Great Jura Crossing Hike (GTJ) / GR 509

The Grande Traversée du Jura, or GR 509 is a 400 kilometer trail between the Vosges and the Alps.
It is also an alternative to the GR 5, which goes from the Netherlands to Nice.
It’s a fairly well-known trail in France, although I’m not sure I’ll see a ton of hikers with the heat wave.
It is the center of cheese in France and the home of the best cheeses in the world.
And the white wine is not too shabby.

It’s also a special place for me since I was born here, even though we left when I was very young.
I always visited my grandparents here every school vacation.
I can’t really say there has been much exploration of the Jura that I can remember, so it’s going to be interesting to see it on foot.
Last time I was in the Jura was over 20 years ago so I’m really excited to be back and hike this trail.
And feast on cheese. So much cheese…

Day 1

After completing the GR 533 in the Vosges this morning, a quick train + bus ride takes me to Mandeure, where the trail begins.
The city seems strangely dead.
I was thinking of getting water from a bar, but since I couldn’t find any, I went to the cemetery, which is generally the essential water point for French hikers in urban areas.

The climb out of town isn’t too bad and there’s mostly shade which is amazing as it’s millions of degrees.
It’s a short 2 hour walk to Pont de Roide, the nearby town, where I can get more water before I start looking for a campsite.

Day 2

Not the most exciting day hike…
Pretty boring to be honest.
Lots of road walking in the heat.
But that’s what it is and I don’t really mind having days that are kinda meh…when there’s good after.

On the bright side, I end up at a campsite that has a cheap hut for hikers.
It’s the long-awaited shower time.
The sky darkens and everyone hopes it will rain.
It does, but not for very long.

Day 3

It’s a much better day.
Apart from the fact that I started the day by discovering that the shop in which I intended to restock does not exist.
Instead there is a butcher who also sells very limited and very expensive general food.
Luckily, it’s only for one day.

It’s not hot, which hasn’t happened since I started hiking in France in the heat wave a month ago.
He feels good.
I follow the Doubs in the Doubs gorges almost all day.
It’s a beautiful mossy forest and the gorge itself is really nice.
Across the river is Switzerland, so I follow the border most of the day.

Day 4

I am always following the Gorges in the morning then I move to rural areas.
I manage to get into town before the supermarket closes as it is Sunday and closed in the afternoon.
I’ve been craving fruit and veg for a while, so I treat myself to plenty.
It’s almost lunch time, so I won’t be wearing it for long.

It’s supposed to be a beautiful waterfall…

In the afternoon, I get stung by a bee in the calf and it hurts a lot for a few hours when I limp.
I worked for a beekeeper for a few weeks and got stung on my foot by a few bees and my foot got so big I couldn’t put my shoe on.
So I’m a little nervous about how my calf will react, but in the end everything seems fine.

Day 5

It’s a fairly easy day through the countryside today.
I was relying on a bakery for lunch, as I only have food left for dinner and I’m too lazy to cook for lunch, but it’s closed today, so I go to the restaurant next door where I have a beef bourguignon and good Too much wine.

This allows me to continue to the next town where I restock and decide to cook something nice for dinner.
It’s already late, so I won’t have to wear it for long.
I buy cancoillote, a strong, creamy cheese (there’s even a really cool song about this cheese), which usually goes well with steamed potatoes and Morteau sausage.
But this sausage takes forever to cook, so I get some kind of bacon bits with frozen diced potatoes.
I just add garlic and it’s really delicious.
Definitely beats the old noodles.

Day 6

Quite early in the morning, I meet Quentin, who is part of the GTJ on foot.
We get on well and end up walking together all day.
We make a short detour to the top of Mont d’Or, a name well known to cheese lovers because the cheese of the same name has entered into legend.

We hope to have a beer at a campsite near the source of the Doubs (which I was following a few days ago), but it is closed.
The same goes for the bar in the neighboring village.
Which happens to be the coldest place in France, with a record of -45°c (-49°f) in 1985.
Well, it’s definitely not cold today.
So we buy ice cream at the store in town.
And the last bar of the day in the nearby village is finally open, so our beer mission is finally successful.

The track has changed recently and my gpx track is a bit inaccurate.
Quentin has the right one, but they probably haven’t finished the markup for the diversion as we miss a turn that looks hard to miss.
But it’s just 20 more minutes, so not too bad.

Day 7

Quentin left before I woke up but we’ll catch up later in the morning.
We cross a village which has a beautiful local cheese dairy, but the queue discourages me.
I plan to stop at the butcher shop where they sell a Morteau sausage and Morbier sandwich, but given the weight of the food in my backpack, I decide not to stop.
After 5 minutes I already regret it.
Lunchtime rolls around and looking at my crap tuna and cheese wrap I just hate myself.
Hiking in the Jura should be about food, and I’ll make sure to catch up tomorrow.

