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Self-Guided Grande Traversee des Alps

Part 1: GR5 – Chamonix to Modane

GR 5 Hikers

Hiking Trip Details

  • Location: Chamonix to La Vanoise and Modane
  • Length: 10 to 11 days; this is flexible
  • Grade: Strenuous and strenuous plus
  • Accommodations: Hotels and mountain huts
  • Dates: Mid/late-June to Mid-September
  • Self-guided Land Cost 2019: From $1,795 for 10 days; $1,895 for 11 days. Land cost will vary depending on final itinerary.

Hiking Trip Summary

Much like a European version of the Appalachian Trail, the Grande Randonnee 5 (GR 5) is a spectacular long distance hiking route that runs the length of Europe beginning on the North Sea and ending on the shores of the Mediterranean. The section of the GR 5, which begins at the base of the Mont Blanc Massif and traverses the French Alps south to the Mediterranean, is referred to as the Grand Traverse of the Alps (GTA). If you are looking for a classic hut-to-hut hiking experience we recommend this hike on the Grand Traverse from Chamonix to Modane. This is a rewarding and immensely varied journey

Your journey begins at the foot of the Mont Blanc range in Chamonix, Haute Savoie and heads south through Savoie Region and the Vanoise National Park, to the pleasant mountain village of Pralognan-la-Vanoise and on to Modane.

Established in 1963, the Vanoise is France’s first national park. A wonderfully remote and expansive area, the Vanoise massif encompasses 82 kilometers of pristine peaks and glaciers, captures a vast array of alpine wildlife, and preserves the essence of French rural existence.

This part of the GR 5 starting in Chamonix and ending in Modane is a classic alpine hut-to-hut route: remote hiking, rustic refuges and expansive, wide open vistas. This is one of the few hut hikes in France that is truly “hut-to-hut”.


Day 1: Arrive Geneva, International Airport. Independent Travel to Chamonix. Chamonix is home a dazzling array of many of the highest peaks in the Alps including Mont Blanc (15,860′).

Day 2: Short transfer by bus to Les Houches and cable car to Bellevue (5,610′). Begin today’s hike passing by the foot of the huge Glacier de Bionnassay then up through lush meadows to the Col du Tricot (6,995′) with spectacular views of the Aiguille du Bionnassay, Dome du Gouter and the entire Chamonix Valley. After a steep descent from the Col you arrive at the refuge.

Day 3: Departing from Les Contamines in the mid-morning, hike up the Mont Joie Valley, past a 15th century mountain church, Notre Dame de la Gorge, cross a small ancient Roman bridge and continue up this broad alpine valley to the overnight stop.

Day 4: You begin a steady climb to the Croix de la Bonhomme (8,200′). The route from the Refuge de la Croix Bonhomme follows the narrow ridge of the Crete des Gittes, built by the French Military and then drops down to the Col de Sauce and to the Plan de la Lai (6,000′) and up to the Refuge Mya. Views of Mont Pourri dominate the scenery.

Day 5: The hike today leads high above the Roseland Dam to the Col Bresson flanked by Dolomite-like arretes and aiguilles including the bold Pierra Menta. From here, the hike down to the refuge is spectacular. This simple refuge has a calm and remote setting.

Day 6: Hike to the quiet village of Valezan continuing into Parc National Vanoise. The hiking is stunning as you emerge on to a high broad valley surrounded by rocky peaks and waterfalls fed by the high snowfields and glaciers. From here you will get your first glimpse of the huge Grande Motte.

Day 7: The morning part of the hike climbs to the Col du Palet (8,750′). The ever-widening valley is flanked by the Dome de Platieres and the tapered peak of Aliet. Up ahead lies the Grande Motte (12,500′) draped with huge glaciers. In the early morning witness dozens of marmots, chamois and perhaps some ibex. Descend to Val Claret for teh night.

Day 8: The route climbs from Val Claret and leads through remote and barren landscape. The route follows the quiet, beautiful valley and the Torrent de la Leisse down to the Pont (bridge) de Mon Croe Vie and the refuge for the night.

