Hikes in Vanoise National Park

Region in France

Nestled in the French Alps, close to some of France’s premier skiing destinations, the Vanoise National Park is a wild, craggy alpine treasure. Dotted with towering peaks, 107 of which top 3,000 m, and crowned with glistening glaciers, this is the French Alps at their most rugged. The valleys and meadows at lower altitudes showcase the greener side of the mountains, with lush, verdant pastures and colorful wildflowers. It’s no wonder that this region is one of the most popular destinations for hiking in France.

The Vanoise National Park was created in 1963 and is France’s oldest national park. Its creation was motivated by a local campaign to protect the vast herds of ibex that call the region home, and since its inception the Vanoise National Park has been an important habitat for rare and endangered wildlife. A hiking trip in the Vanoise is a fantastic opportunity to observe ibex, chamois, the whistling marmots, soaring eagles and even the endangered bearded vulture. Set against a colorful backdrop of more than 1200 different varieties of alpine plants, the Vanoise National Park will give you a taste of France’s wilder side.

Hiking is big business in the Vanoise National Park, and three of France’s most popular long-distance hiking trails cross its territory: the GR5, GR55 and the GTA. Dotted with friendly, picturesque refuges, you’ll find everything you need for a fantastic hiking holiday, with well-maintained trails and dramatic views at every turn. With over 500.0 km of hiking trails in the park alone, there’s plenty here to keep even the most enthusiastic hikers happy!

This stunning corner of the French Alps is packed with rare wildlife, fascinating history and dramatic geological features – the perfect combination for a fantastic hiking adventure! If you’re looking for a little inspiration, check out this list of all of our favorite hikes in the Vanoise National Park.

Top 10 Hikes In Vanoise National Park

The Vanoise National Park offers some of the most varied hiking terrain in the French Alps, with everything from soaring peaks to lush, green valleys. Whether you’re a complete beginner or a hiking aficionado, you’re sure to find a trail here to suit you. The Vanoise is crossed by one of France’s most popular long-distance hiking trails – the GR5 –, which offers some real challenges for experienced hikers. This is a great place to push yourself with some long, strenuous routes, with plenty of rewards along the way. The views from some of these high peaks are simply glorious. However, you won’t need to be super fit to enjoy the beautiful scenery in the Vanoise National Park. There are also lots of shorter, family-friendly routes that won’t wear you out too much, but that allow you to enjoy some remarkable walks in classic alpine scenery.

