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Are there any opportunities for hiking or going out into nature around Lyon, France? I am looking for something that can be done in a single day and does not require a car. What are the best areas to see, if any?

I am looking for opportunities to see beautiful nature and perhaps spot wildlife, e.g. visit national parks. Lyon being a large city I am not sure if any such area is accessible from there within a day.

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National parks are a bit far but you have many options depending on how long you are willing to travel. Here are a couple options closer or further from Lyon.

Parc National des Écrins

This is far from Lyon and better done from Grenoble (1h30 from Lyon), and it is the beginning of "real" mountains, the Alps. This is one destination option among many. You can reach Bourg d'Oisans, a gate to the Ecrins national park by first reaching Grenoble by train with SNCF (1h30). Then you can take the bus 3000 towards Bourg d'Oisans for another 1h30. The earliest you can get there seems around 10.30 AM on weekdays. This is considered late in summer (most hikers prefer starting early, around 7-8 AM). From there you can hike in the Ecrins national park, for example start a part of the GR54 (GR is for Grande Randonnée, i.e. long hike). There is a map of the whole park to find ideas of other places. Grenoble really is a gate to the Alps, but the issue is the length of the trip from Lyon. The last bus from Bourg d'Oisans is at 7PM and you can be back to Lyon by 11.30PM. This gives you 7-8 hours to actually hike, if the sun goes down late - but this also means more heat.

I encourage you to explore the bus lines of Transisere from Grenoble to find other accesses to trailheads. There are many resources to find trails and national parks, like Geoportail.

Monts du Lyonnais

That's my hometown area. These are hills located at the southwest of Lyon, and you can get an elevation difference of several hundreds of meters when hiking or biking there. There are many options again. You can find an example of itinerary on the Rhone department website for mountain bikes but it's possible to hike it. There are GPX traces from a local mountain biking club on openrunner (search for user Bikets_Mornantais). To access Mornant and the area, you can take a coach of the Rhone department, the bus line 14. Bus tickets cost 2 euros and can be bought on board. There are few buses so plan ahead (and bus times are not so reliable if you don't board at the terminus).

Mont Thou

If you do not want to take too many risks with French transportation systems (and I would not blame you), you can stick to TCL, the Lyon urban buses. Take the line 40 from Bellecour towards Neuville, stop at Rochetaillée, cross the Saône river to go to Couzon-au-Mont-d'Or and climb to the Mont Thou. There is an itinerary on openrunner starting there. It is also accessible with a regional train from Part-Dieu to Couzon-au-Mont-d'Or.

Overall, you have many options close in the hills or far in the Alps for hiking/biking day trips around Lyon. These are only examples and I really encourage you to check openrunner or other hiking itinerary websites to find some, as well as geoportail for maps or the Rhone department website. You have multiple ways to go around: TCL for urban buses, Rhone department buses or regional trains. Trailheads are not always easily accessible but with some patience you should find something you like.

  • Is there an equivalent of "everyman's right" in France? There's a French Wikipedia article which I wish I understood ... Let me know if this warrants a separate question. – Gabor Mar 1 '15 at 0:03
  • @WildlifeWatcher that's the right article and in short if it is not explicitly written, you can walk through a private property, but if the owner asks you to leave, you should leave. But that is also worth another question, you would get a more complete and correct answer. – Vince Mar 1 '15 at 4:10
  • So it's usually okay to walk through unfenced pastures and farmland, for as long as one clearly doesn't do any damage (such as trample crops), right? – Gabor Mar 1 '15 at 5:01
  • Yeah it should be fine. Check there is no one in the field as you may disturb his/her work, and use vehicle prints/existing tracks to limit damages – Vince Mar 1 '15 at 12:54
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The Dombes region is accessible from Lyon by regional train (TER) in about 35 minutes. The region has hundreds of ponds, used for fish farming. There are 130 bird species living here and waterfowl abound.

There are walking and biking routes, bike rental is available.

http://www.villars-les-dombes.com/

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I encourage you to explore the bus lines of Transisere from Grenoble to find other accesses to trailheads. There are many resources to find trails and national parks, like Mappy, ViaMichelin .

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