Day 9: From your refuge you climb to the Col de la Vanoise. Rounding the very prominent Aiguille de la Vanoise, you hike down to the mountain village of Pralognan. Overnight in a hotel in the quiet and peaceful village of Pralognan.

  • It is possible to end the hike in Pralognan in the afternoon meeting a private taxi who will transfer you back to Chamonix. The transfer time is about 1 1/2 hours. Overnight in Chamonix. The trip will end the next morning after breakfast. Please contact us for other options.

Day 10: Leaving Pralognan in the morning, a short transfer by taxi takes you to the edge of the park where you begin the hike in the Vallon du Doron to the Col de Chaviere. This Col is the highest Col of any of France’s long-distance routes (9,230’) and offers an impressive view of the Mont Blanc Massif over 100 miles away. Descnd to your quiet overnight refuge.

Day 11: From Aiguille Doron and descend to Modane, about 2 hours. Depart by train to Geneva. The trip will end when you arrive in Modane. (Note: Modane is a great place to end this wonderful hike, however getting anywhere from Modane can take some time. Please contact us for more information about travel and the best place to end the hike.)

  • This itinerary is only one of several possibilities. Please contact us for other options.

Additional Information


travel information, maps covering the route, detailed trail notes, all overnight accommodations, all breakfasts and most dinners, transfer as detailed in the final confirmed itinerary.

Not Included

Air fare, lunches, travel to and from starting/ending point, transfers or excursions on trains, lifts, buses, taxis, extra charges due to changes in itinerary, dinners in Chamonix or Pralognan, items not on set dinner menu, beverages except what is served at breakfast, bottled water, insurance, items of personal nature.


This hike is not vehicle supported. You will need to carry a small to moderate sized pack with only the clothing and accessories you will need for the duration of hike. (See our Sample Packing List.) With advances in synthetic clothing and other travel gear, it’s possible to keep your pack weight to 20 lbs. including lunch and water. Any extra luggage can be left at the hotel until your return or transferred as per your final itinerary.

Accommodations and Facilities

The hotel in Chamonix is wonderful family run hotel located in the center of town. This older fashioned hotel is welcoming and helpful. All rooms have private baths. The hotel in Pralognan is located in the village and offers private rooms with private baths. Breakfasts are served at both hotels.

The mountain huts are remote and rustic and located in spectacular settings. The shared facilities are simple, but most have hot showers. Most accommodate 20 to 40 hikers, sometimes more. Breakfasts and dinners are served at the refuges and lunches are picnic style along the trail.


The nearest airport to the starting point is Geneva, Switzerland.

Who would like this trip?

The Grand Traverse Part One is a route not hiked by many Americans though it travels through some of the most beautiful and pristine landscapes of the French Alps. The accommodations are rustic old world alpine farms that have be converted to accommodate hikers and are referred to as refuges. Many are in amazingly remote locations only accessible by foot. This is a perfect trip for experienced hikers looking for a route that is well-off-the-beaten path and offers a little bit more of an adventure. The hiking is challenging with some strenuous plus days. If you have hiked in other parts of the Alps and are looking for a slightly different experience this definitely a route to consider!

What makes this trip different

This first part of the Grande Traversee des Alpes provides a rare hiking experience. Distant Journeys is one of the very few, if not only, companies that offers this section of the GR 5 as a self-guided itinerary. The huts are classic and remote, many only accessible by foot. It is true, you do have to carry your own pack weighing up to 20lbs for this trip, but the reward is hiking through some of the most beautiful, remarkably pristine landscapes of the French Alps.

Starting point

This route begins with your first nights accommodation in Chamonix.

Ending Point

This will vary depending on final confirmed itinerary.

Any hiking trip in the mountains requires a certain amount of effort and proper fitness training will enhance your enjoyment. In the mountains, time and elevation gain or loss as opposed to distance, tend to be the determining factors when defining hiking grades or level of difficulty. We have done our best to grade our trips consistently, please contact us for further clarification. We are happy to offer names of past participants.