and to know if you were headed in the right direction. After a long series of climbing up and down along the ridge and plenty of backtracking across rocky spires and boulders to rejoin the “trail”,  we finally found ourselves on a more recognizable path and began our descent towards Bocca di Verdi. 

Views from the top of Mount Renosu, stage 11 GR20

Peaceful views out to the Mediterranean in the morning light atop Mt. Renosu.

 

On previous stages, we’d heard that it was common to see pigs rooting around amongst the trees alongside the trail. We had yet to see any pigs, and we were beginning to think we wouldn’t see any on our entire hike (which might not be a travesty for some, but we happen to quite like pigs). But low and behold, as we neared Bocca di Verdi we spotted a large, gray pig walking alongside us near the trail. It trotted ahead of us the remainder of the way, as if it were guiding us to our campsite. How cute! We thought. I hope we see more pigs! We foolishly exclaimed. Well, this is a textbook example of a be-careful-what-you-wish-for kind of scenario. 

Many hikers choose to continue for another two hours uphill to the Refuge de Prati instead of stopping at Bocca di Verdi, but after completing the challenging high-level variant, we were definitely ready to stop at Bocca di Verdi! Plus, this was a lovely place to camp. It was spacious, had great facilities, hot showers, a nice bar/restaurant, and wasn’t crowded at all. As we set up camp, we quickly noticed all the pigs that roamed the campground. Most were cute and timid, but one pig quickly made himself known as a total jerk. Campers repeatedly had to chase this swine-bully away from their food or their laundry, as he was determined to wreak havoc on anything in his path. 

We thought we did a good job securing all of our food and personal items before heading up to the terrace to enjoy a half-liter happy hour. However, as we sipped our wine, we looked down and saw everyone’s least favorite pig attempting to knock down our tent and get ahold of anything he could find. We sprinted down in an attempt to save our tent from total destruction, yelling and waving our arms at our pig nemesis. You’d think that two adults with raised voices and threatening gestures would scare him away, but that stubborn guy was not phased in the least. It look us charging at him repeatedly with our trekking poles to get the pig to saunter away. Once again, be careful what you wish for! 

With the pig crisis narrowly averted, we shared a good laugh with our fellow campers and passed the rest of the night blissfully uneventfully. 

Picnic tables outside the Relais San Petru di Verdi

The shady terrace at Bocca di Verdi is a lovely place to relax, given the hungry pigs don’t ruin your fun!

 

Stage 12: Bocca di Verdi to Refuge d’Uscioulu

Total time: 7:20

While we were glad to stop at Bocca di Verdi the previous day, it meant that today started with a stiff climb up to the Refuge de Prati. From there, the trail undulated for a long expanse along a ridgeline, with scrambling sections reminiscent of the northern half. Speaking of which, if anyone tells you that the southern half of the GR20 is easy, don’t believe them. Sure, all in all it is less demanding than the northern half, but there is certainly nothing easy about it and Stage 12 is proof of that. After the initial climb and slow, technical ridge traverse, hikers have to complete another long, steep climb and maddingly rocky descent before reaching Refuge d’Uscioulu. It’s a big day. 

Sunrise on the GR20

En route to Refuge d’Uscioulu.

 

When you finally do get to the refuge, however, you’re in for a treat. Refuge d’Uscioulu is a legendary stop on the GR20, known for its charismatic warden and beautiful setting. You’ll likely arrive to music playing, while the warden peddles all sorts of goodies from his tightly packed and shockingly well-stocked shop. 

We enjoyed a small feast of fresh oranges, cheese, and homemade fig jam before making the long trek downhill to find a campsite. Many of the camping pitches at Uscioulu are quite far from the refuge itself, meaning campers are in for a literal hike whenever they want to use the bathroom, fill up on water, or access any other facilities. Despite this fact, we thoroughly enjoyed our evening at this ambient place. If you’re looking for a quintessential GR20 experience, this is as good as it gets. 

Tents on the hillside at Refuge d'Uscoilu.

An idyllic evening at Refuge d’Uscoilu.

 

Stage 13: Refuge d’Uscioulu to Refuge de Matalza

Total time: 4:20

Many GR20 hikers opt to take a variant that allows them to combine stages 13 and 14, cutting out a stop at Matalza completely. Even though we were setting ourselves up for a series of very short days, we decided to move at a slower pace. Why would we want the GR20 to end any sooner than it had to? For us, this was the good life. Hiking in the rugged mountains by day, eating pasta and drinking wine by night, and crawling into our sleeping bags totally exhausted by 9:00pm- that was our idea of a perfect day. 

Sunrise on the GR20 stage 12

When you start your days with views like this, you may never want your trek to end!

 

Anyways, the hike from Uscioulu to Matalza offered a wealth of dramatically varied landscapes all in one relatively short stage. It began high in the mountains, where the trail followed a very rugged ridge. The views up here were beautiful, and it was especially cool to see the little village of Cozzano far below, nestled at the foot of the mountains. The trail eventually dropped down from the ridge into an expansive valley. From there it passed through forests and wide swaths of colorful ferns alongside a peaceful stream.  By the time we reached Matalza, the high mountain landscape seemed like a distant memory, as we were now deep in the valley in an area that felt distinctly agricultural. 

We were the first people to arrive at Refuge de Matalza, and once again we we whiled away a long afternoon with laundry and lounging. Matalza is a small refuge, but we found it to be quite lovely. The showers looked frighteningly rustic-pretty much just a hose hung inside a wooden shack-but they ended up being warm and surprisingly enjoyable. The friendly warden gave us each an “I [heart] Matalza” magnet, which was a surprising but kind gesture. Thoughtful, friendly touches like that were everywhere at Matalza, and we were glad we’d decided to spend an evening here. 

Showers at Refuge de Matalza.

The “luxurious” showers at Refuge de Matalza.

 

Since we were nearing the end of our trek, we decided to eat the last of the instant noodles that we’d been carrying as a backup meal. We were getting ever closer to civilization and assumed that the refuges would be increasingly better stocked with food as the days went on. Keep reading to find out just how wrong those assumptions were! Anyways, as we prepared for bed, we witnessed some of the most incredible stars we’d ever seen. Going slow and taking it all in definitely has its perks. 

 

Stage 14: Refuge de Matalza to Refuge d’Asinau

Total time: 4:50

Since we opted not to combine stages 13 and 14, we were in for another short day today. We woke to a very chilly morning, and we hobbled away from Matalza with stiff legs through the cold, damp riverbed. When we reached the high point for the day, we took a short detour to summit Mount Alcudina. Because it was an out-and-back to get to the summit, we dropped our heavy packs at the base. It was so freeing to scamper up the bouldery trail without any weight on our backs, and we made it to the top in less than twenty minutes. After our fun detour, it was time to strap the packs back on and begin the long and ridiculously steep descent to Refuge d’Asinau. 

Hikers pose next to a trail sign on Stage 14 of the GR20

We met a friendly canine friend on our way down from Mt. Alcudina.

 

I slipped and fell numerous times on the descent, and we arrived at the refuge dusty, bruised, and a little grumpy. Once we set up camp, we wandered down to the refuge to see what was for sale at the small shop. Being vegetarians, our options were pretty limited along the GR20, but we could almost always count on finding cheese, bread, pasta, and tomato sauce at every epicerie. However, the provisions at Asinau turned out to be extremely limited. We had eaten our backup meal the night before, and we were now facing a dinner and breakfast made up entirely of one demi baguette, a bag of dried apricots, and a handful of peanuts. Sure, we could have eaten the meals served at the refuge, but at 20 Euros for a mediocre plate of (possibly not vegetarian) pasta, we just couldn’t bring ourselves to do it. Trying not to panic and actively suppressing our raging hiker appetites, we began devising some sort of food strategy to get us to the next shop at Village de Bavella the following afternoon. 

Refuge d'Asinau

Tents and a resident horse at the Refuge d’Asinau.

 

We returned to the shop, ready to buy a very weird collection of items, when the warden produced a miraculous package of pasta (the sign claimed it was sold out) from the depths of the dusty shelves behind him. It wasn’t much, but it meant that we’d be eating a hot bowl of food for dinner instead of random handfuls of this and that. We were stoked. That night we feasted on bowls of plain spaghetti garnished with salted peanuts, and it was actually pretty delicious as far as backpacking food goes. Our breakfast the next morning was comprised of an odd assortment of things, but we were fueled and content. 

Our two takeaways from this experience? First, never eat your backup meal before you’re sure you won’t need a backup (duh). Second, give pasta and peanuts a try next time you’re out on the trail (or at home, we won’t judge). 

 

Stage 15: Refuge d’Asinau to Refuge d’ I Paliri

Total time: 6:45

We awoke this morning after a bit of a rough night. My sleeping pad had apparently developed a slow leak, and I ended up having to wake up and re-inflate it every few hours throughout the night. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out where the leak was coming from, and the pad’s instructions to submerge it in water to locate the hole were entirely unhelpful in the current circumstances. Although we were sad that our GR20 adventure was nearing its end, I was also a little relieved that I would only have to sleep on my deflating pad for a few more nights. 

We again opted to take the high-level variant for this stage, excited for the incredible views it was known to offer. After our initial climb,  however, we found ourselves deep within a very thick cloud. We were lucky to see just a few feet in front of us, and the chances of seeing any real views seemed slim. But as we continued onwards, the clouds began to break to reveal some of the most incredible scenery of the entire trek. The peaks were so majestic shrouded in the pillowy wisps, and the light was filtered so beautifully through the clouds. It was nothing short of awe-inspiring. 

 

Clouds surround a peak on Stage 15 of the GR20

When the clouds finally parted, the views were completely magnificent.

 

On our way down, we faced the so-called “Chain of Doom.” Basically, there was a short section on the route that required hikers to hoist themselves up a very large rock face with the help of a chain. As had been the case with most things like this so far on the GR20, it wasn’t as bad as we expected. Getting up the rock slab was actually pretty easy, but the difficult part was the fact that the chain was covered in grease. That’s right, for some unknown reason, the chain that was supposed to serve as an aid was positively slathered in thick, slippery grease. Not only did it make holding on to the chain very challenging, but it also left us covered in sticky, rust-colored goop that was impossible to get off. 

Hiker scrambling on the GR20.

Conquering the so-called “Chain of Doom.”

 

After the chain debacle, we had another long, knee-grinding descent to reach Village de Bavella. Fortunately, our efforts were rewarded when we visited the very well-appointed shop there. After the meager rations of the past few days, we were excited to stock up on some real food. We enjoyed an indulgent lunch at Bavella before continuing onwards to Refuge d’I Paliri. Many hikers choose to stop at Village de Bavella at the end of Stage 15, but if you want to camp you need to head to Paliri, which is another two hours down the trail. We didn’t mind covering a little more ground today, and the final stretch to the refuge wasn’t too challenging. 

Even though it was blanketed in a thick layer of fog when we arrived, we could instantly tell that Refuge d’I Paliri was special. It is perched on a stony cliff that overlooks magnificent rock formations and a deep valley far below, with the sea visible on the distant horizon. Clouds and light rain moved in and out throughout the afternoon, but with every glimpse we stole when the clouds parted, we became more amazed by the surrounding beauty. 

View of Refuge d' I Paliri.

Refuge d’ I Paliri is one of the most beautiful along the GR20.

 

We enjoyed one final jug of wine and tried to savor every moment of our last night at camp. It was hard to believe our trek was already coming to an end, but on the other hand it felt like we’d been on the trail for ages. We were certainly sad to see our adventure wrap up, but we were also very excited to celebrate our accomplishment with a real bed and some modern comforts!

Views of a sheer rock face from Refuge d'I Paliri

Views from the tent at Refuge d’I Paliri…Not a bad way to spend your last night on the trail!

 

Stage 16: Refuge d’I Paliri to Conca

Total time: 5 hours

We emerged from our tent on the final morning to discover that we were surrounded by a very damp, chilly fog. Neither of us was particularly eager to get on the trail at the crack of dawn, so instead we opted to hang out and sip coffee in the warmth of our sleeping bags for awhile before breaking down camp. A celebratory feeling was already hanging in the air as we finally set off into the morning mist. 

