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Hike from Savoie to Vanoise – Hexatrek in France’s Northern Alps

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Hike from Savoie to Vanoise – Hexatrek in France’s Northern Alps

Hiking Collection by Luc Gesell

22-50

days

3-6 h

/ day

241 mi

70,975 ft

65,475 ft

The Hexatrek is France’s national long-distance hiking trail; it’s the country’s famous thru-hike (as they’re known in the US). These hikes lead across a country – from one end to the other – like America’s legendary Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). Although the Hexatrek was only created in 2022, it’s just as incredible.

The route crosses famous passes and nature reserves, offers spectacular panoramas of internationally renowned peaks, and winds through dreamlike national parks: the Vanoise, the Ecrins and the Pyrenees National Park. These are landscapes that call for adventure.

But, enough dreaming. You need to be prepared to take on your Hexatrek. Firstly, this long-distance trail isn’t marked. Occasionally, it follows the GR, the GRP or black paths. So if you follow this itinerary, don’t be surprised that it leaves the GR at times. More often than not, you deviate to reach spectacular viewpoints that GR hikers don’t experience.

In this Collection, you hike 380 kilometres (236 mi) and rack up 22,500 metres (73,800 ft) of elevation gain from the shores of Lake Geneva to the Lautaret Pass. I propose dividing the route, with some detours through the Northern Alps, into 25 stages. Some legs are more ambitious and physically demanding than others. The idea is to make it as easy for you as possible and maximise sheltered nights, so that this Collection remains feasible, and even pleasant, in bad weather. If you prefer to camp, you can adjust the route as you like.

This epic alpine itinerary includes high altitude lakes, glaciers and spectacular remote areas such as Sixt-fer-à-cheval and Mont Blanc, which makes several appearances. You’ll also taste the refuges’ mountain atmosphere, meaning cheese, cheese and more cheese. Tommes, reblochon, beaufort… you won’t be short of occasions to use your Opinel knife. And while we’re on the subject of gastronomy, I should mention that it’s easy to stock up on provisions at the village stores. You won't have to carry more than two or three days' worth of food in your bag. Your shoulders will be grateful!

To save your feet, take time to think about the right shoes. Some people prefer the weight-technology ratio of a good rando-trail shoe: with mesh, Gore-Tex and a solid sole at the minimum. I recommend high-top hiking boots with good ankle support – some mountainous stages require them.

In order to give yourself the best chance for this incredible adventure, don’t plan to set off before the beginning of June. Also, make sure you finish before mid-September. Outside of the summer, you may face more complicated weather conditions. Winter might already have arrived on some passages with snow, torrents and freezing temperatures.

Most of the Tours are accessible by public transport. As there are train stations or bus stops in the start and finish towns, these stages are well suited to dividing the long-distance route into shorter sections. Many stages start and end in mountain refuges and often through a village station served by buses. Timetables can be found here: altibus.com/en/les-fiches-horaires

Finally, one last practical point: you can get to the start from all the major towns on Lake Geneva by ferry: cgn.ch/en/horaires-billets. From Le Lautaret, you can reach Briançon by bus. The TGV departs in all directions from there.

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Étapes des Alpes du nord de l'Hexatrek

238 mi

70,275 ft

64,800 ft

Last updated: November 8, 2022

Plan your own version of this adventure in the multi-day planner based on the stages suggested in this Collection.

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Tours & Highlights

  • Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors

    Stage 1: Yvoire to Sciez – Hexatrek, Northern Alps

    Intermediate
    02:37
    6.31 mi
    2.4 mph
    200 ft
    175 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This first stage of the “Northern Alps” section of the Hexatrek will be charming and gentle. It begins in the medieval town of Yvoire and leads you, after a 10 km flat journey, to La Renouillère where there are many campsites.

    

    On paper, this day seems to predict a monotonous walk, from one municipality

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  • Difficult
    08:29
    18.2 mi
    2.1 mph
    2,975 ft
    1,250 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    After the first step, very quiet, I suggest you begin to get to the heart of the matter. The idea of this second day is to take a little rhythm and project yourself as quickly as possible towards the mountains and the great outdoors. So I planned this hike over a little less than 30 kilometers for 900

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  • Difficult
    08:10
    12.2 mi
    1.5 mph
    5,200 ft
    3,225 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Sure-footedness, sturdy shoes and alpine experience required.

    The roller coaster can begin. That's it, the Alps are under your feet and within reach of your eyes, with the first views of the Mont Blanc massif.

    

    This third stage on the Chablais massif is a real bath in nature and puts you in contact with the mountains: passes, peaks, teeth, all mountain toponymy is

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  • Difficult
    06:03
    8.19 mi
    1.4 mph
    3,700 ft
    2,625 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    After two intense days, this fourth stage promises you a slower pace: less distance and less elevation.

    

    In this Tour, you are familiar with the 2,000 meters, cross alpine landscapes, and as a result, you will find fruit trees on the road. The perfect opportunity to continue your journey with a piece of

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  • Difficult
    05:10
    8.52 mi
    1.6 mph
    1,925 ft
    1,475 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    A new quiet stage: 13 kilometers and 500 meters of elevation gain. Almost enough to stroll while walking. Maybe I feel a little guilty for having imposed a fast pace from the first days.

    

    In any case, enjoy this beautiful Tour with a rolling profile, where the alpine charms are more and more present: coniferous

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  • Difficult
    06:42
    10.8 mi
    1.6 mph
    2,425 ft
    3,225 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    Most of this leg of the Hexatrek comes out of Hexagon. From the Chésery refuge to the Col de Coux, you will be in Switzerland. The markup being different from the one we have in France, remember to follow the direction signs and look at your route on komoot.

