A Quick & Dirty Guide to Corsica’s GR20

The GR20 is a spectacular 180 km (112 mi) trail, that winds its way along the jagged spine of Corsica’s mountainous centre. Despite the rugged nature of much of the terrain, it is a hike that is within the capabilities of most backpackers, due to it being exceedingly well marked and sporting regular accommodation and resupply options. I hiked the GR20 in 2009. All logistical information has been updated as of March 2017. 

Distance :  112 miles (180 km)gr_20_map

Avg.Time :  11 – 12 days

  • The GR20 is one of those trails where the amount of time needed can vary considerably from hiker to hiker. As a general reference, given average conditions speedy hikers with light packs can usually do it in 5 to 7 days (not including side trips), whereas slower trekkers might take 15 or 16.

Start / Finish :

  • Calenzana (North) – Conca (south)
  • No real advantage in going either direction.
  • Corsica.forhikers.com provides a comprehensive overview of Ferry and Flight options to Corsica. It also provides details on getting to and from the trailheads and other parts of the island.

Season :

  • Early June to late October.
  • Tip: If you want to avoid the crowds, steer clear of July and August.
  • Click here for an overview of what you can expect on the meteorological front in Corsica.
  • Tip 2: When mapping out your trip itinerary, factor in an extra day (or two) in case of inclement weather.

Maps, Guidebooks & General Information:

  • OnlineCorsica.forhikers.com is an excellent source for anything and everything pertaining to the GR20. In fact………who am I kidding………if I was you I’d forget about the rest of my write-up and go directly there.

  • Guidebook: If you speak a little bit of French, a good alternative to the English guides is: A Traverse la Montagne Corse  [#67]. It has topo maps, is light and compact, and if you can’t pick it up online, it is widely available around Corsica.
  • Language: Speaking of which, from a communication perspective (particularly if you are trekking independently), it will be worth your while to learn some French before arriving on the island. Even if it’s just the basics; if locals see you making an effort, it can make a big difference in regards to your overall experience (see Cultural Considerations from the Hiking Abroad section of the website).


One of the biggest issues for many people on the GR20 is the question of resupply. I recommend the following:

  • You can supplement your supplies at Asco Stagu, Castel di Verghio, Bavella and do a full resupply at Vizzavona.
  • Enjoy at least a few meals at the refugios (mountain huts). It will save weight, the food’s pretty good, the servings are generous and the prices are affordable. It is also possible to buy snacks such as bread, cheese, and chocolate at some of the huts.

Hotel Restaurant Le Chalet (Asco)


  • Except for a couple of occasions in the vicinity of livestock, I didn’t purify my water and had no issues (I carried Aquamira drops). That being said, most foreigners hiking the GR20 seem to regularly treat, and it’s probably the safer way to go. If obtaining water from a hut, ask the guardian in charge whether or not it is potable.

Route / Conditions :

  • Signage: The GR20 is well marked with red and white blazes. Given reasonably fine weather, it is easy to follow from start to finish.
  • Exposed Terrain: Due to its undulating, sometimes rugged nature, walking on the GR20 is often slow going. Certain sections of the hike are very exposed; keep an eye on the conditions at all times.
  • Weather Updates: In regards to the weather, cell phone reception can be sporadic in the Corsican mountains. Check the long-range forecast before setting out, and then get regular updates at the Refugios (mountain huts) along the way. If a thunderstorm is heading in your direction, discretion is usually the better part of valor. Kick back with a hot chocolate or red wine and ride out the storm in the cozy confines of a refugio.

  • Swimming: There are some fantastic swimming holes along the GR20. On a hot day, a dip in one of these crystal clear pools is an absolute must.
  • Side Trip: I did the side trip up Corsica’s highest mountain, Monte Cinto. Although the 360-degree panorama from the peak is impressive, I wouldn’t say it was any more spectacular than many of the views along the route itself.

Summit of Monte Cinto – Corsica’s highest peak.

Sleeping :

  • Huts: As alluded to above, there are mountain huts throughout the GR20, so technically speaking a tent is not necessary. That being said, the refugios are often crowded and noisy. You will also need to book ahead. I recommend bringing your own shelter.
  • Camping: Officially speaking, wild camping is prohibited on the GR20. You are permitted, however, to pitch your shelter next to the refuges along the route. To be frank, some of these sites are pretty ordinary. For discreet independent hikers who practice no trace principles, it’s not difficult to find camping spots away from the refugios.

