French Alps: Grand Traverse

This is Europe at its most wild, a 'grand traverse' from Mont Blanc to the Côte d’Azur

Once in a Lifetime

Soaring cliffs, remote Alpine villages and luxurious mountain inns

September 11 - 22, 2022

Limited to 12 people - just 2 spots left!

12 Days, 11 Nights

Chamonix, Mont Blanc to the Côte d’Azur

Price from

$7,400

Per person, based on double occupancy. Outside+ members receive an exclusive $200 savings, details here

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+1 (503) 907-9889

You’re standing where ibexes roam free and eagles soar, breathing in the crisp mountain air. Gazing out over dazzling jagged peak as you hike past striking blue lakes, through wildflower-dotted meadows, and around medieval stone villages, you realize just how lucky you are. This is Europe at its wildest and most unexplored; and step by step, up, down, and around, peak by peak, you’re one of the very few to experience a true ‘grand traverse’ of the French Alps all the way to the sun-kissed beaches of the Côte d’Azur.

Forget about cathedrals and museums—this is a whole new side of France. Starting at the foot of Mont Blanc, we’ll bypass the traditional Route des Grandes Alpes and blaze our own trail as we hike, village by village, through the world’s prettiest mountaintops. This is the French Alps adventure you’ve been dreaming of, on our inaugural departure alongside Outside editor Jeremy Rellosa (who may, or may not, be secretly coming along just for the food!).

If incredible trekking with all the finest French touches is what you seek, this 12-person adventure is for you. Hike five to seven hours a day through jaw-dropping landscapes, sleep in mountain lodges and village inns each night, and eat very well—this is France, after all. Join us in the French Alps for a journey like no other.

French Alps Highlights

How We Travel

This is a fully supported hike led by experienced local guides. Our nights are spent at mountain lodges and inns. We carry day packs, while the rest of our gear is transferred between accommodations. We’ll have gourmet picnic lunches, with breakfast and dinner at village restaurants, crowning our adventure with a plunge into the Mediterranean sea.

Activity Level: Moderate

This trek is accessible for most age levels who maintain good physical fitness, have previous hiking experience, and are prepared for the demands of hiking in remote areas. We'll cover 100 miles in total, each day hiking 5 to 7 hours with daily elevation gains between 1,500 and 4,000 feet. We stick mostly to well-maintained paths, but sometimes go off trail.

Exclusive Outside Access

We’ll hike through unspoiled valleys and explore protected lands throughout the French Alps with expert local guides and, on our inaugural departure, Outside editor Jeremy Rellosa, whose adventures have taken him to the mountains of Nepal to the fjords of Norway. He's excited to experience the beauty of the French Alps with the Outside community.

Your Alps Adventure

“Mont Blanc is the monarch of mountains.” —Lord Byron

“The towering statues of snow-clad Alps, gazing down from the distance, awakened in you feelings of the sublime and holy.” ―Thomas Mann

Join Outside magazine editors and like-minded adventurers with a passion for the outdoors. True wilderness. Epic exploration. Cultural immersion. Join us on the journeys of a lifetime.

Day by Day

Day 1

Bienvenue à la grande traversée! Starting in Chamonix, at the base of Mont Blanc, we’ll grab our day packs and make our way to Megève, where we start the ascent over the grassy slopes of Mont de Vores. From the summit, we’ll make a long traverse in the shadow of the aptly named Aiguille Croche, or Eighth Needle, to reach Col de Véry, where we’re treated to magnificent panoramic vistas of the Mont Blanc range.

In the afternoon, we’ll venture down to the scenic mountain town of Hauteluce, with its Baroque chapel and wooden chalets, then drive to Beaufort, the birthplace of the eponymous raw-milk cheese (a delicacy since Roman times). We’ll celebrate our first day together with a well-earned evening feast.

Day 1: 10 miles, 7 hours, 2,977′ gain

Day 2 & 3

Be greeted by the cerulean blue waters of Lac de Roselend as we make our way to the trailhead, which overlooks a winding path along the ridge of Le Mont des Acrays toward the base of the “Giant’s Tooth” peak of the Pierra Menta. At the Col du Couvercle, take in sweeping views of the southern edge of the Mont Blanc range and the summits of the Vanoise—another stunning view on a trip that’s full of them! Next we descend into the Tarentaise Valley, the former capital of the pre-Roman Centrones tribe, past the rushing Isère River before driving to Landry village to spend the night in comfort.

The following day we enter Vanoise National Park. Be on the lookout for ibexes and marmots wandering among the park’s dramatic jagged peaks, and as we start our ascent to Col de Plan Sery, stop to admire the crimson-veined marble, fossils preserved in limestone, and 1,000-plus different types of flora. Up here, the meadows are carpeted with edelweiss flowers and the feeling is pure Alpine majesty. At the foot of the Bellecote summit, we’ll hike down to the valley of Champagny, then transfer to the village of Pralognan for the night.

Day 2: 7.5 miles, 6.5 hours, 2,925′ gain/loss
Day 3: 10.5 miles, 8 hours, 3,850′ gain/loss

Day 4

We’ll drive to nearby Le Post de la Pêche to start our hike over smooth, rolling hills to the Alpine farming area of Le Ritord. Here, local artisans continue to honor centuries-old cheese-making traditions, and we’ll stop in for a taste.

