Guide Tour of Fontainebleau Forest, Seine-et-Marne, France

The forest of Fontainebleau, meaning “forest of heather” is a mixed deciduous forest lying sixty kilometres southeast of Paris, France. It is located primarily in the arrondissement of Fontainebleau in the southwestern part of the department of Seine-et-Marne. The fontainebleau forest is famous throughout the world for inspiring 19th- century artists, notably painters of the Barbizon school and the Impressionists, as well as photographers, writers and poets.

The nearly 80 hectare park was created under Henri IV, who dug the 1.2 km long Grand Canal there between 1606 and 1609, and planted several species of trees, notably firs, elms and fruit trees. Previously, around 1530, François I had established the “Treille du Roi” – also 1.2 km long – where the golden chasselas of Fontainebleau was cultivated, on the south face of the wall. The canal, preceding that of Versailles by almost sixty years, quickly became a place of attraction. You could go there by boat and Louis XIII had a galley sail there. It is fed by several aqueducts established in the 16th century.

The first massif to be labeled Exception Forest in 2013, it includes 2,350 ha of biological reserves, the origin of whose protection in the form of “artistic reserves” dates back to 1853. The woodland around Fontainebleau consists of two national forests: Trois Pignons and Fontainebleau, with stands of deciduous and softwood trees. The second-largest national forest in France, Fontainebleau is the largest forest area in the Ile-de-France region and boasts the distinction that more than 98% of its territory is occupied by two national heritage attractions: the château of Fontainebleau and the national forest of Fontainebleau.

Formerly a royal forest, Fontainebleau was long renowned for hunting and the production of wood for heating, and castle, cathedral and ship-building. In times gone by, this was a hunting estate highly appreciated by the kings, who came there from the tenth century onwards for deer and bird hunting. Shooting was practised from the time of Louis XIV. From the tenth century, most of the sovereigns up to Napoleon III stayed at Fontainebleau primarily for their love of the hunt. Fontainebleau was chosen for its vast swathes of forest, its abundant game and, above all, its proximity to Paris. Hunting was a genuine royal hobby, the kings viewing hunting as excellent training for war.

The forest of Fontainebleau is home to an outstanding living, natural heritage. It offers a patchwork of landscapes and forest ecosystems, resulting both from its vegetation (moorland and timber forest), its relief (hills, valleys and gorges), its climate (Atlantic, continental and even Mediterranean influences), and its geology (ranging from fine sand to sandstone rocks and limestone plateaux). It is a bio-geographical crossroads, comprising exceptional biotopes. As a result of these unique ecological circumstances, a wealth of fauna and flora abounds here.

Enter the landscapes of the Fontainebleau forest, an immersion in the tourist wealth of the territory. Discover the largest natural area in Ile de France and a great wealth of outdoor activities. Discover heritage like the Château de Fontainebleau, the numerous museums, the villages of artists and characters… Discover the exceptional cultural heritage of the Pays de Fontainebleau. The Fontainebleau forest and its 22,000 ha of preserved nature is an exceptional ecosystem unique in the world. A real journey into the heart of nature with a multitude of possible activities: hiking, climbing, horseback riding or cycling… A mecca for art and history, with an equestrian tradition and local gastronomy, it is in the Pays de Fontainebleau that the most beautiful riches of Southern Seine-et-Marne are concentrated.

Forty thousand years ago, nomadic populations settled around the forest. Various traces of their presence have been discovered: carved stone tools, bones of such animals as bears, elephants, rhinos, giant stags. More than 2,000 caves with rock carvings are scattered across the forest. They are attributed to all periods between the Upper Paleolithic (around 12000 BC) and modern times. However, the majority of the carvings are from the Mesolithic (between 9000 and 5500 BC). They often take the form of geometric etchings (lattices), though some are figurative.

The fourth century BC saw the arrival of Celt and Ligurian tribes. The Celtes settled the region in the fifth century BC. A Celtic necropolis was discovered in Cannes-Écluse, along with arms and auroch horns. Near Bouray (Seine-et-Oise), a bust of a Celtic god with stag legs was unearthed, while in Bossy-aux-Cailles, a Celtic tintinnabulum was discovered.

