Determined to take advantage of this beautiful weather and do some hiking on Sunday, but preferring not to rent a car or travel too far, some friends and I headed for the Parc naturel régional de la Haute Vallée de Chevreuse (oof, that’s a mouthful).

It’s only about 50 minutes and under €10 round-trip from Châtelet on the RER B (commuter rail) past Antony (the stop for Orly airport) to Saint-Rémy-lès-Chevreuse.  (You can look up the exact train times for your date of travel on the RATP website.)

Just across from the train station in Saint-Rémy-lès-Chevreuse is a tourist office open seven days a week.  I would be phrasing it kindly to say that the person on duty this past Sunday morning will not be making my customer service awards list (not for rudeness but because he apparently had never visited the park and was unable to offer a single useful suggestion).  But we were able to purchase a 90% useless map for €1.25.  The other 10% was enough to help us figure out when we were really lost as opposed to just lost.

Despite rather poor trail markings, the park is well worth a visit.  Numerous branches of the park wind like sweeping tentacles, engulfing the various towns of the valley, allowing for numerous hiking options that integrate forests and fields as well as small towns and châteaux.  We especially enjoyed a visit to the town of Chevreuse with its delightful canal and its Château de la Madeleine atop the forested hill overlooking the town.  Magny-les-Hameaux is a smaller village with beautiful stone houses and splendid rose gardens.

Be sure to visit the official website of the park when planning your trip.  My friends and I undoubtedly plan to return very soon for more exploring—perhaps next time we’ll head south from Saint-Rémy-lès-Chevreuse through the forest towards Château de Breteuil.  If you expect to get lost and time your trip accordingly, I am certain you’ll enjoy this easy escape from the city.