Hike the GR5 Pralognan-la-Vanoise to Menton
|Grades||Strenuous, Strenuous Plus|
|Accommodations||Hotels, Mountain Hut|
|Dates||We will be scheduling dates for this trip soon. Please check back.|
|Single Supp Cost||
Part 2 of this journey begins in the mountain village of Pralognan-la-Vanoise. The route closely follows the French–Italian border and leads through the unspoiled regions of Briançonnais, Queyras and the Ubaye. A sense of history pervades this area, as many of these mountain passes were once old trade and pilgrim routes. One is immediately impressed by the unhurried rhythms of mountain life. Larch forests, jade-blue alpine lakes, and vast, green valleys take on rich vibrant dimensions. Small, rural villages exude an air of timelessness.
Continuing our route to the Mediterranean Sea, we will hike through St. Etienne, St. Martin Vesubie, Sospel, the Mercantour National Park and the isolated Merveilles Valley, eventually arriving in Menton on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea.
As the terrain takes on a decidedly more arid appearance and the vegetation becomes accented by cypress, fig and olive trees, the lure of the Mediterranean will become ever-more compelling. From the mountains to the sea, this promises to be an immensely varied alpine journey. Truly off-the-beaten-path, this is a part of France one is unlikely to experience in any other way except on foot.
We are currently reworking our Grande Traversee des Alpes GR 5, Part 2 trip and will be reintroducing it in 2020. Stay tuned!
Day 1: Group transfer from the Geneva Airport to the small village of Pralognan, nestled in the heart of Vanoise National Park. Welcome dinner.
Day 2: Leaving Pralognan in the morning, a short transfer by bus takes us to the edge of the park, where we begin our 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. At about 3:00 in the afternoon we will meet our van for transfer to our overnight stop in Chateaux Ville Vieille. Transfer time is 2 1/2 – 3 hours.
Chateau Ville Vieille Queyras is situated just outside of the Parc Naturel Regional du Queyras. This chateau, dating back to medieval times, was rebuilt by Vauban as an important part of his grand defense scheme. Within this isolated region are beautiful mountains, torrents, and rivers, wheat fields, larch and pine forests, varieties of wildflowers and centuries-old farmhouses clustered around ancient chapels. Woodcarving keeps the local population busy during the long winter. (Keep some extra room in your pack!) Overnight in a gite d’etape.
Day 3: From Chateau Queyras we climb through forests and wide meadows offering dramatic 360-degree views. Above us tower the twin peaks of Pointe de la Selle and Point de Rasis. The path soon takes us over the open and barren pass at the Col du Fromage (7,600′), and yes, “fromage” means cheese! From the col, we descend steeply to Cristillian River and then to the historic village of Ceillac. Overnight in a gite d’etape.
Day 4: The first part of our hike passes by Lac Mirror and Lac St. Anne, surrounded by the rocky mountains of Pic Heuvieres. This area has a very remote feeling as we cross Col Girardin (8,900′) and descend into the quiet Ubaye Valley to our gite at Maljasset.
Day 5: We will start with a morning hike to St Paul Ubaye, where we will have lunch at a local restaurant. After lunch, we will meet our van and transfer to St. Etienne where we will spend the night at a gite d’etape located a short walking distance to the village.
Day 6: Today’s hike is spectacular and probably a favorite because of the remoteness, the changing scenery and the welcoming gite at the end of a good day. After a short transfer, we hike through larch forests along the Sellevielle River and through a huge cirque up to the Plateau of Combe de Crousette. Ahead lies the enormous wall of Mont Mounier. Shaped like a whale, this distinctive mountain has been in view for several days and will continue to mark our progress. After reaching the col at Stele Valette, which offers immense views of the Merveilles Valley and possibly a glimpse of the Med, we begin our descent to the Valley of Gourgette and to our overnight stop at a gite d’etape in Vignols.
Day 7: Today’s hike is filled with contrast. The first part of the day leads us through a wonderful high open meadow. The second part of the day leads through hamlets, villages and by ancient churches. We end the day’s hike in Roure. This village sits on the hillside and is known for its churches, chapels, frescoes, and altarpieces. After a look around this very pretty village, we will meet our van and transfer to our overnight stop in Rimplas. At this point, the terrain takes on a decidedly more Mediterranean feel, with olive trees, lavender and hardwood trees. Overnight in a small hotel.