Around the year 1000, the human occupation of the forest consisted of a series of enclaves controlled by petty lords and wealthy landowners. In 1067, Philippe I acquired the county of Gâtinais, which gave the crown control over the entire territory of the current forest. For the kings of France, the forest had several uses, including hunting and forestry, but also a military interest, as Fontainebleau was a strategic location on the road to Sens and Burgundy. In 1137, Louis VI began construction of a hunting castle consisting of a dungeon, moat and chapel. It is during this period that the first use of the word ‘Fontainebleau’ appears.

In 1400, Charles VI initiated the first reform of forest policy; that is, he ordered the complete closure of the forest area for several months in order to verify the rights and uses of each user of the forest. This exceptional procedure was repeated many times under the Ancien Régime. The castle was rebuilt from 1527 by François I, as a base from which to hunt “the red and black beasts” which abounded in the forest. At the time, the forest covered only 13,365 hectares, but the kings of France extended it through acquisitions and forfeitures. Also under François I, the office of Grand Forestier was created. He was responsible for officers and horse guards, each having the supervision and management of a canton of the forest. It was at this time, during the 16th century, that the administration responsible for managing the forest took shape. It retained this responsibility until the French Revolution.

At the time of Louis XIV, less than 20 percent of the forest area was wooded. Jean-Baptiste Colbert launched a reform from June to September 1664 as well as a tree-planting campaign. In 1716, following the severe winter of the year 1709, 6,000 hectares were planted with deciduous trees, but this turned out to be an almost total failure. In 1750, the 90 km perimeter of the forest was delimited by 1050 boundary markers, some of which are still visible today. In 1786, Scots pines were introduced. After the Revolution, following numerous illegal cuts and the proliferation of game due to lack of hunting, Napoleon I reformed the forestry administration and that of the castle in 1807. In 1830, the planting of another 6,000 hectares of pine provoked the anger of artists who came to seek inspiration in the forest.

The Forest of Fontainebleau is famous worldwide for having inspired 19th-century artists, including painters of the Barbizon School and the Impressionists. The Barbizon painters, led by Théodore Rousseau, militated against the planting of softwoods which had been carried out at a pace of several hundred hectares per year since 1830. They objected on the grounds that the plantings distorted the landscapes. The artists also opposed the planned regeneration cuts in old forests in 1837 and founded the Society of Friends of the Forest of Fontainebleau to protect it.

In 1839, Claude-François Denecourt published his first forest guide and laid out the first paths in 1842. From 1849, the railway arrived in Fontainebleau, which enabled Parisians to visit Fontainebleau on day trips. This relatively easy access helped to create public support for the protection of the forest.

At the request of the painters of the Barbizon School, hardwood cuts were suspended in certain cantons appreciated by artists. In 1853, “nature sanctuaries” covering over 624 hectares of old forests and rocky areas (Bas Bréau, Cuvier Châtillon, Franchard, Apremont, La Solle, Mont Chauvet) were withdrawn from wood harvesting. For the first time in France, concern for “the protection of nature” became one of the objectives of forest management. By the imperial decree of April 13, 1861, the “artistic reserve” was increased to 1,094 hectares and finally to 1,693 hectares from 1892 to 1904. The director general of forests, Henri Faré, explained that the setting aside of 1,600 hectares was tantamount to losing an income of 300,000 gold francs. However, the Forest of Fontainebleau thus became the first nature reserve in the world.

Natural Environment
The forest of Fontainebleau is home to an outstanding living, natural heritage. It offers a patchwork of landscapes and forest ecosystems, resulting both from its vegetation (moorland and timber forest), its relief (hills, valleys and gorges), its climate (Atlantic, continental and even Mediterranean influences), and its geology (ranging from fine sand to sandstone rocks and limestone plateaux).

It is a bio-geographical crossroads, comprising exceptional biotopes. As a result of these unique ecological circumstances, a wealth of fauna and flora abounds here. From the 17th century on, this biological reserve attracted renowned naturalists, such as Tournefort, then Jussieu and Linné. Moreover, in 1948, a UNESCO conference held at Fontainebleau resulted in the creation of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (UICN).

Thirty five million years ago, the area now occupied the Fontainebleau forest was a sea that deposited sediments of fine, white sand about fifty meters thick. The sands were deposited during the Oligocene age. This sand is one of the purest in the world and is used for glassware (Murano in Venice) and for optical fiber. The sand later formed the large banks of sandstone boulders – consisting of grains of quartz cemented by a silica gel – that characterise the current landscape of the forest. The boulders often have surprising shapes reminiscent of animals or objects and they are highly coveted by bouldering enthusiasts.