Tall trees surrounded by thick fog on stage 16 of the GR20

Stage 16 started off with a very misty morning.

 

The trail was nice and mellow for the majority of this stage. It was an easy downhill grade for the most part, and we slowly emerged from the clouds as we lost elevation. The GR20 remained stunningly beautiful to the end. The final few miles of the hike followed a balcony trail that provided gorgeous views out towards the Mediterranean. As we made our final descent into Conca, we enjoyed hearing the tolling of church bells growing increasingly louder as we approached. We finally stepped off the trail and followed a winding road down to the official finishing point in the center of the tiny town of Conca. 

Views over the mountains towards the sea on stage 16 of the GR20.

We enjoyed fabulous views of the mountains and the Mediterranean until the very end of your trek.

 

We were all smiles as we approached the finish. The GR20 had tested us both physically and mentally. It pushed us to our limits in terms of our capabilities and challenged us to overcome our fears. We emerged feeling stronger and more confident than ever before. Once you’ve completed something like the GR20, you truly feel like so much more is possible. There are so many treks we’re considering now that we would have never dreamed we could do previously, not to mention other challenges we want to tackle in other aspects of our lives. And the rewards of conquering the GR20 extend far beyond the tangible. I heard a simple expression a few years ago that has really stuck with me: Do hard things. It’s so important to push outside your comfort zone every once in awhile. That’s how we grow and that’s when we feel most alive. If you’re looking for your next Hard Thing, consider the GR20. It will be immensely challenging, it will be profoundly rewarding, it will be unforgettable, and it will change you in all the best ways. 

Trail in the foreground with a peak in the background on the GR20.

Your very own GR20 adventure awaits!

 

 

Want more GR20 resources? Check out all of our GR20 posts below:

Hikers take a selfie at the top of Mt. Renosu on the GR20

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The GR20 Nord: Trip Report

We were a little intimidated by the GR20 before we hiked it. Scratch that. To be honest, we were totally and completely scared.  While reading the guidebooks and blogs in…

We were a little intimidated by the GR20 before we hiked it. Scratch that. To be honest, we were totally and completely scared.  While reading the guidebooks and blogs in preparation for our trip, we were confronted by a seemingly endless stream of warnings about the difficulty, the dangers, the scrambling, the cold showers and rocky campsites, and the number of hikers who quit early. But what the books and websites fail to mention? How FUN the GR20 is! 

This was hands down the most enjoyable and interesting trek that either of us has ever completed. Many of the same things that make the GR20 infamous as the “toughest trek in Europe” also make it the best. The dynamic and rugged landscapes, the varied terrain, the remote destinations. Heck, even the extreme heat and afternoon thunderstorms that forced us to start hiking in the wee hours of the morning ended up rewarding us with some of the most enchanting sunrises of our lives. Sure, it definitely wasn’t rainbows and butterflies the entire time (like when I dropped my trekking pole into a gorge or when a hungry pig nearly trampled our tent or when our bodies felt shattered but we had another 2,000 feet of descent to go to reach the refuge), but it was so, so worth it. 

Read on as we share the good, the bad, and the ugly of our GR20 Nord experience.

If you want to skip ahead to the second half of our trek on the GR20 Sud, click here to go to the next post! 

Stage 1: Calenzana to Refuge Ortu Piobbu

Total time: 5:15

Going into the GR20, we thought we were going to be really roughing it for the next 16 days of our lives. We imagined long days that pushed us to our absolute limits both physically and mentally, and evenings spent eating meager rations in basic accommodations. While there was definitely some of that, on the whole our expectations were much more dramatic than necessary. However, not having the benefit of foresight actually turned out to be a good thing as it meant that we enjoyed a blowout, last-days-of-Rome style evening in Calenzana before we started our trek. 

A street in Calenzana, Corsica.

The lovely streets of Calenzana.

 

We opted to stay in an AirBnB in town that was conveniently located near the start of the GR20 and the well-appointed Spar Supermarket in town. The apartment was a little odd, but it had a kitchen, washing machine, and lovely balcony so we were quite content. We enjoyed cooking a meal with lots of fresh veggies (always hard to come by while backpacking), a bottle of wine, and way too much ice cream. I’m happy to report that these choices did not backfire on us the next morning and we felt strong and energized as we started hiking out of Calenzana. 

If you’ve read Paddy Dillon’s Ciccerone guide to the GR20, you’ll know that he makes the first stage of the GR20 sound absolutely hellish. He depicts a long, strenuous uphill slog in the blazing sun and even refers to this stage as your “baptism of fire.” In reality, the first stage is tough, but it’s really not that bad. There are some sections that require scrambling, but it’s a perfect way to build your confidence for what’s to come. Plus, if you start at daybreak like we did, you’ll actually be in the shade for most of the climb. It was so fun passing all of the elated hikers who were headed in the other direction and closing in on their final descent of the trek.

Early morning on Stage 1

 

When we reached the first bocca, we enjoyed a wonderful picnic lunch with views out to the sea. The remainder of the hike to the refuge was pretty straightforward and we made good time. Upon arriving at Refuge d’Ortu di u Piobbu, we were immediately struck by the scene. The campground sprawled out across a huge slope which eventually yielded to dramatic rock formations and the Mediterranean Sea far off in the distance.  We also noted that the refuge itself was nothing more than a burned out shell, having caught fire earlier in the season. It was nearly empty when we arrived a little before noon, but over the course of the afternoon and evening the entire area would be filled to capacity with tents, easily over a hundred of them. We whiled away the rest of the day simply soaking it all in- the scenery, our fellow hikers, the lively cooking area, and the magnificent sunset. 

Sunset at Refuge d'Ortu di u Piobbu

Refuge d’Ortu di u Piobbu is known for its spectacular sunsets.

 

Stage 2: Refuge d’Ortu di u Piobbu to Refuge de Carozzu

Total time: 7 hours.

In preparing for this trek, we knew that we wanted to establish a routine of getting on the trail early in the day. If there are a couple of things that can make hiking feel way harder and exponentially less fun, it’s being out in the heat of the day and stressfully racing against impending storms. We figured that we could minimize these fun-suckers by covering most of our ground in the first half of the day. Today was the real test though…could we actually get our butts out of our cozy sleeping bags when the 5:00AM alarm went off, efficiently pack up camp in the dark, and get on the trail at a time that could still be considered “early”? Seeing as we chose to carry our own tent and self-cater our meals, we couldn’t just roll out of bed and get going as quickly as our friends in hire tents or dorm beds.  All things considered, the morning went smoothly and it felt good to get a solid start to what was going to be a very big day. 

 

Stage 2 started with a fun climb that toed the line between hiking and scrambling most of the way, as we hoisted ourselves higher and higher along huge slabs and boulders. At the top of our initial ascent, we were rewarded with one of the most spectacular views of the entire trek. Upon cresting Bocca Piccaia, we were faced with a seemingly endless expanse of rocky spires, rugged peaks, and spiny ridges. The landscape on the other side of the Bocca felt like an entirely different world than the one at our backs. 

Incredible views from Bocca Piccaia.

 

Our second day on the GR20 was certainly one of superlatives. After enjoying one of the most magnificent vistas of the hike, we embarked on what would end up being one of the longest, most tiring ridge walks of the whole trek. For hours, we slowly made our way along the undulating ridge trail, scrambling up this boulder and down that gully at a maddeningly slow pace. Don’t get me wrong- it was super fun at the start, but even the most fun things lose their luster after awhile. When we finally reached the long, steep descent towards Refuge de Carozzu, we actually welcomed it. 

Midway through the beautiful descent to Refuge de Carozzu.

 

Upon stumbling wearily into Carozzu, we snagged the flattest campsite we could find. It wasn’t that late in the day yet, but already camping pitches were hard to come by. Our spot was tilted, a little cramped, and swarming with ants, but it was pretty, quiet, and well-located so we were content. We treated ourselves to some excellent goat cheese and mint omelettes for dinner and spent the evening chatting with our fellow hikers and admiring another spectacular sunset. 

Sunset at Refuge de Carozzu

Views from the terrace at Refuge de Carozzu.

While the evening was quite idyllic, we felt a sense of trepidation building throughout the campground. Hikers heading southbound (us included) would be facing the notorious Spasimata Slabs the next day. These sheer, steeply angled, vertigo-inducing rock faces had the reputation for being one of the sketchiest parts of the entire GR20. To make matters worse, storms were forecasted to move in early in the day tomorrow, and the slabs were slippery and treacherous when wet. If we wanted to get to the end of Stage 3 safely, we needed to get moving early and quickly in the morning. We turned in before it was fully dark that evening, hoping to get some sleep despite the nerves that were buzzing within each of us. 

 

Stage 3: Refuge de Carozzu to Ascu Stagnu

Total time: 4:45

Fueled by adrenaline and instant coffee, we were on the trail and ready to conquer the so-called “Slabs on Doom” by 6:00am. As we slowly followed the narrow beam of light cast by our headlamps along the boulder-strewn trail, the dark sky was repeatedly illuminated by large bolts of lightning in the distance. While not directly above us yet, we could see and hear the spectacular thunderstorms on the horizon. The sun started to rise just as we crossed the sketchy, wobbly suspension bridge that served as a fitting warm up for the slabs. We began climbing our way up and up across the massive rock slabs, sometimes with the aid of chains or holds, but more often without. Despite the fact that the whole situation was a little scary, we couldn’t help but be completely awed by how beautiful it was. We were in a massive gorge, surrounded by towering walls of rock, and the distant storms conspired to produce a gorgeous sunrise. Orange and pink clouds framed the top of the gorge and the indigo skies in the distance were turned gold by the continual bursts of lightning. 

Sunrise on the Spasimata Slabs

Indigo clouds above the Spasimata Slabs.

 

The slabs themselves? Truly not that bad (and actually pretty fun). As a self-confessed wimp when it comes to sketchy things involving heights, even I never felt uncomfortable or wigged out. To be fair, I believe the slabs are MUCH easier and less scary when you are heading uphill. We heard from several hikers who said they were significantly more vertigo-inducing and physically challenging on the descent. If this is something that worries you, it might be a good idea to hike the GR20 in the southbound direction. 

After reaching the end of the slabs, we were faced with a short section of scrambling and a steep descent to Ascu Stagnu. Our excitement grew as we neared the finish of the hike, as we knew the ski area would have plenty of delicious food options on offer. Just as our anticipation was building, so were those forecasted storm clouds. Luckily, we had just finished setting up our tent and taking the most amazing hot showers when the weather moved in. We napped in our tent while the storm raged outside, occasionally venturing out to triage the streams of water moving across the hard, rocky ground and threatening to flood our tent.

Ascu Stagnu is a real treat for weary GR20 walkers, and we spent the evening enjoying French fries, wine, and other hiker delicacies in the spacious, well-equipped refuge. 

PNRC Refuge at Haute Asco

The PNRC Refuge at Haute Asco.

 

Stage 4: Ascu Stagnu to Auberge U Vallone

Total time: 7:30 

Everyone will tell you that the first few days of the GR20 (especially when hiked north to south) are by far the toughest, and they are not lying. By our estimation, Stage 4 of the GR20 is the most challenging stage of the entire trek. This is the section that was rerouted after the Cirque de la Solitude was permanently closed. Now the trail takes hikers near the summit of Monte Cinto, the highest peak in Corsica, via an incredibly tough and steep ascent. From the top, you walk along a ridge (of course you do, it’s the GR20 after all) that mostly easy, save for a few sketchy places. The whole day is topped off with a long, steep, scramble-filled descent. 

Hiker on the GR20

The tough ascent on Stage 4 of the GR20.

 

All in all, we enjoyed this stage. The ascent, especially the final steep stretch, was rewarding and exhilarating and the high mountain views were unbeatable. Some badass superhumans opt to take the detour to summit Monte Cinto, but we were happy to sit that one out as this was already going to be one of our longest days on the trail. 

