Explore Europe’s premier hiking trails with a group of passionate photographers. Limited to just 12 people to maximize our access!
The ultimate inn-to-inn Alps trek for passionate outdoor photographers
One departure only—limited to 12 people to maximize our access
Aussois, Briançon, St Véran, Barcelonnette, Menton
Drink it in: this is the Alps, and it’s a photographer’s dream come true. The flowing valley below holds wonder and intrigue. You’re standing where ibexes roam free, eagles soar, and Olympians have tested their meddle. Over dazzling jagged peaks, past shockingly blue lakes, through wildflower-pocked meadows and medieval stone villages. Every day—every hour—brings new adventures to capture.
Experience the Alps and enhance your photography techniques alongside Louisa Albanese, senior photo editor and staff photographer at Backpacker magazine. Each day in the field we’ll scout out the perfect spot for that perfect shot while working on our concepting and shooting techniques. Nightly review sessions ensure that shooters of all levels will improve their photography fundamentals. Step by step, we’ll make our way up, down, and around, peak by peak, village by village, on an epic Alps journey all the way to the sun-kissed beaches of the Côte d’Azur.
If you’re ready to explore Europe’s premier hiking trails with a group of passionate photographers, this trip is for you. Six to eight hours of hiking per day, through Technicolor landscapes, every inch of it mesmerizing, eating well and sleeping in elegant hotels and mountain inns, shooting sweeping mountain peaks and remote Alpine valleys. Join us in the French Alps on a photography adventure like no other.
Photographers with a passion for the outdoors! Our focus is on creating the best images we can, concepting out ideas and how to best execute them, with group review sessions each night. We hike through alpine valleys, cross mountain passes, spend the night in medieval mountain villages, and finish with a swim in the Mediterranean Sea. It doesn’t get better than this.
This is a fully supported hike led by experienced local guides. We carry lightweight day packs, while the rest of our gear is transferred daily between our hotels. We’ll have gourmet picnic lunches, with breakfast and dinner at village restaurants. Each day we walk 6 to 8 hours with daily elevation gains between 1,500 and 4,000 feet. We stick mostly to established trails, at times making use of off-piste routes.
We travel with Lousia Albanese, senior photography editor at Backpacker magazine and curator of its popular Instagram feed. She'll work on our concepting and shooting techniques, wildlife and nature set-ups, and social media tips and best practices. Nightly group review sessions ensure that shooters of all levels will improve their outdoor photography fundamentals.
“Wildlife, rugged landscapes, unspoilt beauty. These are the mountains' gifts to a photographer.” —Henri Cartier-Bresson
“The towering statues of snow-clad Alps, gazing down from the distance, awakened in you feelings of the sublime and holy.” ―Thomas Mann
True wilderness. Epic exploration. Deep backcountry. Cultural immersion. We’ve scoured the earth for hidden gems and we invite you to join us on one of these exclusive trips. Let’s explore the trails less traveled, together.
Each day in the field we'll scout out the perfect spot for that perfect shot. Step by step, we’ll make our way up, down, and around, peak by peak, village by village, on an epic Alps journey all the way to the beaches of the Côte d’Azur.
Mountain peaks and waterfalls, streams and alpine lakes, plus some of Europe’s most picturesque valleys. Get excited for an unforgettable nine days traversing the mighty French Alps all the way down to glorious Mediterranean beaches. We’ll experience the Alps like few others have—and relish every moment—as we focus on our outdoor and adventure photography techniques.
We kick off our expedition in the mountain village of Aussois. We’ll meet up in the afternoon, set our photography intentions for the days ahead, review our route and organize our gear. Later in the evening we’ll reconvene for an epic welcome dinner and celebration.
From the small ski resort of Valfréjus, we’ll grab our day packs and begin an easy and scenic ascent toward the open col (a mountain ridge between two peaks) of Vallée Etroite. From our vantage point in this narrow valley at the foot of Mont Thabor, a borderland area that retains a strong Italian flavor, there are sweeping views of the summits of the Massif de la Vanoise—the third-highest mountain range in France—with unforgettable views that we’ll spend time capturing in the late-morning light.
