If you are planning to go hiking in France this summer, consider hiring a guide to help you get the most out of it. A mountain guide can help you gain a better appreciation of the landscape and make the trip all the more memorable.
It is important to know that in French a guide can either be translated as "un guide" or "un accompagnateur." Un guide specialises in Alpinism and high mountain excursions. An accompagnateur is best for visitors planning to enjoy a walk through the mountains without many risks. To avoid confusion, let's use the French terms.
An accompagnateur acts as a mediator between the mountain and hikers, helping them better appreciate the mountain. He or she doesn't have the same technical vocation as un guide, and is there to interpret the landscape. The accompagnateurs know their terrain and can point out interesting information that hikers would otherwise pass by.
Accompagnateurs organise thematic outings that go beyond a simple trek through the forest. There are treks that focus on medicinal plants found in the mountains, creating watercolors of the landscape, astronomy, and fortified sites, for example.
Organising an outing:
The Web site of the Accompagnateurs en Montagne (in French) lets users search for an accompagnateur based on their specialty or location.
If you already know your destination, however, the easiest way to hire an accompagnateur is to check with the local tourism office or the on-site "Bureau des Guides" which usually houses both "guides" and "accompagnateurs." They will be happy to help you find the right person for you and often propose group outings that guests can sign up for.
Many guides speak English. Some are even from English-speaking countries, but it's always a good idea to make sure that an English-speaking accompagnateur will be available for you.
If you can't read French, contact the tourism office of your destination for more information. You can also e-mail the Accompagnateurs en Montagne at firstname.lastname@example.org who will forward your request to the appropriate party.