The squat Vosges Mountains roll across two large regional nature parks and dominate the countryside of western Alsace. A 48 mile/77 km ridge road links the highest points between Cernay and Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines. Most of the year, you can drive, hike, and bike through the north and south parks. In summer, enjoy the waterfalls, lakes, and hikes into the thick forest. In winter, visit one of the ski stations for snowboarding, sledding, snowshoeing, and skiing.
Parc Naturel des Ballons des Vosges is the southern park. The highlight here is Grand Ballon, the tallest mountain in the 1,154 sq mile/3,000 sq km park. On clear days, you may be able to see parts of Germany and Austria from the summit. Pick up information and maps at the visitors’ center inside the Park House ( Maison du Parc naturel régional des Ballons des Vosges) in Munster. Phone: 03 89 77 90 34.
Parc Naturel des Vosges du Nord is the northern park, a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. The forest harbors various protected wildlife in its thick tangle of trees and plants. Pick up maps and information at the Tourism Office located inside a 12th-century building in the village of La Petite-Pierre. Phone: 03 88 01 49 59
Most of the year you can drive through the mountains on the Ridge Road (Route des Crêtes). It’s closed in winter, but you can take highways A4 and A31 to resorts, health spas, restaurants, and snow-sports stations. Ask for directions and maps at the tourist offices in Munster and Petite-Pierre.