Venturing off the main trail, we head to Col d’Aussois, the highest we’ll cross on our entire traverse. The pass is wedged between the ridge of the Pointe de l’Echelle (11,227 ft) and the southern tips of the Domes de la Vanoise and the Dent Parrachée (12,129 ft). After crossing the col, we’ll begin our descent through fields of grazing ibex to the lake of Le Plan d’Amont, its cool turquoise waters teeming with rainbow trout. For the evening we transfer to Aussois, famous for its “land-art trail” of outdoor sculptures by local artists.

Day 4: 10.6 miles, 8.5 hours, 3,933′ gain/loss

Day 5 & 6

Begin the day with a drive to Modane, across the Maurienne Valley, on our way to the small ski resort of Valfréjus. Here we’ll begin an easy and scenic ascent toward the open col of Vallée Etroite. Reaching our vantage point in this narrow valley at the foot of Mount Thabor, a borderland area that retains a strong Italian flavor, enjoy beautiful views of the summits of the Vanoise region. On our way down, we’ll edge along wild streams and through alpine meadows to the huts of the Vallée Etroite. We’ll then continue over Col des Thures and down to the luminous Vallée de la Clarée, and rest our heads in Briançon for the night.

The next morning we’re off to Villard St Pancrace by car, then into Queyras National Park, known for its dramatic rock formations and beautiful meadows. Our hike begins in the hamlet of Chalets des Ayes, and continues up a forested stream to a summer farming region just beneath Col des Ayes. In the afternoon, we make our way up to the lovely hamlet of Clapeyto and enjoy a stunning view of the valley below. We’ll then continue down to the village of Brunissard and transfer to St Véran for the evening.

Day 5: 13.5 miles, 7.5 hours, 3,669′ gain/loss
Day 6: 8 miles, 6.5 hours, 3,336′ gain/loss

Day 7

Today we start our hike at the Chapelle de Clausis and continue to La Blanche. With a short climb to Col Blanchet, we briefly step foot in Italy, in an area that has been the conduit for trans-Alpine invasions since the Roman times. Through the vast Col de Longet, we make our way back into France, and descend slowly and gently through Alpine meadows and along the Ubaye river valley to Maljesset before spending the night in Barcelonnette.

Day 7: 14 miles, 8.5 hours, 2,491′ gain/loss

Day 8 & 9

Crossing Col de la Bonette, the highest driving pass in Europe, we’ll head to Saint-Martin-Vésubie, a once-fortified medieval mountain village. Today, we’ll give our feet a break and the day is yours to enjoy, French Alps style. Stroll the village’s meandering lanes, pop into local shops, or linger at an outdoor cafe over a café crème or glass (or two, or three) of local wine.

Get a good night’s rest because the next day, it’s back on the trail. We’ll drive to the end of the Boreon Valley to start our trek through Mercantour National Park, 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 Trecolpas Lake, then continue to the Pas de Ladres, our pass for today. Our descent will take us to the Madone de Fenestre, a 14th-century high altar made of Lebanese cedar nestled at the end of the valley.

Day 9: 7 miles, 6 hours, 1,596′ gain/loss

Day 10 & 11

This morning, we depart early for Camp d’Argent. As we treck the GR5 trail along the ridge between the Roya and Bavera valleys, we’re 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, known for its baroque church, newly renovated town square, and 13th-century toll bridge, one of the last of its kind in the world.

Our final trek begins the following day. Hiking to the Grand Mont, we’ll savor one last panoramic view of the mountains before marching triumphantly down to the Mediterranean village of Castellar, its citrus- and sunshine-colored houses perched on the side of a steep slope overlooking the sea.

A short transfer takes us to our hotel in Menton, a picturesque village on the French Riviera where we’ll mark the end our journey by dipping our toes into the azure waters of the Mediterranean. The perfect spot for us to celebrate the end of our grand traverse.

Day 10: 11.5 miles, 7 hours, 1,590′ gain/loss
Day 11: 7.5 miles, 6.5 hours, 2,428′ gain/loss

Day 12

After breakfast, we’ll pack up our gear, say farewell to our new Outside community friends, and say au revoir to France knowing we’ve accomplished something truly special.

Where We Sleep

From Alpine lodges to Mediterranean resorts, we strike the perfect balance between luxury and intimacy.

Hôtel Le Christiania

Beaufort

This classic Beaufort hotel is the perfect place to start our journey, with comfortable chalet-style rooms, al fresco breakfasts, and a terrace overlooking the mountain village and gardens.

Hôtel l'Alpin

Landry

Located in the heart of Landry village, sleep in cozy, elegant rooms and enjoy views of the valley below. The restaurant is devoted to regional specialities, from plates of cured meats to Savoie wines and local beers.

Hôtel l'Edelweiss

Pralognan

This modern, chic mountain chalet in Pralognan is in the heart of the village, with wonderful views. We love the spacious rooms and full-feature spa (fitness room, massage, sauna, Jacuzzi) and terrace bar.