The rest of the day is quite easy in beautiful shady forests which is good as it is warm again.
We stop at a bar and I taste sapon, a local drink that I’ve never heard of and that Quentin loves.
It’s a kind of local Pastis, plus fir syrup and water.
It’s really, really good and might even become my new go-to drink for a while.
We then have a good climb that takes us to some great viewpoints over the area, before a pretty steep descent over rolling rocks.
We end up walking until 9 p.m. and find a flat place that will have to do, because we are quite tired.


Day 8

It’s a pleasant and not too hot morning until Les Rousses, where I learned to ski as a child.
I’m a little carried away with my shopping…
I receive morbier, gex and county.
It’s the perfect trilogy of Jura cheeses.
I also get good bread and a smoked morteau sausage to go with it.
It’s not lunch…
It’s probably lunch, dinner and another lunch.

I’m dead and in heaven…

I catch up with Quentin at a nice viewpoint for lunch and we hike together the rest of the day.
It’s a pretty nice and fairly easy hike, even if the landscape is really yellow and dry, which is weird in the Jura where it’s green even in summer.
We drink beer towards the end of the day and it’s hard to continue after that…
And we take the wrong path downhill for 20 minutes.
Which means you have to go up…
But that’s okay, the thought of delicious cheeses and morteau definitely keeps my spirits up.

The area happens to be home to lynx, which I believe is the only big wild cat found in Europe.
But maybe I’m wrong.

Day 9

Quentin left two hours before me, so I’m not sure I’ll see him today.
I finally finish my lunch treats just in time before the cheeses get too funky.
There is quite a long way to Lélex.
And we all know what it means to come down.
Going up.
And of course with lots of water, because I’m not sure I’ll find any by tomorrow afternoon.
It’s a long climb but it was worth it.

I walk on a ridge with great views on both sides just in time for sunset.
To the east, I see Geneva and Lake Geneva.
Definitely my favorite section of the trail so far.
No sign of Quentin, but maybe tomorrow, for one last beer before boarding a train at Bellegarde.

Day 10

I walk on the same ridge line most of the day.
It’s absolutely beautiful, with France on one side and Switzerland on the other.
If it’s the most beautiful day so far, it’s also the hottest.
And with a 24 hour waterless section, I have to make it last.

It turns out that I won’t be able to catch up with Quentin because he’s in a hurry to catch his train.
Finally arrived at a cemetery where I find water, I drink 1.5 liters before heading towards Bellegarde.

The batteries of most of my electronics are dead, so I need to find a place to charge for a while, but it ends up being a mission.
And I also have to leave the city with plenty of water because tomorrow it’s going to be quite dry again.

Day 11

It’s a bit of a shock to see clouds when I come out of the tent.
France is now having a crazy heat wave and hasn’t seen rain in quite a while.
As I start to climb it starts to rain heavily and won’t stop for over two hours.
And for the most part, it’s pretty exposed.
By lunchtime it is starting to clear up to a drizzle.

There will be a few showers, but nothing as bad as this morning.
And it’s a nice section.
I walk through a really nice forest and even though I don’t get the great views I was supposed to get from the top because it’s foggy, I still enjoy it.

My plan is to finish tomorrow morning, but I see a sign saying that I can be in Culoz, the terminus, in 2h30.
Looking at my watch, I get excited and can already see myself taking a shower and a beer tonight.
Then I come to my senses and remember that all the signs on the GTJ are kinda silly and give you timetables to places you’re not going to or to somewhere you’re going but via a road or shortcut that doesn’t. is not the track.
And an hour later I see another sign that says I’m four hours from Culoz, which seems more accurate.

I pushed harder today to be able to finish early tomorrow and I only have an hour and a half left.
Which should give me time to go to the campsite in town for a shower and laundry before hitchhiking for my next trail in the Queyras.
I was going to take a train but it would take between 7 and 9 hours.
It’s only 2.5 hours of driving, so it sounds better.

Day 12

It’s a short walk from Culoz, the end of the trail.
After going to the campsite, I go hitchhiking in the Queyras.

It was a really interesting track.
Some sections quite boring and some spectacular.
I would say it was definitely not the best time to hike.
I imagine spring and fall are much better, for greener landscapes or spectacular fall colors.
But there are some GTJs, which can be done by bike, ski, horseback or snowshoe.
In fact, I really want to come back in winter with skis or snowshoes.

About George Dailey

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