France’s Secret Mountain Range: The Vosges


The Vosges Mountains are a secret wonderland a short drive from Germany. Filled with food, wine, and the rustic charm of Alsace, the Vosges also will give you a fantastic summer mountain experience.

1. The Ballons des Vosges

Le Parc Natural Régional des Ballons des Vosges is breathtaking. It offers stunning views and a seemingly unending list of things to do. This is a place where you can hike, bike, fish, swim, ride horses, climb and do just about any other outside activity you can imagine.

Camping is very much a possibility. There are a variety of campsites throughout the park. As a bonus, you’re in France. Which means that your camp meals can be filled with some of the best bread, cheese and wine (or grape juice for the kids) in the world.

2. The Vosges peak drive and hike

On a day with good weather, this is one of the best drives in France. Why? Well, the views are extraordinary, for one.

But the drive, which starts in St. Marie-aux-Mines and zig-zags south to Cernay, also offers ample opportunities to stop and bag peaks. If you don’t camp in the Ballons des Vosges park, you can stop and hike the Grand Ballon peak along the way. At less than 100 kilometers long, this is a short, fantastic drive.

3. Canyoneering in Seebach

It’s not just hiking and biking that make the Vosges an outdoor destination. There are also opportunities for canyoneering, which involves using nature’s work as your own playground. It’s like a combination of climbing, bouldering, and splashing in the water.

One of the best spots to have canyon fun is in Seebach, which is in the heart of the Vosges. Verticales Vosges, an outdoor company, has adventures for visitors as young as 8 years old.

4. The Alsace wine route

Some of the greatest restaurants in the world can be found at the foot of the Vosges mountains. There are also excellent vineyards, charming villages, and all the shopping you can handle.

Whether you’re staying in the mountains, or staying near them, make sure you make time for the Alsace wine route. Popular destinations include Riquewehr, Ribeauville and Kaysersberg. But adventure can be found in nearly any little village. Try a flea market in Ammerschwihr or a rampart walk in Bergheim. You’ll be charmed, at the very least.

5. Lac Blanc

Lac Blanc bills itself as a ‘hiking paradise.’ This is the truth. It might as well add ‘mountain biking paradise,’ too. Most adventure seekers could spend at least a long weekend at Lac Blanc. All the better: The lake itself is lovely.

Getting there

To reach the most mountainous parts of the Vosges, it generally takes 3.5 hours from Kaiserslautern. Reaching the Alsace wine route takes 2 to 2.5 hours.

For U.S. government employees, including service members, remember to always follow command regulations, which may be different than host nation policies when it comes to travel.