The GR 5, commonly known as the ‘Europe Trail’, covers 2,600 kilometres (1,600 mi) from Nice in the south of France to Rotterdam in the Netherlands. Through majestic mountain ranges, such as the Alps, the Vosges and the Ardennes, the trail, first marked out in the middle of the last century, offers an eclectic panorama of the entire western continent.
In this Collection, I suggest you follow the 200 kilometres (124 mi) – plus a bonus stage of 30 kilometres (18 mi) – from Briançon to Landry, from south to north. From a town reputed to be the highest in France, at 1,326 metres (4,350 ft), you set off to conquer the most beautiful massifs in the French Alps, such as the Cerces or the Vanoise.
As soon as you leave Briançon, you take the section of the GR 5 better known as the ‘GTA - Grande traversée des Alpes’. You quickly reach the Thabor massif and its eponymous mountain, which rises to a breathtaking 3,178 metres (10,426 ft). In the vast mineral valleys, the views are breathtaking and the wealth of wildlife is no less impressive.
A real gem in the French Alps, you continue towards the Vanoise. The preservation of this national park makes exploring its remote and untouched corners immensely liberating. At times, walking through these mountainous spaces is like wandering through a vast wilderness comparable to parts of the Scottish Highlands and Scandinavia, which is rare in the Alps.
You discover picturesque little villages built of ancient stone and with solid slate roofs. Winter sports enthusiasts will also recognise the iconic resorts of Val d'Isère and Tignes, which are as popular in summer as in winter. Cyclists will be delighted to pass through the great Col de l'Iseran, a famous section of the Tour de France and other two-wheeled competitions.
You can reach Briançon via the railway station. Trains from Valence, which serves the Paris-Marseille axis, reach the town every day. On the way back, at Landry, a small railway station can take you to Chambéry.
On this section of the GR 5 you’ll find plenty of accommodation options. There are many gîtes and inns in the towns and villages. In the high mountains, alpine huts are common. Depending on the season, the trail's can sometimes fall victim to its popularity, so advance booking is recommended. It’s worth bearing in mind that some shops are only open from mid June to mid September. Whatever the season, research the route and plan well in advance.
If you like sleeping under the stars, take your tent or even a tarp. Beware of the fact that the Vanoise National Park strictly forbids wild camping. For reasons of environmental protection, it’s only possible to camp in the vicinity of staffed mountain huts and it’s wise to ask the wardens for information.
I recommend this part of the GR 5 for the summer and autumn, as it includes a number of passages in the high mountains, above 2,000 metres (6,550 ft) in altitude. Therefore, make sure you’re aware of the conditions. It’s common for the passes and summits to be snowed in at the beginning of summer.
Finally, for the armchair mountaineers and French speakers amongst you, I recommend Sylvain Tesson's latest book, ‘Blanc’, published in 2023. It tells the story of his crossing of the Alps, in winter of course, and describes the vast lands that unfolded before his eyes in a poetic and philosophical manner.
For the first part of the GR 5: komoot.com/collection/1995325
For the second part of the GR 5: komoot.com/collection/2003603
In this Collection, I sometimes refer to my own travel experience. You can find my crossing of the Thabor at simonwicart.com/voyage/en-route-sur-les-gr-francais/thabor and my crossing of the Vanoise here: simonwicart.com/voyage/en-route-sur-les-gr-francais/vanoise (both are written in French).
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Last updated: May 11, 2023
Here you are on the third section of the immense GR 5, this time between Briançon and Landry. Of the crossing of the Alps, this third section is the longest, but not necessarily the most trying if you spare your efforts.
From Briançon, I invite you to start gently. By means of ten kilometers of gentle…
At the start of this second stage, you quickly leave the resort of Montgenèvre to attack the mountain. Your shoes well laced, you engage on the winding paths of the valley of the Rio Secco.
Before going too far, remember to stock up on food since the next grocery store you come across will be during stage…
Get recommendations on the best single tracks, peaks, & plenty of other exciting outdoor places.
This third stage on the GR 5 is the shortest of this Collection. In addition, the exploration of the preserved areas along the Franco-Italian border invites you to stroll and probably to dream.
Departing from Roubion, you head north to join the young lady Coiffée. It is a fairy chimney geological formation…
On the GR 5, this fourth stage is one of the most aerial of the itinerary. In fact, I suggest you leave part of the marked trail to reach the first "3,000" of your roaming: Mount Tabor.
Departing from the barns of the Vallée Étroite, you enter the Cerces massif, otherwise known as the Thabor massif. You…
This fifth stage is a long descent to Modane, a small town nestled in the Arc valley. The path without difficulty nevertheless remains a test for your joints. Do not hesitate to take multiple breaks and hydrate yourself regularly.
At the exit of Valfréjus station, you will come across the magnificent…
This sixth stage is the one with the greatest drop in this Collection, with a total of 1,640 meters. From Modane, take it easy and don't rush headlong. You are entering one of the most beautiful and unspoilt areas in France: the Vanoise National Park.
As you leave town, steep trails wind beneath your…
During this seventh stage, you stay on a balcony, on the steep sides of the Vanoise massif. Along your route, you cross different places, such as Turra or Lozza. Used by shepherds in the mountain pastures, these places are also a delight for walkers looking for rest. Do not hesitate to settle there to…
During this eighth stage, you continue along the balconies that border the high mountains of the Vanoise National Park. After your passage between the Lozières lakes, you descend into the Leisse valley to go up on the other side. At this time, do not hesitate to take a break to observe the landscape…
During this ninth stage, you continue your way on the balcony. From the Plan du Lac refuge, you will discover a pretty mountain lake. This small body of water, undeniably alpine, reflects during the summer the beautiful lights of the course of the day. Take the time to settle in and enjoy the mirror…
During this tenth stage, I invite you to return to the valley to enjoy multiple views of the Vanoise massif and the sumptuous Haute-Maurienne valley. Leaving from the Vallombrun refuge, you leave the Saint-Antoine chapel, which I recommend you visit. The photographs exhibited there testify to the great…
Departing from Bonneval-sur-Arc, you are about to climb the highest pass in the entire Alpine circle. The Iseran, a famous monument among Tour de France riders, is today the highest point of your itinerary.
On the road, in the Lenta valley, you leave the Saint-Barthélémy chapel to join more technical…
For this bonus stage, I suggest you go to the top of one of the most beautiful summits accessible without mountaineering equipment in the region: the Aiguille de la Grande Sassière. 3,747 meters high, this beautiful mountain offers an undeniable panoramic view of the whole of Savoy, but also of Italy…
During this twelfth stage, the GR 5 winds between the great peaks of the Vanoise massif. Just at the exit of Val-d'Isère, you follow the markings that I strongly invite you to leave in the Tovière valley. You will find there "the path of the lost valley", much more playful and adventurous than the GR…
Here you are on the last stage of this third part of the GR 5. The test is relatively long but without apparent difficulty. The elevation is descending and the paths easily practicable. Departing from the Palet refuge, you meander between lakes and torrents to find a grandiose valley, colored by the…
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