Hiking in France: The 5 best hut-to-hut tours

By Sierd van der Bij

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From the Alps to the Pyrenees, the Vosges, the Jura, the Massif Central, and not to forget the mountains of Corsica - there is no shortage of destinations for a hut-to-hut tour in France. Camping in southern France? Then you've never experienced a French hut-to-hut tour. Adventure guaranteed for everyone, including the young mountain goats. And French cuisine? You'll find that at an altitude of 2000 meters. These are our favorite hut-to-hut tours in France. Allez!

The very best hut-to-hut tour in France: Tour du Mont Blanc

A hut-to-hut tour is the best-kept secret if you're looking for a relaxing vacation. Long days of hiking, a fresh beer, a hot meal, and a cozy mountain hut in a place where you'd rather have no reception. You can go on a hut-to-hut tour in Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Italy, and elsewhere in the Alps. France? You bet. Forget camping, the mountains are calling!

The best-selling hut-to-hut tour on Bookatrekking.com, and it's not without reason. During this hut-to-hut tour, you will hike around the most famous mountain in Europe; Mont Blanc. You usually start in Chamonix, France, from where you hike through Italy and Switzerland, covering about 170 kilometers in 10 days, eventually ending up in Chamonix again.

Along the route, you'll come across many typical mountain huts where you can stop for a cup of coffee, a local lunch, or an overnight stay. Hiking days typically consist of 6 to 8 hours and are characterized by the beautiful views of the glaciers around Mont Blanc and challenging passes where you regularly surpass 1000 meters in altitude per day. This means the journey is not a walk in the park. Although the route can be completed by almost anyone, if you are untrained or not regularly active, you may not enjoy it as much.

The mountain huts on the Tour du Mont Blanc open around June 15 when most of the snow has disappeared from the trails. Most huts offer half-board, including breakfast and dinner. We strongly recommend choosing this option. A warm meal in the hut is not only a nice way to end a long day of hiking but also lightens your backpack.

If you want to know more about the Tour du Mont Blanc, you can read our extensive hut-to-hut longread. The Tour du Mont Blanc is fully booked every summer, so if you're enthusiastic, don't wait too long. We have various packages where you can choose half of the route (Western Tour du Mont Blanc) or the entire route. Check out all the options here.

That other French hut-to-hut tour: Tour du Mont Thabor

GR57, also known as the Tour du Mont Thabor, is a loop around the less known but still very prominent Mont Thabor, in the Vallée de la Clarée in the Hautes-Alpes. Vallée de la Clarée is a sheltered, dead-end valley north of the fortress town of Briancon, on the border between France and Italy, and is part of the pristine Massif des Cerces. There are no ski slopes or other large-scale tourism; this valley is only for hikers, cyclists, and other nature enthusiasts.

Like other hut-to-hut tours in the Alps, it's better not to plan this trek before mid-July. In early summer, the high passes may still have snowfields. The beauty of Vallée de la Clarée and the Tour du Mont Thabor is that they are not only suitable for experienced mountain goats but also allow for family hut-to-hut tours. Here you can read more about the Tour du Mont Thabor, and here you can find the best packages for this well-kept secret.

The toughest hut-tohut tour in France: GR20 in Corsica

The GR 20 in Corsica, also known as fra li Monti, is a GR footpath that crosses the Mediterranean island of Corsica, running approximately from north to south. The entire route is about 180 km long with an elevation difference of 12,000 m. Although it takes about 15 days to complete, the route can be divided into 2 stages: the northern part, between Calenzana and Vizzavona, and the southern part, between Vizzavona and Conca.

This GR route is considered one of the most challenging of all GR routes. Are you brave enough to give it a try? Some mountaineering experience is recommended for the GR20. The trek involves some scrambling, the use of chains, and a ladder (on the northern part), and a confident pace for the rocky terrain and mountain ridges. To take on this challenge, you need to be a confident mountain hiker, and above all, you must be able to read route descriptions and determine your position on the map when needed.

If you're looking for a real hiking adventure in Europe, the GR20 is the right choice. "The toughest trekking route in Europe," are you brave enough to try it? No matter which direction you choose or if you only cover a section of the route, the GR20 does not disappoint.

From France to Switzerland: Walker's Haute Route

There are 200 kilometers and 15,200 meters of elevation gain between Chamonix and Zermatt. The highest point reached is an impressive 2,987 meters. The statistics for the Walker's Haute Route are staggering. While you witness breathtaking mountain passes, glaciers, charming towns, and stunning valleys, the Haute Route is also known for its fantastic food and wine - promising an exciting hut-to-hut tour. The Walker's Haute Route shares a portion of the Tour du Mont Blanc and then charts its own course into Switzerland. According to enthusiasts, this route is more beautiful than the TMB. You'll have to hike both to make that judgment.

The Walker's Haute Route is a massive challenge. The trek's distance of roughly 200 kilometers over rugged terrain, elevation gains, steep ascents and descents make it more challenging than, for example, the popular Tour du Mont Blanc. The weather conditions and the sometimes unstable condition of the trail add to the excitement. Curious? Read our blog post about the Walker's Haute Route here and check out the arrangements for our hut-to-hut tours.

