Tour du Mont Thabor in La Vallée de la Clarée: The Family-Friendly Trek

By Sierd van der Bij

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Tour du Mont Thabor in La Vallée de la Clarée: The Family-Friendly Trek
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The Tour du Mont Thabor, the French Alps' best-kept secret. In Vallée de la Clarée you can find unspoiled Alpine scenery, away from the beaten track, the most hospitable gites and refuges, and to top it all off: The option for a family-friendly trek. Forget the Tour du Mont Blanc, the Walker's Haute Route, and the other big names. Around Mont Thabor you can enjoy quality mountain time without having to take too much time off and without breaking the bank. We wanted to keep it all for ourselves, but happiness is only real when shared. So, allez! Let's discover the Tour du Mont Thabor and the trails of Vallée de la Clarée together!

Grande Randonnée GR57 is better known as the Tour du Mont Thabor. This is a loop around the lesser known but still very prominent Mont Thabor, in Vallée de la Clarée in the Hautes-Alpes. Vallée de la Clarée is a sheltered, dead-end valley north of the fortified town of Briancon, on the border between France and Italy and forms part of the unspoilt Massif des Cerces. There are no ski slopes or other large-scale tourism, this valley is there only for hikers, cyclists, and other nature lovers. When doing the full circuit, you can expect a total distance of around 85 kilometers and more than 5,000 meters of elevation gain. You don't have to, though. Tour du Mont Thabor is easily broken up into pieces and thus allows an experience for the entire family.

Where Are the Tour du Mont Thabor and Vallée de la Clarée?

Mont Thabor is a 3,178 meter high mountain in the Massif des Cerces Range, in the Hautes-Alpes in France. Although beautiful, we are more interested in the trails around this peak, especially the ones starting the picturesque town of Névache. This village can be found in Vallée de la Clarée and is one of the Alps' best-kept secrets. Sure, Chamonix is great, Courmayeur is fantastic, and, Zermatt is perhaps Mecca, but Névache has it all when looking for an unspoiled hiking experience.

Although in France, logistics to Névache from Turin seem easier. The valley can be easily reached from the SS335/E70 main route between French Fourneaux and Italian Turin. Coming from the French side, Névache is basically at the end of the quiet road from Grenoble to Briancon. No wonder, the Tour du Mont Thabor is a bit of a secret. The Tour du Mont Thabor is one of the Grande Randonnées (GR), a name given to long-distance walks in this part of the world, and has been given the number 57. The full GR57 is about 85 kilometers in distance and gives you over 5,000 meters vertical gain.

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Is The Tour du Mont Thabor For Me?

In Vallée de la Clarée, around Mont Thabor, you can find an array of mountain huts, known as refuges and gites. On a longer version of the tour, these huts can be used for both sleeping and mid-day aid stations. On a shorter tour, the aid stations can become your accommodation for the night. Because there are so many different refuges, the Tour du Mont Thabor can be designed in such a way that not only seasoned mountain goats can get their satisfaction, but the young and aspiring goats will also have a good time.

The route has no technical difficulties and is suitable for anyone with a decent physical condition. This leaves time for long picnic breaks at the mountain lakes, fantastic views from the peaks, and a drink on the terrace of a mountain hut at the end of the day. Is it for you? If you are looking for a challenge but don't want to take it straight to Everest Base Camp, hiking in Vallée de la Clarée could be a good stepping stone. Long story short? Yes, this trek is most likely for you!

Did you know that we can book all huts and refuges for the Tour du Mont Thabor for you? Check out all our options here.

Vallée de la Clarée Accommodation: Staying in Refuges

At Bookatrekking.com we like to do things properly and when it's about accommodation on our Alpine treks, this means you should stay in refuges. Refuge is the French name for a hut where mountaineers can enjoy a bed, a meal, and, in most cases, even a fresh draught or good glass of wine. In some cases, refuges are owned by the Alpine Club, in France, this can be the Fédération Francais des Clubs Alpins et de Montagne (FFCAM). What all these mountain huts have in common is their unusual locations: In the most remote spots in the Alps you can check into these little safe havens.

Most huts offer a half-board pension, which includes breakfast and dinner. We highly recommend choosing this option. Having a warm meal waiting for you at the hut is not only a great way to end a long day of hiking, but it will also make your luggage lighter. Carrying your own food during the trek will mean extra weight on your back.

What Is the Best Season for The Tour du Mont Thabor?