Disaster nearly struck on the way down, when I managed to lose hold of my trekking pole. We watched as it bounced its way down further and further before coming to rest on a rocky ledge a hundred feet below us. This is somewhat pathetic to admit, but I truly can’t imagine doing the GR20 (or any hike with long, steep ascents and descents) without my trusty trekking poles. I am way too clumsy to survive even 10 minutes without trekking poles in hand to stop my inevitable, frequent falls. Fortunately, Ian volunteered to take off his pack and scamper down the steep slope to retrieve my pole. If there’s ever been a way to get brownie points with your wife, this is it! 

When we finally reached Auberge U Vallone far down in the valley, the sun was high in the sky and it was HOT. We were ready to find a snack, some shade, and a cold rock pool to dip in. The Auberge was different than the PNRC Refuges we’d camped at up to this point, and we weren’t sure if we liked it. Although we scored a great spot to pitch our tent, there was a lot of trash around and we didn’t receive the friendliest welcome. 

Camping at Auberge U Vallone on the GR20.

Our great pitch at Auberge U Vallone.

 

However, as we spent more time there, we came to appreciate the hot showers and nice terrace, and the staff warmed up to us. Plus, there were some lovely rock pools just below the camping area in which we could relax and soak our tired feet. The first four days of the GR20 had been mighty tough, but we were both totally in love with this hike and couldn’t wait to get back on the trail. 

 

Stage 5: Auberge U Vallone to Hotel Castel di Vergio

Total time: 6:20

Our trusty guidebook promised that today would finally be a bit easier than the first four, and it really should have been if the circumstances had been different. We woke to cold, gusty winds, which would turn out to be an ominous preview of what lay ahead. Early into the day, we nearly faced catastrophe when our toilet paper supply ran dangerously low and our required pit stops occurred at a higher rate than usual. From there, things seemed to take a turn for the better, as we enjoyed a long, peaceful stretch of walking in the woods. But alas, the GR20 demons would rear their ugly heads at us again. 

GR20 Stage 5

A beautiful start to Stage 5 on the GR20, but those clouds signal trouble ahead!

 

As we reached the highpoint of the stage, the weather conditions completely deteriorated. Wind gusts of more than 50 mph threatened to knock us over and our bare hands and faces quickly went numb in the cold. It was one of those times where all you could do was put your head down, keep moving forward, and remind yourself that it would be over soon enough. Thick fog made it challenging to see the next trail marker, and obliterated any chance we had of enjoying what were supposedly wonderful views out towards the Golfe de Porto. 

Fortunately, the Refuge de Ciottulu di I Mori is located about halfway along the high ridge we needed to traverse, and it provided a much-needed respite from the cold and wind. After lifting our spirits the best way we know how (by eating a few chocolate sandwich cookies), we forced ourselves back out onto the trail and hoofed it towards the valley. Although the conditions in the valley were significantly better than on the ridge, it was still cold and windy. The remainder of this “short” day seemed to last forever before we finally reached Hotel Castel di Vergio. 

Although it’s a pretty weird place, the hotel, gite, and campground provide a level of luxury that is rare on the GR20. We enjoyed hot showers, which were an absolute godsend after being in such frigid conditions all day. The campground had a large grassy field, a big treat after camping on hard-packed dirt for so many nights in a row. And the shop! Oh my goodness the shop! The small store at the gite was the best-stocked we’d seen so far, boasting rare and valuable items like fresh fruit and still-warm bread. 

The well stocked shop at Hotel Castel di Vergio

Hike all the miles, eat all the snacks.

 

We capped off the evening by splitting a bottle of wine in the cozy confines of our tent. It had been a very difficult “easy day.” The GR20 was beginning to reveal one of its most basic truths: you can’t expect anything to be easy on this trek, but with enough stellar views, camaraderie, and red wine, it will all be worth it. 

 

Stage 6: Hotel Castel di Vergio to Refuge de Manganu

Total time: 5:15

Day six began with a leisurely change of pace. We slept in to an indulgent 5:30am alarm, and then we each enjoyed our own cup of coffee. Let me explain this last part. You see, in order to keep our pack weight down, we had only brought one cup for two people and had been sharing up until this point, but the well-stocked cooking area at the gite had extra cups, thus no sharing today! Sometimes, it’s the little things in life that are the most luxurious. (Side note: If you want to really strengthen your marriage in an unorthodox manner, spend two weeks sharing one cup, one bowl, and one stick of deodorant!) 

The trail immediately headed downhill from Castel di Vergio, and our cold stiff knees screamed at us in protest. After we got going, however, the day was absolutely lovely. The trail was much mellower, and we ambled along at an easy pace enjoying the sunshine and the views. We were making good time, so we stopped along the glorious Lac de Ninu to enjoy a snack break. 

Lac de Nino

Lac du Ninu makes a lovely lunch stop.

 

We arrived early to Refuge de Manganu, meaning we could spend the afternoon eating a lunch of local cheese on the terrace and a long dip in the nearby rock pool. The mood at Manganu was festive. Hikers basked on the large, rocky outcropping in front of the refuge, sipping beers, stretching out stiff muscles, and swapping stories. Everyone seemed energized after making it past the initial challenges of the trek. 

Trekkers sitting on rocks at Refuge de Manganu.

Kicking back at Refuge de Manganu.

 

As the days wore on, we got to know our cohort of fellow hikers a bit better. The cool thing about the GR20 is that nearly everyone is stopping at the same place at the end of each day, so you get to know people quite well after a few days of seeing them on the trail and hanging out at camp. We whiled away the evening chatting with so many incredible people from all over the world, including Russia, Switzerland, Belgium, and more. Perhaps one of the best parts about completing a thru-hike like the GR20 is the way that the shared experience brings together people from all walks of life to bond over their love of moving in the mountains. 

 

Stage 7: Refuge de Manganu to Refuge Petra de Piana

Total time: 5:15

Another big day and another ominous weather forecast meant that, yet again, we started hiking in the dark in an attempt to beat the afternoon storms. Just like on Stage 3, the cloudy skies produced a stunningly beautiful sunrise. Today was pretty characteristic of most stages of the GR20: a long, tough ascent to a bocca with ridiculously awesome views, followed by an undulating ridge walk requiring some awkward scrambling to reach the next bocca, and capped off by a steep descent to the next refuge that took longer than expected. Check, check, and check. 

Looking down on Lac du Melo from above.

Lovely Lac du Melo en route to Petra de Piana.

 

Refuge Petra de Piana is known for being perpetually stuck inside a cloud. It’s foggy, windy, and chilly there more often than not. Many campers choose to double up and complete the next day’s stage, just to avoid spending the night high up in these harsh conditions. When we arrived, it was cold and misty, but the wind was mercifully mild and we were worried about the impending weather that was moving in. We pitched our tent, restocked our pasta supply from the tiny shop, and settled in for the evening. Petra Piana ended up being a lovely place to stay. The little A-frame refuge had the coziest kitchen where hikers gathered at picnic tables to share food and hang out in the warmth. Between reading books we borrowed from the communal shelf and hanging out in the refuge, we had no problem passing the afternoon and evening in a comfortable, relaxing, and low-key manner. 

Hire tents at Refuge de Petra Piana

Refuge de Petra Piana up in the clouds.

 

Stage 8: Refuge Petra de Piana to Refuge de l’Onda

Total time: 4:50

Today started out with a technicolor sunrise and a cozy breakfast in the refuge. It was another stage that the guidebook promised would be easy, so we approached it with cautious optimism. As it turns out, it was nothing but relaxing and mellow the whole way. We engaged in some “forest bathing” as we meandered through the tall pines towards the Bergeries de Tolla, where we’d been told we absolutely must stop for some excellent food and drink. Upon arriving at the bergeries, we found the offerings to be less than inspiring, and ended up the proud new owners of a very large and very mediocre loaf of bread. However, the friendly proprietor brought us fresh figs from his nearby tree and we decided it was worth the stop after all. 

Mountain views on Stage 8 of the GR20

You’ll pass through beautiful mountains and forested valleys on Stage 8 of your trek.

 

We arrived at the bergeries de l’Onda before noon, as the hike was much faster than we expected. Without much in the way of entertainment, the day stretched out before us. We envisioned the minutes slowly ticking by as we twiddled our thumbs under the heat of the afternoon sun. It’s pretty remarkable how you can pass the time at camp, though, and somehow we had no problem staying busy. Between taking cold showers, exploring the nearby rock pools, doing laundry, setting up camp, repairing gear, and plenty of people watching, it was time for happy hour before we knew it. 

We headed up to the refuge to indulge in what had become a nightly tradition of splitting a half-liter of wine before dinner. Typically, this wine (a great value by GR20 standards) is served in some sort of jug or carafe. This time, however, the bergeries owner grabbed an empty, used plastic water bottle and proceeded to fill it with wine. He then presented it to us with two tiny plastic cups. While it wasn’t our classiest or most eco-friendly happy hour of the trek, it was certainly one of the most memorable! We ended the night as we did almost every night of our trip; we ate pasta for dinner and were asleep by 9:00pm. 

 

Stage 9: Bergeries de l’Onda to Vizzavona

Total time: 7 hours

We awoke this morning with visions of Vizzavona dancing in our heads. Reaching Vizzavona meant many exciting things for us; it would mark the halfway point of our trek and it would also mean we’d be treated to a rest day and a couple of nights in a B&B.  We happily roughed it throughout the GR20, but we decided to splurge on a real bed and a rest day at the midpoint of our hike. We had the gift of time, so we figured we’d take an extra day to relax and enjoy a different side of Corsica. It was a freaking awesome idea, if we do say so ourselves, and highly recommended for anyone who has an extra day to spare on their trip. 

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. First we had to get to Vizzavona and believe me when I tell you that it wasn’t a cakewalk. The day started off well enough, with a short, unremarkable climb followed by a fun descent over huge rock slabs. Then the fun descent turned totally un-fun, and stayed that way for hours and hours of picking our way down slippery, rocky trails that seemed determined to slow our progress at every turn. We’ve always been the type to prefer hiking uphill over down, but today was especially rough. 

Rocky descent with red and white trail markers.

It’s all downhill to Vizzavona from here!

 

Fortunately, we found the most idyllic spot in the shade, next to a perfectly clear pool, in which to enjoy a lunch of stinky cheese, crusty bread, and canistrellis, which are kind of like Corsican biscotti. Up to that point in the day, we’d been cursing the hike and getting pretty demoralized, but stopping in that perfect little oasis made it impossible to stay in a bad mood. The GR20 is just too beautiful to stay mad at for long. 

We finally tore ourselves away from our cansitrelli-filled paradise and continued our relentless march down to Vizzavona. Upon arriving, we stopped in at the campground’s well-stocked shop and immediately indulged in some cold beers and fresh fruit. Feeling refreshed, we walked further on to the beautiful Casa Alta B&B, our luxurious home for the next two nights. Here, we were greeted by the friendly host who stretched our high school French to its outer limits as he walked us through the amenities of the place. We proceeded to take some of the best showers of our lives and were asleep before 10:00pm.    

Keep reading to learn about the second half of our GR20 adventure! 

View of a room at Casa Alta Hotel in Vizzavona.

Lovely views from a room at the Casa Alta B&B in Vizzavona.

 

Keep reading to learn about the second half of our GR20 adventure! 

 

Want more GR20 resources? Check out all of our GR20 posts below:

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GR20 | Maps

The GR20 takes hikers on a spectacular trail across the island of Corsica and is one of the most renowned long-distance treks in the world. The route is broken into…

The GR20 takes hikers on a spectacular trail across the island of Corsica and is one of the most renowned long-distance treks in the world. The route is broken into 16 stages and is traditionally walked from north to south, starting in the town of Calenzana and finishing in the little village of Conca. This post give you all of the GR20  resources you need to familiarize yourself with the GR20 map, route, location, and all other things navigational so you can be sure you’re ready to take on this incredible trail!

What’s in this post?

Where is the GR20?

The GR20 is located on the semi-autonomous French island of Corsica. Corsica sits in the Mediterranean Sea off the coasts of both France and Italy and just north of the island of Sardinia. GR20 hikers are likely to pass through at least one of the major towns in Corsica en route to and from the trail. These towns include Bastia, Calvi, Ajaccio, and Porto Vecchio.

