The French Alps are famous for having some of the most extensive and best-known ski resorts in the world. However much less is known about them in the summer months. The French Alps are truly spectacular in the summer and the hiking options are practically endless. For the truly adventurous there are multi-day trips such as the Haute Route from Zermatt to Chamonix or the section of the famous GR5 which runs from Lac Leman (Lake Geneva) to Nice via Chamonix. The Haute Savoie region encompasses Lake Geneva to the north, Annecy to the west, and Switzerland runs along the edge of the border to east before meeting the Italian border to the south east. The scenery is breathtaking, and it is not unusual to summit several peaks of 2000m+ in a single day while still on well-marked trails. There is also a high possibility of seeing wildlife such as Ibex, Chamois, Marmottes, and Golden Eagles.
Possibly the best walking options centre around the Reserve Naturelle de Sixt Passy most accessible from the beautiful medieval town of Samoens. The Tasty Ski Company run both self-catered and catered chalets throughout the summer along with a comprehensive self-guided walking itinerary in the area. This is their Top 3 hikes in the area:
La Bourgeoise is the mountain peak above Samoens town offering the most incredible panoramic views of the Giffre Valley. From the peak at 1710m you are able to see the imposing Aoille de Criou at over 2200m along with the fabulously rugged Dents d’Oddaz. One of the biggest perks of the area is that Mont Blanc always looks extremely close. From the top of La Bourgeoise you have incredible views of the peak of Mont Blanc at 4810m. If you are at the peak of La Bourgeoise at sunset there is a chance you will experience Alpenglow – Alpenglow is an optical phenomenon that appears as a horizontal reddish glow near the horizon opposite of the sun when the solar disk is just below the horizon. Essentially it means that during sunset the sun bounces off the clouds directly opposite the sunset onto the mountains and produces some crazy evening colours!
Refuge de Sales
The ascent to Refuge de Sales is one of the jewels in the crown of hikes in the Reserve Naturelle and very accessible from Sixt-Fer-a-Cheval. It is also a reasonably easy hike up to the Refuge de Sales plateau involving a little over 600m of vertical incline. There are a number of breathtaking views throughout the walk as the scenery only gets better as you head up through the valley passing cascading waterfalls, open expanses and imposing mountain tops. This walk offers one of the best chances of seeing Ibex and Marmottes. Ibex are particularly striking - they are mountain goats with amazing curved horns that can reach up to more than a metre long. The Ibex were hunted to extinction but reintroduced to the Alps in the 1960s and can usually be found at around 1500 - 2000 metres in altitude. Near the top you will pass the 17th century Chapelle de Sales which will give you an opportunity to contemplate what mountain life was like hundreds of years ago where families would live in the Sales pasture and rear their livestock.
Bout du Monde
The Bout du Monde (‘End of the World’) is probably the most well-known hike in the area as it is set in a picture-perfect valley and is again very accessible from Sixt-Fer-a-Cheval. You will pass big cliffs and a number of spectacular waterfalls as you make your way up the Giffre river which ends with stunning views back down the valley. Again, there is an excellent chance of seeing wildlife here particularly if you take the more challenging route through the trees past the chocolate box little Chalet de Prazon. Be careful though on this route because it is very steep and can be slippery when wet! The prize for the day is that view back down the valley.