Day 8: Morning transfer from Rimplas to our trailhead. From our overnight stop we hike south round the Terres Rouges and to our ending point at Point Trois Commune – l’Authion. As with all our days, this hike is varied, as our route includes forest roads, pleasant paths that contour the mountains, great views, and of course some climbing as we reach the mountain passes at Col de Raus and Baisse de Saint-Veran. On the main peak of l’Authion, there are several old military installations from where the Free French Army dislodged the Germans in 1945. There are great views of the whole Alpes-Maritimes. Even though the Mediterranean Sea is just around the corner, the mountains are still quite impressive and the route is still open, offering views in every direction. From Trois Commune, we meet our van and transfer to our gite in Sospel.
Day 9: It’s never over ’til it’s over, and we’re not out of the mountains yet. From Sospel we climb through an amazingly dense forest before the landscape opens up at the Col Razet, where we have our first view of Menton. It looks very close, but today’s hike is a long one. The terrain and vegetation have changed for good: scrub pines, terraced landscapes, white rocky outcroppings and steep, short mountainsides. With Menton in sight, the trail still remains empty of other travelers. Hiking past old farms that gradually give way to suburban homes, our final descent to the sea begins in Castellar, where the trail becomes a sidewalk. Though no less interesting, the route weaves through the narrow streets of Castellar and then Menton, finally arriving at the beach! This last part of our hike is a wonderful finish to a great day and a great journey! Farewell dinner!
Day 10: The trip ends at the hotel in Menton.
If you wish to have your own room at the hotels, there is a single supplement charge for Part 2: Pralognan, Rimplas, and Menton. Please let us know if you would like a single at the time of registration. Please note: Single or private rooms are not available in the refuges or gites. If you are traveling alone and would like to share a room, we will match you with a roommate. If there is no one with whom you can share, we will not charge you extra for this “forced” single during the hike.
Group transfers, all accommodations, all breakfasts, most dinners, all group transfers on vans, buses, trains and ski lifts as described in the itinerary, luggage transfer for one medium-sized duffel bag from your starting point to Pralognan and from Pralognan to Menton. Great hiking and memories!
Airfare, lunches, optional/individual transfers or excursions, items not on set dinner menu, tips to guides/leaders, beverages, insurance, excess baggage charge, items of a personal nature.
This hike is not vehicle supported. You will need to carry a small- to moderate-sized pack with all the clothing and accessories you will need for the duration of the 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 or belongings you may have will await you in Menton.
Hotels are generally 2- or 3-star hotels with private baths. Some are more simple 2-star hotels with shared baths.
The mountain huts or refuges and gite d’etapes (overnight accommodations for travelers) have their own charm and unique character. All are remote and located in spectacular settings. The shared facilities are simple but have hot showers. Most accommodate from 20 to 40 hikers, sometimes more.
Breakfasts and dinners are served at the hotels or refuges and lunches are picnic style along the trail.
Our Grand Traverse of the Alps Part 2 offers an exceptional journey to the experienced hiker or active traveler who would like a more authentic European-style long-distance hike. This varied, remote and sometimes strenuous route leads through less well-known and less-developed areas of the Alps. Definitely off-the-beaten-path, our gites and small hotels vary from rustic to comfortable. All are in captivating settings and infused with a sense of place.
There are other companies that offer hiking trips from Chamonix to the Mediterranean, but none offer as much hiking and as little driving within such a relatively manageable time frame. No other company maintains the greater integrity of the GR 5 to the extent that we do. Sure, it means that you have to carry your own pack. but it’s well worth it for the experience of a true journey and authentic adventure.
Those joining our Grande Traversee des Alps Part 2 will be met at the Geneva Airport for a group transfer to Pralognan.
Our Grande Traversee of the Alps Part 2 will end at the hotel in Menton on the last day of the trip. From Menton, it's possible to continue on to Nice, or other destinations, by bus, train, or taxis. The Nice Airport is about 1 hour away by bus from Menton.
Please contact us for a more detailed itinerary, for more information, or to register. We're also happy to supply a list of past participants willing to share honest insights into this guided GTA, Part 2 Hike experience.
A deposit of $500 along with your completed registration forms will reserve a space on your requested trip. We accept MasterCard, Visa, and American Express card as well as personal checks. To make a deposit, you may either follow one of the “Reserve a Trip” links below, give us a call at 1-888-845-5781, or include your payment information in the area provided when completing your registration forms.
The balance is due 75 days prior to departure for most of our trips. When applying less than 75 days prior to departure, full payment is due. For final payments, we accept MasterCard, Visa, and American Express, as well as personal checks.
As confirmation of receipt of your deposit, we will send you a comprehensive packet of information pertaining to your trip, an invoice for final payment and additional information including release agreement form, medical information form, travel information, and packing list. Upon receipt of final payment and no later than 30 days prior to your trip start, you will receive trip rendezvous information and a list of accommodations. Returning trip participants will receive a 5% discount on most trips.
Receipt of all forms will finalize your registration.