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"Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better". Albert Einstein
The Alps boast some of the most magnificent natural scenery in Europe. The area is the largest mountain chain that lies entirely in Europe, extending for over 1,000 km across eight Alpine countries: France, Switzerland, Monaco, Italy, Liechtenstein, Austria, Germany, and Slovenia.
The Alps also boast some of the highest peaks in Europe with the most symbolic peak of the mountain range Mont Blanc which stands at an altitude of 4,810 m.
For nature lovers like myself, the French Alps is the ultimate destination in France. We tend to associate the Alps mainly with winter sports, however, contrary to common perceptions, the Alps is also the perfect summer holiday spot! I have to say that for me personally the mountains are even more beautiful when they’re green than when they are white. The villages are so much more gorgeous with their flower-filled balconies and most importantly I don’t have to worry about slipping on ice or snow and breaking anything!
The Alps are famous for glorious sunny weather in summer and a diverse range of exciting challenges to do. Keep scrolling to explore what the Alps have to offer in summer.
May and June
May and June in the Alps have the highest rainfall so be prepared for the weather and don’t expect to have the variety of accommodations and services that you would find in mid-summer.
July is a great time for hiking in the Alps with sunlight until about 9.30pm. Almost all hiking trails are open and accessible. The nature looks magnificent in July with wildflowers in their prime and alpine meadows all lush and green. There are cows, sheep, and goats on the pastures, and on the lower Alps the farmers are already putting up hay.
Contrary to common perceptions the mountain trails and alpine accommodations are really no more crowded in August than they are in July. I also found that prices of accommodation in August are much more attractive than in other months. Weather is generally lovely however it can vary from anything between 15 (perfect for hiking) and 35 (sunbathing time!). The sun doesn’t set until about 8.30pm
It typically has less rain and a more stable weather pattern than either July or August with sunlight until about 7.30pm. The trails are generally quiet and you can start enjoying some early fall colours. Make sure to prepare yourself for some surprise storms with extended periods of rain and even early snow.
Some restaurants and the tourist services may be closed due to the end of summer season but those that are open are especially welcoming and they offer an even higher level of service and some exciting menu choices.
No bucket list of the best summer mountain activities in the French Alps would be complete without hiking. The Alps offer excellent hiking and walking opportunities from May to October. Its trails are well marked, well maintained, and connected by hundreds of picturesque villages, inns, and mountain huts.
There is something for everyone, whether you are looking for a gentle stroll, a challenging summit or multi day trekking. For those not used to multiple mile long walks, utilising the ski lifts can cut out a lot of the uphill work to enjoy the stunning views and walks. The ski lifts also mean you can cover more ground, more easily reach alluring peaks and points of interest, and choose the pleasant walk back down.
We stayed in a chalet close to the Vaujany village with a great walking route in-between its beautiful views over the mountains and village.
This unspoilt village on the doorstep of the vast Alpe d’Huez ski area offers stunning scenery, but is free of the crowds and commercialism of the bigger resorts.
I would recommend getting the cable cart from Vaujany (at 1250m) to Allpette – Rousses (2062m) which is a mesmerising experience itself and takes approximately 5 minutes.
Once you get to Alpette you are immediately stunned with the view of a beautiful lake surrounded by the Alps.
Here you are only scratching the surface of the mesmerising beauty the mountains have to offer.
Set yourself on one of the walking tracks that are clearly marked and are just a few gentle kilometres stroll.
We followed the track all the way to the 2110 point where we decided to get a cable cart back to our starting point, but you can carry on to higher parts of the Alps like Pic Blanc (at 3318 m).
PARAGLIDING – UP CLOSE TO THE CLOUDS
Nor for the heart fainted but this is the activity that will guarantee sky high views over the dramatic mountains, glaciers, lakes and forests, with just birds for company its just sheer exhilaration.
There are tonnes of places throughout the French Alps which are home to amazing trails with stunning scenery. For many years mountain biking has been one of the best summer mountain activities in the French Alps.
Trails range from the legendary downhill mountain bike race Megavalanche race in Alpe d’Huez, which begins on a glacier descending 2500m, to rarely used single tracks crisscrossing the mountains.
There are bike parks all over the French Alps with trails suitable for all riding styles and abilities.
If you decide to head to the Vaujany area you can hire bikes from The Ride for Life store, located in the heart of the Vaujany resort or from Bleach Bike & Ski Shop in Le Bourg-d’Oisans.
E-Biking is the new craze in the French Alps and it has taken the alpine world by storm with bike shops prioritising their e-bike displays over all other bike types!
The first lesson you learn very quick when mountain biking in the Alps is that steepness overrides distance and it can be really hard work especially in summertime scorchio temperatures. That’s where an e-bike comes in. A lot of people’s instant reaction is that it’s cheating (guilty!).
