Walking the GR5 Trail: Be In It

Walking the GR5 is a great way to spend a sunny day in France | Vincent Lamy
Walking the GR5 is a great way to spend a sunny day in France | Vincent Lamy

Walking the GR5 Trail: Be In It

Explore this breathtaking hike in the French Alps 

In this in-depth exploration of a route in our Travel: Be In It series, we have included some explanation about what exactly a GR route of Europe is. Then we take you on a visual journey of the advantages of hiking the GR5 trail in the French Alps. You'll learn about the natural sights, amazing food, how challenging the GR5 is, and the cute wildlife you can spot on this unforgettable guided walking tour.
Smiles all round when walking into mountain towns in France |  <i>Vincent Lamy</i>

What does GR mean? 

When talking about walking trails (and we’re always talking about walking!), GR stands for Grande Randonnee (French), Gran Recorrido (Spanish), Grande Rota (Portuguese) and Grote Routepaden (Dutch), which all translates to Great Hike. The GR trails network in Europe is an extensive series of long distance footpaths that mainly cover Western Europe. These trails are signposted and maintained by local governments (to varying degrees). 
Hiking on the GR20 in Corsica |  <i>Gesine Cheung</i>

One of UTracks’ most challenging walks is the GR20, which is on the French island of Corsica. This self guided walking tour is split into two sections; the Corsica GR20 North and the Corsica GR20 South.

And of course you can walk the GR5 Alps Crossing in France, as described below.


What is the GR5?

Hikers crossing the European Alps |  <i>Vincent Lamy</i>

The GR5 is a 2,290km (1,423m) path that begins in Hoek van Holland in the Netherlands and snakes its way all the way down Europe to Nice in France. Along the way it crosses the other two Low Countries, Belgium and Luxembourg, as well as Switzerland. One famous section of the GR5 is the Grande Traversee des Alpes (Great Crossing of the Alps) that passes the French Alps, the highest mountain range in Western Europe. 

What is the most beautiful section of the GR5 walking trail?

A wooden cross overlooks the European Alps |  <i>Vincent Lamy</i>

You don’t have to walk the full length of the GR5 to enjoy it! UTracks’ 9 day GR5 Alps Crossing tour involves a section of the GR5 in France that showcases the most breathtaking alpine scenery. On this leg you’ll be challenged by the Alps’ steep hills and rugged trail, and then suitably rewarded with majestic views of Vanoise National Park, Beaufortain and an unforgettable trip to the Vallee Etroite (Narrow Valley) that sits on the border of France and Italy.

6 Reasons Why You'll Want to Walk the GR5 Trail

Now that you have some background regarding the Great Hiking trails of Europe, we’ll share six reasons why walking the GR5 Alps Crossing is a travel memory like no other.


1. European Wildlife

A cheeky marmot found along the GR5 trail in France |  <i>Vincent Lamy</i>
Yes, there are large native animals still walking freely in Europe! During the walk you’ll spend time hiking through Vanoise National Park which is famous for being a safe haven for local Alpine ibex and marmots. While sightings cannot be guaranteed (of course), your local guide will do their best to spot some.

2. Witness Undeniable Natural Beauty

A happy couple posing along the GR5 route in France |  <i>Vincent Lamy</i>

Soak up stunning views of Aiguilles Rouge (Red Peaks), which sit opposite Mont Blanc. Explore the first French national park, the Vanoise National Park, and discover the glaciers of the Vanoise. Feel miniscule in comparison to the mighty Mont Pourri and Dome de la Sache mountains. Then finish your hike at the charming Notre Dame de la Gorge, a lovely church marking the end of the trail.

3. Stay in cosy accommodation that reflects the environment

Beautiful mountain views from this alpine accommodation in France |  <i>Vincent Lamy</i>
Given the remote and untouched areas of the Alps where you’ll be walking, it’s only natural to expect practical accommodation enroute. On this trip we stay in a mix of quality hotels with 2 or 3 people in a room, and dorm-style lodging in traditional mountain huts. These are part of the alpine experience and offer creature comforts to ensure you’re refreshed and energised for another day of hiking in the great outdoors.


4. Warm your belly with the glorious food of the French Alps 

Fondue is a typical meal on the refuges in Switzerland |  <i>Tim Charody</i>
Just because you’re in the Alps doesn’t mean you can't indulge in fine French cuisine! Satisfy your stomach with local foods such as raclette (a semi-firm salted cheese made with cow’s milk that is grilled and served with potatoes, onions and dried meats), tartiflette (a gratin with cheese, potatoes, bacon, cream and white wine), and the famous fondue (a shared pot of melted cheese that you dip bread into – perfect for sharing with your small group of like-minded travellers).


5. The ascents and descents are demanding…

Walking the diverse terrain of the GR5 Alps Crossing |  <i>Vincent Lamy</i>
The GR5 Alps Crossing walk is graded as Moderate to Challenging (as per our honest Trip Grading System). This means you can expect daily walks of 5-6 hours (excluding breaks), steep uphills and terrain that can need careful treading. Even in the summer time, the weather can be temperamental and there could be snow, ice, rain, strong sun or extreme wind. As such, we deem this tour as suitable for experienced walkers only. 

6. But all worth it for the breathtaking views!

Absolutely stunning alpine landscapes!
Glorious views of waterways and mountains in France |  <i>Vincent Lamy</i> Marvelling at the untamed beauty of the Alps in France |  <i>Vincent Lamy</i> Striking a pose against the immense backdrop of the Alps |  <i>Vincent Lamy</i>

>> View the GR5 Alps Crossing Guided Hike


On a scale of 1 to 10, how excited are you to spot an Alpine ibex in the wild? Or a cute marmot? Let us know in the comments!

A curious Ibex in the Julian Alps |  <i>Mojca Odar</i>

Read our other in depth reviews in our Travel: Be In It series:

France, Alps, GR5, French Alps, Travel Be In It

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