Walk along the greenest GR hiking trails in Flanders

La regione del limburgo

Is walking in your blood? Do you get up early every weekend to scrub your hiking boots for yet another trip into the countryside? You don’t have to stick with short hour-long walking loops, because there are also many long-distance routes in Flanders, which you can easily enjoy for a whole day (or longer). So get ready to tackle the greenest GR hiking trails through the most beautiful regions of Flanders.

What are GR trails?


You will be familiar with the red and white markings that you find on trees, rocks and posts along forest and country roads. For seasoned walkers, those horizontal stripes are code for “100% guaranteed hiking pleasure”, because they indicate you’re on a GR trail. These two letters stand for “Sentiers de Grande Randonnée” or “Grote Routepaden”, a network of long-distance hiking trails that stretches all over Europe. For example, the international GR 5, which runs from the North Sea in Hook of Holland all the way to the Mediterranean in Nice, passes through our country, covering a distance of more than 1330 miles (2,150 kilometres)!

But please don’t be put off by the many miles that these hiking trails are known for. The GR trails are suitable for both professional and novice hikers.  There are plenty of opportunities to connect the trails for an extra long hike, but equally you can choose to cover only one stage – or even a part of it. And then you have the so-called Treinstappers (train walks), which are day trips that take you from station to station.

Four of the best GR trails in Flanders

Are you looking for a green hiking paradise in the middle of Flanders? We have four ideas to get you started.

Wandelpad op Mechelse Heide

GR 561 Kempen-Maaspad: straight through the Limburg Kempen

Start: Schaffensepoort in Diest
End: Old St. Servatius bridge in Maastricht
Distance: 138 miles (222 km) 

You won’t be surprised to find one of the greenest GR trails in Flanders in Limburg. Thanks to a succession of different nature areas, you can walk for miles from one type of landscape to the next, where you will barely feel a paved road under your feet. The region owes its lush landscape mainly to the presence of water: you cross wet moors and marshes, fens, heathland and valleys as you walk along canals and rivers such as the Nete and the Dommel. Fun fact: if you walk the entire route, you will have crossed almost all the Kempen canals. And there are a lot of them!

Of course, the typical Kempen coniferous forests should not be missed, with the icing on the cake: a hefty climb to the Kempens plateau, where you will be rewarded with beautiful panoramas over the Mechelse Heide in the Hoge Kempen National Park. A short trip to our northern neighbours in the Netherlands is also part of the package, because the GR 561 crosses the border halfway and briefly at the end.

La regione del limburgo

GR 5A and GR 512: on the trail of the Tour of Flanders

Start: Ninove abbey church
End: Geraardsbergen market
Distance: 16.4 miles (26.4 km)

Are you one of those people who watch the Tour of Flanders for the beautiful images of nature? Good news: the Flemish Ardennes also offer the requisite benefits for hikers. Be careful, because it is best not to venture into this very hilly region with untrained legs! The tour starts and ends in a city, but thanks to the varied nature of the Dender Valley, you can walk through greenery for the most part of this day trip, only sporadically interrupted by a pleasant village.

Once you have crossed the Dender, you’d better brace yourself, because the Bosberg (105 m) and the Oudenberg (110 m) will appear right in front of you. On the flanks of the Bosberg you will find the Raspaillebos, a remnant of the large Kolenwoud that has recovered well after the deforestation of the Second World War. Have you been able to successfully complete these major climbs? Enjoy the view before you venture onto the famous Muur van Geraardsbergen. With its gradient of 20 percent it has already made many cycling tourists say “nope”, but luckily you can get to know it downhill. Although… don’t underestimate it because even the most experienced walkers need to catch their breath halfway through and give their knees a rest. Fortunately, you can refuel afterwards with a real Geraardsbergen mattentaart (sweet cake)!


Regional GR Green Belt: exploring the Brussels Region

Start & end: Halle train station
Distance: 90 miles (145 km)

The province of Flemish Brabant places an arrangement of greenery around the Brussels-Capital Region. In this Green Belt you will find many surprisingly natural spots. This regional GR crosses the gently rolling and rural Pajottenland, the Brabant Kouters with its beautiful parks and gardens, and the Dyle river area, where you are treated to beautiful forests and sunken lanes.

You set off in Halle and then you choose whether to walk around Brussels in a clockwise or anti-clockwise direction. Whichever direction you choose, you can expect these eye-catching sights on your trail: the beautiful, vast Sonian Forest, the Park of Tervuren, the Botanical Garden in Meise and the Gaasbeek Castle. Please note: a regional GR can be identified by the yellow-red markings, instead of the typical white-red of the “regular” GR. Although you will also encounter these well-known stripes on your trail, as the Green Belt partly uses other GRs as well.

Mechels Broek

GR 12, GR 128 and regional GR Dyle river area: along the embankments of the lower Dyle

Start & end: Mechels Broek
Distance: 15.7 miles (25.3 km)

The Mechels Broek is a beautiful start and end location for this manageable but also tough one-day hike. Don’t forget your waterproof hiking boots, otherwise you might come home wet from the trip! In this nature reserve – located in the valley of the lower Dyle – you can still find a truly unspoiled green space in Flanders. It is neatly maintained by the large, friendly Galloway cattle, that boost biodiversity as they graze.

The many ponds, pools and streams provide a wealth of wet nature, while the many quiet towpaths give you access to the grasslands and woods of the surrounding rural municipalities of Bonheiden and Rijmenam. Have you got a bit lost? Don't worry, the ever-present Dyle river always provides an unmistakable landmark.

Fancy getting your hiking boots on and exploring Flanders along the most beautiful GR routes? We’ll get you started!

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