The forested lake-studded Vosges Mountains stretch through the Alsatian countryside less than an hour drive west from Strasbourg, Colmar, or Mulhouse on highways A4 and A31. Two vast regional parks tempt travelers to abandon towns for year-round outdoor adventures. Seek out farmhouse inns (ferme-auberge) for overnight lodging. Follow signs posted along back roads to rustic restaurants that serve hearty meals featuring regional foods.
A car trip along the Crest Road (La Route des Crêtes) is an excellent way to spend a day in fresh mountain air. Reasonably fit travelers will want to walk into the forest, hike or bike the trails in summer, and ski or snowboard the slopes in winter.
Less than 45 minutes by car from Strasbourg, the tiny village of La Petite Pierre (The Little Rock) is surrounded by the unique nature of the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in the Regional Natural Park of the Northern Vosges (Parc Naturel Régional des Vosges du Nord).
Stop at the Park House (Maison du Parc), located in the Château de la Petite-Pierre, for free trail maps and sightseeing suggestions. You can visit a few of the rooms in the 12th-century fortified castle at no charge. The view from the top is stunning.
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The best place to start your adventure (and pick up maps) into the southern Vosges Mountains is at the Park House Office inside Saint Gregory Abbey in the little town of Munster. Take an hour to look around the 7th century cloister and stroll the historical part of Munster, which is built up around the abbey.
With maps in hand, head out to explore the Parc Naturel on the multi-use trails. The Grand Ballon is the highest point in the Vosges Mountains at 4,672 ft/1,424 m. Cold winds to blow at the summit, but on a clear day, the views stretch all the way to the Alps and Mont Blanc. From April to November, you can park at the restaurant La Vue des Alpes and enjoy a slice of the owner’s homemade blueberry pie before setting out to explore “The Big Ball.”
Nearby, walk along the passage (Col du Ballon d’Alsace) that crosses over the mountains at an altitude of 3,842 ft/1,171 m and is well-known as the first official mountain climb in the 1905 Tour de France.
Of the many ski resorts in the Vosges, La Bresse Hohneck is one of the largest with all the expected snow activities, gear rental, and restaurants. In summer, there’s an aquatic center and theme park, as well as horseback riding, hiking, and biking. Electric-assist bikes can be rented from Giro Bike.
It’s handy to have a French IGN 1:75,000 topographic hiking/cycling map (number 27 North Vosges and number 28 South Vosges). The Michelin Local Map 314 (Haute-Saone, Vosges) is also a valuable tool because it includes nature trails, cycling paths, and driving tours. Tourist offices in the little mountain towns have less detailed but helpful local maps and information.
Cycle shops throughout Alsace offer high-quality mountain and road bikes in all sizes, and you can rent by the day or week. Find rental and trail information at the Office de tourisme de l’Alsace Bossue in the little community of Lorentzen on the far western edge of the northern park (Parc Nature Régional du Nord). Or visit the Park House (Maison du Parc) inside the Château in the town of La Petite Pierre, located at the center of the northern park. If you want to rent a bike near the southern park (Parc Nature Régional du Sud), check with Alsa Cyclo Tours in Eguisheim, on the Wine Route near Colmar. This outfitter rents electric-assist and regular mountain or road bikes. In addition, you can pick up route maps and schedule a guided tour.
Winter in the Vosges is a lively time for snow sports. Pick up gear for skiing, sledding, snowkiting, or snowshoeing at huts on the slopes or in the resort towns. In the northern park, Le Cham du Feu is an hour drive from Strasbourg and rents equipment onsite. Get details at the visitors’ information center for the Bruche Valley in the foothill village of Schirmeck. In the southern park, consider the lively Lac Blanc ski resort, near Kaysersberg.
To book a suitable hotel or other accommodation in, or near Strasbourg, you can use the map below, which shows current prices for hotels and apartments. To book further afield, then just enlarge the map (+/-) to see more properties or, if you are headed for a particular area, enter your preferred resort/town/village in the ‘Where are you going?’ box.