The GR 10 is one of the extensive Grande Randonnée (or GR) network of paths and trails. The trail crosses France, from the Mediterranean coast to the Atlantic coast, and runs almost entirely through the Pyrenees. While the trail is in France, much of it is near, or even on, the border with Spain. The trail can be walked in either direction, though some suggest that the West-East route is easier in the beginning, as it is both cooler and less steep that the corresponding start heading East-West. This may be an advantage to those not fully in shape.
Moving from east to west, the trail begins at the Mediterranean, in the small town of Banyuls sur Mer, and finishes at Hendaye on the Atlantic Ocean. Hikers will usually be able to make it to a Gite or small town every other night, and quite frequently every night. Expected time to complete the trail is around 6-7 weeks, though the majority of people only hike sections of it.
The trail is fairly well marked with painted marks on rocks, trees, telephone poles, and even houses, walls, and street signs. If you don't see a mark for 100 Meters, you have probably taken a wrong turn, and should head back to the nearest marker.
It is not realistic to navigate using the markers alone. A trail guide, at minimum, or a topologic map is required.
Sunburn is a particular problem, and clothing such as long sleeved shirts and long pants should be worn as they protect from the sun, scratching branches and insects. Sunscreen and a wide-brimmed hat are highly desirable.
One of the advantages of the GR 10 is that it can be hiked with minimal gear, as one can eat dinner and breakfast almost every day at the gites. Additionally the hiker can sleep outside on clear nights and pay for a bed in a gite in inclement weather. On nights that only shelters (which usually have no food or staff) are available, pre-purchased food can be eaten.
If one plans to eat at gites and buy food from supermarkets that can be eaten without cooking, the absolute minimal gear in the summer months is:
- Sleeping Bag/Sleep Sheet, and a mat for comfort.
- Gortex jacket and fleece for cold and/or wet weather
- Long sleeved shirt and pants
- Short sleeved shirt and shorts (including shorts you can wear swimming)
- Sunscreen and wide-brimmed hat
- Adequate footwear. Anything less than hiking boots is cautioned.
- 2+ litres of water, and a purification method for treating water from streams.
- Toiletries/Medical Kit
Additionally, consider a rain jacket or fleece top for wet and/or cold weather. If you plan to forgo the comforts and delicious food of the gites and hotels, also bring:
- Cooking Gear/Food
A note on footwear - approximately 80% of the hikers wear full hiking boots and thick socks. While running sneakers may suffice (and Choco-style sandals may work for a few days), your risk of injury is higher, and much of the trail involves hopping around on wet and/or sharp rocks. Choose conservatively, depending on the length of your hike and your experience.
For those heading West from Banyuls sur Mer, the hike to the first gite is particularly long compared to the following days, and should be started very early...