Sunday 30 March 2014

Paris Bois de Vincennes Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 10.2 km (6.3 miles), terrain: flat

Paris Running Routes:
Best Paris Running Routes: Overview
Seine island of St. Louis, St. Paul, botanical garden  
Left bank and Luxembourg Gardens 
Paris' green heart: Bois de Boulogne   

Canal St. Martin  
Rock formations of Parc Chaumont  
Seine loop with Champs Elysees and Eiffel Tower  

Seine riverside run 
Bois de Vincennes 
Versailles Palace Gardens 
La Défense/Nanterre 
Saint Germain 
For more running routes, see Route List

The Bois de Vincennes is for eastern Paris what the Bois de Boulogne is for the west side: a big woodsy park full of athletic fields, a horse-race track, lakes, two botanical gardens, a zoo, a horticultural school, a sports institute and all the stuff that urban residents need to get a healthy dose of some green, fairly natural environment. There is even an old fort/castle there (the chateau), and some small military bases next to the castle. For obvious reasons, it is one of Paris' most popular running areas.

So if you're staying in eastern Paris (near Nation), or you just want to try something different, head on out to Vincennes! This route loops through the main sights in the eastern two-thirds of the Bois.
Eastern wall of the Chateau de Vincennes
This run will start at the Vincennes Metro station, the eastern terminus of the number 1 (yellow) Metro line, so it's easy to get to. You will be standing there at the northeastern corner of the Chateau de Vincennes, at the bus station. The nearby neighborhood is a pleasant Parisian suburb, quiet and upscale.

So turn south and start running along the Cours des Maréchaux, with the chateau on your right side. I like running close to the impressive, stone barrier of the castle walls. Most of the chateau was built 600 years ago, and the tallest tower is the highest fortified tower in all of Europe.
Parc Floral entrance: head straight onto Avenue des Minimes!
Along the left side of this tree-lined street is Fort de Vincennes, a small French military base.

This short street ends after 400 meters, at the south end of the chateau. There is a parking lot and the main entrance into the Parc Floral, a botanical garden that charges for admission. Turn left here on the divided little street heading east, the Avenue des Minimes, between the fort and Parc Floral.
Avenue des Minimes
At the eastern end of the fort, keep going on the smaller path straight into the woods, as the Avenue des Minimes curves off through the woods to the right. The trail ends by running into the north end of a lake, the Lac des Minimes, at the 2-km mark. If you miss the turnoff, no big deal, because the Ave. des Minimes runs into the same lake, a bit further south.

Now, at lakeside, turn right and run along the western edge of the lake, watching the people in their rented paddle-boats and sitting around at the lakeside café.
Along the narrow part of Lac des Minimes
When you get to the southeast corner of the lake, at the 3-km mark, where the water gets very narrow, you come to a little stream. Turn right and follow the stream-side trail as it turns south.

It will soon come close to a road along the park's eastern edge, the Avenue de Belle Gabrielle. Cross Avenue Tremblay at the 4-km mark, using the zebra stripes next to the big traffic circle (roundabout).
Avenue de Belle Gabrielle
Now run westwards for a short way along a dirt path next to Route de la Ferme (farm road) until the pedestrian trail turns off to the left, between the fenced-off horticultural school and the A4 Autoroute. This is at the first turnoff to the left: look for the paved trail heading straight off between the Route de la Ferme and the turnoff, which is an exit ramp for the freeway.

This trail is called the Avenue de l'Ecole de Joinville.
Joinville trail
After crossing Route de la Pyramide, you will run past the Arboretum, which is the second botanical garden, on your right side.

You'll then pass the police school, and -- after the 5.5-km mark -- run past the second small lake, the Lac de Gravelle.
Lac de Gravelle
The horse-race track is just north of the lake. Now continue westwards, following the Route de la Tourelle, which soon turns into a narrow paved trail for the next 1-km, through more woods. More interesting is to follow the dirt path along the small stream to the right of the Route de la Tourelle.
Along Route de la Tourelle
At the spot where the stream crosses the street towards the left side, at about the 7-km mark, continue running northwards along the trail as it enters an open space, a lawn cutting through the woods towards the chateau to the north, past some picnic tables and fenced-off bushes. Don't worry: if you miss this turnoff, the road comes to Avenue du Polygone later, and you'll connect back into the route again.

NOTE: You could continue running westwards along the stream, bringing you to the park's biggest lake, Lac Daumesnil, lined by old exhibition buildings, with the zoo to the north. If you round the lake, then follow Route des Batteries north, you'll add a few kilometers to this route.

At 7.5 kilometers, you'll come to a place where you need to go around a circle full of bushes, where straight trails cross geometrically from many directions. Keep heading north for another kilometer towards the chateau towers that you can see far ahead. There are tree-lined trails to each side of the lawn on this section, called the Allée Royale. This is definitely the most popular running spot in the park.
Along Avenue Royale
At the north end of the Allée Royal, where lawn ends, take the cross-trail to the left, running westwards for 750 meters along the south end of another little military base, the Quartier Carnot.

At the first paved street, the Avenue du Polygone, turn right to run north along the west side of the chateau, as the street name changes to Avenue Carnot.
The castle tower
When you get to the north end of the chateau, at the Avenue de Paris, turn right to run the last 500 meters along its north wall, back to the starting point. How was that for a totally different experience of Paris?

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