||Hotel, Mountain Hut
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|Single Supp Cost
Hiking Trip Summary
Our Tour of the Vanoise trip is hut-to-hut hiking at its best and most authentic. Beginning in Pralognan-la-Vanoise, this 8-day trip takes us on a circular route through the heart of the Vanoise National Park, a wonderfully remote and expansive area encompassing 82 kilometers of pristine peaks and glaciers. Situated just south of the Chamonix-Mont Blanc area, in the Rhône-Alpes region, this was France’s first national park, established in 1963 largely to protect its dwindling ibex popular. Today it’s home to a thriving array of alpine wildlife and preserves the essence of French alpine culture.
A combination two Grande Randonees, the GR5 and GR55, our route stays high in the mountains as we circle the Glacier de la Vanoise. Ancient trails, awe-inspiring vistas, timeless alpine landscapes, and welcoming mountain refuges make up the fabric of this sublime experience. Add to this the expert leadership of Mark Tennet, a recognized “Ambassador du Parc,” whose intimate knowledge of the area and the huts helps animate the rhythms and delights of mountain life, and you have the makings of a truly memorable journey on foot.
Day 1: Pralognan-la-Vanoise Early afternoon group transfer from the Geneva Airport to our hotel in Pralognan-la-Vanoise, headquarter’s of the Vanoise National Park. There will be time to explore the village before our area orientation meeting and welcome dinner.
Day 2: Pralognan-la-Vanoise to Col de la Vanoise We begin a gentle day of hiking, ascending to the Col de la Vanoise (8,255’) from Pralognan-la-Vanoise along the ancient trading route, the “Route du Sel et de la Fromage.” Walking through the village from the hotel, we start climbing slowly between old stone houses. To our right is the waterfall of the “Cascade de la Fraiche,” thundering between steep rocky walls. At the Barmettes we cross a stream that tumbles down the steep-walled valley. As we hike into the heart of the Vanoise National Park, our route is bordered by low, dry stone walls. The “shark’s fin” of the Aiguille de la Vanoise rises to our right.
Soon we reach the very shallow Lac des Vaches. After crossing the long stretch of stepping stones we arrive at an idyllic picnic spot and a lunch of fresh bread, local cheese and meats. Continuing into the high mountains, glacial moraines bear testimony to the glaciers that shaped this awe-inspiring landscape.
Passing the moraine below the Grande Casse and the shores of Lac Long, we soon arrive at the broad Col de la Vanoise and the refuge Felix Faure, named after the 7th French president. The col is a magnificent, breathtaking place. For those with energy to spare, there’s a chance to explore the area around the col and maybe spot ibex, chamois or find the emblematic edelweiss. Bunkrooms and shared facilities; breakfast, lunch, dinner included.
Day 3: Col de la Vanoise to Refuge de l’Arpont: Early morning light accompanies us as we descend past small lakes. Immense scree slopes rise up to our left to the Grande Casse as we pass Lac Bond and the Lac du Col de la Vanoise. To our left the Pointe de la Rechasse marks the eastern extremity of the Glacier de la Vanoise. Ahead lies the entrance to the Vallee de la Leisse and the Vallon de la Rocheure. The ground steepens and we pass an ancient fortification guarding this strategic point. Steps hewn from solid rock bring us to a junction in the path. We traverse around the rocky hillside, still above 7,550′ and reach the Lacs des Lozieres. The Glacier du Pelve moraines provide a change of scenery and we cross a torrent issuing from its snout. Above us now is the Dome de Chasseforet (11,765′) and below us, a deeply cut gorge that leads down to the village of Termignon in the Maurienne valley. Turning a corner in the path, we come across the Refuge de l’Arpont (7,575′) and a welcome from Valerie, the guardian. Bunkrooms and shared facilities; breakfast, lunch, dinner included.