Map showing the location of the GR20

The GR20 takes trekkers across Corsica.

 

Many trekkers are surprised to find that the GR20 visits very few Corsican towns along its route, instead staying high in the mountains and stopping mainly at mountain refuges and bergeries (former shepherds’ huts). However, the GR20 does pass through the town of Vizzavona, which is the approximate halfway point of the trek.

Given this fact, many hikers will want to add a few days to their itinerary, if possible, to ensure they are able to visit some of the beautiful towns and villages in Corsica.

The GR20 is traditionally hiked from north to south, beginning in the town of Calenzana and finishing in the town of Conca. However, it is possible and not uncommon to walk the GR20 from south to north.

The stages for the traditional north to south route of the GR20 are as follows:

  • Stage 1: Calenzana to Refuge d’Ortu di u Piobbu
  • Stage 2: Refuge d’Ortu di u Piobbu to Refuge de Carozzu
  • Stage 3: Refuge de Carozzu to Ascu Stagnu
  • Stage 4: Ascu Stagnu to Auberge U Vallone or Refuge de Tighjettu
  • Stage 5: Auberge U Vallone to Hotel Castel di Vergio
  • Stage 6: Hotel Castel di Vergio to Refuge de Manganu
  • Stage 7: Refuge de Manganu to Refuge Petra Piana
  • Stage 8: Refuge de Petra Piana to Refuge L’Onda
  • Stage 9: Refuge L’Onda to Vizzavona
  • Stage 10: Vizzavona to Bergeries d’E Capanelle
  • Stage 11: E’Capanelle to Bocca di Verdi
  • Stage 12: Bocca di Verdi to Refuge d’Usciolu
  • Stage 13: Refuge d’Usciolu to Refuge de Matalza
  • Stage 14: Refuge de Matalza to Refuge d’Asinau
  • Stage 15: Refuge d’Asinau to Village de Bavella
  • Stage 16: Village de Bavella to Conca

 

Map of the GR20 in Corsica.

The GR20 take trekkers across the island of Corsica.

 

In addition to the traditional route, the GR20 also includes several ‘alternates’. These trails connect the same start and finish points, but take walkers on a different route between the two points. These alternate routes can be used to add challenge, visit nearby summits, avoid certain sections, or provide a low-level route in the case of bad weather. Additionally, there is an alternate route that allows trekkers to skip an entire stage of the GR20 by going directly from Refuge d’Uscioulu to Refuge d’Asinau.

Here are the common alternate routes on the GR20, which are also shown on the map below:

  • Low level route on Stage 1 allows trekkers to avoid exposure in bad weather.
  • Low level route on Stage 2 allows trekkers to avoid exposure in bad weather.
  • High level route on Stage 8 between Refuge de Petra Piana and Refuge L’Onda.
  • High level route on Stage 9 between Refuge L’Onda and Vizzavona.
  • Ascent of Monte Renosu on Stage 11 between Bergeries E’Capanelle and Bocca di Verdi
  • High level route between Refuge d’Usciolu and Refuge d’Asinau, shortening the GR20 by a day.
  • High level route between Refuge d’Asinau and Village de Bavella
Map of the GR20 with common trail variants.

The GR20 also includes many alternate routes, shown in the map above.

 

Interactive GR20 Map

The interactive GR20 map below will allow you to zoom in on the various stages as well as view the traditional stops along the route. The map also displays the common alternate routes that are a part of the GR20. You can click on each stage to see its total length, listed in both kilometers and miles.

 

How long is the GR20?

The GR20 is approximately 113 miles or 182 kilometers long. This is based on following the traditional route and not taking any of the alternates. Of course, many trekkers will opt to take several of the alternate routes, which will lengthen or shorten the total distance, depending on the routes chosen. You’ll have the option to walk less or more depending on the weather, your preferences, and the conditions encountered on the trail.

The maps below show the approximate distance of each stage in both miles and kilometers, giving you a sense of the distances encountered on each section of the GR20. For more detail on each stage be sure to check out our interactive map in the section above!

Map of the GR20 showing stage distances in miles.

Approximate stage distances of the GR20 in miles.

 

Map of the GR20 with stage distances in kilometers.

Approximate stage distances of the GR20 in kilometers.

 

What is the elevation profile of the GR20?

Over the course of all 113 miles, the GR20 has a staggering 34,500 feet or 10,500 meters of elevation change! Averaged out over 16 stages this means that each day you’ll have over 2,150 feet or 655 meters of elevation change per stage. Many trekkers will complete the GR20 in fewer days, meaning they’ll have an even greater challenge!

Of course, the elevation gain and loss isn’t spread out evenly from stage to stage. You’ll have days with a tremendous amount of climbing and you’ll also have days with much less (although always some!). Given that the GR20 is a point to point trail (meaning it does not start and finish in the same location) you’ll lose a tad more elevation that you’ll gain over the course of the entire route.

The elevation profiles below, displayed in both imperial and metric units, will give you an overview of what each stage of the GR20 is like in terms of total elevation change and distance. Elevation is shown on the left side while distance is shown on the bottom. Each blue dot represents a stop along the traditional 16-stage GR20 route, with the stop name shown at the top.

The steepness of the line between any two points reflects the steepness of the trail for that particular stage. The distance between the two points shows the length of the the stage. So for instance you can see that the stage from Refuge de Carrozu to Ascu Stagnu is rather short in distance, while the stage from Ascu Stagnu to Auberge U Vallone has a lot of elevation gain.

When thinking about how many days or stages you’ll take to complete the GR20 be sure to reference these elevation profiles. They’ll give you a sense of how hard each day is and will let you see which stages may make sense to combine

Elevation profile of the GR20 in feet and miles.

Elevation profile of the GR20 in feet and miles.

 

Elevation profile of the GR20 in meters and kilometers.

Elevation profile of the GR20 in meters and kilometers.

 

Which maps should I carry on the GR20?

The GR20 is the best marked trail we’ve ever hiked. The notorious red and white paint flashes guide the way through gullies, across boulder fields, and past mountain peaks. The saying on the GR20 is that if you’ve gone more than 20 feet without seeing marker you’re probably off the trail, and this is true! However, it can still be easy to get turned around, mixed up, and generally off the main trail in some capacity. You may find yourself walking in an early morning mist, struggling to look up to find a trail marker with the blazing sun, or simply have missed the last trail junction. For this reason we highly recommend that all trekkers have some form of wayfinding for the GR20.

When we hiked the GR20 we did not rely on traditional, paper maps that are available for the route. Instead, we preferred utilizing GPS maps on our phones to ensure we knew where the trail was as well as where we were in relation to it. Cell phone service is very limited along the GR20, so it is critical to have a good offline mapping app such as Gaia GPS to ensure you’ll be able to view the map at any point along the route.

With all this considered, we still recommend carrying a paper map, or map booklet. While technology has done a tremendous amount to make navigating while hiking easier, there is simply no replacement for carrying a physical map with you. If your phone runs out of battery or you drop it in one of the many swimming holes along the GR20 you’ll be glad you had your handy paper map to rely on.

To cover the entire GR20 at a good scale (1:25,000) we recommend bringing the following IGN maps:

. A weatherproof carrying case like this one wouldn’t hurt to have either.

GR20 GPS/GPX

If you’re interested in getting access to the GPS data used to create all of the maps in this post, we are happy to offer our GR20 GPX files for only $4.99. When you download the GPX file, you’ll get route data for each of the traditional stages of the GR20 as well as all of the common alternate route, plus waypoints for each stop along the way.

You’ll be able to load the GPX file into the mapping software or GPS phone app of your choice!

BUY NOW

 

GR20 map app/offline mapping

As mentioned above we utilized offline downloadable GPS maps on our smartphones to navigate while hiking the GR20. This is a great way to navigate on the trail as it allows you to see your progress for the day and also doesn’t require a cell phone signal (which you likely won’t have) to display the map. Our GR20 Offline Mapping post has all the information you need to get set up using an app for your GR20 map. This step-by-step article will teach you how to quickly and easily turn your phone into a GPS device.

Check out all of our great GR20 resources:

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How Much It Cost Us to Hike the GR20  

There are endless ways to fail at the GR20. It’s got a reputation for being the toughest trek in Europe, and for good reason. In fact, some statistics indicate that…

There are endless ways to fail at the GR20. It’s got a reputation for being the toughest trek in Europe, and for good reason. In fact, some statistics indicate that over half of those who start the GR20 don’t complete it. There are a ton  of genuinely legitimate reasons for quitting, and those are totally understandable. 

Want to know the stupidest, least excusable reason for quitting the GR20? Running out of money. 

Chalkboard menu at Refuge de Carozzu

There’s plenty of delicious food available along the trail, but it’s definitely not cheap!

 

Nearly everything you purchase on the GR20 will need to be bought with cash. There are no ATMS along the route, not even in Calenzana, Vizzavona, or Conca, and most establishments do not accept credit cards. If you’re prepared, this is no problem at all. However, without advance planning this could be catastrophic to your trek. Indeed, when we hiked in 2019 we met multiple hikers who were forced to leave the trail due to a lack of cash. Don’t let that happen to you. 

Since you’ve clearly got your act together enough to find this article (and hopefully you checked out our Ultimate Guide to the GR20 too), we feel pretty confident that you won’t earn a place in the GR20 Hall of Shame (at least not for this reason…we can’t vouch for what anyone will do after a couple of Pietras!)

Now that you know you need to carry enough cash to cover all of your expenses along the trail, you just need to figure out exactly how much cash that will be. That’s what we’re here for. 

 

Tents outside the Refuge de Matalza

Camping is a fun and budget-friendly way to do the GR20.

 

Below we’ve outlined what you can expect to pay for all sorts of common goods and services on the GR20. Obviously, you can expect some variation in prices from place to place, but this should give you a general idea of things so you can more confidently estimate your budget. 

 

The GR20: Average Price List

Accommodation:

  • Dorm bed in a PNRC Refuge: €15
  • Hire tent at a PNRC Refuge: €11 tent rental fee + €7 per person
  • Camping (bivouac) with a personal tent at PNRC Refuge: €7 per person
  • Dorm bed in a gite d’etape: €20 per person (€45 per person for half board)
  • Camping at a bergerie with personal tent: €8 per person
  • Camping at a bergerie in a hire tent: €20 per person
  • Double room in a hotel: €100 

 

Food and Drink:

  • Evening Meal at a bergerie, gite, or PNRC Refuge: €22
  • Breakfast at a bergerie, gite, or PNRC Refuge: €8
  • Picnic lunch from a bergerie, gite, or PNRC Refuge: €8
  • Meal at a nice hotel restaurant: €30
  • Large can of Pietra Beer: €6
  • Half liter of wine: €6
  • Large coffee or tea: €2.5
  • Can of soda: €3.5
  • A-la-carte omelette or sandwhich: €7-9
  • Charcuterie or cheese plate: €10
  • Large chunk  of local cheese: €11
  • Bag of pasta: €2
  • Jar of pasta sauce: €3
  • Can of ravioli: €3
  • Saucisson (cured Corsican sausage): €10
  • Bag of peanuts: €2
  • Bar of chocolate: €2
  • Loaf of bread: €2

 

Transportation: 

  • Bus from Bastia Airport to Bastia city center: €9 per person
  • Train from Bastia to Calvi: €16.2 per person (see the full list of train prices here)
  • Bus from Calvi to Calenzana: €8 per person
  • Navette from Conca to Sainte Lucie de Porto Vecchio: €4- €6 per person (depending on number of passengers)
  • Bus from Sainte Lucie de Porto Vecchio to Bastia: €23 per person + €1 per bag
  • Train from Vizzavona to Bastia: €14.6

 

Miscellaneous: 

  • Hot shower: €2 for 6 minutes (This varies quite a bit; some refuges offer free hot showers, while others only offer cold showers
  • Electronics Charging: €2 per device (this is also free at some refuges and unavailable at others)
  • Stove fuel: €6
  • Roll of toilet paper: €0.50
  • Compeed blister bandages: €9
  • Sunscreen: €12
The well stocked shop at Hotel Castel di Vergio

Hike all the miles, eat all the snacks.

