GR20 in Corsica: The Toughest Hut-to-Hut Trek

By Sierd van der Bij

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GR20 in Corsica:  The Toughest Hut-to-Hut Trek
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The GR20, also known as Fra li Monti is a GR (Grande Randonnée) footpath that crosses the Mediterranean island of Corsica running approximately from north to south. The entire trail is about 180 km long with 12,000 m of elevation gain. Although it takes about 15 days to complete it, the route can be divided into 2 stages: the northern part, between Calenzana and Vizzavona, and the southern part, between Vizzavona and Conca. This GR route is considered one of the toughest of all GR routes, are you brave enough to give it a try? Below you will find all the information you need about the route, the stages, a map, and a kit list for your GR20 hike in Corsica!

For the GR20, some mountaineering experience is advisable. The trek requires some scrambling, use of chains, and a ladder (on the Northern section) and a confident step for the rocky landscape and mountain ridges. In order to face this challenge self-guided, you need to be a confident mountain walker and most importantly, you need to be able to read route notes and to locate your position on a map when necessary. Below you will find all the information you need to face this challenge as prepared as possible.

Where Is the GR20 Route?

The GR20 is one of the many trekking options that France has to offer. Trekking in France should be on every trekker's wish list, starting with the breathtaking GR20 route. GR stands for Grande Randonnée, which means something like "big excursion" in French. The GRs are a network of long-distance trails in Europe located mostly in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Spain. The GR20 is considered to be the most difficult of all these routes and is located on the French island of Corsica, Corse in French, on the Tyrrhenian sea. Its Corsican name is Fra li Monti, which means "across the mountains" in Corsican.

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What Is the Best Season for the GR20 Hike?

If you are planning your GR20 trek, we advise you to go in late June or early September. During this time, most huts are open and the weather is not too hot. Also, the trail won't be as crowded as during July or August.

Between November and May, there is snow on the trails, which makes the trek quite dangerous. Also, during these months there are no hosts in the refuges, which means that you have to carry all the food. During winter, from February to April, the GR20 can only be completed by experienced cross-country skies with a professional guide. This winter variant of the GR20 is known as l'Alta Strada.

What Is the Best Season for the GR20 Hike?

How Do I Get to Corsica?

As mentioned above, Corsica is a French island on the Tyrrhenian sea, also known as Corse in French. You can reach the island either by boat or by plane. There are 4 airports on the island, 2 in the north and 2 in the south. If you are planning on starting the trek from the north, then it is advisable to land in Calvi (CLY). If you are planning on starting from the south, the closest airport to Conca is Figari (FSC). The airlines flying directly to the island are Air France and Air Corsica, with flights departing from Paris, Marseille, and Nice. The flights take usually 1 to 1,5 hours.

You can also reach the island by boat. Between April and September, there are daily ferry rides from Toulon, Nice or Marseille. Of course, this option is cheaper than the plane but it also takes longer. The ferry ride from the coastline to the island takes around 6 hours. If you want to take a ferry to the southern section of the island, it will be even longer.

How Do I Get To the Starting Point of the GR20 Walk?

The starting and endpoints of the GR20 are Calenzana village in the north of the island and Conca in the South. Vizzavona is the midway point and easily accessible if you want to walk one half of the trail.

Once you get to a port or airport in Corsica, it is quite easy to get to the trailhead, both north, and south. If you land in Calvi (north), you can take a 30-minute ride by bus or cab to Calenzana. A cab usually costs between 20 and 30 euros per ride while the bus costs around 8 euros. If you land in Figari (south), we recommend taking a bus to Conca. The ride is 2,5 hours long and taking a taxi to Conca can be quite expensive.

Did you know that we can book all huts and refuges for the GR20 for you? Check out all our options here.

GR20 Corse - Should I Start From the North or From the South?

You can walk the GR20 trail in either direction, from north to south, or from south to north. Which is the best option? Well, it depends on your physical condition and what you expect from the whole experience. The trail can be divided into two parts: the northern part starts in Calenzana and stops in Vizzavona. It is the most difficult part, because of the steep and rocky path, but it is also considered the most beautiful half. The southern part of the GR20 goes from Vizzavona to Conca (or the other way around) and is easier, but less spectacular. The Coscione plateau with its green meadows is, however, breathtaking.