Overview :

  • The GR20 is a classic trek along the jagged spine of Corsica’s mountainous centre.
  • Forget about all the “toughest trek in Europe” hype. Yes, some of the stages are a bit rugged, but it is uniformly well marked, there is a plethora of trekking information available, and as long as you use some common sense and stay off the exposed areas when the weather is raging, chances are you’ll be fine.
  • Tip: Seeing as you have travelled all the way to Corsica, make an effort to spend at least a few days pre or post-hike, enjoying some of the villages and beaches around the island. It’s an incredible place with a rich culture and colourful history. The food’s pretty good as well; think a combination of Italian and French cuisine, mixed together with certain elements that are distinctly Corsican.
  • Tips 2: Attention history buffs, Napoleon was born in the Corsican capital of Ajaccio. His ancestral home is now a museum. Well worth a visit.

Final Sunrise of the GR20

Final sunrise of the GR20

The descent to Conca – the southern terminus of the GR20.

57 Replies to “A Quick & Dirty Guide to Corsica’s GR20”

  1. Thanks, very interesting.
    And this made me laugh: “In fact………who am I kidding………if I was you I’d forget about the rest of my write-up and go directly there.” 🙂

    1. No worries. As for the other website, what can I say, it definitely seems to be the best online resource for the GR20!



  2. Nice Article…I did this trek a few years ago…’forget the toughest trek hype’…I wouldn’t…75% drop out rate… I lost a stone in weight in 10 days…it is the toughest GR…I loved it… highly reccomend

    1. Hey Tim,

      It’s definitely a great walk, however, I think the high drop out ratio might have more to do with the experience level of many of the hikers, than it does the difficulty of the trek. It may well be the toughest GR, but it isn’t the toughest trek in Europe. As I mentioned, it is very well marked, there is a plethora of info available and there are plenty of accommodation and culinary options along the way.



  3. Out of curiosity why do you think it’s got the reputation of toughest gr? Everywhere seems to agree but without saying why. Can’t imagine there is more height gain or loss than some stages of say gr10 so is it the terrain? Is there much scrambling?

    Just wondering as I’m planning a solo trip this year.

    1. Hey Amanda,

      Some of the sections are quite exposed and there is a bit of scrambling involved. Going over these segments when the elements are raging can be challenging. That being said, as long as you keep an eye on the weather, it isn’t too difficult too wait out the occasional big storm front in more sheltered environs.

      All the best for your trip!



  4. I’ll be starting the trail from Calvi on May 21st and I’m curious if it would be possible to rent crampons/pick in Corsica. As opposed to me bringing them on my entire 3 month hiking trip of Europe. Unless of course you don’t think they would be needed?

  5. Good Morning
    Im planning to hike the gr 20 around Sept 15 to end of September. It will be a solo trek unless i meet up with someone. Planning sleep in own tent. Use Jet-boil for boiling water. some questions:

    1. end of September good time to go?
    2. is reservation required if i tent?
    3. where can i buy gas canister for Jet-boil stove?

    any other useful info is always welcome.
    Thank you

    1. End of September should be ok, and to the best of my knowledge reservations aren’t required if you are camping. I can’t help you with your third question; try corsica.forhikers.com.



  6. Hi,

    Thanks – very informative.

    I’m doing it later this year and am interested in your views on footwear. I’m an experienced Fellrunner and am intending to do it in Fell shoes, so I can move rapidly over the ground, (well, I mean a brisk walk or slow jog). Any specific observations as to whether walking boots would be a better option.


  7. I’m an inexperienced hiker and was wondering if it would be a bad idea for me to attempt to hike the GR20 (or half of it). I there any special equipment required? And if i wish to do so, could i spend only 2-3 days on a part of the trail…or are there other hiking trails in corsica that are better suited for beginners who want to witness breathtaking views?

    1. Your best bet would be to check out Corsicaforhikers.com. It contains a wide range of options for hikers of all different levels of experience. They also have a forum with up-to-date information on hiking in the region.

  8. I did the GR20 3 years ago with 4 french french friends and I would highly recommend it. We did it in October when the huts were open but not manned so were able to use the cooking facilities and the bunks. We doubled up the stages so each day was between 9-11 hours of walking. I’m no fan of heights and didn’t feel it was particularly scary(although the then open Cirque was exciting). People say it is the toughest trek but I think that is because it is relentless (=c1450m per day up and down), 10 hours walking, you are never on a flat surface (imagine walking over large rocks on a beach so always having to watch your steps), you have to carry your food and after 8 days you are itching for anything rather than rice and water!, there are no WC’S and you wash from a freezing cold tap (in the cold if you do it in october) and the huts are basic. At the end if you have done it you feel a massive achievement, probably have lost a stone in weight, the countryside is stunning and for me it will be something that will stay with me for ever. If you have the chance do it! My advice is keep your ruck sack as light as possible.