 

How to estimate your expenses on the GR20

First, think about the type of accommodation and meals you plan on purchasing. Are you going to sleep in refuges and hotels as much as possible? Are you going to eat most meals at the refuge or will you choose  to buy provisions to self-cater? Will you pay for any of your accommodation in advance? (PNRC reservations require full payment when you make your booking). Don’t forget to account for your meals and lodging in Calenzana, Vizzavona, and Conca. Once you’ve taken all of these variables into account you can get a general idea of what you plan to spend on accommodation per day. 

Next, consider all of your other miscellaneous expenses. These include transportation to and from the trail, electronics charging and hot showers, any needed toiletries or other necessities that arise. Use our list of average prices (above) to determine the amount of money that will cover all of your miscellaneous items. Our advice? Expect the unexpected and give yourself a little extra cushion here! 

Before you get any further,  be honest with yourself about what you’ll want and need on the trail. It’s easy to think you’ll adhere to a strict budget, but once you’ve been hiking all day in the blistering sun that cold beer or bag of crisps is going to be awfully tempting, and you’ll get far greater enjoyment out of your GR20 experience if you allow yourself a few indulgences here and there. Plus,  you’ll be exerting yourself much more than in your typical day-to-day life and therefore your calorie needs will be significantly greater. Keep this in mind when calculating your food budget- hiker hunger is no joke! 

Block of Corsican cheese.

That block of local cheese may be calling your name after a long day!

 

Finally, the amount of money you’ll need will depend on how long you plan on being out on the trail. If you are hiking for longer, that’s more days of food and lodging you’ll need to pay for. We recommend building an extra day into your itinerary to allow for bad weather or other issues that may arise. 

Here’s a breakdown of average daily costs for a few different budgets. Drinks, treats, and unexpected necessities have been accounted for in the “Miscellaneous” category. 

 Food & DrinkAccommodationMiscellaneousAverage Daily Expenses
Budget€6-10€7€5-10€18-27
Mid-Range€25-35€12-15€10-15€47-65
Luxury€45-65€45-60€15-20€105-145

NOTE: All hikers, regardless of their budget, should add at least €65 to their overall estimate to account for transportation costs

Clear rock pool and waterfall on stage 5 of the GR20

Luckily, the best parts of the GR20 are completely free, like this perfect spot for soaking tired feet.

 

Okay. I made my budget, but WOW that’s a LOT of cash! Is it safe to hike with that much money? 

Generally speaking, yes. The GR20 attracts a really awesome community of humans who just want to conquer a challenge and savor the outdoors. There is a sense of camaraderie among GR20 hikers, and people tend to look out for one another. Plus, pretty much everyone you meet on the trail is in the same boat as you, so you really shouldn’t be any more susceptible to theft as the next trekker.   

That being said, you should take the same precautions you would take in any other situation where you’d be walking around with a big wad of cash. These include: 

  • Keep your money on your person or within sight at all times. Many hikers choose to wear a fanny pack for easy and safe access to their valuables.  
  • If traveling with others, split up the money among the members in your group. 
  • Report any suspicious activity to the warden. 
  • Listen to your instincts if something doesn’t feel right. 
  • Keep your money and valuables in a waterproof pouch. 
Hikers sitting on picnic tables outside the Gite U Fagone

Making new friends on the GR20.

 

Can I even take that much money out of an ATM, especially in another country? 

Yes, sort of. It will depend on your specific institution, but some banks limit withdrawals to €500 at a time. If this is the case for you, you may need to make a series of withdrawals over the course of a couple days or use multiple accounts. Hopefully you are using a card that reimburses you for ATM fees! And of course, make sure to notify your bank prior to any travel to prevent fraud alerts and/or getting your account frozen. 

Bus ticket for Sainte Lucie de Porto Vecchio to Bastia

Don’t forget to factor in your transportation costs when estimating your budget!

 

So are you going to share how much you spent or what? 

Time for the big reveal on how much the GR20 cost us! But before we do, we’d like to preface it with a few important points. These are very necessary to take into account in order to truly understand our expenses:

– Our spending number only accounts for what we spent while actually on the GR20. It does not include our flights to Corsica or any gear we purchased for the trek. 

-This number is based on the cost for two people who camped on nearly every stage with our own tent.  We were on the trail for 17 days, including a rest day in Vizzavona. 

-We brought about four days’ worth of meals, which we purchased ahead of time. The cost of that food is not accounted for in this total, and reduced our on-trail spending. 

-We are vegetarians who were happy to cook our own dinners every night (seriously, we ate so much pasta) and snack on peanuts and bread. Due to our natural frugality in this area we tend to spend much less than the average person on meals. 

-A great way to save money, which we made sure to employ on a near-daily basis, is to drink wine. Too good to be true? Not at all! Two people can happily split a half liter of decent wine for the same price as just one beer. Who can pass up a value like that? 

So, in total, we carried €1200 with us on the GR20.

We actually only spent around €700 of that, but we tend to do things very, very frugally. Most people will spend significantly more than this, but this shows that it’s definitely possible to hike the GR20 for this amount or even much less!

 

View from Bocca Piacca Stage 2 GR20

Whatever your budget, we know you’re going to have an amazing trek!

 

Conclusion: 

It is totally possible to hike the GR20 on nearly any budget and have a great time doing it. With a little advance planning and a good sense of your personal travel style, you can eliminate many of the stressors that come with managing finances while on the trail. If you found this article helpful, make sure to check out our other great GR20 content. Happy trails! 

Check out all of our great GR20 resources:

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The Ultimate Guide to the GR20 

“The toughest trek in Europe” “One of the top trails in the world” “More rock climbing than hiking” “Unimaginably rugged mountains” “Awe-inspiring scenery” “Mythical.” With so many legendary stories surrounding…

“The toughest trek in Europe” “One of the top trails in the world” “More rock climbing than hiking” “Unimaginably rugged mountains” “Awe-inspiring scenery” “Mythical.”

With so many legendary stories surrounding it, what can we say about the GR20 that hasn’t been said already? We’re here to tell you that the legends are legit. The GR20 is all of those things and more. If you’re a passionate hiker, consider this trek to be your piece de resistance, your Superbowl, your ultimate adventure. Due to its challenging reputation, many hikers feel too intimidated to take on the GR20, and among those who do attempt it, a large percentage don’t complete it. Don’t let that be you!

View from Bocca Piccaia.

Some of the stunning scenery you’ll encounter on the GR20.

 

With the right preparation, you can tackle the infamous GR20 and even (gasp!) have a ton of fun doing it. The key is having realistic expectations and doing some advance planning. Our guide will walk you through everything you need to know to prepare for this epic adventure. Trust us, it is so worth it. 

What’s in this Guide:

Hiker on the GR20

You can expect rugged landscapes like this one throughout the GR20.

 

About the GR20

The GR20* runs roughly north to south across the island of Corsica. Corsica is a semi-autonomous French territory located in the Mediterranean Sea. Sometimes referred to as the ‘Granite Isle,’ Corsica owes much of its beauty to its rich and diverse geologic history. This relatively small island boasts a wide array of spectacular natural scenery, including towering granite spires, lush wooded valleys, and turquoise rock pools.  

* GR=”Grande Randonee,” a term for a collection of Europe’s greatest long-distance footpaths

How long is the GR20? 

Distance: 180 km (112 miles)

Elevation gain: 10,000 meters (32,808 feet)

How long does it take to hike the GR20?

Typically 12-15 days, depending on fitness and pace. Many hikers may want to give themselves 16 days to allow for a rest day and flexibility in the case of inclement weather. Attempting to complete the entire route in less than 12 days is only recommended for the very hardcore hiker who is up for spending long days on the trail. It is important to keep in mind that the GR20 is different from many other hikes due to the amount of scrambling required. While you might have a good sense of your hiking pace on normal trails,those estimates tend to go out the window on the GR20.

Our advice? Give yourself more time than you think you need and don’t try to “double up” on stages. The trek is way more enjoyable (and still plenty challenging) when you’re not rushing through it or pushing your limits too far. That said, when we were hiking, we met a superhuman who was trying to do the entire thing in five days. Different strokes for different folks I guess! 

Auberge on the southern half of the GR20.

The landscape becomes much gentler on the southern half of the GR20.

 

I only have time to do half…should I hike the North or South?

The GR20 is neatly divided into two sections, the northern (“nord”) and southern (“sud”), with the town of Vizzavona at the midpoint. This makes it relatively easy to hop on or off the trail at Vizzavona in order to only hike one half.  If you have to choose, take comfort in the fact that the GR20 is truly spectacular from start to finish and you can’t go wrong with either section!

In our opinion, the north has the most rugged and beautiful mountain scenery and it’s more fun and interesting to hike. The trade-off, however, is that it also entails the most scrambling and greater sections of trail that are steep and technical. The south is a bit mellower, but it definitely isn’t easy. There are still plenty of tough climbs and parts that require scrambling. If you choose to only hike the southern half, you’ll still get some beautiful mountain views, but you’ll also spend a good amount of time down in the forests and valleys. 

How difficult is the GR20? 

There’s no doubt about it- the GR20 is a challenging trek. Some of the major factors that contribute to its difficulty are the large amount of scrambling, steep ascents and descents, overall distance, heat and weather, and exposed nature of the trail. We believe that most reasonably fit people can complete the GR20, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they shouldYou’re much, much more likely to actually enjoy it if you are in good hiking shape and have backpacking experience. Most of the scrambling is pretty manageable; it is just tricky and awkward at times and can become tiring after you’ve been at it for awhile. If you are judicious about avoiding storms and careful on exposed sections, it really isn’t much more dangerous than other hikes. 

Our top tips for making the GR20 less challenging:

1. Carry the lightest backpack possible. 

2. Only hike one stage per day. Don’t try to double-up stages and take on more than necessary. Give your body time to recover in the afternoon rather than spending 8+ hours on the trail every day.

3. Start early! High temperatures increase your effort level significantly. Avoid the worst of the afternoon heat (and storms) by getting on the trail at sunrise.

These three simple things can absolutely be the difference-maker in terms of whether or not you complete the trek (and do so without hating every second of it). 

Hiker scrambling on the GR20.

Sections like this one that require scrambling are frequent on the route.

 

When to Hike the GR20

The typical hiking season for the GR20 lasts from June through September. It may be possible to hike in the later part of May, but you’ll need to be prepared for snow and ice on the trail. 

  • If hiking in May, the refuges will be open but not staffed, meaning that you’ll need to bring all of your own food and fuel. 
  • Beginning in June, the refuges will be staffed and supplied, but you may still need to negotiate some sections of snow and ice along the trail. The weather in June will be warm, but not too hot. 
  • July and August are the most popular months for hiking the GR20. All of the services (accommodation, busses, etc) will be fully operating and the trail should be clear of snow. Expect very hot weather and afternoon thunderstorms. 
  • September brings cooler temperatures and fewer crowds. The refuges remain staffed through the end of the month, but the bus services are reduced and some of the bergeries start to close. 
  • Hiking is possible in October, but the refuges will not be staffed (they will remain open) and snow is likely from mid-October onwards. 

May and October are the least crowded times on the trail. June and September are quieter than the peak season, but still quite busy. The trail is the most crowded in July and August. We recommend making advance reservations for all accommodation (unless carrying your own tent) if you’re planning on trekking anytime between June and September. 

Sunrise on the Spasimata Slabs

Not only will starting early help you avoid getting caught in afternoon storms but you will also get to see beautiful sunrises.

 

Weather

Mountain weather is always volatile, and the GR20 is no different. However, the GR20 is rather unique in the sense that the trail stays high up on exposed ridges for long stretches, making it more important than ever for hikers to be vigilant about the conditions. Getting caught high up in the mountains during a storm is extremely dangerous, but you can greatly minimize your risk by taking a few important precautions.