You can walk in either direction through the whole trail or you can choose to walk any of the two halves. The traditional route starts in the north and ends in the south. Since the GR20 can be quite crowded and most hikers walk southwards, some people recommend starting from the south and making your way to the north.

GR20 Corse - Should I Start From the North or From the South?

GR20 Map

Below you will find a map with the GR20 from Calenzana to Conca. You can see some of the huts along the way and the city of Vizzavona, the mid-point of the trek that divides the northern from the southern half.

At Bookatrekking.com, we not only book your huts, we also send you on your way with a comprehensive hiking guide with the most important information for your GR20 , including interactive Komoot maps. Browse all our options here and turn your dreams into reality.

Accommodation on the GR20, Corsica

The mountain huts along the GR20 offer basic accommodation and food. These refuges are under the regional Corsican natural park’s authority and can host 25-50 people depending on the hut. Hosts manage the huts from the end of May to early October. Outside of this time frame, the refuges are open but not manned and there is no food available.

The refuges usually have one large dormitory with long wooden bunk beds equipped with mattresses. You can also sleep in a tent near the refuges. You can rent a tent at the hut as well. It is forbidden to camp in other places along the trail. Independent of which accommodation type you choose, you must always bring your own sleeping bag.

Huts do have electricity. However, charging your phone or camera can be quite a challenge given the number of trekkers and the limited number of sockets. Make sure to carry extra batteries or a (solar) powerbank with you.

What to expect in the huts

  • Indoor kitchen and eating area
  • Dormitory room with bunk beds
  • The bunk beds have two levels and mattresses are side by side. Bring your own sleeping bag!
  • Cold outdoor showers and toilets
  • An outdoor kitchen with cooking facilities
  • Bins for rubbish

Food on the GR20 Trek

Half board is not included when you book your accommodation. You can choose to carry food with you or you can get your meals at the huts. You can always find a freshwater spring in the vicinity of the refuges. You can also buy food and reserve a hot meal and breakfast. Bear in mind that the hot meals must be reserved upon arrival.

Breakfasts are often prepared the night before and handed out so you can leave as early as you want the next day. As regards lunch, if you are passing a refuge between 12h and 14h you will often find a small lunchtime menu with choices, such as cheese and omelets, pasta, Corsican soup, and plates of smoked charcuterie. If you order dinner (remember to ask for it as soon as you get to the hut!), it is usually served from 19h onwards. There may be more trekkers than seats available, so be patient. Dinner usually consists of three courses which vary from hut to hut. Bear in mind that you will be in the mountains, so don't expect over elaborated dishes. Also, you will be expected to bring your own knife to mealtimes, so don't forget to carry one!

Menus vary from one hut to the other and their meals usually depend on the stock they have. Hot dinners can cost between 15-20 euros, while breakfast and dinner cost around 8-12 euros each. Refuges are the only places where you can buy food and get drinking water along the trail. However, there are some stages where you can go shopping in the villages below. All refuges have an indoor kitchen that you can use. These are equipped with gas, water, and kitchen utensils. Remember to always keep a lighter, or match with you! You might find there are only 4 gas rings available for a large number of hungry trekkers, so try to be patient.

Highlights on the GR20 Trail

This spectacular trek is full of stunning views and breathtaking rock formations. Here are some of the highlights you will encounter during your trek:

  • Cirque de la Solitude: a steep and challenging part between Refuge d'Asco Stagnu and Refuge de Tighjettu, where hikers have to climb using the chains bolted to the rock.
  • Lac de Nino: a glacial lake in the middle of the grassy meadows between Refuge de Ciottulu di i Mori and Refuge de Manganu.
  • Lac de Melo and Lac de Capitello: two glacial lakes surrounded by rugged rocks between Refuge de Pietra Piana and Refuge de l'Onda.
  • Monte d'Oro: the 12th highest summit of Corsica.
  • Monte Incudine (2134 m): the highest mountain of Corse du Sud (Southern Corsica) with great vistas of the Plateau de Coscione between Refuge d'Usciolu and Refuge d'Asinao.
  • Aiguilles de Bavella: spectacular cliffs between Refuge d'Asinao and Refuge de Paliri.

