In the mood for a rural escape? Make a beeline for the Parc Naturel Régional du Pilat, which spills across 650 sq km between Lyon and St-Étienne. A haven for ramblers and ecotourists, it's peppered with stuck-in-time villages and crisscrossed with walking trails; check http://pilat-rando.fr for trail maps and descriptions. Bring your camera; it offers breathtaking panoramas of the Rhône Valley from its highest peaks, Crêt de l'Œillon (1370m) and Crêt de la Perdrix (1432m).
A handy access point from St-Étienne is the village of Le Bessat (reachable via Bus TIL 102), where you can start several scenic walks.