  1. Always ask the wardens at the refuge for the latest weather forecast and heed their advice.
  2. The Meteoblue App is arguably the best resource for checking the weather. It allows you to see the forecast for specific peaks or coordinates, plus it has excellent radar displays and wind predictions. Check it every time you have cell service.
  3. Start hiking early in the day! Not only will you enjoy gorgeous sunrises, get to camp before the crowds, and avoid the heat, but you’ll also greatly reduce your risk of getting caught in afternoon thunderstorms. 
Looking down on Lac du Cinto

These clouds may look pretty now but the weather on the GR20 is unpredictable.

 

Which Direction?

The traditional GR20 route starts in Calenzana in the north, passes through the midpoint in Vizzavona, and finishes in Conca in the south. However, it is possible to hike in either direction. The northern half of the GR20 has a reputation for being the toughest, while the southern half is a bit gentler. Some trekkers prefer to start in the south to get accustomed to the trail before tackling the tougher sections in the north. Others would rather start in the north in order to put the biggest days behind them early and do so with fresh legs.

It is totally a matter of personal preference, although we hiked from north to south and would definitely recommend it. We benefited from the confidence boost that came with conquering the most challenging sections early on, and we felt the ascents and descents were more manageable in this direction. While slightly less people hike in the northbound direction, you probably won’t notice a significant difference in crowds since hikers headed both ways stay at the same refuges. 

Trail sign showing the GR20 Nord and GR20 Sud

Either direction you choose to hike is bound to be a great adventure!

 

Food and Drink

As we’ve mentioned before (and certainly will remind you about again!), keeping your backpack as light as possible is essential for having a successful GR20 trek. Fortunately, you don’t need to carry much food, which will significantly reduce your pack weight. Food can be purchased at all of the refuges along the route. However, there is a lot of variation in terms of what’s available at any given refuge on any given day. It’s not cheap, but it doesn’t have to be super expensive either, providing that you cook your own meals. On the other hand, if you order meals at the refuges, expect to pay upwards of 20 for a glorified bowl of pasta.

Most refuges on the GR20 also have small shops where you can get basics like bread, pasta, sauce, canned fish, canned meals, chocolate, and biscuits. All of the refuges also serve dinner and breakfast, and some offer a-la-carte meals throughout the day as well. Beer, wine, soda, coffee, and tea are sold everywhere. There are no grocery stores along the GR20. The closest you’ll get to a supermarket are the larger, better-stocked shops available at a few refuges and campgrounds along the route. We’ve noted the locations of these within the guide. On the trail between the refuges, there generally isn’t anywhere to purchase food, save for the rare exception of a bergerie selling cheese and charcuterie. 

Refuge de Carozzu menu

Typical food and drink on offer at the refuges.

 

Dietary Restrictions

The GR20 is not very accommodating to those with special diets. Vegetarians will be alright, provided they are okay with eating pasta for dinner every night and consuming large amounts of cheese and bread. We recommend carrying at least one “backup” meal in case you can’t find veg-friendly food at a refuge. Those who are vegan or gluten-free should plan on bringing most of their own food, as their options will be very limited. 

Cooking

Nearly every accommodation along the route provides a cooking area that is free to use for all who are staying there, campers included. All of these cooking areas have a gas-powered cooktops, many have pots/pans, and some have dishes and cutlery. It isn’t necessary to bring your own stove and fuel, but many people choose to do so, as the cooking areas can get crowded. If planning to self-cater regularly, you’ll probably want to bring your own pot and bowl/utensils, since those aren’t provided at most places. Also, you’ll need to bring your own lighter to ignite the stoves. 

Water

All of the refuges provide potable water (usually from a tap labeled “source”).  It is generally safe to drink, and most hikers choose to do so without filtration. There are some water sources along the trail, but they are not always at regular intervals, they’re not on every stage, and many are season-dependent. Some of these require filtration, due to the proximity of livestock (Corsican cows are amazing hikers and you’ll see them in shockingly high places!) Our advice would be to fill up at the refuges before setting out and carry enough water for the entire day (2-4 liters, depending on stage length, heat, and personal preference).

Cheese, bread, and coffee on the GR20

If nothing else you’ll always find good views and excellent local cheese along the route.

 

GR20 Accommodation

You’ll have a range of lodging options along the GR20, although most will be at the PNRC-run refuges and nearly all will be “rustic” at best. We’ve outlined what you can expect from each option below. 

Sleeping Indoors

Refuges

If you prefer not to camp along the GR20, you’ll spend most of your nights in the park-run mountain huts (or refuges). These offer basic, dorm-style accommodation. Beds are provided, but you’ll need your own sleeping bag and pillow. All offer an evening meal and basic breakfast for an additional charge. The refuges vary in terms of their amenities; some refuges have hot showers, proper toilets, and electronics charging, while others have only a couple of cold showers and squat toilets.  Refuges can be reserved through this website

View of Refuge d' I Paliri.

Refuge d’ I Paliri is one of the most beautiful along the GR20.

 

Bergeries

In addition to the PNRC Refuges, there are some privately-owned bergeries along the GR20. These are quite similar to the refuges in that they offer basic dorm-style accommodation and the option for half-pension (dinner and breakfast). 

Auberge U Vallone

Auberge U Vallone is an example of the many bergeries you’ll encounter.

Hotels

There are a few opportunities to stay in hotels while hiking the GR20, typically these opportunities arise when the trail brings you closer to civilization. These hotels offer the typical amenities you’d expect from this level of lodging, such as hot showers, private bathrooms, bedding and towels, and WiFi. 

 

View of a room at Casa Alta Hotel in Vizzavona.

Lovely views from a room at the Casa Alta B&B in Vizzavona.

 

Sleeping Outdoors

Renting a tent

Many GR20 hikers choose to stay in the “hire tents” that are available for rent at all of the refuges and most bergeries. This option costs less than sleeping in dorms, but more than camping with your own tent. Hire tents are typically the Quechua pop-up style for two or three people, and include a sleeping pad or mattress. They offer a good option for those who want the perks of camping (more privacy, less risk of bedbugs) without having to carry all of the gear. While you can reserve a place in a hire tent ahead of time, you cannot reserve a specific tent. The tents vary quite a bit in terms of location within the camping area, levelness of the pitch, and general niceness. Get there early to have your pick of the best tents. 

Hire tents at Refuge de Petra Piana

Hire tents at Refuge de Petra Piana.

Carrying a tent

Carrying your own tent will cost you the least and give you the most flexibility. Wild camping is forbidden on the GR20 (with the exception of one designated spot between Refuges d’Usciolu and Refuge d’Asinau). However, you can pitch your tent outside all of the refuges along the route, and most of the bergeries and gites allow camping as well. Campers have access to all of the facilities at the refuges, including the toilets, showers, cooking areas, and meals. Carrying your own tent is the only accommodation option that does not require advance reservations. That being said, in the busy season you’ll still want to arrive at the campground early to snag a good spot. All of the camping pitches are definitely not created equal! Many pitches are uneven, rocky, and quite far from the facilities, and the campgrounds can get very full by about 4:00pm. If you’re considering carrying a tent, you’ll want to carefully weigh the benefits of added comfort and flexibility versus the added weight in your pack. 

Tent at Refuge d' I Paliri

Carrying your own tent gives you more flexibility and freedom.

 

A few other things you should know about GR20 accommodation:

Reservations

The GR20 is an extremely popular trail with limited accommodation options. Unless you are hiking very early or very late in the season, you can expect the refuges and campgrounds to be full at every stage of your hike. Hikers with their own tent do not need reservations (and we wouldn’t recommend making them), but all others-those using hire tents, those staying in dorms, and those staying in hotels- must make advance bookings.

Bookings can be made online at http://reserver.sitecresa.fr/centraleresa/parcnaturel and need to be paid in full to be confirmed. Wardens at the refuges expect you to print your reservation and present it upon arrival. If you need to change your reservation, you’ll need to call or email the PNRC using the information provided on your booking receipt. Reservations can be cancelled within 15 days of the initial booking date for a full refund. 

Other Important Information:

You need to provide your own toilet paper. Some refuges sell it, but it is not available everywhere. It pays to be prepared! 

-Toilets, showers, and dormitories are almost always mixed gender

Bedbugs are a common problem in the refuges. Bring bedbug spray and be vigilant. 

Sunrise on the GR20

Wherever you choose to spend the night you can bet on waking up to a beautiful sunrise.

 

GR20 Logistics

Corsica is known for a lot of great things, such as its mountains and beaches, but not necessarily for its well-connected, timely, easy-to-navigate transportation system. However, it is certainly possible to get to and from the GR20 without too many headaches, provided that you plan ahead and give yourself enough time. Check out our logistics article for all of the details. 

Wayfinding

The GR20 is extremely well-marked with red and white paint flashes every 20 feet or so. Keep a close eye out for markers, as sometimes the trail heads in seemingly improbable directions! The markers show you the easiest way up or down, so follow them closely, especially when scrambling. If you choose to take one of the many alternate route options, you can expect these trails to be less well-marked. We recommend carrying a map at all times and using a GPS. 

Red and white trail marker.

Can you spot the next trail marker?

 

Money on the GR20

The most important thing you need to know here is that the GR20 is pretty much a cash-only economy. There are no ATMs along the route, not even in Calenzana and Conca at the endpoints, nor in Vizzavona at the midpoint. Therefore, it will be essential for you to estimate your expected daily costs (food and lodging), plus some cushion for transportation and other miscellaneous or unplanned items. Multiply your daily costs by how long you plan to be on the trail, again factoring in some cushion for rest days, bad weather, and your time in Calenzana and Conca. If you make reservations for refuges or hire tents, you will have paid in full for this accommodation ahead of time and won’t need to carry quite as much money.

A small number of places accept credit cards, (such as the campground shop in Vizzavona and many of the hotels) and you might be lucky enough to get cash back in a pinch. In general, things are relatively expensive in Corsica, especially along the trail. Check out our How Much It Cost Us to Hike the GR20 article for more on what you can expect to pay. 

Cows near a tent at Refuge de Manganu.

Unless you’re a cow you can’t camp for free!

 

What to Pack for the GR20

Deciding what to pack (and not pack) for the GR20 is one of the most crucial steps in preparing for a successful trek. The trail demands that you pull yourself up chains on sheer rock faces, squeeze through awkward gullies, and ascend and descend endless scree slopes.  Trust us, this is hard enough without a big, bulky backpack throwing off your center of balance and increasing your overall exertion…no need to make it any harder than it has to be! The good news is, with a little strategic planning you can minimize your pack size while still having everything you need, and you don’t need to go out and buy all of the fanciest lightweight gear to do so.

A few of our top tips:

  • Only carry 1-2 days’ worth of food, since provisions can be purchased at every refuge.
  • Unless you are a passionate photographer, leave your bulky camera at home. Most smartphones take excellent pictures. Plus, you won’t have many chances to recharge a camera battery. 
  • Only pack clothes that you absolutely need. Two shirts will be plenty, as you can rinse them out and dry them in the sun quite easily. 
  • You can cook at the refuges, so you don’t need to carry much stove fuel (if any).
  • Bring trekking poles. They are invaluable on many of the steeper sections. 
  • Many hotels will let you store extra luggage if you have an upcoming reservation with them. 
  • Either hiking boots or trail runners will work, just make sure they are comfortable and supportive.  They should be broken in a little, but otherwise fairly new (the gnarly GR20 trail conditions put a lot of wear and tear on shoes). 
Hikers on a steep trail.

You’ll be happy to have a light backpack on steep trails like this.

 

Electronics 

Charging

Some of the refuges and other accommodations along the GR20 will allow you to charge your electronics, but there is a lot of variation from place to place. Many refuges require a small payment for charging (typically €2) and will only allow you to charge your phone (not your smartwatch, camera, etc). Others will do it for free and allow you unlimited access to plug in whatever you want. Still others only provide charging during a set time in the afternoon, due to the fact that they rely on solar. We’ve noted the availability of device charging within each stage of this guide. If you plan on using your phone for navigation, we strongly recommend bringing a battery backup or portable solar panel. 

Cell Phone Service

Cell phone service is unreliable along the GR20. You might get signal at the high points on the trail and at some of the accommodations that are close to a road or town. WiFi is even less common; you’re only likely to find it at a few of the fancier hotels along the route. 

Cell phones charging

Charging electronics can get a little crazy on the GR20!