Highlights on the GR20 Trail

Stages on the GR20 - Which Itinerary Should I Follow?

Here is a detailed 15-stage itinerary for the full GR20 trek. Remember that if you don't want to complete the whole trek, you can start from any end of the route and end half-way, in Vizzavona. At Bookatrekking.com, we have packages for both the entire tour and just the North and South halves. Here you can find all our options.

Day
1

Calenzana - Refuge d'Ortu di u Piobbu

Duration: 05:55 h
Distance: 11.4 km
Ascent: 1370 m
Descent: 90 m
The 1st stage of the GR20 trail starts in Calenzana (275 m) and climbs to Refuge d'Ortu di u Piobbu (1570 m), which is also its highest point of today's stage.

Refuge d'Ortu di u Piobbu

Info
Refuge d'Ortu di u Piobbu
Day
2

Refuge d'Ortu di u Piobbu - Refuge de Carrozzu

Duration: 04:05 h
Distance: 7.5 km
Ascent: 600 m
Descent: 850 m
The 2nd stage of the trail starts in Refuge d'Ortu di u Piobbu (1570 m) and ends in Refuge de Carrozzu (1270 m). The highest point is the ridge at 2020 m above Col d'Avartoli.

Refuge de Carrozzu

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Refuge de Carrozzu
Day
3

Refuge de Carrozzu - Refuge d'Asco Stagnu

Duration: 04:00 h
Distance: 5.3 km
Ascent: 710 m
Descent: 570 m
The 3rd stage starts in Refuge de Carrozzu (1270 m) and ends in a ski resort of Haut Asco, at the d'Asco Stagnu refuge, 1422 m. The highest point of the day is Col de Stagni, at 2010 m.

Refuge d'Asco Stagnu

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Refuge d'Asco Stagnu
Day
4

Refuge d'Asco Stagnu - Refuge de Tighjettu

Duration: 06:30 h
Distance: 8.3 km
Ascent: 1160 m
Descent: 910 m
The 4th stage starts in Haut Asco (1422 m) and ends in Refuge de Tighjettu (1683 m). The highest point is Col de Minuta, locates at 2183 m.

Refuge de Tighjettu

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Refuge de Tighjettu
Day
5

Refuge de Tighjettu - Refuge de Ciottulu di i Mori

Duration: 03:30 h
Distance: 6.9 km
Ascent: 650 m
Descent: 330 m
The 5th stage of the GR20 trail starts in Refuge de Tighjettu (1683 m) and ends in Refuge de Ciottulu di i Mori (1991 m, the highest point of the stage).

Refuge de Ciottulu di i Mori

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Refuge de Ciottulu di i Mori
Day
6

Refuge de Ciottulu di i Mori - Refuge de Manganu

Duration: 08:45 h
Distance: 23.6 km
Ascent: 740 m
Descent: 1100 m
The 6th stage starts in Refuge de Ciottulu di I Mori (1991 m) and ends in Refuge de Manganu (1601 m). The highest point of the trek is Col de Reta, located at 1883 m.

Refuge de Manganu

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Refuge de Manganu
Day
7

Refuge de Manganu - Refuge de Pietra Piana

Duration: 04:45 h
Distance: 8.6 km
Ascent: 760 m
Descent: 540 m
The 7th stage of the GR20 trek starts in Refuge de Manganu (1601 m) and ends in Refuge de Pietra Piana (1842 m). Today's highest point will be Breche de Capitellu, located at 2225 m.

Refuge de Pietra Piana

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Refuge de Pietra Piana
Day
8

Refuge de Pietra Piana - Refuge de l'Onda

Duration: 04:15 h
Distance: 10 km
Ascent: 420 m
Descent: 850 m
The 8th stage starts in Refuge de Pietra Piana (1842 m, the highest point of the stage) and ends in Refuge de l'Onda (1430 m).