Afternoon a picnic lunch, our descent takes us along wild streams and through alpine meadows to the huts of the Vallée Etroite. From here we’ll continue over Col des Thures and down to luminous Vallée de la Clarée, a visual wonderland of mountain lakes and green pastures under famously sunny skies, framed by the Alps’ most photogenic dolomite peaks. In the late afternoon we’ll transfer to Briançon, one of the highest mountain villages in France at 4,350 feet, where we spend the night.
Day 2: 13.5 miles, 7.5 hours, 3,669′ gain, 4,125′ loss
Photography Highlight: Vanoise summits, Vallée de la Clarée
After breakfast we transfer to the village of Villard St Pancrace, then hike into Queyras National Park. Famous for its dramatic rock formations and beautiful meadows, we’ll marvel at the towering spires cutting above the trees and keep our cameras at hand to capture the goat-like chamois we may encounter. From the hamlet of Chalets des Ayes our trail winds through forests and gorges and past mountain lakes, to a summer farming region just beneath the Col des Ayes.
In the afternoon, we make our way up to the exquisite hamlet of Clapeyto and enjoy a breathtaking view of the valley below. We’ll continue down to the village of Brunissard, then transfer to St Véran for the evening.
Day 3: 8 miles, 6.5 hours, 3,336′ gain, 2,250′ loss
Photography Highlight: Col des Ayes, descent to Brunissard
Set your alarm! Today we’re hitting the trail at 4:30am so we can experience and photograph an Alps sunrise. We start at Chapelle de Clausis, the photogenic chapel watching over the valleys of Aigueblanche, then hike out to Col Blanchet as the dark purples and blues blues of early morning are overcome by dawn’s pinks and reds, the sun rising above the mountains in a burst of brilliant color. It’s a sunrise like no other.
After breakfast on the trail, we’ll briefly set foot in Italy—since Roman times, this area has been the conduit for trans-Alpine invasions—before crossing back to France via the wide and scenic Col Longet. The descent from here is long and gentle, passing through Alpine meadows and along the Ubaye river valley to Maljesset. We’ll spend tonight in Barcelonnette, with dinner on our own and time to enjoy this scenic mountain village.
Day 4: 14 miles, 8.5 hours, 2,491′ gain, 3,680′ loss
Photography Highlight: Sunrise hike, Ubaye river valley
Enjoy a rest day, French Alps style! We’ll drive to St Martin de Vésubie—crossing the Col de la Bonette, the highest driving pass in Europe. The afternoon is for flaneuring our way around this once-fortified medieval mountain village, sipping a grand crème at an outdoor cafe and hopping over the gargouille (small mountain stream) that runs through the center of town. The nearby wolf education center, devoted to the wolves that returned to the region in the 1990s, is a worthy visit. You’ll have the option of making the scenic drive to watch and photograph wolves reintroduced into the upper valley, but prevented from causing havoc on lower-valley farms by barrier with viewing platforms.
Photography Highlight: Wolves in natural habitat
We’re back on the trail today. We’ll drive to the end of the Boreon Valley to start our trek through Mercantour National Park. Get ready to enter the home of ermine, chamois, ibex, and eagles. Starting from the stone barns at Vacherie du Boreon, we’ll pass through groves of larch trees toward shimmering Trécolpas lake, then continue to Pas de Ladres, our pass for today and another opportunity to capture sweeping mountain views that extend out to Corsica on a clear day. Our descent takes us to La Madone de Fenestre, a 14th-century high altar made of Lebanese cedar nestled at the end of the valley. Peaceful.
