two ibexes on rocky peaks in the French Alps

Ibex in Vanoise National Park

We hike high alpine trails through Vanoise National Park, known for its population of alpine ibex (Capra ibex), who scramble among the high rocky peaks.

Photo by Duilio Fiorille / iStock Photo

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France and Italy: Hiking Vanoise and Gran Paradiso

Repertory Trip: No Future Dates Set

Trip Details at-a-Glance

Cost From: TBA  
Length: 11 days
Arrive: Geneva, Switzerland
Depart: Geneva, Switzerland
Lodging: 9 nights inns and hotels, 1 night mountain refuge
Meals: All meals included
Activity: Hiking / Trekking
Trip Level: 9 hiking days on moderate to steep trails, 4-9 hours a day, altitudes between 6,000-10,800 feet, van support (for luggage or tired feet)
5

Highlights

  • Enjoy rugged hikes in the glaciated mountains of Vanoise and Gran Paradiso National Parks, Europe’s largest protected area
  • Glittering glaciers, alpine lakes, and wonderful flora and fauna, including ibex and chamois
  • Discover picturesque small villages that are a step back in time, enjoy hearty Savoyard cuisine


A spectacular trip, with great scenery, well balanced group of hikers, and great trip leaders.Peter L.—Portola Valley, CA

Choosing the Right Trip

We work hard to help you choose the right trip for you, paying attention to your individual interests, abilities, and needs. If you have questions about the level of comfort or any of the activities described in this itinerary, please contact us.

References

We are proud to have an exceptionally high rate of repeat travelers. For more information, we would be happy to put you in touch with a client who has traveled with us.

Repertory Trip

This is one of our special Repertory Trips offered every two to five years.  Future dates have not been set for this trip, but you can see the “Itinerary at a Glance” and the “Full Detailed Itinerary” below (there may be small changes to the itinerary for the future departures, and prices will be finalized closer to departure). Contact us to receive early notification of the trip dates. These special trips fill very quickly once the exact dates are set!

We invite you to join Nicos Caravellas, one of our most revered Alps Trip Leaders, for an extraordinary hiking exploration of two of Europe’s greatest national parks: Vanoise National Park in the Savoy region of France, and, just across the border, Gran Paradiso National Park in Italy. Together they form the largest protected mountain area in Europe, a magnificent landscape of soaring snow-covered peaks, glacial cirques, alpine lakes, remote valleys with picturesque traditional villages, and a plethora of mountain fauna and flora. The parks, the first established within each country’s national borders, are culturally and historically linked, as the territory was once part of the mighty House of Savoy, which ruled an area from Lake Geneva all the way to the Mediterranean and had within its borders the highest peaks of the Alps. Nicos has a passionate interest in the nature, culture, and history of the Savoy region. The French Alps are literally his own back yard, and in his stellar company, we’ll discover not only the exalted beauty of the mountains but the living traditions of the people that still occupy and bring life to these stunning high valleys—­not to mention the region’s delightful culinary fare including raclette and the rich, creamy tartiflette!

Itinerary at a Glance

For a more complete description, Download Full Detailed Itinerary

Days 1-3
Bourg-Saint-Maurice / Tarentaise Valley

From Bourg-Saint-Maurice, capital of France’s Tarentaise Valley, we hike on the Pointe de Combe Neuve (9,715'), a peak in the Rhone Alps that dominates the upper Tarentaise Valley and offers magnificent views of the peaks of the Vanoise, Mont Blanc, and the chain of mountains that separates France from Italy. Another hike over the Col de Montseti (8,333') brings us close to the Italian border and the Col du Mont (8,648'), an alternate route into Italy that local shepherds have used for centuries.

Days 4-5
Grande Sassiere Nature Reserve / Val d’Isere

Heading into the heart of the Vanoise massif, we hike in the Grande Sassiere Nature Reserve, a majestic glacial cirque whose breathtaking views include the Grande Casse (12,648'), the highest peak of the region. We also have a choice of hikes in the central zone of the Vanoise, both of which offer panoramic views of nearly all the main peaks, even extending as far north as Mont Blanc. Overnights are in Val d’Isère, known for its world-class downhill skiing competitions.

Day 6
The Haute-Maurienne

The upper Maurienne Valley, or Haute-Maurienne, is a treasure-trove of unspoiled villages that have retained their original rural character. From the Col de l’Iseran (9,068'), we set off on our hike that unveils all the beauty of the upper valley with its majestic 12,000-foot peaks. Descending to the valley floor, we walk through a series of small hamlets and villages including Ecot (6,453'), the second highest village in France and now a protected monument that’s part of the historical heritage of Savoy and the Alps.

Days 7-8
Gran Paradiso National Park / Rifugio Savoia / Valsavarenche

We cross into Italy’s Gran Paradiso National Park, once the private hunting grounds of Vittorio Emmanuel II, the first king of Italy, until he donated it to the newly united kingdom in 1860. Our hike brings us high into the mountains with superb views of the Gran Paradiso (13,323'), the highest peak in the area, and to a pass that is the border between France and Italy’s Val d’Aosta, the autonomous French-speaking region that was once a part of France’s Savoy in the once mighty Duchy. We overnight at the Rifugio Savoia (8,307'), set beside Lake Nivolet and overlooking the high peaks of Gran Paradiso. The following day, we descend into the Valsavarenche, one of the deepest and longest valleys in Val d’Aosta, dominated by the mass of the Gran Paradiso towering above with all its satellite peaks and gleaming glaciers.

Days 9-11
Cogne / Bardoney Valley

A steep hike into the alpine zone rewards us with a grand vista encompassing Mont Blanc, Monte Rosa, and the Matterhorn—­some of the highest peaks of the Alps! The next day we hike through the Bardoney Valley, a hidden glen where only a few cattle herders share the peace of the beautifully isolated pastures. Depart on Day 11.

For a more complete description, Download Full Detailed Itinerary

What the Trip is Like

This trip is rated Level 5, Strenuous. All trip members should have good mountain hiking experience, but no technical climbing experience is necessary. Most hiking is at altitudes between 6,000 and 9,700 feet, and the maximum elevation reached is 10,814 feet. Daily hikes range from four to nine hours. There are long daily ascents and descents of up to 3,500 feet in each direction; our longest day (Day 9) includes an ascent and descent of more than 5,000 feet each (note—this is an optional hike). Every participant must understand that this hike is truly challenging—trip members should be in excellent physical condition. If you wish, you can skip a day’s hike and travel to the next destination in the support vehicle.

Explanation of Trip Levels