Refuge de l'Onda

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Refuge de l'Onda
Day
9

Refuge de l'Onda - Le Vizzavona

Duration: 05:30 h
Distance: 10.4 km
Ascent: 650 m
Descent: 1090 m
The 9th stage of this trail, and the last one of its northern section, starts in Refuge de l'Onda (1430 m) and descends to Vizzavona (920 m), which is the midpoint between the northern and southern halves of the GR20. The highest point is at 2141 m.

Le Vizzavona

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Le Vizzavona
Day
10

Le Vizzavona - Gite u Fugone

Duration: 05:45 h
Distance: 13.8 km
Ascent: 900 m
Descent: 280 m
The 10th stage, and the first one of its southern part, starts in Vizzavona (920 m) and climbs to Bergeries de Capannelle (1586 m). The highest point is Col de Palmente at 1640 m.

Gite u Fugone

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Gite u Fugone
Day
11

Gite u Fugone - Refuge de Prati

Duration: 07:20 h
Distance: 17.7 km
Ascent: 910 m
Descent: 700 m
The 11th stage of the GR20 starts in Bergeries de Capannelle (1586 m) and ends in Refuge de Prati (1820 m). The highest point is at Col d'Oru (1840 m).

Refuge de Prati

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Refuge de Prati
Day
12

Refuge de Prati - Refuge d'Usciolu

Duration: 04:50 h
Distance: 10.8 km
Ascent: 620 m
Descent: 680 m
The 12th stage starts in Refuge de Prati (1820 m) and ends in Refuge d'Usciolu (1750 m). The highest point is Punta della Capella at 2041 m.

Refuge d'Usciolu

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Refuge d'Usciolu
Day
13

Refuge d'Usciolu - Refuge d'Asinao

Duration: 07:35 h
Distance: 20.9 km
Ascent: 800 m
Descent: 1010 m
The 13th stage of the GR20 trail starts in Refuge d'Usciolu (1750 m) and ends in Refuge d'Asinao (1530 m). The highest point is at Monte Incudine (2134 m).

Refuge d'Asinao

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Refuge d'Asinao
Day
14

Refuge d'Asinao - Refuge de Paliri

Duration: 06:15 h
Distance: 15.4 km
Ascent: 500 m
Descent: 960 m
Today the trail starts in Refuge d'Asinao (1530 m) and ends in Refuge de Paliri (1055 m). The highest point is at Cold de Pargulu (1662 m).

Refuge de Paliri

Info
Refuge de Paliri
Day
15

Refuge de Paliri - Conca

Duration: 05:15 h
Distance: 13.3 km
Ascent: 260 m
Descent: 1060 m
The last stage descends from Refuge de Paliri (1055 m, the highest point of the stage) to Conca (252 m).
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Is the route well signposted?

Just like the Tour du Mont Blanc, another famous French trek, the GR20 is well marked with red and white rectangles on rocks, boulders, and trees. There are also small stone heaps along the trail. Alternative paths are marked with a different colour. Bear in mind that it is easy to get on an alternative path without meaning to or to lose your way, so having a good map and a compass is necessary.

As stated above, huts do have electricity. However, charging your phone or camera can be quite a challenge given the number of trekkers and the limited number of sockets. Having a charged phone is not just a luxury, it is also a safety measure. You might not need it for yourself, but if you come across an injured trekker, you will need to ask for help and a charged phone is key. Make sure to carry extra batteries with you or a solar charger.

Is the route well signposted?