Day 6: 7 miles, 6 hours, 2,624′ gain, 1,771′ loss
Photography Highlight: Trécolpas lake, Pas de Ladres
We depart early for Camp d’Argent today. As we follow the GR5 trail along the ridge between the Roya and Bavera valleys, we’re be greeted by the heady fragrances of the world-famous herbes de Provence—rosemary, sage, oregano, marjoram and savory—which grow abundantly along our route. Next, we’ll approach the medieval village of Sospel, famous for its baroque church, newly renovated town square, and 13th-century toll bridge, one of the last of its kind in the world. We’ll have time to scout the village and set-up for a late-afternoon capture of Sospel’s cobbled streets and bridges, before transferring to our hotel in Menton.
Day 7: 11.5 miles, 7 hours, 1,596′ gain, 4,900′ loss
Photography Highlight: Roya and Bavera valleys, medieval Sospel
It’s our final day of trekking, and of course we won’t leave without one last epic hike. Our circuit of Le Grand Mont starts from Mediterranean village of Castellar then loops up through alpine lakes and one last panoramic view of the mountains, the perfect setting for a picnic lunch and some group shots. Then we’ll march triumphantly down to Castellar, its citrus- and sunshine-colored houses perched on the side of a steep slope overlooking the sea.
A short transfer takes us back to our hotel in Menton, where we’ll mark the end our journey by dipping our toes into the azure waters of the Mediterranean and capturing sunset from the seafront. Only a few miles from the Italian border, Menton is the warmest and most dolce vita of the Côte d’Azur resorts. And the perfect spot for us to convene for a farewell dinner overlooking the Mediterranean, to celebrate the end of our Alps adventure.
Day 8: 7.5 miles, 6.5 hours, 2,428′ gain, 4,600′ loss
Photography Highlight: Le Grand Mont, sunset in Menton
It’s time to say goodbye to France (actually, make that au revoir) knowing we’ve accomplished something special—a traverse of the French Alps from the heights of Mont Thabor all the way to the Côte d’Azur, with a treasure trove of images capturing glorious vistas and the natural beauty of the Alps. After a last breakfast we’ll pack up our gear, say farewell to our new friends, and head for the airport.
From Alpine lodges to Mediterranean resorts, we strike the perfect balance between luxury and intimacy.
Our hotel in Aussois has rooms with unforgettable views—not to mention a hot tub and solarium that overlook the mountains, too. We'll dine on the panoramic outdoor terrace from a menu that takes 'local and seasonal' to new heights: everything served hails from within a 10-mile radius.
Located in the center of Briançon since 1892, we’ll be welcomed by the fifth-generation Bonnaffoux family. Their mountain home lies between tradition and modernity all with the chalet spirit. Relax and take in the sights— Briançon's fortifications are recognized as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.
Relax fireside at one of St Véran's most-prized hotels. It's the views from the panoramic terrace and lounge that you'll treasure. A wood-fired grill at the hotel restaurant cooks up some of the region’s finest game dishes.
Artsy and hip, this design-forward hotel in Barcelonnette features a rotating exhibit of multimedia works by young international artists. The quirky library and bar wouldn’t feel out of place in New York or Berlin—but the views and mountain vibe are pure Alps.
This family hotel and restaurant resides in the beautiful village of St Martin de Vésubie. The rustic stone lodge has passed from father to son since 1945. With its individually decorated rooms and shaded terrace with views of the Mercantour National Park, it’s a perfect place to relax at the end of the day.
The moment you enter this light-filled hotel you know you couldn’t possibly be anywhere but the Côte d'Azur. It's located on Menton's aptly named Promenade du Soleil with seafront views. Enjoy a pastis on your balcony, take a dip in the rooftop pool, book at massage at the spa—and simply drink in the sun and sea at every turn.
That’s OK, we have answers. Read our FAQs below or call +1 (503) 676-6795 to ask us any questions you have about traveling with Backpacker. We're here 8am-5pm weekdays, 9am-1pm Saturday PST.
Eight nights at unique mountain village accommodations; private minibus for luggage transfers between all hotels; certified trekking guides to accompany all day trips and excursions; group photography work sessions; departure airport transfer; entrance fees; all breakfasts, lunches and most dinners; local beverages with meals.
