…using the GR 70 Chemin de Stevenson as a case study
Regardless of whether you prefer to book accommodation well in advance, a few days ahead while on the walk or just see how you feel on the day and stop in the nearest campground each night, you’ll want a rough idea of how much vacation time you’ll need.
I know that I can walk between twenty and twenty-five kilometres (12 to 15 miles) each day—perhaps a little less if the terrain is particularly hilly and I like a rest day once a week. I can put in a thirty kilometre (18 mile) day when necessary, but will likely pay the price with a few water blisters.
The Chemin de Stevenson is 246 kilometres (154 miles) from Le Puy-en-Velay to Saint-Jean-du-Gard so spreading this over 14 days is about right for me.
To plan an itinerary I need to know two things—
(1) What the terrain is like—is it hilly, flat—so that I can estimate how far to walk each day.
(2) Where I’ll find accommodation.
What is the terrain like?
I find the easiest way to get all the information I need about the terrain is to buy the TopoGuide. Produced by the FFRandonnée (part of the Fédération Française de la Randonnée Pédestre (FFRP)), the TopoGuide shows the path overlaid on a topographic map with all roads and villages clearly marked. This allows me to see at a glance which days will be hilly and should perhaps be a little shorter.
(When I walked the Chemin de Stevenson I carried both the TopoGuide and the Miam Miam Dodo guidebooks. You’ll find a comparison of the two, along with some tips for interpreting topographic maps here.)
Where will I find accommodation?
There are several ways to find accommodation options. You could—
(1) Check the website of the relevant Office de Tourisme, looking for tabs marked Dormir (sleep) or Hébergement (lodging).
(2) Zoom in on Google maps where hotels, chambre d’hôtes, gîtes and campgrounds are often tagged.
(3) Look for a company, such as La Malle Postale, that transports luggage along the path (regardless of whether you plan to use that service) as their website will likely have a list of places they pick up from.
How to pull it all together
To get started I—
(1) Open an Excel spreadsheet and my GR 70 Chemin de Stevenson TopoGuide and compile a list of every village along the way and the distances between them.
(2) Crosscheck my list against the website for La Malle Postale and refine my list to only include villages with accommodation.
(This list will not be exhaustive—in the past, I have booked accommodation not on the La Malle Postale list and they have agreed to drop my bags there, but it is a good place to start.)
(3) Check there are no impossibly long sections without accommodation—this is, after all, a holiday and not an endurance test.
After referring back to the TopoGuide, I highlight villages roughly twenty kilometres apart (give or take, depending on the terrain). While compiling this list, I discovered that Pradelles is classified as one of France’s most beautiful villages so this village is a definite overnight stop.
For the first cut on this walk, this is what I came up with for the first 150 kilometres.
Although most of the villages along this walk look very pretty, none really stood out as a suitable choice for a rest day. Instead I’ve kept a couple of days quite short and we’ll have some relaxing afternoons.
Reduced to a walking plan, my itinerary looks like this.
And now, it’s time to book accommodation (in French).
You’ll find lots more practical information here