  • Refuge du Mont Pourri Hike: This charming hike is the best way to experience the majesty and beauty of the Vanoise National Park. The route ascends steeply through the larch forests, past abandoned refuges and over gurgling streams, before reaching the Refuge du Mont Pourri, in a spectacular setting overlooking the valley. You’ll have magnificent views and the chance to spot some rare wildlife, including bearded vultures and marmots. This beautiful route is one of our favorite hikes in the Vanoise National Park.
  • Col d’Aussois and Pointe de l’Observatoire Hike: If you’re looking for a classic, challenging hike in the Vanoise National Park, look no further than this wonderful, relatively long hike through some truly spectacular scenery. You’ll pass from lush, green alpine fields to a stark, rocky landscape, following herds of ibex whilst enjoying some magnificent views over the Alps. This is, hands down, one of the best hikes in the Vanoise National Park.
  • Refuge du Mont Thabor Hike: This fairly easy hike is the perfect option for families with older kids. Nestled between the Vanoise National Park and the Parc National des Ecrins, the beautiful trek to the Refuge du Mont Thabor rises through pretty alpine scenery, passing by pretty streams and lush valleys. We’d highly recommend continuing for an extra five minutes to the pretty Lac Sainte Marguerite, which reflects the craggy peak of Le Cheval Blanc in its glassy waters.
  • Lac des Vaches and Col de la Vanoise Hike: If you’re looking for a hike that will allow you to experience the Vanoise in all its glorious majesty, this fantastic trail is the one for you. Passing along the historic Salt Route, you’ll enjoy some spectacular alpine scenery and a fantastic view from the Lac de Vaches. With tumbling waterfalls, turquoise glacial lakes, and craggy alpine peaks, this route really has it all.
  • Glacier du Grand Méan Hike: This lovely hike will take you to a picturesque glacial lake in the heart of the Vanoise National Park. The trail passes through some classic Vanoise scenery, with gushing waterfalls, picturesque refuges, and glorious views over the lake at the top. The hike is steep in places, but it’s not too much of a challenge, and we think it’s one of the finest hikes in the Vanoise National Park. If you’re planning to complete this hike, don’t miss the opportunity to visit the beautiful village of Bonneval-sur-Arc, close to the trailhead.
  • Vallon du Prariond Hike: This route may be short, but it really packs a punch when it comes to beautiful scenery! The views are spectacular from the outset, overlooking the river and the Gorge du Malpassat. Follow the river until you reach the lovely Vallon du Prariond, where you may have the chance to spot chamois, ibex and whistling marmots. This is a hike where you should take your time and drink in the amazing alpine scenery.
  • Le Lac Blanc de Termignon Hike: Looking for an easy hike in the Vanoise National Park, suitable for the whole family? The short easy route to the Lac Blanc de Termignon is a perfect family hike, short enough for young children to enjoy themselves (although the path is not suitable for strollers). Once you reach the lake, you’ll have a beautiful panorama over the peak of Dent Parrachée and the Doron gorges.
  • Aiguille Percée Hike: The so-called ‘Eye of the Needle’ is one of the most unusual and enigmatic rock formations in the French Alps, a tall rock with an oval hole right at its peak. This route offers incredible views of the Aiguille Percée, and of the area around Tignes. It’s a moderate hike, suitable for beginner hikers who want to push themselves in some glorious scenery, and the views at the top are breathtaking.
  • Col de la Lose Hike: Straddling the border between the French and Italian Alps, the hike to the Col de la Lose takes you through some of the most remarkable terrain in the region, with magnificent views at every turn. You’ll pass by a lovely waterfall, and traverse the beautiful Vallon du Prariond, where you’ll have a good chance of seeing chamois or ibex. The trail ascends steadily, but the views will take your mind off your aching legs, and you can always make a pit stop at the friendly Refuge du Prariond!
  • Refuge du Fond des Fours Hike: Looking for a fun family hike close to Val d’Isere? This hike ticks all the boxes, and is the ideal option for a day out in the mountains with kids. The trail ascends to the popular Refuge du Fond des Fours, one of the most celebrated refuges on the GR5, and an excellent place for a snack or an overnight stay. Keep your eyes open for wildlife – it’s not uncommon to catch a glimpse of a bearded vulture in this part of the region.

When Is The Best Time To Hike In Vanoise National Park?

The Vanoise National Park is a year-round destination for outdoor adventurers, with great skiing in the winter and hiking in the summer. The hiking season typically runs from May to October, although some higher-elevation trails have a slightly shorter season with early autumn snows. In the summer months you can usually expect sunny weather and mild temperatures, making this a perfect climate for hiking and backpacking. However, we think that the best time to go hiking in the Vanoise National Park is in June. As spring turns into summer and the higher peaks unveil themselves as the snows melt, you can expect a dazzling display of alpine flowers. The Vanoise is known for its diverse flora, and a hiking trip here is a fantastic opportunity to revel in one of nature’s finest (and most colorful) spectacles.

Other Outdoor Activities In Vanoise National Park

Hiking is one of the most popular things to do in the Vanoise National Park, with several long distance hiking trails crossing the region. However, you’ll also find plenty of other awesome outdoor activities in the Vanoise National Park, with something to suit all tastes! This is a wonderful place for long distance hiking and backpacking, road and mountain biking, rock climbing, and horse riding. It’s also perfect for nature lovers – the park is home to an incredible variety of birds of prey, and also the ubiquitous ibex, chamois and marmots that call these mountains home. In the winter, once the snows settle on the hills, you’re just a stone’s throw away from some of France’s best ski resorts, and there are plenty of opportunities for skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing.