Roundtrip airfare to/from France; travel insurance; transportation to the trip’s meeting point; activities not included in the trip itinerary; lodge incidentals including room service, laundry, etc; personal gear; gratuity for tour leader.
This is considered a moderately difficult hiking adventure. You will be carrying a day pack each day, with your own water and daily supplies including your camera gear, while the rest of your luggage is transferred by vehicle between our hotels and lodges. We’ll follow well-maintained paths but sometimes go off-trail, and sleep in hotels and lodges every night. Each day we'll hike for 6 to 8 hours with significant elevation gains and losses (up to 900 feet of gain per hour). We strongly recommend that participants have a good level of fitness, and are prepared to maintain a pace of 1.5 to 2.5 miles per hour carrying a day pack over uneven mountainous terrain.
This trip is open to all levels of photographers, whether you're shooting for social media on a smart phone or carrying the latest high-resolution full frame DSLR camera. While there are no gear requirements, some items to consider include: lenses, filters, spare batteries and charger, memory cards and storage case, travel tripod, wireless remote/cable release, and a lightweight laptop or tablet.
This trip is intended for photographers of all levels who want to experience hiking inn-to-inn through the Alps with a group of passionate, like-minded travelers and photography enthusiasts. We will meet each night as a group to discuss and review the images we capture each day, to concept out shooting ideas and set-ups and how to best execute them. Each day we make time to shoot specific aspects of the French Alps experience: mountains and valleys, sunrise and sunset, wildlife and nature, using a variety of lenses, capturing movement, creating depth, and sharing tips for composing the best images we can. While this is not a one-on-one photography workshop, you can expect plenty of feedback from Louisa and the group.
Yes, of course. This trip is not intended exclusively for photographers. It is a fully catered hiking experience in the French Alps designed with photographers in mind, but open to anybody who loves hiking and the outdoors. You will not feel out of place if you are accompanying a partner or friend who is passionate about photography.
There are several options for arrival airports including the Geneva Airport (GVA) in Switzerland, and Turin Airport (TRN) in Italy. In both cases you'll need to transfer by bus or train to our starting point in Aussois, France. On our last day together, in Menton on the French Riviera, Modern Adventure will organize a complimentary group transfer to the Nice Côte d'Azur Airport (NCE) in Nice, France. Your flight from NCE should depart at 1pm or later.
We will be sleeping and dining at elegant mountain hotels and lodges each night. There is no overnight camping on this photography adventure.
This adventure is recommended for travelers aged 18 and above who are in good health and have some experience with hiking. You will be expected to load and unload your own backpacks and manage your own physical comfort and well-being. This adventure will be limited to no more than 12 fellow adventurers and your Modern Adventure team. We will be joined for this adventure by expert expedition guides. Each guide is highly qualified in all necessary skills to safely travel through the French Alps. They will be with us for the entirety of the adventure helping us carry group supplies and helping us see the true Alps experience.
Prices are based on double occupancy. Ii you would like to be paired up with a roommate of the same gender to share lodge accommodations with, choose ‘Single - Willing to Share’ at checkout. If you are a solo traveler and want to have your own accommodations, a $1,000 supplement will apply at checkout – these spots are very limited due to the type of accommodations on our adventure and are available on a first-come, first-serve basis.
US citizens do not require a visa to visit France, however are required to show a valid US passport. It is recommended that your passport is valid for six months after your travels are over. For citizens of other countries, please check with the French Embassy or Consulate for information and requirements.
You may cancel on or before April 25, 2021 and receive a full refund minus a $500 per-person service fee. If you cancel on or after April 26, 2021 there is a 50% cancellation fee. On or after June 24, 2021 there is a 100% cancellation fee. We highly recommend purchasing travel insurance as we are not able to make exceptions to this policy in cases family/medical emergency or cases of the trip being canceled (see our Terms and Conditions for full details).