The official season is from mid-June to mid-September, but when you hike the Tour du Mont Thabor or anywhere else in Vallée de la Clarée between mid-July and late August the chances for good weather and snow-free trails. It’s peak season, so make sure to book as much in advance as possible. If you decide to go trekking in September, you’re still in for a treat and it’s not as busy on the trail. But this could also mean that some accommodations might be closed for the season already. Also, the days are shorter, the weather is colder and there is a chance of snow.

Tour du Mont Thabor Map

There are plenty of maps and guidebooks that can help you do the Tour du Mont Thabor or any other trek in Vallée de la Clarée. Below you can find a map with an overview of the Tour du Mont Thabor, Vallée de la Clarée and Névache. 

Family-Friendly Hiking: 3 Days in Vallée de la Clarée

We told you that Mont Thabor allows for some family-friendly hiking adventures. We have kids ourselves and we know that we can only enjoy ourselves when the little ones can enjoy themselves too. Kids happy, parents even happier. So we ventured out and designed a hut-to-hut hiking trip with kids that can be enjoyed by the entire family. Short and crisp but long enough for everyone to take it all in.

Day
1

From Névache to Refuge du Chardonnet

Duration: 03:05 h
Distance: 7.25 km
Ascent: 660 m
Descent: 30 m
Today, you depart from Névache to your first refuge for the night, Refuge du Chardonnet. It does come with a nice steep climb to get the legs moving. Over a distance of about 7 kilometers, you are tackling over 600 meters of vertical gain. If you start early, you are likely to have most of the afternoon at Refuge du Chardonnet to yourselves. You can use this time to discover the area and enjoy the views surrounding the refuge.

Refuge du Chardonnet

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Refuge du Chardonnet
Day
2

Refuge du Chardonnet - Refuge de Ricou

Duration: 01:55 h
Distance: 4.2 km
Ascent: 240 m
Descent: 370 m
What goes up, must come down. Today you descend via partly the same trail from yesterday. In the valley, you walk parallel to the stream Clarée through a beautiful larch forest. The water of the stream may look tempting, but it can get really cold. On your right, you will find the small hamlet of Fontcouverte. From here, it is a steady uphill walk to Refuge de Ricou at 2,115 meters.

Refuge de Ricou

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Refuge de Ricou
Day
3

Refuge de Ricou to Névache

Duration: 04:30 h
Distance: 11 km
Ascent: 250 m
Descent: 770 m
We ascend a little further before we make a gentle and long descent back to Névache. Today, you have two options. Either you go see the Lac Laramon, or you make a few extra steps out to Lac Serpent, further up the slope. Both offer stunning views. It's as if you're at Lac Blanc at Mont Blanc! The way back to Névache offers an undulating descent back to the starting point.

At Bookatrekking.com, we not only book your huts, we also send you on your way with a comprehensive hiking guide with the most important information for your Tour du Mont Thabor, including interactive Komoot maps. Browse all our options here and turn your dreams into reality.

For The Goats: 5-day Tour du Mont Thabor (GR57)

You can mix and match as many refuges as you want and make a gentle family experience out of your time in Vallée de la Clarée. However, it is also possible to skip a few refuges and do a proper ibex mission. We have designed a 5-day Tour du Mont Thabor itinerary that will give you a fantastic Alpine challenge. Sound the cowbells!

Day
1

From Névache to Refuge des Drayères

Duration: 05:15 h
Distance: 18.3 km
Ascent: 1040 m
Descent: 470 m
From Névache you follow the Clarée in a northwest direction. You follow a contour path all the way past Refuge de Ricou (coffee stop!) and Les Chaumes. Today offers a great warm-up for what's to come. Not too easy, not too hard, but it definitely gets the legs moving. You can also take an alternative route via Refuge de Laval, but if you want to do it properly, stay on the GR route.

Refuge des Drayères

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Refuge des Drayères
Day
2

From Refuge des Drayères to Valmeinier

Duration: 06:00 h
Distance: 20.1 km
Ascent: 740 m
Descent: 1410 m
More descent than ascent is on the menu for today. Find your way past streams and, especially, past lakes. You are hiking from one "Lac" to the other, starting with Lac de la Clarée. Then there is Lac Rond, after that Lac Grand Ban, and eventually even Lac Vert. Lac Vert is known for its beautiful blue-green colors. There's more than lakes: The views are magnificent on this stage, and your stay for the night is in the small hamlet Valmeinier. Here you will spend the night in a cozy mountain hotel.

