Your trip starts on arrival at your hotel in Modane. Easily reached by road and rail, Modane is also well placed on the trail for a practical start to the hike. There are supermarkets to stock up on supplies before an evening meal in a local restaurant.
Hotel in Modane (1050m) (breakfast)
Red 2 (grade) 5.8km with 885m ascent, 0m descent
Find your mountain legs with a sustained climb out of the valley and into the mountains proper. The day is short so you have plenty of time to relax and enjoy the walking. Most of the ascent is in trees; however, your hard work is rewarded by the views which open up as you ascend. Once at the top, there is a real mountain feel and a fantastic taste of what’s to come!
Mountain hut (1935m) (breakfast and dinner)
Red 3 (grade) 12km with 770m ascent, 395m descent
A climb through trees leads to a traverse across open hillsides, and the best distant views so far. Having sighted the day’s destination across the valley, the second half of the day involves a circuit high above two lakes to reach the hut. Enjoy the views from the cosy Refuge de Plan Sec at the end of the day, perched high on the hillside.
Mountain hut (2316m) (dinner and breakfast)
Red 3 (grade) 16km with 670m ascent, 540m descent
A day of gentle ups and downs, and long traverses across the hillsides. Today’s stage makes significant progress around the National Park with views ahead, behind, above, below and out across the valley. The second half of the day sees rougher country, until the final combe with the Refuge at the far side.
Mountain hut (2309m) (dinner and breakfast)
Red 3 (grade) 11.5km with 510m ascent, 690m descent
Another day of stupendous views, possibly better than the previous stage. Rough and rocky terrain gives way to grassier combes and glacial valleys. The day’s destination can be seen for much of the first half, but the route takes a long loop around the head of the Doron gorge.
Mountain hut (2120m) (dinner and breakfast)
Red 3 (grade) 14.4km with 415m ascent, 1150m descent
A day spent going from wild mountain scenery to a traditional small town typical of the Vanoise. The mountain views around the Col de la Vanoise are superb, and the long descent passes quickly with the help of the Lac des Vaches. Arrive at the lively village of Pralognan which has all that's required without the modern architecture of the previous stage. We love Pralognan!
Hotel in Pralognan-la-Vanoise (1418m) (breakfast)
Blue 3 (grade) 13.6km with 1070m ascent, 0m descent
A relatively relaxed day today despite the height gain as most of the day is spent on good tracks and paths. The route traverses pretty countryside before climbing steadily up-valley and into the mountains with Pointe de l’Echelle in view ahead. The route feels wilder as you continue to climb to your home for the night; the futuristic refuge of Péclet-Polset.
Mountain hut (2474m) (dinner and breakfast)
Black 3 (grade) 14.4km with 320m ascent, 1750m descent
This stage traverses the Col de Chavière, the last and highest col on the Tour of the Vanoise South, and also the highest col crossed by any of the GR routes. And a grand setting it is. Once beyond, it is downhill almost all the way to Modane. Enjoy this final stage.
Hotel in Modane (1050m) (breakfast)
Relax over breakfast and maybe visit the l'Entree Monumentale - a monument with a life-sized steam train recording the history of the first tunnel through the Alps. Depart for the airport or your further travels.
Make the trip shorter
The best way to shorten your trek is to skip the first short stage to Refuge de l'Orgere by taking the shuttle bus or a taxi on the first day and starting directly from stage 2. This makes for a 6-stage hiking holiday.
Make the trip longer
It is possible to add an extra night's accommodation at the Refuge Col de la Vanoise between Refuge Entre Deux Eaux and Pralognan-la-Vanoise on stage 5. This would make for two very short days of walking, but the Col de la Vanoise is in an exceptional setting so you may enjoy to take your time here. Pralognan is also a lovely town so by shortening your walking day on this stage, you'll have the chance to spend more time in the town.
As standard, we don't include a rest day. However, if you would like to add one in, we recommend an extra night in the lively Alpine town of Pralognan la Vanoise. Pralognan is just a small town but has plenty of restaurants and shops to enjoy a relaxed day.
Hike with a guide
Hike with confidence in the company of our fully qualified International Mountain Leaders (IMLs), with the navigation, accommodation and arrangements taken care of. If your group would like a guide for your trip, please get in touch for more details.
Tour of the Vanoise South
15 July to 17 Sept 2023
Skipping night at Ref l'Orgere
1 rest day in Pralognan
Group of 4 or more
Please ask us
Group of 1, 2 or 3
Please ask us
||We cannot offer bag transfer on this trip due to the remoteness of the huts.|
Our classic mix of accommodation aims to give the best of both worlds; rustic huts in the mountains and friendly hotels in the towns. As standard our classic trip includes 5 nights in huts, and the remaining 3 nights in 3* hotels. Please note that Modane is more of a practical place to start the trip, rather than a quaint Alpine town.
Our classic 7-stage trip stays in 5 mountain huts. Private rooms are available at only 2 huts (Refuge Plan Sec and Refuge de L'Arpont), depending on the availability at the time of booking. Then the other huts only offer the option of domitory accommodation in bunk beds. The dormitories are all of small size (6 to 8 people), except for at the Refuge Peclet-Polset which only offers large dormitory places in 12-person rooms.
