There are a few treks in the world that get all the good press and deservedly so. However, this does make the popularity of these treks skyrocket, but behind every great trek, there is a lovely alternative or two and this week we are going to focus on one of these. So, if you have walked the Tour du Mont Blanc and fancy something like it, or if you just fancy more world-class Alpine hiking, then look no further than The GR5 Trail.
In a Nutshell:
Where: The GR5 is part of the great network of trails (Grand Rondonnées) that cover France. If it is a walk worth taking in France, it is likely to have a GR in front of its name. This particular GR, number 5, is located in southern France, skirting the border with Switzerland. You start the trip in Switzerland itself, in the town of Montreux before being transferred across the border to begin your walk. From there you walk from Col to Col, ascending until you finally reach the Alpine village of Chamonix.
Distance: The route is 93km in total over five days of walking. The individual days differ in length, from 12km to 25km, but this ties in with the difficulty of the day's walk, so the shorter days will generally be a bit more strenuous.
Grade: This trip is graded Moderate to Strenuous, so it is recommended that you are reasonably fit and have some long distance walking and hill walking experience. Each day has significant ascent and descent and the paths are a mixture of woodland trails, rocky mountain paths, gravel tracks and some tarmac country road walking (going into La Chapelle and Samoëns). The last day of walking involves some light scrambling, metal ladders (2 with 11 rungs each) and footholds secured to the rock face so you should be sure footed and have a head for heights.
Why Walk Here?
Alpine walking always feels so different from walking elsewhere. Walking in the Alps feels so refreshing, even though it is often quite vigorous exercise. The super fresh, crisp clean air and the beautiful, well-maintained trails combine to make you feel relaxed and envigourated during your walks. To deepen this sense of relaxation, the gentle sound of cowbells drifts through the air as a constant companion to any Alpine trek.
Being surrounded by awe-inspiring jagged peaks also adds to your daily walking and on this trip, you will be accompanied by them all the way. The Dents Blanches and Dents du Midi ranges will fringe your trek, before heading towards the incredible Mont Blanc massif. The scenery is genuinely breathtaking and to be surrounded so completely by the power of nature is like hitting the reset button on life.
There are some amazing towns to explore on this trip too. Montreux is considered the capital of the Swiss Riviera due to its favourable micro-climate. Surrounded by vineyards, adjacent to the Lake and with views to the French Alps, it’s easy to see why it’s so popular with visitors. From there you will visit a mixture of alpine towns, better known for their winter sports, and mountain huts.
The towns of La Chapelle d’Abondance and Samoens are usually visited while cloaked in deep snow, but in the summer they are great places to visit. While always having been a haven for lovers of the outdoors, the last couple of decades has brought a new lease of life to many alpine towns. With the surge in hiking, mountain biking and other, crazier mountain sports, these towns have flourished in the summer and now you can find all sorts of local breweries making alpine craft lager, restaurants able to showcase the local produce of the area and large outdoor areas to eat and drink.
Chamonix, your final destination is a great example of this. The streets of Chamonix are lined with Michelin starred restaurants, there are several local micro-breweries and an outstanding beer hall, with 12 local beers on draft and bottles and cans from around the globe. Chamonix is a vibrant place summer or winter and a perfect way to end your trip.
The two mountain huts on the route are also worth a mention. The idea of mountain huts still puts a lot of people off these walks, but I can promise you that they are a highlight, rather than a hindrance. One of the nights on this route is in a private room and the other, sharing a dorm, and this tiny building in the middle of nowhere becomes a massively congenial place full of like-minded people, sharing food, drink and stories as the sun sets over some of the worlds most beautiful mountain scenery. These two nights will remain as an extremely positive memory of your trip, guaranteed.
Planning and Preparation
Getting to Montreaux at the start of The GR5 Trail is not too difficult. Geneva airport is conveniently located just over an hour away by train from both Montreaux and Chamonix. So after your short flight, you just have a train ride through amazing scenery (on Swiss trains, another highlight of the trip!) to get you where you need to be.
If you have any questions about the route, don't hesitate to contact one of our Destination Specialists, who will be more than happy to help.