Partly built during WWI to supply French frontline troops, the Route des Crêtes (Route of the Crests) takes you to the Vosges’ highest ballons (bald, rounded mountain peaks) and to several WWI sites. Mountaintop lookouts afford spectacular views of the Alsace plain, the Black Forest across the Rhine in Germany and – on clear days – the Alps and Mont Blanc.
From Col de la Schlucht, home to a small ski station, trails head off in various directions; walking north along the GR5 brings you to three pristine lakes: Lac Vert, Lac Noir and Lac Blanc (Green, Black and White Lakes).
At the dramatic, wind-buffeted summit of 1424m Grand Ballon, the highest point in the Vosges, a short trail takes you to an aircraft-radar ball and a weather station.
Roads swing up to several viewpoints, but for a truer sense of this mountainous, forest-cloaked corner of the Vosges, strike out on foot or with a mountain bike. Steep inclines and hairpin bends make the terrain challenging and exhilarating for cyclists.