The rocks occupy an area of nearly 4,000 hectares and form long banks of almost parallel boulders oriented East South-East, West North-West, and separated by open valleys at both ends. The forest floor contains up to 98% sand and is therefore very permeable. As a result, nowhere in the forest, except on the eastern slope between Veneux-Nadon and Samois-sur-Seine, are there any permanent sources of water. The ponds come from the capture of rainwater in the depressions of the rocky plateaus, except in the vicinity of the pond at Les Evées where clay dominates.

The most common trees in the forest are: oak (44%), Scots pine (40%), and European beech (10%). Three thousand species of mushrooms have been discovered. The forest is also home to approximately seven thousand animal species, five thousand of which are insects.

The most represented trees are: oaks (45%), Scots pine (40%), beech (10%). The “king’s bouquets” characteristic of the forest are oaks whose branches separate from the base. Initially a rare species, the Scots pine has developed since 1830. It was in 1786 that Le Monnier, physician to Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, introduced this species to Fontainebleau. The maritime pine was first planted in 1515 on the site of the English Garden, then “Garden of Pines”. Then from 1590, man established it in the forest. The chestnut tree planted in the Middle Ages by monks from large abbeys is still present.

The variety of soils (acid and limestone, dry and humid) and the diversity of reliefs are at the origin of the great diversity of species, as well as the presence of very old high forests, an environment which has today become very rare and shelters quantity of species dependent on old wood, both animal (insects, in particular) and plants (lichens and macromycetes, in particular).

The flora includes 1,500 species of higher plants; 440 species of lichens (Boissière, 1978); 480 moss 39 and liverworts; 1700 species of mushrooms.

The main species of the massif, with an area of ​​20,272 ha, are 13: Fontainebleau forest: oaks, 42%; Scots pine, 29%; beech 17%, other hardwoods 8%, other softwoods 3%, non-forested areas 1%; Trois Pignons forest: oaks 26%, other hardwoods 20%, Scots pine 33%, maritime pine 15%, other softwoods 1%, non-forested areas 5%. Nearly 800 notable trees have been listed, including the Rocher Canon oak, placed on a rock, the only one in the forest to have received the Remarkable Trees of France label in March 2006.

Flowers include: Tor-grass (Brachypodium pinnatum), Service tree of Fontainebleau (Sorbus latifolia), which is under national protection, Snowy mespilus (Amelanchier ovalis), under national protection, Common juniper (Juniperus communis), Orchids, Violet limodore (Limodorum abortivum), Red helleborine (Cephalanthera rubra), under national protection, Meadow rue (Thalictrum minus), under national protection, Peach-leaved bellflower (Campanula persicifolia), Wild madder (Rubia peregrina), Burnet rose (Rosa pimpinellifolia), Cranesbill (Geranium sanguineum), Vincetoxicum (Vincetoxicum hirundinaria), Red feather clover (Trifolium rubens), under national protection.

The forest is home to 54 species of mammals. Large mammals include wild boars and deer. In the 16th century, one could come across lynxes and wolves in the forest, which disappeared in the middle of the 19th century. Currently, you can encounter badgers, foxes, wild boars, roe deer and deer. The last otter disappeared in 1970. The density of deer is very low.

Rodents are represented by: the coypu; the muskrat; the brown mouse; the vole; the mouse; the field mouse; the rabbit; Hare; and the squirrel. Small carnivorous mammals include: the weasel; the marten; the wild cat. Small insectivorous mammals like: the mole; the musaraigne; the Hedgehog; the bats.

The forest is home to more than 200 species of birds including 102 nesting birds. Among the most interesting species: European Bee-eater, Woodpecker, Black Woodpecker whose arrival in the forest dates back to 1914, Northern Warbler, European Nightjar, Whistling Chiffchaff, Bonelli’s Chiffchaff, Northern Lark, and Wryneck.

The forest is home to 11 species of reptiles. The following reptiles species are found: the Swiss snake; the snake of Aesculapius; the viper snake; the smooth coronella; the asp viper; the Peliad viper; the wall lizard; the stump lizard; the green lizard; the orvet. Snakes, which are little appreciated by hikers and forest walkers, however play an important and essential role in the faunal balance.

The forest is home to 12 species of amphibians. Several species of amphibians can be found in the rare ponds of the Fontainebleau forest: the green frog; the laughing frog; the common frog; the agile frog; the green tree frog; the common toad; the natterjack toad; the midwife toad; the webbed newt; The punctuated newt; the great crested newt; The marbled newt.