Day 4: Refuge de l’Arpont to Refuge de la Dent Parrachee Today’s walk is dominated by views of La Dent Parrachee (12,129′), while opposite we look across the valley of the Haute Maurienne and the Italian frontier. In summer, the Col du Mont Cenis provides a road crossing into Italy and the town of Susa. As we traverse the flanks of the Dent Parrachee, passing old shepherd’s huts, we are apt to come across large flocks of sheep. These flocks, watched over by their shepherd, are brought up into the mountains for the summer months before descending in the late autumn to warmer climes.
A small plateau leads to a switch-back descent among spare pines. Eventually, we arrive above the village of Aussois and two lakes, Lac d’Amont and Lac d’Aval. There are several refuges in this area, but our preferred is the Refuge de la Dent Parrachee (8,260′). Franck, the guardian, is the master of ceremonies and presides over his hut, assisted by Kapitan, a Nepali Sherpa. The refuge is the stepping-off point for mountaineers climbing the higher peaks and glaciers, including the Dent Parrachee. The terrace in front of the refuge has a wonderful panorama to enjoy along with a pre-dinner drink. Bunkrooms and shared facilities; breakfast, lunch, dinner included.
Day 5: Refuge de la Dent Parrachee to Refuge de l’Aiguille Doran: Today we have a choice of either the “normal” route via the Col du Barbier or the high route via the Col de la Masse (9,590′). Either way, the scenery is stunning. Dropping down from the “eagle’s nest” of the Dent Parrachee, we reach the parting of the ways a short distance above the Plan d’Amont. Onwards via the Col du Barbier, we share the path with the GR5 long-distance path heading for the Mediterranean. Soon, for the first time since leaving Pralognan, we pass below the tree line. Birds, including perhaps a Casse-noix moucheté (Spotted Nutcracker), which feeds on pine nuts, flit amongst the trees. Once more we smell the aroma of pine resin. Finally, we come emerge in a clearing and the welcoming Refuge de l’Aiguille Doran. You can expect to be delighted with Fabienne’s cooking, which would do justice to any restaurant. At 1860m, this is the lowest point on the trek before the final day's walk to Pralognan (4,652′). Bunkrooms and shared facilities; breakfast, lunch, dinner included.
Day 6: Refuge de l’Aiguille Doron to col de Chaviere to Refuge Peclet-Polset: We turn our backs toward the south and the Maurienne as we climb uphill. Again, we have two options today, either passing by the hamlet of Polset or passing the refuge de l’Orgere. If we choose the refuge de l’Orgere, we pass through hayfields in the valley de l’Orgere, so-called for the oats that were once grown in this sheltered valley in days gone by. We cross the only tarmac that we will encounter until our final day before a zig-zag path gains height steadily through open woods. Clearing the woodline, the path describes a rising traverse with the Aiguille Doran’s (9,980′) spiky summit above us. The ground flattens among an area of large, erratically-situated boulders. Here we may stop by the shores of the Lac de la Partie to enjoy our picnic and for the brave, the possibility of a quick (very quick) dip in its waters!
Ahead lies the Col de Chaviere, marking the watershed with the river of the Doran de Chaviere on the other side. The col, despite its altitude, is easily attained, although late winter neves sometimes linger. From the col you can see Mont Blanc on a clear day. A short, steep descent on less-stable ground brings us to an undulating chaos of moraines. We may venture off route to see if we can find the preferred haunts of the ibex.
The refuge Peclet-Polset is large and modern (the old one burned down in a fire). For those interested, we can make a little extra excursion to see the turquoise waters of the Lac Blanc, below the Col du Soufre and the Dome du Polset (10,920′). Bunkrooms and shared facilities; breakfast, lunch, dinner included.
Day 7: Refuge Peclet Polset to Pralognan la Vanoise: Our final day is a long, gentle descent alongside the tumbling waters of the Doran. The valley provides pastures for several herds of cows and a farm where there’s a chance to see cheese making in progress. Leaving the farm, we pass the luxurious Refuge du Roc de la Peche, complete with Jacuzzi. Here, if we wish, we can take the path for the Cirque des Nants, or carry on down the bottom of the valley. We reach the hamlet of Prioux and a small road, shut in winter. We take a track on the opposite side of the valley before crossing a bridge to follow a route heading through pine woods that brings us out right in Pralognan itself. The Hotel Grand Bec welcomes us once more and there’s a chance to relax in the pool or enjoy a well-earned drink on the terrace. Bunkrooms and shared facilities; breakfast, lunch, dinner included.
