From the Mountains to the Sea along the GR5


This hiker’s dream journey brings us from mighty Mont Blanc to the palm-fringed beaches of the Côte d’Azur, where the Maritime Alps plunge into the blue Mediterranean. Setting off below the flanks of Europe’s highest peak, we hike in alpine meadows where cowbells echo and to age-old villages that are a step back in time. Heading south, we follow the legendary GR5 trail across remote national parks, then enter brightly colored hill villages that announce the Mediterranean is near. Arriving on the coast, we kick off our boots and head for a celebratory dip in the sea. Our mountain adventure has been named one of Outside Magazine’s Trips of a Lifetime.

Itinerary at a Glance

Days 1-3
Megève / Mont Blanc Massif

Our journey begins with a hike to Mont Joly (8,282') along a spectacular ridge with breathtaking views of the Mont Blanc massif. Crossing the Col de Bresson, we enjoy impressive panoramas of Mont Blanc’s south face and the striking monolith of Pierra Menta.

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Days 4-7
Vanoise National Park

With vistas of waterfalls, meadows, lakes, and glaciers, we enter Vanoise National Park, home to ibex and chamois. Our route brings us above treeline to Col du Plan Séry (8,560'), with a descent to the beautiful hamlet of Champagny le Haut. A ramble along an old Roman road leads us beneath the granite peaks of the Grande Casse to Col de la Vanoise (8,255'), with three gleaming alpine lakes along the way. One of our hikes brings us into the narrow Vallée étroite, used long ago as a passage into France from Italy, and we cross Col des Thures (7,196') to descend to the mountain village of Névache.

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Days 8-11
Queyras Regional Park / St. Martin-Vésubie / Mercantour National Park

In Queyras, one of the most untouched areas of France, we traverse flower-covered meadows to climb up to the Col du Cros, where we may see Corsican mouflon (wild mountain sheep). A relaxed Mediterranean atmosphere comes to life in St. Martin-Vésubie, where men play pétanque in the village square and sip pastis, the classic apéritif of southern France. In Mercantour National Park, with its tiny perched villages and forests of holm oak, we hike to the ancient pilgrimage site of Refuge de la Madone de Fenestre (6,242') and onward to the Col de Fenestre (8,115') on the border with Italy. Here we stand between two national parks, one in Italy and one in France, savoring fantastic views of vast glaciated mountains.

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Days 12-14
Menton / Nice

After exploring the Vallée des Merveilles, with its Bronze Age rock art, we follow a trail with views of the sea up to the Col du Razet, then head to the coast for a well-earned swim in the Mediterranean. Depart on Day 14 via Nice.

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Our unique route leads us through a range of cultures and landscapes
Secluded mountain villages and less-traveled national parks
Small groups—maximum 7 people!


Length: 14 days
Cost From: $7195  
Arrive: Megève, France
Depart: Nice, France
Lodging: 13 nights rustic hotels and inns
Meals: All meals included except 1 lunch and 1 dinner (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)
Activity: Hiking / Trekking
Trip Level:

12 hiking days on moderate to steep trails, 5-7 hours a day, altitudes between 6,000-9,400 feet, van support (for luggage or if you wish to skip a day’s hike). This is a strenuous hiking trip, read “What the Trip is Like” for more details.

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