Corsica’s GR20 Fra li monti

By Justin Walker and Lauren Smith 12 May 2015
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Glacial lakes, pine and beech forests abound on Corsica’s GR20 trail

THE GR20 IS KNOWN in Corsica as fra li monti, which means ‘across the mountains’. And that’s what this trail is – the path is made clear only by the cairns and waymarks as you climb over rugged, rocky terrain, particularly in the alpine north half of the walk.

The south half of the walk is littered with meadows and forests, but nonetheless the GR20 has a reputation for being one of the toughest of Europe’s Grande Randonnée treks.

The GR20 cuts down the spine of the island of Corsica from the northwest to the southeast corner, taking in more than 10 vertical kilometres along the way. You can walk either way, though if you start from the south you have time to acclimatise, and you’ll also be keeping the sun at your back.

It’s a beautiful island, and the scenery is amazing – soaring snowy peaks, deep pine forests, glacial lakes and the odd glimpse of the coastline – so the slog is worth it.

Camping on the GR20 in Corsica

You need to make a reservation to walk the GR20, and you’ll also need to provide a schedule, even if you’re camping independently rather than staying at the refuges. If you are camping, you’ll have to camp near the refuges anyway as it’s illegal to camp elsewhere.

Weather can sometimes cause delays – though you’ll hike through in summer (in winter, it’s the realm of cross-country skiers) the temperature can drop and storms can blow in; the weather reigns supreme here and you’ll have to wait it out.

When you finish the GR20, you’ll find yourself on the shore of a Mediterranean island in summer, – probably the perfect place to find yourself after a 180km trek over mountains and through forests.