 

The GR20

A Stage-by-Stage Guide

Below you’ll find a brief description of every stage of the GR20 in terms of the accommodation options and services you can expect to find there. This guide is written for the typical north to south direction, but could easily be reversed.

Prices for accommodation at the PNRC Refuges are as follows:

  • Dorm Bed: 15 per person
  • Hire Tent: 11 per tent, plus €7 per person
  • Camping (bivouac) in personal tent: €7 per person

These prices are the same at every PNRC refuge, and therefore we haven’t listed prices for each individual refuge. For all other accommodations, prices have been noted in the guide whenever possible or links are provided fo r the most up-to-date information. 

Stage Zero: Calenzana

We strongly recommend that you stay in Calenzana the night before starting your hike, as it’s essential to get an early start on stage one. Calenzana is a pretty town with a good range of accommodation options and services available. If you absolutely don’t want to spend a night in Calenzana, you could stay in Calvi and arrange an early taxi to the trailhead the next morning. 

Accommodation in Calenzana:

  • Dorm beds and camping are available at the Gite d’Etape Communal on the edge of town. Contact them at 04 95 62 77 13 or gite-calenzana@wanadoo.fr for reservations and prices. 
  • Hotel Bel Horizon and the Chambres d’Hote L’Ombre du Clocher offer hotel accommodation in a more central location. Expect to pay around €150 for a room at either hotel.  
  • There are also a few AirBnBs available in town which offer nice apartments for a reasonable price. 

Services in Calenzana

There is a Spar Supermarket in town which sells  a wide range of items, including stove fuel. A bus operated by Beaux Voyages which runs between Calenzana and Calvi, although it’s pretty infrequent (once or twice daily, depending on the time of year). There are several restaurants and bars in town offering everything from casual pizzas to hearty Corsican fare. A post office is located in the center of the village. Keep in mind that there is no ATM in Calenzana

A street in Calenzana, Corsica.

Calenzana is a great place to start your trek.

 

Stage One: Calenzana to Refuge d’Ortu di u Piobbu

In his Cicerone Guide, author Paddy Dillon describes this first stage of the GR20 as a “baptism of fire” Personally, we think this is a little dramatic, but it’s certainly no cakewalk. Regardless of how tough your first day on the trail feels, you’ll be thrilled to get to Refuge d’Ortu di u Piobbu. With its friendly warden and sweeping sea views, it is the perfect introduction to your GR20 experience. When we hiked in 2019 the refuge building had recently burned down, but they were still providing a wide range of services and accommodation was available in hire tents (no dormitory though). There are many good, flat campsites available, most of which are on hard-packed dirt. 

Services:

Hire tents, camping, warm(ish) showers, composting toilets, sinks, potable water available from a spring a few hundred yards down the trail, a small shop, a-la-carte food items (omelettes, charcuterie, sandwiches, etc) available until dinnertime, electronics charging possible (ask the warden), cell phone service, picnic tables. 

Sunset at Refuge d'Ortu di u Piobbu

Refuge d’Ortu di u Piobbu is known for its spectacular sunsets.

 

Stage Two: Refuge d’Ortu di u Piobbu to Refuge de Carozzu

PNRC Refuge de Carozzu is tucked into the woods in a way that gives it summer camp vibes. The refuge has a dormitory with 36 beds, as well as a kitchen and dining room. There are camping pitches in an open area next to the refuge, as well as dotted in the surrounding trees in every direction from the refuge. Keep in mind that the campground can get very crowded, making it difficult to find a good spot. The warden doesn’t arrive until 3:00pm, so if you get there earlier you can pitch your tent (or grab a hire tent) and pay later. There is a lovely terrace in front of the refuge with lots of picnic tables for enjoying the amazing views down the forested valley. 

Services:

Dormitory, hire tents, camping, composting toilets, cold showers (available after 3pm), potable water, shop with very limited offerings, a-la-carte food items available all day, indoor kitchen, outdoor cooking area, sinks, clotheslines, picnic tables. 

Sunset at Refuge de Carozzu

Views from the terrace at Refuge de Carozzu.

 

Stage Three: Refuge de Carozzu to Ascu Stagnu

Many hikers approach stage three with a sense of trepidation, as the trail requires the crossing of the Spasimata Slabs (nicknamed the “slabs of doom” by some hikers). These large, tilted rock slabs are set in a dramatic gorge, and they are fitted with chains and cables to aid crossing in some places. You can relax though; in dry conditions, especially when traveling uphill, they really aren’t scary at all and the surrounding gorge is seriously beautiful!

In any case, you’ll have earned a bit of luxury by the end of stage three, and that’s what you’ll get when you reach the Ascu Stagnu ski area (also known as Haute Asco). What it lacks in prettiness, it makes up for in services. In addition to the 32 dorm beds in the PNRC refuge, hikers can also stay in the Hotel le Chalet (€100 for a double room) or in a dorm bed in the hotel-run gite d’etape (€45 for half pension). Campers will have tons of good pitches to choose from. If camping, you can pay at the PNRC refuge and use its facilities. 

Services:

All of the accommodation options offer indoor flush toilets, sinks with hot water, hot showers, and electronics charging. The refuge has a well-stocked shop, provides meals, and sells snacks, drinks, and charcuterie. It has a nice indoor kitchen with a wide assortment of pots, pans, dishes, and cutlery available, plus a large indoor dining room and some outdoor terrace seating. The refuge also has an outdoor cooking area and clothesline. There is a casual snack bar across the parking lot from the refuge which sells hot meals, drinks, and ice cream. There’s also a fancier restaurant and bar attached to the hotel. Transportation to the town Ponte Leccia can be arranged and laundry services are also available. 

PNRC Refuge at Haute Asco

The PNRC Refuge at Haute Asco.

 

Stage Four: Ascu Stagnu to Auberge U Vallone or Refuge de Tighjettu

You’ll have two choices for your accommodation on stage four. The first option you’ll come across is the PNRC Refuge de Tighjettu, located on a hillside with big valley views. This is a good option if you want to stop a bit earlier (this stage is one of the longest and most difficult of the entire trek) or if you like the predictability of the PNRC Refuges. Tighjettu is also a bit less expensive than your other option, the Auberge U Vallone. If you continue another 30 minutes on the trail past Tighjettu, you’ll reach the privately-run Auberge. In all honesty, the place is a little odd, but the gorgeous views from the terrace, easy access to perfect rock pools, and piping hot showers more than compensate for its quirks. 

Services at Tighjettu:

Dorm beds, hire tents,camping, showers (sometimes warm), toilets, indoor kitchen and dining area, potable water, small shop, meals, sinks. 

Services at Vallone:

Hire tents and camping. Hot showers, flush toilets, terrace, potable water, electronics charging, very limited shop, restaurant, camping and hire tents available. There is no cooking area here, and camping costs €8.5o per person (if carrying your own tent). Reservations for hire tents can be made on their website

Pointe des Eboulis

On Stage 4 hikers will climb to Pointe des Eboulis, the highest point on the GR20.

 

Stage Five: Auberge U Vallone to Hotel Castel di Vergio

The Hotel Castel di Vergio is another example of a stop along the GR20 that you might just fall in love with, certainly not because of the natural beauty of its surroundings (there’s not much of that), but because of the little luxuries you’ll enjoy there. Due to its roadside location, the hotel shop is one of the best along the entire GR20 route, stocked with everything from duct tape and batteries to fresh produce and warm bread. The camping area is one of the few along the route that has nice soft grass (instead of hard packed dirt) on which to pitch one’s tent. It’s the little things in life, right? 

Services:

Hot showers, electronics charging, cell service, flush toilets, sinks, potable water (available from the cooking area sink),  well-stocked shop, and a bar and restaurant located in the nearby hotel. Camping (€7 per person) is available for those with their own tents, but there are no hire tents for rent. Lodging is available in the hotel (€100 for a double room) or in dorms in the gite (€20 per person). Both campers and those staying in the gite have the option for half pension. A complete list of prices and booking information can be found here

The well stocked shop at Hotel Castel di Vergio

The well stocked shop at Hotel Castel di Vergio.

 

Stage Six: Hotel Castel di Vergio to Refuge de Manganu

After the challenges of the first five stages, stage six is a welcome and relaxing change of pace. The hiking is capped off perfectly by a stay at the PNRC Refuge du Manganu. This small refuge is located on a scenic rocky outcrop and enjoys tranquil views of the valley below. There is a dorm with 21 beds, plus many hire tents and camping pitches scattered around the refuge. Despite its sprawling size, it can still get quite crowded and lines for the sinks and toilets are pretty common. Manganu has a fun and lively atmosphere- hikers gather on the rocks to drink beers and enjoy the views or to take a dip in the picture perfect rock pool below the refuge

Services:

Dorm beds, hire tents, camping, composting toilets, sinks, potable water, electronics charging (€2), hot showers (€2 for six minutes), outdoor cooking area, a-la-carte snacks available all day, meals, and a shop with limited provisions for sale. 

Trekkers sitting on rocks at Refuge de Manganu.

Kicking back at Refuge de Manganu.

 

Stage Seven: Refuge de Manganu to Refuge Petra Piana

PNRC Refuge Petra Piana gets a bad rep for its cold, cloudy, inhospitable location. In fact, many trekkers choose to double-up on stages and continue all the way to Refuge L’Onda in order to avoid staying at Petra Piana. It’s true that Petra Piana is often shrouded in layer of chilly fog, but it’s a charming spot nonetheless. The tiny refuge houses a small dorm and a cozy kitchen with a couple of picnic tables where hikers can gather to enjoy the warmth and camaraderie. If you decide to keep hiking instead of stopping at Petra Piana, be aware that there is no lodging available until you reach Refuge de l’Onda. Many trekkers mistakenly think they can stay at one of the bergeries along the way to L’Onda and end up setting themselves up for a much longer day than they anticipated. 

Services:

Dormitory, hire tents, camping, squat toilets, sink, hot showers (€2 for six minutes), meals, small shop, well-stocked indoor kitchen, and potable water. No electronics charging. Credit cards may be accepted here. 

Kitchen at Refuge de Petra Piana.

The cozy kitchen at Refuge de Petra Piana.

 

Stage Eight: Refuge de Petra Piana to Refuge L’Onda

The setting for Refuge L’Onda couldn’t be more different than that of Petra Piana. Instead of the high, misty mountain top location of the previous stage, L’Onda sits down in a sunny, pastoral valley. There is a PNRC refuge up the hill, but most hikers choose to camp down in the valley next to the Bergeries L’Onda. In fact, unless you took the high-level variant to get there, you probably won’t even get close to the actual refuge. If you do intend to stay in the refuge, make sure to inquire ahead of time as it isn’t always open. If camping, hire tents are available, as well as grassy (though not super flat) pitches for those with their own tents. While you are technically camping at the bergeries, everything runs the same as at the PNRC campsites and prices are identical. Insider tip: though not immediately obvious, there are some lovely rock pools nearby, perfect for cooling off after a hot day on the trail! 

Services:

The campsite next to the Bergeries has squat toilets, sinks, a cooking area with pots, pans, and dishware, showers (€2 for hot water, free if cold), lots of picnic tables, and a clothesline. The bergeries sells a la carte items all day, plus meals, and it offers a decent selection of provisions at its shop. The refuge has a small dormitory, kitchen, toilets, and showers. 

Mountain views on Stage 8 of the GR20

You’ll pass through beautiful mountains and forested valleys on Stage 8 of your trek.

 

Stage Nine: Refuge L’Onda to Vizzavona

This is an exciting stage! In reaching Vizzavona, you’ll be marking the halfway point of the GR20. Better yet, you’ll get to celebrate this achievement with all of the luxuries that Vizzavona has to offer. In reality, Vizzanona is a tiny town with just a few hotels, restaurants, and a train station, but it is nevertheless a great place to spend the night or even take a rest day if you have the time. There is a range of accommodation available, from dirtbag to deluxe, but all options offer hot showers and electronics charging (things you’ll want at this point in the trek, trust us). With the exception of the campground, most places also provide WiFi, and many of the hotels offer a laundry service

Camping:

Hire tents, pitches, and dorm beds in a small gite are available at the L’Alzarella campsite on the edge of town. This campground has electronics charging, hot showers (€2.50), clothesline, sinks, toilets, a cooking area, and probably the best stocked shop on the entire GR20. It also accepts credit cards. The campground doesn’t take advance bookings, except for large groups. Camping costs €7.50 per person for campers with their own tents. 

