Why should you visit the Fontainebleau region?
Wondering what else to do around Paris, except for Château de Versailles? If you are looking to spend a day or two in an active way in the middle of nature, then you should consider going to Fontainebleau. Situated at some 70 km South East of Paris, this getaway promises a complete change of scenery. The Fontainebleau forest is characterised by its boulder rocks. Can you imagine that 35 million years ago there was a hot sea covering the area? Hence the white sand as if you were on the beach. Fontainebleau is the second largest national forest in France and the largest forest area in the Île-de-France region of which more than 98% of its territory is occupied by two national heritage attractions: the Château of Fontainebleau and the national forest of Fontainebleau. This itinerary will take you on the discovery of this impressive region including hikes, going to the beach with no sea, visiting picturesque villages and more.
How to get to Fontainbleau from Paris?
The best way to discover the region is to do it by car. If you do not have this possibility, taking a public transport is also an option. Nevertheless, it will be more difficult to reach some points situated inside the forest. The best way to get there from Paris with public transport is to take the Transilien R line from Gare de Lyon to Fontainebleau-Avon that takes around 40 minutes. If you want to discover the region in one day, then I recommend visiting Barbizon village and do a short yellow path walk into the forest, visit the Château of Fontainebleau as well as the sea of sand. If you will not manage to go to the sea of sand, then consider visiting the Denecourt tower that you can reach by foot directly from the train station.
Sables du cul du chien, a beach without sea
Yes, it is a weird name to call a sea of sand a “dog ass sands” (don’t ask me why French call it like this), either way it is an official name for this immense white sand beach with no sea. It is situated in the middle of the Trois-Pignons forest. You can reach it by foot from the parking “Roche aux Sabots“, following the path “chemin de la Plaine de Jean des Vignes” for about 20 minutes. The sand appeared due to the geological evolution of the place. 35 million years ago, a sea of hot water covered the area, deposing the quartz at the bottom which then disintegrated into sand. The “Bilboquet du Cul du Chien” showcases a large rock standing alone in the middle of the sandy beach. If you want to hike in this area, then follow the red path “circuit des 25 bosses“. Once you reach the summit, you immediately see the cross “Croix Lorraine” and a breathtaking view on the forest as well as on the sea of sand from above.
Apremont Gorges and the area of Barbizon
Barbizon is a picturesque village where painters such as Rousseau and Millet used to live and work in around 1820. This “village de caractère” has quite a few restaurants, art galleries and museums.
Two starting points for forest walks and hikes are situated in the area. Here is what you can do:
Itinerary n° 1: It is a rather easy itinerary on the yellow path, suitable for any levels. It will give you a glimpse of the forest with its impressive rocks. You will see for instance the Médaillon Millet-Rousseau that is a bas-relief in bronze sculpted in a rock. It is dedicated to these two painters. A bit further, Rocher de l’Eléphant is a block of sandstone whose shape recalls that of an elephant.
Itinerary n°2: It is a moderate and longer itinerary. To reach the first point, the Caverne de Brigand, you will have to park at the parking near “Châlet de la Caverne” restaurant and take the path “Cavalière des Brigands“. It is a stunning walk to discover the Apremont Gorges and its rock erosions. You will pass through alleys of green ferns, sand and boulders. When you reach the summit, there is a cave in the rock that you can discover and the flat area of rocks that offers a beautiful view on the forest. Not far from Caverne de Brigands, continuing the “Cavalière des Brigands” path, you arrive at the small pond in the middle of the forest. To reach it, you will have to follow the blue mark-up on the rocks. The flock of dragonflies surround the pond and it is the only sound you hear. You will need around 2 hours for this hike depending on your pace.
Château de Fontainebleau
A UNESCO World Heritage site since 1981, Château de Fontainebleau is the only château to have been inhabited by all the monarchs from the 12th to the 19th century and is the most richly furnished of all the French royal châteaux. Napoleon was the great restorer of the castle, which he completely refurnished immediately after the French Revolution. Many people come to Fontainebleau for the castle itself.
Not far from there, you can discover the Denecourt tower which panorama is worth a detour. To reach it, you should park at the “Forêt Fontainebleau Parking”, just after the Fontainebleau-Avon train station and walk 20 minutes one way. The tower is 136 meters high and will allow you to discover a stunning view of the whole Seine valley.
MAPS.ME Guide with Offline Itinerary
You can also opt for my complete MAPS.ME guide that works offline on your mobile phone. You will get all the traced routes for forest walks as well as the GPS itinerary to get from one point to another. In that way, you are sure that you are following the right path. There is a picture and description for each point of interest. All you need to do is to pre-download the free MAPS.ME app of the area to be able to use the map offline once you are there. You can download my guide from this link.
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