How To Plan A Trip To Vanoise National Park

Planning a trip to the Vanoise National Park couldn’t be easier! To take the hard work out of organizing your stay, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide to planning a trip to the Vanoise National Park. You’ll find recommendations on where to stay, where to eat, and most importantly, insider tips on all the best hikes. This magnificent national park is one of the best destinations in France for outdoor adventures, so what are you waiting for? Grab your hiking boots – it’s time to hit the trail.

Frequently-Asked-Questions About Vanoise National Park

How do I get to Vanoise National Park?
The Vanoise National Park is connected to two major airports, Lyon and Geneva (across the Swiss border). It takes between 2-3 hours to reach the national park from either of these airports by car. The park is not very well connected by public transport, so we’d recommend hiring a car and using that to get around during your stay.

Can I camp in the Vanoise National Park?
There are significant restrictions on camping in the Vanoise National Park, in order to protect the fragile habitats and local flora and fauna. Bivouacking is permitted in some areas, usually close to mountain huts, but only between the hours of 7pm and 8am.

Are there wolves in the Vanoise National Park?
Wolves have been successfully reintroduced into the French Alps, although they are shy of humans and it’s very rare for hikers to catch a glimpse of them. There are around 300 wolves in the wider alpine region and they have often been observed in the Vanoise National Park.

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Best Hikes in Vanoise National Park

Open details for Col d’Aussois & Pointe de l’Observatoire

Col d’Aussois & Pointe de l’Observatoire

Very Hard
16.9 km
947 m
5.5-8h

The Col D’Aussois hike is a wonderfully long hike, a true classic hike of the Vanoise. This hike takes you through green fields and ends in a very rocky, mineral landscape. You will find yourself hiking through the world of the ibex, with some of the best panoramic views in the Alps.

User Ratings
Overall Rating
9.9
Technical Difficulty
Intermediate (Square)
Suitable for intermediates who are ready for a little bit more adventure.
Physical Difficulty
Intermediate (Square)
Suitable for intermediates who are ready for a little bit more adventure.
Open details for Glacier du Grand Méan

Glacier du Grand Méan

Easy
12.7 km
1,057 m
5-7h

The Glacier du Grand Méan hike takes you to a glacial lake in a charming part of the Vanoise. This is a beautiful hike that gets you up close to a glacier where you may see chunks floating in the little lake. Located close to the lovely town of Bonneval-sur-Arc, this hike will take you through a variety of landscapes and give you the opportunity to admire the unique little piece of Greenland in Vanoise. It’s one of the best hikes in the Vanoise.

User Ratings
Overall Rating
9.9
Technical Difficulty
Easy (Circle)
Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
Physical Difficulty
Easy (Circle)
Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
Open details for Refuge du Mont Thabor

Refuge du Mont Thabor

Hard
11.1 km
944 m
4.5-6.5h

The hike to Refuge du Mont Thabor is a great hike which is not too long, and perfect for a family outing. You will enjoy the view on the lake above the refuge and admire in it, the reflection of the mountain called Cheval blanc.

User Ratings
Overall Rating
9.9
Technical Difficulty
Easy (Circle)
Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
Physical Difficulty
Intermediate (Square)
Suitable for intermediates who are ready for a little bit more adventure.
Open details for Le Lac Blanc de Termignon

Le Lac Blanc de Termignon

Very Easy
3.4 km
297 m
1.5-2h

The hike to Le Lac Blanc de Termignon is a wonderful family hike in the alpine pastures of Vanoise National Park. Do not be fooled by the lack of distance, this short hike offers a beautiful panoramic view on the Dent Parrachée and can be combined with a visit to the Refuge du Lac Blanc.