It is impossible to avoid dormitories entirely on the Vanoise tour, given that this is foremost a hut-to-hut trip. We suggest staying in all 5 huts, as they contribute to the overall Alpine experience and are the natural stopping points along the route. They also offer a wonderful communal spirit, and are situated in the best locations.
Due to the hut-to-hut nature of the trail and the limited number of hotels in the towns and villages, a comfier schedule is hard to achieve. We can offer a hotel upgrade to a 4* hotel in Pralognan-la-Vanoise, and to make your trip comfier, we can offer to book private rooms at 2 huts (Refuge Plan Sec and Refuge de L'Arpont) if they are available at the time of booking.
Our trip is already quite 'hutty' meaning we do not have a dedicated hutty option for the Vanoise. It may be possible in the towns and villages to swap hotels for auberges or to book a more basic hotel. Please ask us if you'd like to explore the more basic accommodation options.
Single Room Supplement
The single room supplement covers the higher cost of single occupancy of a room at the hotels (3 on this trip). The huts do not offer any single rooms, so we will book shared dormitories on the other nights.
The Southern circuit follows the typical 7-day Tour des Glaciers de la Vanoise circuit as advertised by the Vanoise National Park. Alpine Exploratory's version offers some differences in our stopovers points whilst sticking to the main route. The Tour of the Vanoise South is a popular trail in Summer, especially with French people on holiday in the mountains.
The Tour of the Vanoise trail is made up of sections of the GR5 and GR55 long distance trails which results in clear trails throughout. The terrain can be steep and rocky on some sections, particularly on the rocky ascent to the Col de Chaviere on the final stage. This is complemented by the more relaxing sections of contouring hillside paths and tracks with some rockier sections to keep you entertained.
There are some small sections of steep, loose ground requiring care and also short sections of exposed ground with chains to hold. These should not present a problem to most mountain walkers and there are no via ferrata or climbing sections. In early or late Summer, there is a good chance of snow patches lying on the higher paths which will require care, but the lower paths are likely to be snow-free. We provide information on snow in our Season Update each July.
Is it for me?
The Tour of the Vanoise South is a wonderful trail and often cited as one of the best multi-day hiking trails in the Alps. It provides outstanding views throughout and is less busy than the neighbouring trails of the Tour du Mont Blanc to the North and the Tour de l'Oisans (Ecrins) to the South. The trail is a mix of challenging days on rough mountain paths and easier days on solid tracks. The route also includes a great mix of accommodation with 5 characterful mountain huts giving a remote mountain feel to the trail and 2 friendly hotels in the towns allowing for rest and relaxation.
This route suits those with good overall fitness and experience of multi-day hikes in the mountains. You will also need the ability to walk for up to 6 to 8 hours per day over rocky ground. If you are very fit and active day-to-day, then the Vanoise can also be suitable for those relatively new to multi-day trekking, although previous mountain walking experience is still necessary. The main challenge of the Vanoise, aside from the daily distance, is the amount of ascent and descent with just over 7,000m of ascent over 7-stages.
The route is generally well signposted and waymarked by yellow signposts, aiding navigation, although a map and compass is needed for navigation in case of bad weather such as low cloud. This is particularly important on the higher rockier sections such the Col de Chavière on the last stage. It is important that at least 1 person in each group can navigate with a map and compass. We provide you with our routecards, providing detailed descriptions of each days’ walk, along with the topographical maps for the full route.
A level of self-sufficiency on the Vanoise is necessary as transfer bags (an optional extra) cannot be delivered to the huts. On hut nights you’ll need to carry everything you need for that days’ walk and the day after. But with plenty of huts and chalets along the way, delicious food is easy to come by. All of the huts also offer the option to buy a packed lunch for the following day too. Our routecards also point out refreshment stops.
We grade the Tour of the Vanoise South as a Black 3. This trail is first and foremost a walk and there are no glacier crossings, via ferrata or rock climbing. There are however a few sections of steep and rocky ground which require steady foot placement. There are also a number of sections such as the Col de Chavière on the last stage where the route becomes rocky and crosses a number of scree slopes requiring steady foot placement.
Walking Guide to the Tour of the Vanoise - our detailed guide
Travel to and from the trip is not included in the holiday price, and we leave you to arrange your transfers individually. We do however take care to give the most useful notes possible about all travel options. We supply these both on booking in your Trip Notes, and in your info pack which we send out prior to your trip. We also offer personalised tips based on our extensive travels across Europe; please ask us for advice and we'll be happy to help!
- Bespoke accommodation itinerary - tailored to suit your preferences
- Breakfast on every morning
- Dinner at the huts (5 nights on our standard trip)
- 7 detailed Routecards of the Exploratory system, printed on waterproof paper
- The 2 French topographical maps (1:25,000)
- Expert advice and local information
- A comprehensive Season Update following our pre-season recce
- Full support during your trip from the Alpine Exploratory team (9am until 9pm in the Alps)
- Travel to and from Modane
- Local transport during the trip
- Travel insurance
- Lunches, snacks, drinks and evening meals in the towns (2 nights on our standard trip)
- Baggage transfer (available as an extra)
Baggage transferLet us move your bags along the route for you. At an additional cost, we can offer 1 bag drop at Pralognan-la-Vanoise for you. Please let us know if you'd like to opt for this option. Alternatively it is also possible leave your luggage at the hotel in Modane whilst you hike.
Tour of the Vanoise South 2023 enquiry form
If you prefer, please feel welcome to email or call us. Thanks!
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