It’s true that it makes the cycling a bit easier thanks to a battery-powered motor, but you still have to pedal. The motor just makes it easier on the steeper uphill pitches, allowing you to cycle for longer. Also, battery assistance is optional and you can switch it on and off during the ride. Even though we hired e-bikes (just in case) we didn’t use the motor much, but it’s good to have the option if needed.
The biggest plus for e-Biking is that it makes this activity available to wider audiences, from a granny on an e-bike to a mad teenager (on a normal bike).
You can hire any bikes from The Ride for Life store, located in the heart of the Vaujany resort or from Bleach Bike & Ski Shop in Le Bourg-d’Oisans.
If you have a head for heights, a love for water and a sense of adventure, then canyoning is for you! This is a great activity on a hot summer day in the Alps sliding down natural toboggans and abseiling down raging waterfalls!
ROCK CLIMBING AND BOULDERING
Discover the thrill and excitement of climbing on warm rocks, with beautiful sunshine on your back and the equally beautiful scenery of the Alps! It is undoubtedly one of the best summer mountain activities in the Alps. Oh, and I also should have mentioned the irresistible scent of lavender.
As with other activities there are routes suitable from everyone from beginners to experienced climbers.
For those of you who like to keep your feet a bit closer to the ground like me, you can do some bouldering. This involves climbing on big blocks of rock and doesn’t require a rope. All you need are some climbing shoes and a bouldering mat.
The Alps are home to some beautiful areas for watersports.
Hire a kayak, stand up paddle or pedalo and explore beautiful lakes and caves. For thrill seekers, try water skiing, wakeboarding or just get pulled along on a giant tube by a speedboat. There is also sailing and windsurfing available.
WHITE WATER RAFTING & KAYAKING
White water rafting and inflatable canoes are perfect for all adventure lovers looking to enjoy the stunning mountain scenery. From the sensational smooth open water to the rather more adrenalin pumping white water moments.
Easily one of the best summer mountain activities in the Alps!
TAKE IT EASY AND JUST DRIVE – LAKES
With hundreds of lakes nestled in its different mountain ranges, France is a treasure trove of stunning natural sites to visit. From natural glacial lakes, to crater lakes formed by volcanic activity, here are some of the most beautiful French mountain lakes to see where we stayed (Vaujany).
Lac du Verney in Allemont
It is an artificial 75 ha reservoir at an altitude of 725 metres and of variable depths in the department of Isère, in the Rhône-Alpes of France. It serves as the lower reservoir for the Grand’Maison Dam pumped-storage scheme.
It provides a range of water sports in the summer and is a perfect place to enjoy a picnic with family and friends.
- Point of interest en-route:
- The lovely road to Le Villaret
- The villages of Allemond and Oz.
- The Hydrelec museum.
- Water sports centre (SUP, pedal boats, windsurfing and dinghy sailing).
- La Guinguette restaurant perfect for a refreshing lunch.
Lac de Grand Maison
It is created by the Grand’Maison Dam, at an elevation of 1698 m and its surface area of 2.19 km² is a stunning creation!
The Grand’Maison Dam is an embankment dam on L’Eau d’Olle. It is located in Vaujany of Isère within the French Alps. The primary purpose of the dam is to serve as the upper reservoir for a pumped-storage hydroelectric scheme where Lac du Verney located lower in the valley is the lower reservoir. After electricity is generated, the water is discharged into Lac du Verney, the lower reservoir. When storage in Grand’Maison needs to be replenished, the turbines reverse into pumps and move water from Lac du Verney back to the Grand’Maison Reservoir. The change in elevation between the reservoirs afford the above-ground station a maximum hydraulic head of 920 m and the below-ground station 955 m.
I would recommend popping in for a refreshing lunch to Crêperie Les Favets bar restaurant (80 Route des Cols, 38114 Allemont) on the way back from the lake.
We definitely needed the break after a quite challenging drive very often way too close to the cliff edge!
It is a volcanic lake in Puy-de-Dôme at an elevation of 877 m with a surface area of 0.6 km².
Located in a beautiful wooded setting in the heart of the unspoiled scenery of the Auvergne Volcanic Regional Nature Park. The lake owes its existence to the Tartaret volcano, one of Auvergne’s youngest, which stopped the flow of the Couze when it erupted.
The calm water of this lake is perfect to enjoy many activities like swimming, canoeing, kayaking, windsurfing, pedalos, fishing, walking and horse riding around the lake.
There will be more posts coming out about the Alps so stay tuned!
Would you consider exploring the mountains outside of the skiing season? Let me know in the comments below.