Mercantour National Park in the Alpes Maritimes

A stone's throw from Nice on the world-famous Côte d'Azur, you'll find one of the last truly wild places in the Alps. While the Côte d'Azur welcomes over 10 million tourists annually, only a fraction make the 1-hour drive to this terre sauvage. Mercantour is one of the 10 French national parks and is over 40 years old. Because the park is so close to Nice, it's a logical starting or ending point for hikes and hut-to-hut tours in Mercantour. From here, one makes their way to Saint Martin Vésubie, providing easy access to the Mercantour sections of the GR52.

A hut-to-hut tour in Mercantour is somewhat less Alpine than, for example, the Walker's Haute Route or the Peter Habeler Runde in Austria. This, coupled with the fact that the Alpes Maritimes have a relatively mild climate, lowers the threshold. If you're looking for a relatively gentle but pristine hut-to-hut experience, a hut-to-hut tour in Mercantour is an excellent choice. Here you'll find everything about hut-to-hut tours in Mercantour and straight to our arrangements.

Bookatrekking.com has a continually growing offering of hut-to-hut tours and distant mountain expeditions. If your dream trip is not among them, contact our trekking experts and see what they can do for you!

A safe hut-to-hut tour in France

When going on a hut-to-hut tour in the Alps or Corsica, it's wise to be aware of a few things. Even if this is not your first time, never underestimate the mountains. To ensure your hiking vacation is a safe and enjoyable experience, our trekking experts have the following tips for you.

1. Don't overdo it: Mountain hiking is the perfect outlet and escape from everyday life. But, don't overdo it. "Overestimation and underestimation are dangerous. Don't overestimate yourself, and don't underestimate the route," says Sierd, also a Kilimanjaro expert at Bookatrekking.com. "Choose the slower option and take more time for your plans. Hiking under time pressure is not pleasant, and a fast pace can be dangerous. Don't forget the word 'holiday' in 'hiking holiday'."

2. Plan carefully: Good planning is half the battle! Hiking maps, literature, the internet, and expert advice are invaluable in tour planning, allowing you to determine the length, altitude difference, difficulty, and conditions of your hike. If you plan group hikes, always plan the tour for the weakest member of the group! The weather in the mountains can change incredibly fast, and rain, wind, and cold increase the risk factor. Always check the weather forecast in advance. Also, consult our trekking experts and gather information before you set out.

3. Fully equipped: Equipment is everything. In extreme cases, it can make the difference between life and death, and in all cases, it can make the difference between joy and suffering. Food, rain protection, cold protection, sun protection should always be in your backpack, as well as a first aid kit and a mobile phone (European emergency number: 112). Lighter luggage makes walking easier, so don't bring too much additional baggage. Your equipment should always be suitable for your planned tour.

4. Appropriate shoes: Trail running shoes are good for weekends in the mountains, but for longer tours, you should have at least Class A/B hiking boots. This means high mountain boots that are also waterproof.

5. Stay on marked paths: In the Alps, there are endless marked hiking trails—well maintained and cared for. It may be tempting, but it's not a good idea to cut the trail or take alternative routes through unmarked terrain. If you do, you have a good chance of getting lost. Steep slopes with packed old snow are also often underestimated and can be dangerous. In doubt? Then don't do it.

6. Take regular breaks: As mentioned, you're on a hiking vacation. Take time for your walk and rest regularly. Our advice: If you have little time, it's better to take the short arrangement than to speed up the long one.

7. The kids have the power: If you're going on a hut-to-hut tour with the kids, the motto at Bookatrekking.com is, "The kids have the say." The kids are happy, mom and dad are happy. Listen to them and don't exhaust them. Play a game on the way so they don't ask you every five minutes if you're there yet. Of course, always choose the child-friendly option.

8. Respect nature: Leave no trash behind, avoid noise, stay on marked paths, leave the animals alone, and respect the protected areas.

Weather during a hike in France

The most important rule for hut-to-hut tours and hikes in the Alps or other high mountains is that the weather changes much faster in areas above 2,000 meters, and different climatic conditions prevail than at the altitudes where we usually travel. When planning a hut-to-hut tour and mountain hikes, always consider the weather forecasts. Even in midsummer, when the temperature in the valley is over 30 degrees Celsius, it can snow in the high mountains. The reason is that the temperature can drop by 5-6 degrees Celsius per 1000 meters of altitude. Since cold air can also store less moisture, it rains or snows more frequently in the high mountains than in the lowlands. In the high mountains, a thunderstorm can be particularly dangerous; generally, the likelihood of thunderstorms increases in the afternoon, and the weather can change very quickly due to the altitude.

You can recognize a possible thunderstorm by lightning strikes or the formation of small cumulus clouds. A significant drop in air pressure is also a sure sign of an approaching thunderstorm. During a thunderstorm, you should always avoid the via ferrata and other metal objects. Seek shelter in a cave or under a rock overhang as quickly as possible. Nevertheless, good protection from the sun is important. The tree line in the Alps is between 1,800 and 2,200 meters - above this altitude, you are exposed to the burning sun, which is always strong in the high mountains.

Where can I book my walking holiday in France?

At Bookatrekking.com you can book many treks in France. We take care of all the details for you, give you personal trekking advice and give you the best service possible. Find all our offers for France here. Our easy-to-use platform allows you to browse and compare different trekking options and find the perfect fit for your interests, abilities, and budget.

If you have any questions about a specific trek or need help choosing the right one for you, our team of Trekking Experts is here to assist you. Simply reach out to us and we will be happy to provide you with personalized recommendations and advice to help you plan the trekking adventure of a lifetime.

Is a walking holiday in France not your cup of tea and are you looking for other epic adventures? Check out one of our following blog posts:

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