As the Insects, the forest is a haven for more than 370 species of Heteroptera (Royer 1948, supplemented by Davoine 1978), around 3,500 species of Coleoptera (Cantonnet, Casset, Toda, 1997), 1,640 species of Lepidoptera (Gibeaux, 2000), 57 species of Orthoptera (Luquet, 1994 and Luquet, Meriguet and Bruneau de Miré, 2001), 46 species of Odonata (Dommanget, 2002). The number of Diptera species is estimated at 10,000. Besides, 98 species of molluscs have found shelter in the Fontainebleau forest.

Human Activities
The forest of Fontainebleau still supplies 40,000m3 of wood per year. As a material or a source of energy, wood is a part of everyday life. The numerous species at Fontainebleau, with their different characteristics, qualities, grain, colours and texture, serve a variety of purposes. From the noblest to the most ordinary, they are used for everything from construction to refurbishment, furnishing, packaging, writing and heating. Wood is an excellent carbon trap, and a natural, eco-friendly and renewable material. It offers a sustainable alternative to fossil fuels and concrete.

Sandstone has been exploited since 1330. From the 16th century, it was used for paving the streets of Paris. In 1831, three million paving stones were still produced. At the end of the 19th century, under pressure from artists, quarry activity, which then numbered 2,000 men, was restricted. In 1907, the last exploitation closed following the ban on the exploitation of sandstone on the estate. But exploitation continued outside these limits. The last one at Trois-Pignons closed in 1983.

Throughout the Fontainebleau massif, numerous sites have been the subject of this intense activity: the Canon rock, the Franchard and Houx gorges, the Hautes-Plaines, the Long Boyau, etc. With the cessation of extraction in 1907, the know-how and memory gradually disappeared from Fontainebleau. However, many vestiges of this industrial heritage are still visible today. In order to make it known, a discovery trail was created in 2012.

The very fine and pure sand of Fontainebleau has been exploited for glassworks since 1640. It was used for the porcelain of “Vieux Sèvres”, for the Vincennes factory, for the glassworks and earthenware of Paris, Montereau, Nevers, Gien, etc.. In the past, to open an exploitation workshop, the quarryman requested authorization from the Captain of the Hunts and paid a drilling fee. In addition, they had to rehabilitate the roads that had allowed the transfer of materials.

The forest of Fontainebleau is unlike any other forest. It is an emblematic place with a rich past and a history-steeped heritage which must be protected, but also left open for its multiple uses. From the creation of the artist reserves in 1861 up to the present day, numerous conservation measures have been implemented to protect these spaces and maintain their habitats.

Today, the forest is protected by numerous legal and environmental measures. The forest enjoys “protected forest” status, is a listed UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, a classified Natura 2000 site and, in the case of the national forest, a listed site of which the planning document is approved by the Ministries of the Environment and Agriculture. All these measures ensure lasting protection for the woodland and safeguard its outstanding ecosystems, biodiversity and landscapes, thanks not least to the creation of the Integral Biological Reserves (1,062 hectares) and Managed Biological Reserves (1,305 hectares).

The Denecourt tower, built by Claude-François Denecourt in 1851 on the eastern summit of the Cassepot range, inaugurated on November 23, 1853 by Napoleon III and Empress Eugénie, it was destroyed in 1878 by an earthquake. Rebuilt by Colinet, restored many times, it offers beautiful views of the region. Altitude at the base: 136 m. This tower was first called Fort Empereur, then it took its current name in 1882 following a wish from the Municipal Council of Fontainebleau. The Samois tower, an old observation tower built in 1880 on the Samois rock. It remains abandoned today, although it constitutes one of the symbols of Samois-sur-Seine.

On the territory of the forest are established the Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours chapel of Fontainebleau and the Notre-Dame-de-Grâce oratory of Corne-Biche, to which we can add the priory of Franchard. The medieval hermitage of the Butte Saint-Louis: remains of a small church dating from the 11th century, and a vaulted cellar belonging to the hermit’s house.

