Trekking GR20 in Corsica, France

The GR20 is a long hike that crosses the Mediterranean island of Corsica from the north to the south. It is considered as one of the most difficult GR (“Grande Randonnée”) footpath because of its steep and rocky paths. There are some sections with chains, rock climbing and footbridges.

The whole trail is about 180 km long with about 12,000m of elevation gain and can be extended with some variant routes and beautiful summits.

Highlights

There are a few highlights that make this trek so special:

  • It is one of the hardest GR, and you will feel very proud each day after conquering its different stages
  • Expect to meet incredible people on the way from all Europe, plenty of solo-hikers ready to team up
  • All refuges have a special atmosphere: local food, Corsican songs
  • You will be able to swim and dive in all beautiful natural pools and rivers
  • Very different landscapes between north and south sections
  • Monte Cinto, highest Summit of Corsica, 2706m
  • Aiguilles de Bavella (Bavella Needles), majestic rocky spikes of red granite
  • Cascade des Anglais (English Waterfalls), lovely waterfall

Duration

It takes about 16 days to complete the entire trek. It is also possible to do only half because there is a railway station conveniently located in the middle of the island (Vizzavona) with lines going to the main cities of Corsica. Based on your hiking level you can double and even triple the stages and shorten your stay in the mountains if you wish to do so:

  • 3 to 7 days: Expert level, expect 10-20 hours of hiking per day. At this speed you come for the physical challenge and might run when possible.
  • 8 to 12 days: Great level, 8-12 hours of hiking per day. If you hike all year, you might be tempted to double all stages. I would recommend to double only the ones in the south.
  • 13 to 16: Good hiking level, 4-9 hours of hiking per day. Perfect to really enjoy the trek and to have enough time to rest at the refuges.

The northern part is considered as the most difficult, between Calenzana and Vizzavona. However the southern part, between Vizzavona and Conca is not as easy as it may sound as the stages are a bit less technical but far more longer.

Difficulty and gear

Your choice in term of gear will greatly change the difficulty. It almost sounds like picking the difficulty at the beginning of a new game.

DifficultyProsCons
Lightweight/confort: you leave without tent and without food.You can go faster than most people and will be able to climb more easily. Tents rented at the refuges are usually pretty good and comfy.You must have reservations for all refuges and won’t be able to make plan changes which is risky in the mountains with the weather. You pay much more for the tents provided by the refuges
Medium: you carry your tent but you will eat in the refuges.With your tent, no need for reservations usually. You might be able to camp outside of the refuges in incredible spots if you are smart about it and look up in advance. You pay much less to pitch just a tent.If you have your tent, you also need a sleeping pad and pillow. Adding about 2-3kg to your backpack in total. Better when shared among two people. Extra energy and time to pitch/take down your tent everyday.
Survivor: you carry your tent and all your food.You are totally free from the refuges. You will pay less things on the way. It is possible to get food supplies in some refuges as well as in Vizzavona.Massive weight for everyday food and tent. Extra energy and time to pitch/take down your tent everyday.

If you are looking for a physical challenge, this trek won’t disappoint. Because there is a lot of rock climbing, don’t forget to optimise the weight of your backpack seriously.

Itinerary

DayStageDistanceElevation gainElevation lossNotes
1Calenzana to Ortu di u Piobbu10.5 km136060Long way up, start early in the morning to avoid the heat (low altitude for this stage)
2Ortu di u Piobbu to Carrozzu6.5 km780910
3Carozzu to Ascu Stagnu5.5 km800640Asco has restaurants to enjoy a good meal (ski resort). Has electricity.
4Ascu to Tighjettu8 km12001050Monte Cinto Summit +1h30. Sleep at “Bergerie de Ballone”, much better than Tighjettu.
5Tighjettu to Ciottulu di i Mori6.5 km62080Castel de Vergio is a great option to sleep between the stages. Electricity at Castel.
6Ciottulu di i Mori to Manganu23 km6501050
7Manganu to Petra Piana8 km850600
8Petra Piana to Onda10 km850600Spend an extra day to hike Monte Rotondo from Petra Piana +5h. One of the best view from all the summits
9Onda to Vizzavona10 km850600English Waterfall, more scenic than the variant. take the variant to not go through Vizzavona if you double the stages 9 and 10.
10Vizzavone to Capannelle14 km900220Vizzavona is great to get food/snacks/gear. Has electricity.
11Capannelle to Prati17 km890600
12Prati to Usciolu10.5 km700750Prati doesn’t have much food/options
13Usciolu to A Matalza10.5 km400650Usciolu, great refuge to fill up and get food/snacks
14Matalza to Asinau10 km650550Can charge your battery in Asinau for a fee.
15Asinau to Paliri15 km440900Aiguilles de Bavella, must-do if the weather is with you. Restaurants and electricity near Col de Bavella.
16Paliri to Conca12 km160970The refuge in Conca is pretty good to pitch your tent one last time

Download the GPX files over here: https://www.visugpx.com/okB1eM4fzj

Half of the pleasure was the hike, the other half was to meet great people on the way. We are already talking about doing treks and hikes very soon all together! If you have a few more days after the GR, take some time to visit Porto Vecchio, Bonifacio and the Archipelago of the Lavezzi islands.

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