  9. Hi Cam,
    Thinking of doing this this summer. Great write up- thanks for turning me on to this route! I’ll probably go with my son and figure we’ll need 8-9 days or so. I’m wondering if resupply for cold soaking is a workable option? I’m usually happy with oatmeal, ramen, couscous, and beans. Will I need to bring a stove or plan to carry 8 days of dehydrated beans? It seems like we could get by without carrying too much food by eating at the huts, but wondering if that would slow us down much.
    Also, do you have any ideas about the easiest way to fly there? I’ve been looking at the corsica hiker’s site and using the flight search engines but haven’t hit on a plan yet. I know I probably just need to crank away till I figure it out, but since you’ve been there, I thought I’d ask. Thanks for everything! Love the poncho tarp!!

    1. Hi Adam,

      In regards to cold soaking, you should be able to pick up oatmeal and ramen. Not sure about couscous, and I doubt you would have much luck finding dehydrated beans (I could be wrong). Maybe a go for a combo of a four dinners in the huts and four bean dinners that you carry from the start?

      In regards to flights, if memory serves I caught a cheap flight to Nice and then got the ferry over from there.

      Best of luck on your hike!



      1. Hi Cam,
        Thanks! I’m heading out for this trip soon and was thinking, doing this in the beginning of August would be as good a time as any to try out my umbrella on the trail. I also wanted to ask if you think it’s advisable to carry a hiking pole for setting up my tarp? I’m planning on finding secluded spots along the way as much as possible.
        Another part of my trip will be to the Dolomites area of northern Italy. I was wondering if you had an recommendations or have hear about must do hikes there? I’ll be mostly doing day hikes with the possibility or an overnight or two.
        Thanks for everything! I don’t think it would have occurred to me to hike the G20 if you hadn’t written this and I’m excited to check it out!

        1. Hi Adam,

          Carrying a pole would give you a little more in the way of pitching flexibility at day’s end; not a bad thing if options are limited. In regards to shorter hikes in the Dolomites, consider basing yourself in Dobbiaco for a few days.



  10. Hey Cam,

    thanks for this handful lot of pertinent information about the GR20.
    A friend of mine an I will hit the GR20 early septembre 2018. We’ll try to finish it in 7-10 days.
    We’re getting pretty experienced in hiking (Canada’s blessing us with a lot of «wild» hikes). Since this there’s quite a few of refugios, we were wondering how much liophilised food we should bring. The goal would be to hike as light as possible. Worst case, would It be possible to bring only emergency food and eat all the meals in refugios? Or logistically it would be complicated? We were thinking about bringing half our Breakfast/lunch/diner with us at the start of the hike, and eat the other half in refugio. Do you think that could be feasible?

    Thank you!


    1. Hi Guillaume,

      Between the villages and the refugios you could definitely “buy as you go.” When I hiked back in 2009, I don’t think I carried more than a day or two worth of food at any one time.



  11. Hi,

    My friend and me are planning this trip upcoming July!
    Is it as crowded as a lot of websites say ?
    Do we have to reserve for the food in the refugees ?

    Kind regards,

    1. Hi Fien,

      I suspect that it will be quite crowded as it’s the high season. I’m not sure about food reservations in the huts, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the case. Your best bet for up-to-date info on the GR20 is probably the forum at Corsicaforhikers.com: http://corsica.forhikers.com/forum

      Have a great hike!



  12. Hi planning gr20 for next september. I am a 63 year old experienced hiker planning to hike/camp. Can I recharge cellphone/camera at refuges? Or will I have to add solar panel to my 16kg pack?!

    1. The refuges do have electricity, but they can also be crowded, so there is no guarantee you will always be able to charge your devices. A small solar panel or a portable charger (e.g. Anker) would be the way to go.

  13. Hi Cam,
    Many thanks for your replies to so many questions and my apologies if this has been asked;
    I’m planning on bring my own tent to GR20, does it need to be freestanding or can I use pegs?

    1. Sorry, but I’m not personally familiar with any specific options. Because there will most likely be a lot of snow/ice up in the higher regions, your best bet would be to investigate hikes in the lower altitude/coastal areas.