Day 8: Departure The trip will end after breakfast with a group transfer back to the Geneva Airport, arriving around 10 am.
If you wish to have your own room, there is a single supplement charge. Single rooms are limited and are only available at the hotel in Pralognan-la-Vanoise. Accommodations at the refuges are bunkroom style. Please let us know if you would like a single at the time of registration.
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 to share, we considered this a “forced” single and do not apply single supplement fee.
- Group transfers to and from the Geneva Airport
- All accommodations
- All breakfasts
- All lunches
- All dinners
- Great hiking and memories!
Airfare, optional/individual transfers or excursions, items not on set dinner menu, beverages, insurance, tips to guides/leaders, and items of a personal nature.
This hike is not vehicle supported. You will need to carry a pack with all 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 15 – 20 lbs., including lunch and water. Any extra luggage or belongings you may have can be left at the hotel in Pralognan-la-Vanoise.
ACCOMMODATIONS AND FACILITIES
Hotels: For our 8-day Tour of the Vanoise, we spend 2 nights in typically French, family-run, comfortable hotels in Pralognan la Vanoise. Rooms are double occupancy with private baths. Single rooms are limited. All are friendly, family-run hotels that reflect the local character. Mark Tennent, our guide for this trip, has a well-established relationship with the hotel, which assures a warm welcome.
Mountain Huts or Refuges: We spend 5 nights in mountain refuges. The refuges in France can be wonderfully rustic farms which have been converted to accommodate hikers. They call also be more modern refuges, purpose-built by the French Alpine Club, or CAF. They all tend to have co-ed bunkrooms, called dortoirs. The bunk rooms vary in size each night. Some refuges have bunkrooms that sleep 6, while others have only larger bunkrooms that sleep 10 – 15. You should expect to share a bunk room for these nights. Private rooms are not available at the refuges.
All the refuges along our Tour of the Vanoise route are hosted by guardians, and their hard-working team, who pride themselves in providing good wholesome meals in a convivial atmosphere. Staying in a refuge allows you to experience that special feeling of being in the up in the mountains as the sun sets and the stars appear. The atmosphere in the refuges is friendly and jovial, as hikers from many countries gather to spend the night. We believe that staying in the huts offers a wonderful opportunity to enjoy the camaraderie of hikers from other parts of the world, experience something new and wonderful, and take part in the simple tradition of the European style of hut-to-hut hiking.
Breakfasts and dinners are served at the hotels or refuges and lunches are picnic style along the trail.
It is easiest to fly to Geneva. However, there are frequent trains from Zurich or Paris, just be sure to allow for extra travel time. Included in the trip cost is a group transfer from the Geneva Airport on Day 1 and to the Geneva Airport on Day 8.
WHO WOULD LIKE THIS TRIP?
Our Tour of the Vanoise trips are perfect for hikers who look forward to wonderful, challenging hikes and appreciate the simplicity of a truly authentic, alpine hut-to-hut experience, conducted entirely on foot. The scenery is awe-inspiring, the hiking demanding but not overly-strenuous, the accommodations varied, and the meals hearty. This is a fantastic route!
Geneva airport at 1:00 pm on the first day for a group transfer to our hotel in Pralognan.
Included is a group transfer from Pralognan-la-Vanoise to the Geneva Airport on the last day. We depart the hotel in Pralognan at about 7:15 am and arrive the Geneva airport at about 10:00 am.
If you would like to register or would like to receive more information, please contact us. We're happy to supply a list of past participants willing to share their insights on this guided Tour of the Vanoise trip.
Reserving This Trip
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
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
Receipt of all forms will finalize your registration.