Packing List for the GR20

It doesn't matter where you are going trekking or for how long: Carrying the right equipment with you is paramount. For a hiking trip in the mountains, you will need, first and foremost, a good backpack. Its size will depend on how many days you will be spending in the mountains, the season, and the clothes you will be taking with you. We have prepared a packing list with some essential clothing that you should include and some extras that you may find useful:
  • Essentials

  • Extras

Safe hiking tips for the GR20

When you go on walking holidays it is wise to be aware of a few points. Even if this is not your first time, you should never underestimate the mountains. Good tour planning and compliance with the regulations on the mountains will significantly increase safety. To ensure that your hiking holiday is a safe and enjoyable experience, here below you can find a list of 8 recommendations for safe hiking in the mountains:
  • Know your limits

    Hiking the GR20 is the perfect outlet to escape from daily life. It is an endurance sport along with a beautiful nature experience with a positive effect on body and mind —as long as one is in good shape and has a realistic picture of one's possibilities and limits—. Never overestimate yourself or underestimate the route. Don't overdo it! Always choose the slower variant and take more time for your plans. Hiking under time pressure is not fun and at too fast a pace it can be dangerous. Be wise!

  • Plan carefully

    Good planning is half the work! Hiking maps, literature, the Internet and expert advice are invaluable when planning the route in the GR20 and enable you to determine the length, altitude difference, difficulty and conditions of the hike. When planning group treks, the itinerary should always be planned for the weakest member of the group! The weather in the mountains can change incredibly quickly and rain, wind and cold all increase the risk factor. For this reason, always check the weather forecast beforehand and contact our trekking experts to find your way around before you start.

  • Be fully equipped

    Equipment is everything. In the most extreme case, it makes the difference between life and death, and in any case, it definitely makes the difference between having fun and having a bad time. Food and water, sunscreen and waterproof and warm clothes must always be in your backpack, as well as a first aid kit and a mobile phone with a full battery (in case there is an emergency). However, packing light makes walking easier, so don't take too much extra luggage with you. Your equipment should always be suitable for the terrain you'll be hiking on in the GR20 .

  • Wear suitable footwear

    Good walking shoes protect your feet and provide a better fit. Shoes with a good fit, with non-slip soles, water-resistant and lightweight are a must for additional walking pleasure during the GR20 . Trail running shoes are great for a weekend in the mountains, but on longer hikes or more technical trails, you'll want at least A/B hiking boots. That means it is recommended wearing high mountain shoes that are water-repellent with extra ankle support to prevent sprains.

  • Stay on marked trails

    GR20 has endless marked hiking trails, which are controlled and maintained and should not be deviated from. It may be tempting, but it's not a good idea to take shortcuts or alternative routes through unmarked terrain. It increases the risk of disorientation and you're more likely to get lost and have accidents or fall in the mountains. Even steep slopes of packed old snow are often underestimated and dangerous. Are you in doubt? Better don't do it. For easy navigation we work with our trusted partner Komoot, whose interactive maps, also available offline, provide you with the necessary digital means to get from A to B. As a backup, make sure to bring a hiking guide or a paper map with you. FYI, 75% of stumbles occur due to carelessness on marked paths or roads, not in open terrain!

  • Take regular breaks

    Remember you're on a hiking holiday. Timely and regular breaks not only provide welcome relaxation but also make it possible to enjoy the GR20 . The body needs a regular food and drink intake to maintain performance and concentration. Our advice is that if you have little time, it's better to follow the short itinerary than to speed up the long one.

  • Stay reachable

    If you are hiking solo or in small groups it is advisable to inform people back home about your plans, what route you are taking and when you plan to return. Even small incidents can lead to unpleasant emergencies so make sure you are available at all times. Bring a charged phone containing at least the phone numbers of immediate family members, your accommodations en route and the emergency phone numbers operating in the GR20 .

  • Respect nature

    Leave no rubbish behind, prevent noise, stay on the marked trails, do not disturb wildlife or grazing animals, and respect protected areas.

Where Can I Book the GR20 ?

At Bookatrekking.com you can book the self-guided GR20 and many other treks. We take care of all the details for you, including arranging accommodations and providing you with relevant information well in advance of your trek. Find our offers here. Our easy-to-use platform allows you to browse and compare different trekking options and find the perfect fit for your interests, abilities, and budget.

If you have any questions about a specific trek or need help choosing the right one for you, our team of trekking experts is here to assist you. Simply reach out to us and we will be happy to provide you with personalized recommendations and advice to help you plan the trekking adventure of a lifetime.

Is the GR20 not your cup of tea and are you looking for other epic adventures? Check out one of our following blog posts:

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