The Notre-Dame de Franchard priory: its foundation dates back to the 12th century, making it the oldest religious building in the forest. Philippe-Auguste in 1197 had two cenobites installed there, obliged to pray for the king and his people. Guillaume, canon of Saint-Euverte d’Orléans, settled there although previously two hermits had been found murdered there. It was with him that the hermitage began to transform into a rich convent of the order of Saint Augustine. In the 17th century, we could still see the large chapel, various buildings as well as the walls although the whole was already in ruins. The convent disappeared, it was replaced by a priory dedicated to the king. The buildings were already abandoned to hermits during the Revolution. Today, only a section of the wall of the old hermitage remains, against which a forest guard’s house was built.

The Vanne and Loing aqueducts (1874 and 1900) which bring water to the Montsouris reservoir in Paris. The Millet-Rousseau monument named after these two painters friends of the Barbizon School: medallion inaugurated on April 21, 1884 at the edge of the forest, next to the village of Barbizon. The monument to Georges Mandel located on the edge of national road 7, south of Fontainebleau. It recalls the assassination of Minister Georges Mandel by the militia on July 7, 1944.

The Druides belvedere: it is a viewpoint over the Franchard gorges. The Marie-Thérèse belvedere: it is a viewpoint over the Franchard gorges. Louis XIV had a square pavilion built here, of which we can still see some traces of the foundation. The pavilion was razed at the same time as the Franchard monastery. Alfred de Musset and George Sand visited these places in September 1833.

The Crystal Cave (Monts Saint-Germain): the vault is lined with crystals. Initially formed from calcite coming from water infiltration, these crystals were partially replaced by silica crystals. They were discovered in 1771, then the cave was forgotten. Rediscovered in 1850, it was quickly ransacked. To protect it, we filled it. In 1891, Colinet was able to find her. To deter vandals, he had it surrounded by a solid fence.

The Mare aux Evées is a vast expanse of ponds transformed by work carried out during the reign of Louis-Philippe between 1833 and 1842. 29 km of channels, channels and ditches were dug as well as the central basin of 12,000 m3, to clean up a stagnant water marsh which covered 15 ha. Today, it is a beautiful place where the bald cypress can be found. In the Mont Aiveu sector (south-east of the forest), you can see laricio pines grafted onto Scots pines. The diameters of the trees are different on either side of the graft.

In the northern part of the forest, on the territory of Fontainebleau, stand two monumental tables built in 1723: the Grand Master’s table and the King’s table. Homonym of the latter, a third table is located in the territory of Montigny-sur-Loing. Several fountains dot the forest. The Désirée fountain, then only known to the quarrymen, was built in 1837 as part of the road organization. Subsequently, Denecourt designed the Dorly fountain and the Sanguinède fountain in 1852 as well as the Isabelle fountain in 1866, the last two having been restored by Colinet, his spiritual successor, in 1894 and 1893 respectively.

Art and Culture
Sandstone landscapes with evocative shapes recalling elephants, tortoises, dogs and other animals give way to boulders, sandy deserts, plateaux, gorges, heaths and stands of deciduous or softwood trees, and from the nineteenth century onwards attracted numerous artists. This use of Fontainebleau as a subject of art and for tourism and leisure steadily developed, transforming it into a place of recreation, inspiration and relaxation.

The sandstone massifs, caves and rock shelters of the Fontainebleau forest have, since the Recent Paleolithic, been the support for works of rock art, engraved in stone. Although known to specialists since the end of the 19th century, it remains unknown to the general public. With more than 2,000 engraved shelters, the Fontainebleau forest is home to one of the largest rock groups in Europe. The vast majority of the representations are geometric and date from the Mesolithic (−11,500 to −7,000 years), which has in certain cases been confirmed by archaeological excavations. However, in addition to the Magdalenian figures, some engravings have been dated to the Neolithic, Bronze Age or Middle Ages.

Inspired by its remarkable natural heritage, landscape painters moved to Barbizon and set up their easels in the forest. Corot, Millet, Rousseau and many others succeeded one another, joined by the pioneers of photography, Le Gray, Cuvelier and Balagny, in search of a studio in the heart of nature. This is not to mention the Naturalist and Romantic writers and poets (Senancour, Sand, Musset, Flaubert, Hugo, Stevenson and others), who were the first to discover the place and loved to give voice to its elegance and greatness.

In 1861, a handful of painters from Barbizon, writers and walkers very much in tune with the fashionable theses of Romanticism succeeded in creating an Artistic Reserve of more than 1,000 hectares. The hills of Jean de Paris are part of the forest “known for its stark plateaus and rough terrain”. It was a popular theme for painters and photographers of the Barbizon School.

