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The history of the GR® routes

Publié le 02 octobre 2023

Since 1947, under the guidance of the 115 departmental and regional FFRandonnée committees, thousands of volunteer trailblazers have taken up their paintbrushes to mark out the 206.000 kilometres of footpaths - white and red for GR® and yellow and red for GR de Pays® (Grande Randonnée de Pays®) - that the FFRandonnée designs, conceives, manages, promotes and maintains.

These footpaths often hug ancestral routes and travel across outstanding natural sites. They are at the crossroads of culture, art, nature and heritage, as they preserve the traces of the past and still manage to evolve and look to the future. They are paths of travel, of self-discovery and discovery of others and a guarantee of adventure. These itineraries are the work of a Federation in motion, which, since its creation, has been constantly developing, protecting and promoting the hikers' playground.

Over 70 years of complicity between people and paths

It was Jean Loiseau who created the GR® routes. He was a passionate hiker and nature lover, and spent ten years after the First World War travelling the roads of France and Europe, compass and map in hand.

  • In 1936, the introduction of paid holidays inspired him to share his passion for walking. He looked at waymarking techniques in foreign countries and was particularly interested in the Appalaches Park in the United States where they applied paint to various natural supports to mark the path to follow. In 1946, with the support of the Camping Club de France, he developed the rules for marking GR® routes: a red line with a white line above it.
  • En 1947, le Comité National des Sentiers de Grande Randonnée est crée, sonnant ainsi le point le départ d’une belle et grande aventure, celle de la future FFRandonnée. La même année, le premier tronçon du GR® 3 est inauguré à Orléans. L’année suivante c’est au tour du GR® 1 en Ile-de-France. Un premier tronçon est inauguré entre Dammartin-en-Goel et Orry-la-Ville.
  • In 1951, the GR® Tour du Mont Blanc was achieved. The following year, the GR® routes covered a total of 1.000 km. The first description of the GR® 3 was published in the magazine "Camping Plein Air".
  • In 1957, the first topoguide to the GR® 1 was published, marking the beginning of a long series.
  • In 1964, the GR® 1 loop was completed, and the topoguide was published shortly afterwards.
  • In 1971, the Comité National des Sentiers de Grande Randonnée (National Hiking Trails Committee) was declared of public interest.
  • In 1978, the CNSGR becomes the Fédération Française de la Randonnée pédestre (French Hiking Federation). The Federation now represents hikers, while retaining the technical role of the CNSGR, which was responsible for identifying, waymarking, and maintaining the routes and publishing the corresponding descriptions.

The history of the GR® is intertwined with that of the FFRandonnée. The routes are constantly evolving and there are now 304 GR® all over France. They are maintained by more than 8.900 volunteers through 115 regional and departmental committees.

A video on the history of the GR®, created for the 70th anniversary of their creation

Trailblazers, dream couriers

The creation of a GR® cannot be improvised, nor can its certification, waymarking, maintenance or management. FFRandonnée is the tireless guardian of this. The trailblazers it trains and certifies are its driving force. They are responsible for finding the magnificent sites that will host the new routes, as well as renovating, developing, clearing and managing the paths and, more recently, collecting digital data. These dedicated volunteers help to preserve the paths and share them with the 18 million walkers in France.

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