Dormitory:

If you want to sleep indoors without spending a fortune, you have a couple of dorm-style accommodations to choose from. There is a refuge at the Bar Restaurant de la Gare, as well as at the Hotel Restaurant I Laricci (no website available). Expect to pay around €20 for either of these options. 

Hotel:

For a little bit of luxury, we recommend staying at the Casa Alta B&B. The friendly owners go out of their way to make your stay special, the wooded setting is tranquil and beautiful, and the breakfast is ridiculously good.  Another upscale option is the Hotel U Castellu

There is also more lodging available in La Foce, which can be accessed by taking a shortcut before reaching Vizzavona. 

Rocky descent with red and white trail markers.

It’s all downhill to Vizzavona from here!

 

Stage 10: Vizzavona to Bergeries d’E Capanelle

There are a few options for accommodation at this stage of the trek, although it can be a little tricky to figure out what they are. Upon arriving from the north, you’ll first come across the Gite d’Etape U Fagone (which also calls itself the Gite de Capanelle). This is the most convenient and popular place to spend the night. There are beds available in small chalets and large dormitories, plus hire tents and pitches available (although space is very limited).

Just above the gite, you’ll find the very small, very basic PNRC Refuge d’E Capanelle. This unstaffed refuge costs less than the other PNRC refuges, and can be paid for in the gite. Our guidebook said that free camping is permitted outside the refuge, but we found that to be false when we stayed there. All campers were required to pay at the gite. You can also travel up the road to reach the Gite d’Etape U Renosu, which has a few small dormitories and a camping area.

Services at Gite d’Etape U Fagone:

Hot showers, flush toilets, sinks, potable water, clothesline, restaurant serving al-la-carte items all day, meals, well-stocked shop, washing room, cell service, shady terrace with sea views.  It costs €7 per person for camping, €10 per person for a hire tent, and €39 per person for half-pension in the gite. Reservations can be made on their website

Services at Refuge d’E Capanelle:

Basic cooking area, picnic table, bunk beds. You’ll need to walk down to the gite to access toilets, water, and showers. Those camping outside the gite can use the cooking facilities in the refuge. 

Services at Gite d’Etape U Renosu:

Toilets, hot showers, potable water, restaurant, small shop, and cell phone service. It’s €7 per person for camping and €38 per person for half-pension in the gite.  Reservations can be made at +33 6 77 06 25 17. 

Colorful sunrise at Bergeries d'E Capanelle

Corsica’s legendary sunrises can make even the most unsightly ski areas look stunning!

 

Stage Eleven: E’Capanelle to Bocca di Verdi or Refuge de Prati

You’ll need to choose between two different accommodations at the end of stage eleven. There are a few factors to consider when deciding where to spend the night. First, it will depend on whether you take the classic low-level route on stage eleven or if you decide to tackle the high-level variant and the ascent of Monte Renosu. The high-level route is much longer and more challenging than the rather mellow low-level route. Therefore, if you took the classic low-level path on stage eleven, you might want to keep going past Bocca di Verdi to reach Refuge de Prati (another two hours uphill) to get a head start on the long day that awaits you on stage twelve.

Alternatively, if you took the high-level route, you will likely be more than ready to stop at Refuge Bocca di Verdi (Also known as Relais San Petru di Verde) rather than face another two hours of tough climbing after an already long and strenuous day. The other factor to consider is the nature of the facilities at each accommodation option. Refuge de Prati is a PNRC Refuge. Therefore, you can expect basic facilities and the usual prices. On the other hand, Bocca di Verdi is privately-run and provides much nicer facilities at a slightly higher cost (8 per person for camping). 

Services at Refuge de Prati:

Dormitory, large camping area with grassy pitches, hire tents, squat toilets, basic cold shower, meals, very limited shop, potable water. 

Services at Bocca di Verdi:

Flush toilets (with toilet paper provided- a rare sight on the GR20!), hot showers, restaurant, meals, picnic tables, sinks, clothesline, potable water, small shop, cell phone service. Campers can use the kitchen in the main refuge building. Camping costs €8 per person and it’s about €40 per person for half-pension in the refuge.  Beware of the aggressive pigs that wander the campsite in search of food! More information can be found on their website

 

Picnic tables outside the Relais San Petru di Verdi

There are plenty of nice places to relax outside the Relais San Petru di Verdi, but watch out for hungry pigs!

 

Stage Twelve: Bocca di Verdi or Refuge de Prati to Refuge d’Usciolu

Those who claim the entire southern half of the GR20 is “easy” obviously haven’t completed stage twelve. Make no mistake, it is a big day and it’s even bigger if you started at Bocca di Verdi! Don’t worry though, you’ll have a real treat awaiting you at the PNRC Refuge d’Usciolu.  This refuge and its charismatic warden are GR20 legends, and rightfully so. The shop is downright magical, offering a dazzling array of provisions and tasty treats from a tiny shack. The refuge itself boasts an equally magical setting, perched impossibly on a rocky hillside. The only downside of such a setting for campers is that they’ll find themselves hiking a long way up and down that steep rocky hillside to get from their tent pitch to the refuge and its facilities. 

Services:

Dormitory, hire tents, camping pitches, composting toilets, cold showers, sinks for washing up, potable water, clothesline, outdoor cooking area, terrace with picnic tables, restaurant serving a-la-carte items, meals, amazing shop, electronics charging (ask the warden). 

Tents on the hillside at Refuge d'Uscoilu.

Refuge d’Uscoilu boasts an incredible mountainside location, but you may have to hike down the hill to find a good pitch!

 

Stage Thirteen: Refuge d’Usciolu to Refuge de Matalza or Bergerie d’ I Croci

Here’s another stage where hikers will yet again be faced with several  choices. The official GR20 route is broken up into two stages before it reaches Refuge d’Asinau, with Matalza as the first stopping point and Refuge d’Asinau on the following day. However, for those moving at a faster pace it’s possible to take an alternate trail directly from Refuge d’Usciolu to Refuge d’Asinau, effectively cutting out an entire day of hiking. If you opt to stick to the traditional path, you’ll still come across three options for accommodation. First, you’ll pass the Bergeries de Basetta. Keep in mind that if you choose to stop here, you’re in for a very short day with a significantly longer one the following day. Next, you’ll pass the PNRC Refuge de Matalza, which offers a small dorm and camping area. It doesn’t boast the high mountain vistas of some GR20 refuges, but the friendly warden and peaceful pastoral setting more than make up for it. Finally, if you walk another hour along the trail, you’ll reach the privately-owned Bergerie d’ I Croci. The benefits of pushing on to I Croci are the slightly more luxurious accommodations and head start the following day. 

Services at Bergeries de Basetta:

Cabins, dormitory/dortoir, camping pitches, hire tents, well-stocked shop, restaurant, and transport off-trail. Camping is 10 for two people with their own tent, half pension in the dortoir is 38.50 per person, and it’s 43.50 per person for half-pension in a cabin. Reservations can be made at  06.27.25.95.33 o4 reservation@bergeriedebasseta.fr

Services at Refuge de Matalza:

Dormitory, hire tents, camping pitches, toilets, sink, potable water, clothesline, lounge chairs, shady terrace, warm showers (much nicer than they look!), decent shop offerings, electronics charging for a set time period in the afternoon, and a cooking area. 

Services at Bergerie d’ I Croci:

Dormitories, camping pitches, toilets, hot showers, potable water, restaurant, small shop, meals, transport to the town of Zicavo. Camping is €6 per person,  and it costs €10 per person for a bed in the dormitory. Reservations can be made by calling  06 75 49 60 59 and 09 82 12 33 10 and more information is available on their website

Showers at Refuge de Matalza.

The “luxurious” showers at Refuge de Matalza.

 

Stage Fourteen: Refuge de Matalza to Refuge d’Asinau

After being destroyed by a fire a few years back, PNRC Refuge d’Asinau has recently been rebuilt and it’s quite cozy and tidy inside. It has a small dormitory, with space for camping both on the hillside behind the refuge and down below the front of the refuge (many people don’t realize there are pitches down there so you might score something really good!). This is another one of those places where your hiking never really ends for the day, as there’s a long, stony walk to get to the bathrooms and showers. Views from the terrace are wonderful. 

Services:

Dormitory, hire tents, camping pitches, composting toilets, potable water, cold showers, very limited shop, meals, electronics charging (2). 

A rocky trail winds gently uphill on stage 14 of the GR20.

The trail is (thankfully!) a bit gentler on stage fourteen.

 

Stage Fifteen: Refuge d’Asinau to Village de Bavella or Refuge d’I Paliri

Stage fifteen officially ends at Village de Bavella, but if you’re camping, or if you want one last night at a (very beautiful!) PNRC Refuge, or if you want to get a head start on long final stage to Conca, you should keep hiking for about two more hours to the PNRC Refuge d’I Paliri. On the other hand, if you want to spend your last night on the GR20 in a more luxurious fashion, you’ll have your pick of gites and restaurants at Village de Bavella. It’s your final trail decision… it’s Conca or bust tomorrow! 

Services at Village de Bavella:

Dorm beds are available either at Les Aiguilles de Bavella (€34 for half pension) or the Auberge du Col de Bavella (€45  for half pension). Both of these establishments also have restaurants. There is a well-stocked shop across the road from the Auberge du Col de Bavella. Bus and taxi services can be accessed from Village de Bavella. 

Services at Refuge d’I Paliri:

Small dormitories, hire tents, camping pitches, squat toilets, showers (cold, very basic, and a loooong hike from camp-not recommended!), potable water (also need to hike down the trail for this), stunning views of rugged mountains and the sea in the distance, sinks, indoor and outdoor cooking areas, small shop, meals, and electronics charging (2).  

Views of a sheer rock face from Refuge d'I Paliri

Views from the tent at Refuge d’I Paliri…Not a bad way to spend your last night on the trail!

 

Stage Sixteen: Village de Bavella or Refuge d’I Paliri to Conca

You did it! Upon reaching Conca, we sincerely hope you beeline to the first establishment that will sell you a cold beer (FYI-that place is called Bar le Soleil Levant) and toast to your amazing accomplishment. The GR20 is a seriously challenging hike, both mentally and physically, and those who complete it have really achieved something special. Once you’ve enjoyed a celebratory cold one with your fellow badass hikers, you’ll need to think about moving on. If you want to leave Conca that same day, the Bar le Soleil Levant and the Gite d’Etape La Tonnelle offer shuttle services to Sainte Lucie de Porto Vecchio, where you can catch buses to Bastia, Ajaccio, or Porto Vecchio. You may be able to arrange direct service to Porto Vecchio (instead of transferring at Sainte Lucie) as well. 

If you want to spend the night in Conca, we think that you’ll find it to be quite a nice little town. You can either stay at the more upscale Hotel San Pasquale (around 90 for a double room) or the budget-friendly Gite d’Etape La Tonnelle, which has rooms for 2-5 people and a 7-person dorm (€40 per person for half-pension),and camping (€7 per person). Hire tents are also available for 14 per person. 

Services at Conca: 

Both the Hotel and Gite have restaurants. There are two small shops in town, as well as a post office. The gite and the hotel also offer a laundry service. You can arrange transport to Sainte Lucie de Porto Vecchio through the gite. 

Views over the mountains towards the sea on stage 16 of the GR20.

You’ll enjoy fabulous views of the mountains and the Mediterranean until the very end of your trek.

 

Conclusion

We hope the information in this guide leaves you feeling confident and prepared to tackle the GR20, one of the world’s finest treks. Be sure to check out all of our awesome GR20 resources, and as always, post your questions and feedback in the comments below. Happy trails! 

 Looking down on Lac du Melo from above.

Wishing you an incredible GR20 adventure!

Check out all of our great GR20 resources:

 

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