This was the period when the young film-making industry was beginning to abandon studio sets in favour of more natural settings, which they found on a number of occasions in the forest of Fontainebleau. Since then, the film industry has made frequent use of the forest (Cyrano de Bergerac, Brotherhood of the Wolf, Asterix and Obelix Meet Cleopatra, etc.), inspired by it just every bit as much as the writers and artists.

Since the mid-nineteenth century, many artists have frequented these picturesque villages, which the department of Seine-et-Marne has designated “Villages de caractère“.

Imperial City
A designated Ville Impériale with its history, château, squares and sumptuous Italian-style theatre, Fontainebleau is a culturally enriching place to visit. Its forest and park also make it an ideal destination for strolling, rambling and rock-climbing. Enclosed by a protecting forest, it offers a multitude of recreational activities both sporting and cultural, as it has done for centuries. During your visit, you can also learn the history of the streets of Fontainebleau, with their sandstone architecture and some 40 listed buildings. Fontainebleau also has a thriving town centre, with shops, restaurants and cafés.

Now occupying the inn frequented by the first landscape painters, who ushered in the Impressionist movement, the Barbizon Painters Museum immerses you in the joyous atmosphere of the artists who defied Romanticism and the French art academy. Corot, Millet and Rousseau were joined here by the younger generation of Monet, Bazille and Renoir. By 1875, some one-hundred artists were living in Barbizon. Continue your visit by discovering the works of Jean-François Millet and the studio where he worked from 1849 to 1875.

The brick-and-stone château was built in the seventeenth century on the foundations of a mediaeval fortress. Close by, the church of Saint-Sévère is thought to be one of the oldest in the Gâtinais area. Follow in the artists’ footsteps through the labyrinthine streets to discover the places where famous artists once lived, and the Town Hall Museum founded by Charles-Moreau-Vauthier in 1907. This is also the town where filmmaker Jean Renoir shot his first film, La Fille de l’Eau, in 1926.

Ile du Berceau has been the venue of the Django Reinhardt Festival for more than 20 years. Just a stone’s throw from there, in Rue du Bas Samois, is the house where he lived and died. The gypsy guitarist (1910-1953) is buried in the village cemetery. The towpath offers beautiful walks.

Agricultural folklore
At the outlet of the forest in the former commune of By, today attached to Thomery, the grape walls have been used for the production of Chasselas de Thomery since 1730. They were listed as historical monuments in 1993.

Outdoor activities
The visionary Claude François Denecourt, who was enchanted by the beauty of the forest, invented nature tourism: in 1842, he created the world’s first marked rambling trails, called sentiers bleus, or “blue pathways”. His work was continued by his disciple, Colinet. They created a total of 150 kilometres of walks. Viewed until then as an inhospitable environment, the forest became a popular destination for walkers thanks to the arrival of the railway and the publication of the first ramblers’ guides, written by Denecourt (1839). Nature tourism was born and developed throughout France from Fontainebleau.

With increasing urbanisation and free time and the growth of transport, city-dwellers discovered and rapidly adopted the place. Fontainebleau became a favourite place for Sunday walks and sports and recreational activities for the people of the greater Paris region. More than 1,500 kilometres of pathways, 400 of them marked, and nearly 200 climbing courses – the world-famous ‘Fontainebleau rocks’ – could be explored in the forest, which was accessible to the public. This major social role triggered massive frequentation: 9 million visitors came here in the 1970s.

Rock-climbers traced out numerous climbing courses during the early twentieth century. These attracted the pioneers of mountaineering, including internationally renowned rock-climbers (Casella, Prestat, Wehrlin, etc.), who came to train in preparation for their attempts to conquer the Himalayas.

The different sports and leisure activities that have been practised here for decades (walks, rambles, orienteering, cycling, mountain biking, rock-climbing, riding, golf, hunting) are practised side by side and with respect for the environment thanks to the agreements and codes of conduct enacted by sports federations and associations in coordination with the National Forestry Office (ONF).

Around Château de Fontainebleau
Discover the tradition of carriages with a ride in the forest, a tour of the castle park or picnic days. Inside the Grand parterre, next to the Porte Dorée at the end of the Allée de Maintenon, there is the Carriages in the Fontainebleau forest awaiting. Discover the Grand parterre and the park through a 20min-long ride with commentaries in a carriage driven by horses.