User Ratings
Overall Rating
9.7
Technical Difficulty
Easy (Circle)
Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
Physical Difficulty
Easy (Circle)
Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
Open details for Aiguille Percée

Aiguille Percée

Moderate
7.9 km
701 m
3.5-4.5h

Hiking up to the Aiguille Percée in Tignes takes you to one of the best geological curiosities in Vanoise National Park - the eye of the needle. The hike begins in Tignes, but you are quickly above the modern ski village. Although this hike is quite a climb, the final view is stunning, a great day hike.

User Ratings
Overall Rating
9.7
Technical Difficulty
Intermediate (Square)
Suitable for intermediates who are ready for a little bit more adventure.
Physical Difficulty
Intermediate (Square)
Suitable for intermediates who are ready for a little bit more adventure.
Open details for Col de la Lose

Col de la Lose

Hard
11.8 km
966 m
4.5-6.5h

The hike up to the Col de la Lose takes you to the border between the French and Italian Alps. Starting near Val d’Isere, this hike is along a steep path through wonderful scenery. On the way up to the Col de la Lose you will find wonderful views of a waterfall, high alpine scenery, and a glacier.

User Ratings
Overall Rating
9.7
Technical Difficulty
Easy (Circle)
Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
Physical Difficulty
Intermediate (Square)
Suitable for intermediates who are ready for a little bit more adventure.
Open details for Refuge du Fond des Fours

Refuge du Fond des Fours

Moderate
7.6 km
630 m
3-4.5h

A hike to the Refuge du Fond des Fours is a perfect family hike in Vanoise National Park. Close to Val d’Isere, this is a fun day out. Hike through pastures close to a cute stream as you gently climb to the Refuge du Fond des Fours.

User Ratings
Overall Rating
9.9
Technical Difficulty
Easy (Circle)
Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
Physical Difficulty
Intermediate (Square)
Suitable for intermediates who are ready for a little bit more adventure.
Open details for Refuge du Mont Pourri

Refuge du Mont Pourri

Hard
9.5 km
968 m
4.5-6h

A hike to the Refuge du Mont Pourri will take you among bearded vultures, glaciers, waterfalls, marmots, and a lake. Located near La Plagne and Les Arcs ski areas, you will hike around a large cirque with stunning views, showcasing all that Parc Nationale de la Vanoise has to offer.

User Ratings
Overall Rating
9.7
Technical Difficulty
Easy (Circle)
Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
Physical Difficulty
Advanced (Diamond)
Suitable for advanced experience level looking for a solid adventure.
Open details for Lac des Vaches and Col de la Vanoise

Lac des Vaches and Col de la Vanoise

Hard
14.0 km
821 m
4.5-6.5h

A hike to the Lac des Vaches and then up to the Col de la Vanoise is a stunning hike with an impressive variety of landscapes. This hike takes you along the Vanoise portion of the historic Salt Road and some of the best high alpine scenery in the French Alps!

User Ratings
Overall Rating
9.6
Technical Difficulty
Intermediate (Square)
Suitable for intermediates who are ready for a little bit more adventure.
Physical Difficulty
Intermediate (Square)
Suitable for intermediates who are ready for a little bit more adventure.
Open details for Vallon du Prariond

Vallon du Prariond

Easy
6.1 km
493 m
2.5-3.5h

Vallon du Prariond may be the one of the shortest hikes on our list, but it is not any less impressive than the others. You will start the hike with an amazing view over the river into the rocks of the Gorge of Malpasset. It will lead you to a little green paradise in only one hour of hiking! From here, the view on the glacier is gorgeous and the Marmots are not shy.

User Ratings
Overall Rating
9.6
Technical Difficulty
Easy (Circle)
Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
Physical Difficulty
Easy (Circle)
Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.

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Open details for Planning Your Trip to France’s Vanoise National Park

Planning Your Trip to France’s Vanoise National Park

By Lynn W
March 1st, 2018
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