Hôtel Club Les Carrettes (Valmeinier)

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Hôtel Club Les Carrettes (Valmeinier)
Day
3

From Valmeinier to Refuge du Mont Thabor

Duration: 06:55 h
Distance: 18.3 km
Ascent: 1760 m
Descent: 750 m
A tough day at the office today. With almost 1,800 meters vertical meters, your legs will get a good beating. This is because Col des Marches is on the schedule for today. Your long ascent will be rewarded with a quick dip to refuge, which has the same name. Here you can recharge your batteries for the next col; Col de Battalières. From the top you have fantastic views over de surrounding peaks and lakes of Sainte-Marguerite. Two hundred meters of elevation lie between you and the hospitable Refuge du Mont Thabor. Well done, grab a beer!

Refuge du Mont Thabor

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Refuge du Mont Thabor
Day
4

Refuge du Mont Thabor to Granges de la Vallée Étroite

Duration: 05:30 h
Distance: 16.2 km
Ascent: 750 m
Descent: 1470 m
Today, you have the option to tag the peak of Mont Thabor, but this is not the goal of GR57. After all, it's a tour. If you still have legs after yesterday's hike, however, it will definitely be worth your time and energy. From the top, you can enjoy endless views over the Vanoise and the Écrins. It will extend your hike by about 4 hours. If you don't go for Mont Thabor, you can keep hiking all the way downhill to Granges de la Vallée Étroite.

Rifugio Terzo Alpini

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Rifugio Terzo Alpini
Day
5

Granges de la Vallée Étroite to Névache

Duration: 04:55 h
Distance: 13.4 km
Ascent: 840 m
Descent: 1020 m
One last good day on the Tour du Mont Thabor. From Granges, it is about 6 hours back to the starting point of the trek; Névache. You start with walking back for around 2 kilometers to get back on the route of Tour du Mont Thabor. On the way, you will still find a few fantastic highlights and you will of course get to see undulating views. One last push to Col du Vallon, and before you know it you are enjoying a well-deserved blonde beer in Névache. Here, you can spend one more night, or you can travel onwards to the next set of mountains.
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Packing List for the Tour du Mont Thabor

It doesn't matter where you are going trekking or for how long: Carrying the right equipment with you is paramount. For a hiking trip in the mountains, you will need, first and foremost, a good backpack. Its size will depend on how many days you will be spending in the mountains, the season, and the clothes you will be taking with you. We have prepared a packing list with some essential clothing that you should include and some extras that you may find useful:
  • Essentials

  • Extras

Before and After the Tour du Mont Thabor: Névache Logistics

Because the Tour du Mont Thabor is essentially a circuit, you could technically start your version of the trek from anywhere. However, we like Névache as a starting point and that is why we believe you should start and finish your trek in Névache too. We have already told you that it is not particularly easy or straightforward, getting to Névache and Vallée de la Clarée. Part of the charm and beauty of the valley comes from its remoteness. The journey is part of the adventure and of course well worth it!

By plane

You can either fly to Turin in Italy, which is about 1.5 hours away from Névache, or you can fly to Marseille or Grenoble on the French side. Both these cities are about 3.5 hours away from Névache. You would then still have to get to the nearest train station (Marseille and Grenoble) and travel to Briançon. This is the closest train station.

By train

The closest train station is Briançon in France and Bardonnechia and Oulx in Italy. There's a night train from Paris to Briançon, where you can hop on a shuttle bus (Linkbus) to Névache. Also, you can take the TGV train on the Paris-Milan line from Paris to Oulx. From here you can also get a shuttle to Briançon and thus Névache.

By car

Assuming you come out of the direction of Paris, you will want to drive to Italy first and approach Névache from the Oulx side. From Bardonecchia, you will climb the Echelle Passe (Colle della Scala) towards Vallée de la Clarée.

How Much Does the Tour du Mont Thabor Cost?

The prices for hut-to-hut tours in the Alps are quite varied. There are several variables to take into account when it comes to how much this trek costs: the type of accommodation, which can be in a shared dormitory or a private room in a hut, or also at a hotel in a town; How many days you will be spending on the mountain and whether you will be doing the full circuit or only a section; whether you will be doing it self-guided or with a guided group. The price of the trek will depend on your expectations for the tour.

Not sure yet or want to discuss your plans for the Tour du Mont Thabor with one of our trekking experts? Get in touch today and turn your dreams into memories!

What to Do in Case of an Emergency?

A situation is defined as an emergency whenever human life (yours or someone else's) is endangered and there is nothing you can do to resolve the matter. You should call for help if there has been an accident, if there is somebody trapped, if you got lost or in trouble and are unable to continue because of the time of day or weather conditions, or if you are trapped because of technical climbing challenges that exceed your capabilities.