Discover the castle of Fonainebleau in a different way, the small boats of the Carps Pond is a way to enjoy a moment of relaxation as cultural as it is exotic. The pier is located in front of Fontainebleau Castle at Etang aux Carpes. Come and enjoy this idyllic setting by taking a walk on board of rowing boats, from the Etang aux Carpes you can take a distance to admire the grandeur and extent of the Château de Fontainebleau, located not far from the forest. From the Marin D’eau Douce boats you can admire the entire Château of Fontainebleau as well as the gardens and the pavilion of the pond located in the very centre of this pond.

The Jeu de Paume circle is the tennis court in Fontainebleau offers introductory courses, lessons, matches and tournaments. The hall of the Château de Fontainebleau, built in 1601 and renovated in 1732 after a fire, is one of the last historic halls in the world where this once popular sport can be practiced. The tennis club regularly organizes national or international tournaments there and allows fans of this discipline to play throughout the year.

Walking routes have existed in the forest, probably since the 16th century. They are then mainly used for hunting. The current round road is thus traced under the leadership of Henri IV. In 1725, Louis XV ordered the establishment of sixty roads in the forest, in order to facilitate travel, always for hunting. Furthermore, the forest is crisscrossed by a tight network of paths. Each route has a name, which appears on a plaque hung about three meters high on a tree. Equipped with a map like the one published by the IGN (for example the M2417OT Forêt de Fontainebleau map), the walker can easily wander in the forest without getting lost.

In addition, several GRs, marked in red and white, crisscross the forest. Among them, the GR 1 and GR 11 go around the Paris region passing through the forest; the GR 13 leaves from Fontainebleau. Specific walks are marked in blue. Since 1975, the ONF has traced the Tour du massif de Fontainebleau (TMF), 65 km marked with green and white lines. A Tour of the Massif by mountain bike (TMV) has also been planned. Today, 365 km of walks are marked.

Bike ramble
Beautiful trails in nature await visitors to the Pays de Fontainebleau for unforgettable bike rides. Cycling routes will introduce you to the natural and cultural heritage of the territory. It is a beautiful way to discover the beauty of the landscapes in Fontainebleau forest.

Outdoor horse riding
Henson horses will take you on a journey of discovery of the exceptional natural, cultural and historical heritage of the Fontainebleau forest. Stroll with horse in the forest, you can choose one of the horse-riding paths. A land of inspiration for 19th century painters, a hunting ground for the sovereigns who stayed at the sumptuous Château de Fontainebleau, this 22,000 hectare “Forêt d’Exception” invites you to travel through the diversity of its landscapes.

The Fontainebleau forest is an internationally known place for bouldering. Climbing areas are spread throughout the forest. Among the best known: Bas-Cuvier, Les Gorges d’Apremont (Barbizon), Franchard Isatis (in the Franchard gorges between Fontainebleau and Milly-la-Forêt), 95.2 (Milly-la-Forêt), Le Cul de Dog (Noisy-sur-École), Diplodocus (Le Vaudoué). Some sectors are even outside the national forest, such as the Rocher de Dame Jouanne (Larchant), the Canard massif and the I massif (Buthiers).

One of the particularities of climbing in the forest of Fontainebleau is the existence of routes. These courses of different levels are marked using arrows of different colors. A full course was originally meant to match the difficulty of a mountaineering race in the mountains. The discipline is practiced on low blocks of rock which do not require ropes to secure. To use padded mats to cushion falls, pof to increase the grip of the holds as well as manual displays from a partner to ensure and reduce the risks. It is practiced on the sandstone blocks characteristic of this forest.

Psychic healing
This healing forest let your emotion bath in the forest reduces stress, boosts energy and soothes the mind. A long personal and professional experience tours on the themes of “art in the forest”, “forest ecology” and “silvotherapy”. During visits, lived many precious moments marked by unforgettable encounters, magnificent landscapes, atmospheres of serenity. Meditation and relaxation, the forest bath is an experience that goes beyond a simple stroll, it allows you to recharge your batteries and refocus on yourself. The quietness letting the sounds of nature, the wind, the sun’s rays, the smell of the trees, the soothing green light, everything converges towards a moment of reconnection with nature.

Discover French food culture and enjoy traditional French dishes and wines. The Pays de Fontainebleau offers a wide range of restaurants to suit every taste and budget. The region is renowned for its charming restaurants with terrace. Visitors are always impressed by the enchanting and relaxing atmosphere of Fontainebleau with its elegant “French cafés” which stay open until late at night.