    

    The superb chain of the Dents du Midi will

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  • Difficult
    07:41
    11.1 mi
    1.4 mph
    2,675 ft
    5,400 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Sure-footedness, sturdy shoes and alpine experience required.

    Departing from the Bostan refuge, you begin a beautiful climb towards a more mineral universe with a small incursion around the 2,300 meters of altitude. The green pastures gradually dissipate while the atmosphere and the terrain take on the appearance of high mountains. The terrain is more bumpy and

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  • Difficult
    05:52
    7.47 mi
    1.3 mph
    4,375 ft
    1,125 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Sure-footedness, sturdy shoes and alpine experience required.

    An eighth stage short in distance but generous in elevation. You are going to attack the Giffre massif, sanctuary by the Sixt-Passy nature reserve.

    

    In this privileged environment, you will go from forests to alpine lawns. You will step over a few torrents and can let your eyes wander over the glaciers

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  • Difficult
    08:11
    11.8 mi
    1.4 mph
    3,375 ft
    3,200 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Sure-footedness, sturdy shoes and alpine experience required.

    From the Grenairon refuge, head towards Les Frêtes du Grenier. The trail transports you directly to another universe, at more than 2,500 meters above sea level. Alpine lawns give way to rock. This section on the edges requires to remain attentive to the place where one puts the feet. It's no small feat

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  • Difficult
    05:39
    8.55 mi
    1.5 mph
    3,250 ft
    2,225 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    You've glimpsed it several times in the previous steps, but this time it's the right one. You will be able to admire it in wide angle, and not only on a piece of panorama. I am of course talking about Mont Blanc and its majestic massif.

    

    From the Loriaz refuge, you first descend into the valley, near Argenti

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  • Difficult
    05:40
    8.13 mi
    1.4 mph
    2,325 ft
    3,025 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Sure-footedness, sturdy shoes and alpine experience required.

    This step is like a hidden song on a CD. You think you have seen everything and finally not. Leaving Lac Blanc, you take the balcony path again and the 4,000 of the Mont-Blanc massif continue to set to music: Aiguilles du Midi and Bionnassay, Dôme du Goûter, Mont Blanc du Tacul and so many more. . The

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  • Difficult
    05:41
    8.65 mi
    1.5 mph
    2,325 ft
    4,225 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    This stage starts with a beautiful descent towards Les Houches. This is a key passage. You can do some shopping there, take a day or two off, or even get off the trail easily. Many buses pass there.

    

    From Les Houches, you cross the official start line of the TMB (Tour du Mont Blanc). Walk quietly to the

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  • Difficult
    06:31
    8.80 mi
    1.4 mph
    2,925 ft
    4,050 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    This step follows the first variant of the TMB. It takes you to the foot of the Nid d'Aigle, but also to the Bionnassay glacier, or even Mont Truc.

    

    You will also pass by the Miage refuge which can be used as a stopover if you wish to make a loop via the Miage glacier. Please note that this option is mainly

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  • Difficult
    05:39
    8.14 mi
    1.4 mph
    4,375 ft
    225 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    Departing from Les Contamines, you start with three kilometers of flat, along the Bonnant river, to calmly warm up. On this portion, the path is dotted with small bridges and platforms allowing you to admire the waterfalls of the torrent.

    

    You then take the old Roman road which marks the beginning of the

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  • Difficult
    06:37
    10.8 mi
    1.6 mph
    3,425 ft
    3,275 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    This stage marks the end of your foray into the Mont-Blanc massif. The path from the Croix du Bonhomme refuge leads you straight into Beaufortain.

    

    The day begins with a superb ridge single, clear on both sides. Panoramas as far as the eye can see. Remember to watch where you are stepping from time to

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  • Difficult
    05:17
    10.4 mi
    2.0 mph
    175 ft
    5,775 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    This stage is a 17 kilometer long slide. Once is not custom, the program of this day of mountain will be made only of descent. Barely 50 meters of elevation gain for 1,760 meters of downward slope. You descend the trails of the Beaufortain massif to the banks of the Isère. And here you are in Tarentaise

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  • Difficult
    04:06
    7.09 mi
    1.7 mph
    2,975 ft
    225 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    During this day, you make a first foray into the Vanoise National Park. Either overhanging or along the banks, you will follow the course of the Ponturin river until the end of the stage.

    

    On this route, the mountain shows itself to be generous by lining up around you a beautiful collection of peaks approaching

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  • Difficult
    10:13
    14.6 mi
    1.4 mph
    5,550 ft
    2,625 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    Get ready to take on one of the more physical stages of the Collection. Its 23 kilometers and 1,690 meters of elevation gain suggest a cool start to avoid chasing the weather all day.

    

    The idea is to finish at the Leisse refuge to spend a night in the heart of the Vanoise, in the most preserved part of

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  • Intermediate
    04:07
    6.42 mi
    1.6 mph
    1,350 ft
    1,200 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    This step is a continuation of the previous one, but much less physical. Thus, you continue your adventure in the heart of the Vanoise but at a slower pace. You will then be able to enjoy nature more, contemplate the landscapes more serenely and take the time to observe the sky and its inhabitants. Perhaps

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  • Difficult
    05:15
    9.39 mi
    1.8 mph
    1,750 ft
    3,750 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    After two days spent in the heart of the Vanoise, you will be able to admire the massif from below. This stage, with a more descending profile, takes you to the village resort of Pralognan-la-Vanoise. Take the opportunity to make a stop at the pit: toilets, access to drinking water, shops, cafes... Everything

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  • More Tours & Highlights

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Questions and Comments

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    25
  • Distance
    241 mi
  • Duration
    151:55 h
  • Elevation
    70,975 ft65,475 ft

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