This hiking trip samples some of the best that the French and Italian Alps have to offer. We begin our trip in the French resort town of Annecy and then spend four days in the Mont Blanc area. Mont Blanc (15,777 feet) is the highest mountain in Western Europe and one of the most beautiful mountains in the world. We explore the awe-inspiring Mont Blanc Massif from various places, including the charming town of Chamonix and even enjoy a view from Switzerland.
After crossing from France to Italy (through a 7-mile tunnel), we’ll visit Gran Paradiso national park, the quiet side of the Alps. The park is in the Val d’Aosta (Aosta Valley), which has a population of about 130,000 and is the least densely populated region of Italy. A unique experience will be to visit quaint Val d’Ayas, the least visited area of our trip. From there, on a clear day, we’ll have a good view of the beautiful Monte Rosa Massif, the second-highest mountain range of the Alps.
While this is a hiking trip, we’ll also experience local French and Italian culture and food. We’ll visit the city of Aosta, with its impressive architectural heritage from its Roman and medieval past. Local guides will lead our hikes and tours, further enhancing our adventure, and our travel will be by private bus. Our trip ends in Turin, Italy.
*Please click on each day to view daily itinerary.
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Our tour starts in the French town of Annecy. In the early evening we will meet for an orientation talk and a welcome dinner to meet your travel companions. Overnight in Annecy..
For the first hike of the trip, we’ll hike along the shores of the beautiful alpine lake, Lac d’Annecy. In the afternoon, we’ll visit the heart of Annecy’s old quarters with its fascinating history. Total hiking time: 3 hours, with an elevation gain of approximately 1,200 feet. Overnight in Annecy..
We leave Annecy and drive to Chamonix, where we’ll spend the next four nights. Our first hike in the Mont Blanc area will be to Lac Blanc. To get to the trailhead, we’ll take the La Flegere gondola. The hike to Lac Blanc is one of the hiking highlights of the Tour du Mont Blanc. The hike goes through a nature reserve and we may see ibex and marmots. The view from Lac Blanc, (at 7,700 feet) is one of the most iconic in the Alps, where we see the entire Mont Blanc Massif. The Massif contains many of the highest mountains in Western Europe: Mont Blanc, the Grandes Jorrasses, and several more. Hiking time: about 2 hours (4 miles) and 1,600 feet of elevation gain. Overnight in Chamonix.
Today we visit one of the world’s most famous ice caves. We’ll take Chamonix’s famous rack and pinion railway to get to Montenvers that sits at 6,276 feet. From there, we can admire the gorgeous panorama of the Mer de Glace glacier, the Drus and the Grandes Jorrasses. From there we go down (480 steps) into the very heart of the glacier, the Grotte de Glace and learn about its erosion over the past century. After a traditional alpine meal, we’ll take a short but steep hike to another gorgeous viewpoint where we can enjoy the view of Grands Montets, Aiguille des Grands Charmoz, and Aiguille de la République. Hiking time to Signal Forbes and back is about 2 hours with 1,100 feet elevation gain, plus visiting time at the Grotto (with 480 steps to get to the entrance of the cave). Overnight in Chamonix
Today, we take the Aiguille du Midi panoramic cable ride to one of the most breathtaking viewpoints of the Alps. From the summit terrace of Aiguilles du Midi, at 12,604 feet, we will enjoy the 360-degree view of the Italian, French, and Swiss Alps. Afterward, we travel to the opposite side of the valley for mushroom hunting at one of our local guide’s favorite places. The rest of the afternoon is yours to relax at the hotel or wander around Chamonix. Hiking time: about 3 hours with approximately 1,200 feet of elevation gain. Overnight in Chamonix
To get a different view of the majestic Mont Blanc Massif, we cross the border to Switzerland. Our destination is Lac d’Emosson, a reservoir in the canton of Valais, which has been producing hydroelectric power for the surrounding area since 1925. This impressive civil engineering project, perched high above the France-Swiss border, forms a large blue lake with walking paths and forest all around it. There, some 240 million years ago, a herd of dinosaurs passed and imprinted their tracks in the clay. Over the course of geological time and tectonic movements, these old lands rose to their current heights. In 1976, geologist G. Bronner discovered what is today the most significant deposit of tracks left by these reptiles. Hiking time to walk along the lake and see the dinosaur footprints and return is 6 hours (about 8 miles) with 2,200 feet of elevation gain. Overnight in Chamonix
Today, we say goodbye to France and drive through the 7-mile Mont Blanc tunnel crossing. Once on the Italian side, we will hike the first leg of the Tour Du Mont-Blanc. The trail goes along the slopes of the Mont de la Saxe to reach Rifugio Bonatti, which sits at about 6,600 feet. Along the way, we’ll be mesmerized by the beauty of the Val Ferret, as well as views of Tete of Ferret, Mont Blanc, and Grandes Jorasses. Before reaching the Rifugio, we go through a beautiful forest of fir trees and learn about what locals hunt and harvest there. We also pass by typical mountain cabins, baite, used by shepherds as shelters in the summer months during which they live at alpine altitudes with their flock. Hiking time: about 3 hours, with approximately 1,100 feet of elevation gain. Overnight in Cogne.
Gran Paradiso, established in 1922, was the first national park of Italy, but previously it was the private hunting ground of King Victor Emanuel II. Nowadays, the park protects the Alpine ibex and other wildlife. The park is named after Gran Paradiso Mountain, which is located in the park.
Our hike to Rifugio Sella is the most challenging hike of the trip. It's about six hours (round trip) up to a beautiful alpine meadow where we'll have a warm lunch at the Rifugio before retracing our steps. The trail is about three and a half miles each way. Hiking time: about 6 hours, with 3,000 feet of elevation gain (for those who do not want to do this hike, we will offer a shorter hike). Overnight in Cogne
After a short drive from Cogne we reach the trailhead at the village of Gimillan. The uphill hike follows the Grausson Creek with great views. We’ll have a picnic lunch above the tiny village of Grausson Inferiore. The hike is about 7 miles round trip with 2,000 feet of elevation gain. After the hike we take our bus to the quaint village of Antagnod, our home for the next two nights. Overnight in Antagnod.
The village of Antagnod is in the quaint Val d’Ayas, which is of one the least touristy area of the Alps. From there, on a clear day, we’ll have a good view of the beautiful Monte Rosa. Our day starts with a drive to the trailhead in the village of Saint Jacques, which is the starting point of many trails in this area. Our destination is Lago Blu (the Blue Lake), which is more turquoise than blue, and is very beautiful. After a long break to enjoy the this enchanted lake we continue to one of the Rifugios in this area to have lunch, with views of the valley way below us. This loop hike is about 6 miles with 2,200 feet of elevation gain. Overnight in Antagnod.
The city of Aosta, an important Roman outpost, is today’s capital of the Italian region Val d’Aosta. You will be surprised by the lesser-known beauties of this dramatic region and the impressive architectural heritage from its Roman and medieval past. We’ll discover the important castles of the area, including Fenis (famed for its many towers and battlemented walls) and Issogne (known for its unique frescoes). We’ll also visit a producer of Fontina Valdostana, the most famous cheese of the area. Overnight near Turin airport..
After breakfast, you can catch a flight back to the U.S. or go to other destinations in Italy. You may consider spending a day or two touring the underrated, but interesting, city of Turin.
2 nights in Annecy
4 nights in Chamonix
2 nights in Cogne
2 nights in Antagnod
1 nights in Turin
Total: 11 nights – 12 days
$5,445 per person, in double room – min 12 people – max 15