The most important thing to do in an emergency is to stay calm and survey the situation. Do not panic or take useless risks if the people in trouble are difficult to reach. In an emergency, first and foremost, call for assistance. When calling for help, make sure to provide your location and the number of victims and type of injuries. Then, protect the victim from cold and other environmental threats and administer first aid, if you can.

Useful emergency phone numbers

  • France General Emergencies: 112
  • PGHM de Briançon: +33 4 92 21 58 58

What to Do in Case of an Emergency?

Safe hiking tips for the Tour du Mont Thabor

When you go on walking holidays it is wise to be aware of a few points. Even if this is not your first time, you should never underestimate the mountains. Good tour planning and compliance with the regulations on the mountains will significantly increase safety. To ensure that your hiking holiday is a safe and enjoyable experience, here below you can find a list of 8 recommendations for safe hiking in the mountains:
  • Know your limits

    Hiking the Tour du Mont Thabor is the perfect outlet to escape from daily life. It is an endurance sport along with a beautiful nature experience with a positive effect on body and mind —as long as one is in good shape and has a realistic picture of one's possibilities and limits—. Never overestimate yourself or underestimate the route. Don't overdo it! Always choose the slower variant and take more time for your plans. Hiking under time pressure is not fun and at too fast a pace it can be dangerous. Be wise!

  • Plan carefully

    Good planning is half the work! Hiking maps, literature, the Internet and expert advice are invaluable when planning the route in the Tour du Mont Thabor and enable you to determine the length, altitude difference, difficulty and conditions of the hike. When planning group treks, the itinerary should always be planned for the weakest member of the group! The weather in the mountains can change incredibly quickly and rain, wind and cold all increase the risk factor. For this reason, always check the weather forecast beforehand and contact our trekking experts to find your way around before you start.

  • Be fully equipped

    Equipment is everything. In the most extreme case, it makes the difference between life and death, and in any case, it definitely makes the difference between having fun and having a bad time. Food and water, sunscreen and waterproof and warm clothes must always be in your backpack, as well as a first aid kit and a mobile phone with a full battery (in case there is an emergency). However, packing light makes walking easier, so don't take too much extra luggage with you. Your equipment should always be suitable for the terrain you'll be hiking on in the Tour du Mont Thabor.

  • Wear suitable footwear

    Good walking shoes protect your feet and provide a better fit. Shoes with a good fit, with non-slip soles, water-resistant and lightweight are a must for additional walking pleasure during the Tour du Mont Thabor. Trail running shoes are great for a weekend in the mountains, but on longer hikes or more technical trails, you'll want at least A/B hiking boots. That means it is recommended wearing high mountain shoes that are water-repellent with extra ankle support to prevent sprains.

  • Stay on marked trails

    Tour du Mont Thabor has endless marked hiking trails, which are controlled and maintained and should not be deviated from. It may be tempting, but it's not a good idea to take shortcuts or alternative routes through unmarked terrain. It increases the risk of disorientation and you're more likely to get lost and have accidents or fall in the mountains. Even steep slopes of packed old snow are often underestimated and dangerous. Are you in doubt? Better don't do it. For easy navigation we work with our trusted partner Komoot, whose interactive maps, also available offline, provide you with the necessary digital means to get from A to B. As a backup, make sure to bring a hiking guide or a paper map with you. FYI, 75% of stumbles occur due to carelessness on marked paths or roads, not in open terrain!

  • Take regular breaks

    Remember you're on a hiking holiday. Timely and regular breaks not only provide welcome relaxation but also make it possible to enjoy the Tour du Mont Thabor. The body needs a regular food and drink intake to maintain performance and concentration. Our advice is that if you have little time, it's better to follow the short itinerary than to speed up the long one.

  • Stay reachable

    If you are hiking solo or in small groups it is advisable to inform people back home about your plans, what route you are taking and when you plan to return. Even small incidents can lead to unpleasant emergencies so make sure you are available at all times. Bring a charged phone containing at least the phone numbers of immediate family members, your accommodations en route and the emergency phone numbers operating in the Tour du Mont Thabor.

  • Respect nature

    Leave no rubbish behind, prevent noise, stay on the marked trails, do not disturb wildlife or grazing animals, and respect protected areas.

Where Can I Book the Tour du Mont Thabor?

At Bookatrekking.com you can book the self-guided Tour du Mont Thabor and many other treks. We take care of all the details for you, including arranging accommodations and providing you with relevant information well in advance of your trek. Find our offers 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 the Tour du Mont Thabor 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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