Hôtel du Soleil

Aussois

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.

Hôtel de la Chaussee

Briançon

Located in the center of Briançon since 892, we’ll be welcomed by the fifth-generation Bonnaffoux family. Their mountain home lies between tradition and modernity, all with a lovely chalet spirit. Relax and take in the sights—Briançon's fortifications are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Hôtel les Chalets du Villard

St Véran

Relax fireside at one of St Véran's most welcoming hotels. It's the views from the panoramic terrace and lounge that you'll treasure, along with the spa and wood-fired grill at the hotel restaurant.

Hôtel Azteca

Barcelonnette

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 mellow vibe are pure Alps.

Hôtel La Bonne Auberge

St Martin de Vésubie

This family hotel and restaurant is a rustic stone lodge 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.

Hôtel Riva Art & Spa

Menton

Facing the beaches and clear waters of the Mediterranean—the moment you enter this breezy, light-filled hotel you know you couldn’t possibly be anywhere but the Côte d’Azur. 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.

I'll always remember having lunches on the trail, overlooking the mountains.
Chris S.
I'll never forget walking on the top of a mountain with cowbells all around and Mt Blanc in the distance.
Ruth B.
The guides were top notch. Professional, informative, personable and extremely engaging.
Joe B.

Questions?

We have answers! Read our FAQs below, or call/text +1 (503) 907-9889 with any questions you have about traveling. We're here 8am-5pm weekdays, Pacific. For questions about Outside+ accounts please visit Account Assistance.

  1. What does the price include?

    Eleven nights at unique mountain lodges and village inns; private minibus for luggage transfers between all accommodations; certified trekking guides to accompany all hiking and excursions; departure airport transfer; entrance fees; all breakfasts, lunches and most dinners; local beverages with meals; gratuities for local staff.

  2. What does the price not include?

    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 trip leader.

  3. How difficult is this?

    This is considered a moderate hiking adventure. We will cover approximately 100 miles in total. We will carry a day pack each day, with our water and daily supplies, while the rest of our luggage is transferred by vehicle between hotels and lodges. We sleep in hotels and lodges every night. We’ll follow well-maintained paths but sometimes go off-trail, averaging 5 to 7 hours of walking per day. We strongly recommend that participants have a good level of fitness and are well prepared. While this trek is ideal for all skill levels, previous multi-day hiking experience is encouraged.

  4. What are the arrival and departure details?

    We recommend arriving in Chamonix, France, before Sunday, September 11, 2022, giving you plenty of time to acclimate, relax and refresh before the adventure begins. There are several options for arrival airports including the Geneva Airport (GVA) and the Chambery Airport (CMF), and transferring via train or airport shuttle to Chamonix. This adventure ends on  Thursday, September 22, 2022. On our last day, Modern Adventure will organize a complimentary group transfer to the Nice Côte d'Azur Airport (NCE) in Nice, France. Your flight from NCE airport should depart no sooner than 1pm.

  5. What are the accommodations like?

    We will be sleeping and dining at elegant mountain hotels and lodges each night. There is no overnight camping on this adventure.

  6. Who is going on this adventure?

    This adventure is recommended for travelers aged 18 and above who are in good health and have previous experience with multi-day backpacking. You will be expected to load and unload your own gear, carry a portion of the group gear, and manage your own physical comfort and well-being. This adventure will be limited to no more than 12 fellow adventurers plus 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. Also traveling on our inaugural departure is Outside editor Jeremy Rellosa. Please note that Outside Interactive, Inc. is not responsible for the organization or operation of this experience, which is governed by Modern Adventure's Terms of Service (see link below).

  7. What if I am a solo traveler?

    Prices are based on double occupancy. If you are a solo traveler and want to have your own accommodations, a $1,500 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.

  8. How will we travel between destinations?

    We'll spend most of our days hiking in the French Alps. We'll use a private passenger van or minibus for ground transportation from our mountain inns to/from the day's trailhead. We'll carry day packs when we hike, while our luggage will be transferred by vehicle between our accommodations.

  9. What travel documents are needed?

    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.

  10. What is the cancellation policy?

    You may cancel on or before May 14, 2022 and receive a full refund minus a $500 per-person service fee. If you cancel on or after May 15, 2022 there is a 50% cancellation fee. On or after July 13, 2022 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). For best coverage, always insure the full trip cost within two weeks of your initial trip deposit and note that most 'Cancel For Any Reason' policies must be purchased on the date of your initial deposit.

  11. Do I need Travel Insurance?

    We highly recommend purchasing travel insurance. Travel insurance allows you to seek reimbursement for your trip costs if your trip plans change for unforeseeable reasons, or if you need to get medical help, emergency transport, and for theft, loss or damage of items while traveling. For best coverage, always insure the full trip cost within two weeks of your initial trip deposit and note that most 'Cancel For Any Reason' policies must be purchased on the date of your initial deposit. Since this adventure takes place in some remote locations, it can be difficult and expensive to plan medical evacuations. It is each guest’s responsibility to be covered by emergency medical, evacuation and repatriation insurance, or to be prepared to cover the cost yourself, for expenses related to an emergency medical evacuation and repatriation.