  14. Hi Cam,

    Nice article. I’m thinking of doing a solo 7-8 day hike on this in mid-May but you mention snow still on the mountains at that point. I’m a fairly experienced hill walker but not too keen on cramponing it through snow alone. Is there usually a lot of it around mid May or is there a way to avoid it? Any advice would be great.



  15. HI Cam,

    Thinking doing it with my dad (who is in France- I am in California) in either May or September. I have done parts of the PCT here and other thru hikes . Been in Corsica as a kid in the summmer- Snow will never be as scary as in the Sierra’s passes at any given time, right?? no need for spikes or ice axes?
    Thank you so much for your article by the way! I was worried about the “refuges” and the food situation.. I am completely fine being self-sufficient as for me it is part of a wilderness thru hike and hated the fact we had to stay w people and eat in some specific places;) But your post reassured me. And if we encounter crazy corsicans w their riffles trying to kick us out- I have some powerful bear sprays of my own lol :))

    1. Hi Laurence,

      It depends on the year, but in May an ice axe and spikes could be handy. In September you should be fine going without either item.

      All the best on your hike!



  16. Im doing the GR20 at the end of Jun/begining of Jul 2020, going from South to North. Most guides that I have come across describe the route from North to South, is there any websites that describe south to north?, with options that describe quickest/slowest/average speed to do it in as I’ve seen a variety of differences. Is there snow on the northern part in Jul? do we need crampons etc? or should it be clear by then.

  17. Thank you for all this wonderful information. I did thew GR20 back in 1988(!) with three friends. I hope to be able to do it again either 2020 or 2021. Halas, I no longer weigh the 60kg I did then…

    1. Depending on the model, a pyramid-style shelter without a mesh inner should be fine for the GR20. Bugs aren’t generally much of an issue.

  18. Hi. Is there private huts or accomodation on this route? And/or is it possible to do sections of it? i.e. drive to a starting point trek for a day and then drive back to another section rather than sleeping in crowded huts or brining a tent?

  19. I am planning to do GR20 in mid June in 6 days. How long should it take to hike the longest stretch between water sources? How much water did you carry?

    1. There is potable water at all of the refuges and sporadic sources in between. I never found water to be an issue on the GR20, and if memory serves, I didn’t carry more than 1-1.5 liters at any time during the trek. That said, I tend to drink a bit less than most folks, and it is generally recommended to carry between 2 and 3 liters.

  20. Hi Cam. I want to do the gr 20 by myself because I don’t have much money. I’m thinking do that just with my bag with my things and with my shelter. But I’m vegan, do you know if the Stop points around the GR have meals for people like me? Thanks

    1. Hi Rui,
      I’m sorry, but I don’t have any information about the vegan options on offer at the mountain huts. You want to try the “Corsica for Hikers” forum.
      All the best,

      1. I looked at corsica for hikers. My impression was that options we limited and that someone got them to make special for him but it took cajoling. Seemed they make one thing and it usually has meat and dairy. But seemed like their are some places to resupply along the way so you could kind of feel it out as you go. I didn’t get to do the hike though because of an injury, so I can say for sure. I’d read corsica for hikers and you’ll get a better sense. Enjoy. Corsica is great and the trail is awesome from what I saw on my day hike.

  21. Hi Cam
    No questions at this stage. Just wanted to say thank you for putting together this well-written and considered article. I also appreciate that you’ve diligently responded to everyone’s questions. Will probably have a crack at this in 2022 when Covid concerns have hopefully subsided and travel to/from Australia is again possible.

  22. We are now planning a trip for September 2021, assuming that we all get vaccinated.
    Are the huts open this season? Are there any changes for the pandemic?

    1. usually the huts close end of september , but it depends on the amount of hikers ,
      if not enough hikers show up the huts ( especially the ones not close to a road ) might close earlier.
      the ones high up in the mountains close first, the ones near a road usually stay open a bit longer.

  23. Hi Cam, I just completed the 800 mile AZT in Arizona. Any thoughts on the difficulty of the GR 20 in comparison? The AZT has a cumulative 118,000 feet elevation gain. Thanks! GFaub. “Sizzle”

    1. Hi GFaub,
      Congrats on your AZT hike! As you could guess, it’s a very different experience from the GR20. The latter is obviously much shorter, well-marked throughout its course, and there are certain sections that are steeper and rockier in character than on the AZT.

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