The Rhone-Alps and the Haute-Savoie in France are home to some of Europe’s most spectacular hiking routes. Ready to start your adventure? Our self-guided walking holidays are perfect for seasoned walkers, and first-timers are in good hands too. We provide the essentials, and less taxing alternatives are available for some of the tougher walks. To make the most of your first alpine adventure, here are our top ten tips!
1. Get in physical shape
Being in decent physical shape will make your trip far more enjoyable. Our Alps self-guided walking holidays should be possible for anyone who is reasonably fit. But with lots of descents and ascents (and an average altitude of about 1300m), the more physically prepared you are the better. Our walks typically range between 500m – 1200m vertical incline during the day out in the mountains. If this is your first hiking holiday, get used to big days with your rucksack on and aim to get at least one multi-day walk under your belt. If you are really pushed for time and are a full time city dweller, try using a treadmill where you can vary the incline with a rucksack on your back to get used to the steeper gradients.
2. Invest in walking poles
Given the amount of miles you’ll be covering each day, having a pair of walking poles can make a big difference. On ascents, they help with propulsion and distribute the effort between your legs and arms, helping to keep you fresher for longer. On descents, walking poles help to maintain balance and give your knees a break, since the poles take the brunt of the impact. With greater stability, you’ll also reduce the risk of stumbling and potentially injuring yourself on uneven and potentially slippery terrain.
3. Choose the right hiking boots
In addition to your standard outdoor clothing, be sure to invest in a quality pair of hiking boots. Choose a pair with a strong sole and good ankle support for the rocky terrain. While most modern hiking shoes don’t need to be “broken in”, we recommend making sure they’re comfortable before your trip. Wear them on a day hike or a backpacking weekend, ideally on a route that includes ascents, descents, and a variety of terrains.
4. Prepare for the sun
The sun in the Alps has a very high UV factor, so you need to come fully prepared. Protect yourself from the rays with suncream, sunglasses, lip balm, and a wide-brimmed hat. During July and August, temperatures can reach 30ºC at low altitudes so be sure to drink regularly. To stay hydrated, always drink before you feel thirsty. We also strongly recommend bringing some sunscreen with you as it is crazy expensive in the French Alps! You just need to make sure that each bottle does not exceed 100ml if you are taking it on your flight with hand luggage.
5. Keep up your energy levels
While a packed lunch is included with our walking tours, having your own calorie-dense snacks can maintain energy levels on the trails. Good options include granola bars, bananas, dried fruits, nuts, and trail mix. Aim to eat one snack per hour, and include salty snacks to replace electrolytes lost through sweat. Eat on the move or stop to refuel and enjoy the incredible views.
6. Bring waterproofs
Early evening thunderstorms are certainly not uncommon in the French Alps, so bring a waterproof/windproof jacket and waterproof trousers (ideally Gore-Tex) to keep you warm and dry. Alternatively, you might want to wear a poncho, which has the benefit of protecting your rucksack from the rain. If there are adverse weather conditions during your trip, we can alter or modify your itinerary based on the abilities and/or wishes of your group.
7. Keep electronics charged
With smartphones, cameras, GoPros, and GPS watches, the modern-day hiker carries a lot of tech. To keep devices fully charged when you’re out in the mountains, carry a rechargeable battery or purchase a solar charger that hangs off your backpack.To save battery life on your phone, turn off notifications, dim the screen brightness, and put your phone on airplane mode.
8. Pack strategically
An organised backpack is the key to a happy hiking holiday. First and foremost, protect your spare clothes from getting damp — line your pack with a plastic bag or liner. Guidebooks, maps, and digital devices can be kept dry in zip-lock bags or airtight vacuum-sealed packing bags. For fast access, stash essential items such as snacks, rain jackets, and first-aid kits near the top of your bag or inside pockets. Check out this article for a comprehensive guide to pack your backpack right.
9. Respect the environment
With its mirror lakes, wildflower meadows, and snow-dusted peaks, the French Alps is a truly epic natural wilderness. To help preserve this treasured environment, bring a rubbish bag to collect your litter, stick to the trails, and carry a reusable water bottle instead of buying bottled water. While it might be tempting to pick a wildflower as a “souvenir”, leaving nature alone will help to conserve this rugged yet delicate ecosystem for future generations.
10. Rest and recuperate
To ease aching limbs after hiking in the Alps, a short recovery routine can make a world of difference. Stretch gently for 5-10 minutes to help your muscles relax, replace lost fluids, and eat a good evening meal. Take things easy and get a good night’s rest — during sleep your body restores and repairs itself. For a special treat, book a Morzine massage — it’s a great way to unwind and improves circulation. All of our chalets in both Morzine and Le Grand Massif come with hot tubs which provide a great way to unwind after a long day in the mountains. However, make sure you drink lots of water while you are relaxing in there as you can become quite dehydrated!
Hiking in the Alps
Our self-guided walking holidays in the French Alps are perfect for first-timers. Comprehensive maps and route directions are included, and our fully catered chalets in Morzine and Le Grand Massif provide access to some of Europe’s best mountain walks, including unparalleled views of Mont Blanc! Click here to find out more information on these stunning walks.