How to Enjoy Summer in the French Alps

Posted on 09 June 2023

From winter to spending summer in the French Alps. While the Alps easily ranks for winter sports and ski resorts, the French Alps’ summer holidays also provide fun. Over the last decade, the French Alps have gone to great effort to promote themselves as a year-round destination and the hard work has paid off. From summer resorts with outdoor pools to trail running, and sporting activities, family holidays in the Alps can be great fun.

This year-round popularity has also impacted the real estate market, as buyers now have a year-round holiday home, or some cases, property to rent out for year round rentals. So, with this in mind, let’s look at what to expect from the Alps in summer.

Summer in the French Alps

Hiking and Mountaineering

  • Chamonix: Chamonix is a world-famous mountain town and hub for alpine activities. It offers various hiking trails for your summer holiday, including the famous Tour du Mont Blanc, which takes you through three countries and provides breathtaking views of high Alpine peaks.
  • Vanoise National Park: As France’s first national park, Vanoise easily attracts hikers with eye-catching landscapes, mountain huts, glacier-carved valleys, and abundant wildlife to make the Alps in summer fun.
  • Ecrins National Park: Featuring rugged beauty, Ecrins National Park is another excellent French Alps destination with diverse trails, including the highest mountain routes, beautiful lake walks, and challenging peaks. The park features dramatic landscapes, glacier-covered summits, and picturesque alpine meadows.
  • Mercantour National Park: In the southern French Alps, Mercantour National Park boasts rich biodiversity with several hiking trails to explore lush valleys and rugged peaks and encounter wildlife like chamois and golden eagles.
  • Chartreuse Regional Nature Park: Situated between Grenoble and Chambéry, Chartreuse Regional Nature Park offers less crowded hiking experiences while showcasing beautiful landscapes. The park easily captures attention with limestone cliffs, dense forests, and pristine mountain lakes.
  • Beaufortain Massif: Nestled between Mont Blanc and the Vanoise National Park, the Beaufortain Massif is ideal for summer hiking holidays. It is renowned for picturesque landscapes, including Lac de Roselend.
  • Queyras Regional Nature Park: The Queyras Regional Nature Park is a lesser-known but equally beautiful hiking destination in the southern French Alps.
  • Annecy and Lake Annecy: While not in the high mountains, Annecy and its surrounding area offer spectacular views. The city is called “Venice of the Alps” because of canals and the charming old town. Hike along the lake shores or enter the nearby Bauges Massif for panoramic views.
  • Tarentaise Valley: The world-famous Tarentaise Valley is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. Hiking and trails crisscross the landscape, taking you through breathtaking alpine meadows, dense forests, and picturesque villages. The region is home to iconic peaks like Grande Motte and Aiguille Rouge, offering challenging climbs and rewarding summit views. More about hiking in the alps.

Mountain Biking During Holidays in the Alps

Les Deux Alpes: For summer holidays in the Alps, Les Deux Alpes has vast networks of trails and downhill mountain biking tracks for two wheels. The resort is close to downhill tracks, cross-country trails, and freeride routes, including the renowned La Marmotte descent. There are bike parks, bike rental shops, and dedicated lifts to transport riders and their bikes.

Morzine: In the Portes du Soleil ski area, Morzine, a popular Alps summer holiday destination, features over 600 kilometres of marked trails. The area’s extensive lift system allows riders to access various downhill and enduro trails. Morzine offers something for everyone, from beginner-friendly tracks to challenging technical descents.

Les Gets: Adjacent to Morzine, Les Gets is another excellent biking spot in the French Alps. The resort’s reputation for bike parks includes freestyle jump lines, flow trails, and wooden features. Les Gets also offers cross-country routes allowing riders to explore the surrounding alpine landscapes.

Tignes and Val d’Isère: These neighbouring resorts in the Espace Killy ski area offer extensive mountain biking opportunities during summer. Aqua City is a popular water park. It features a large swimming pool, water slides, and more. Aqua City is great for family activities and to unwind after outdoor activities.

Alpe d’Huez: Famous for challenging road cycling ascents, Alpe d’Huez also has excellent mountain biking options, downhill tracks, freeride trails, and cross-country routes. The Grandes Rousses bike park provides technical descents and jumps, while surrounding areas features scenic alpine trails.

Chamonix-Mont-Blanc: Chamonix is renowned for mountaineering and skiing and offers excellent mountain biking opportunities. The valley has several trails, from beginner-friendly routes to demanding downhill tracks. Chamonix has dedicated bike parks, cross-country, and enduro trails where riders can admire Mont Blanc’s massif views.

Valberg: Situated in the southern French Alps, Valberg, a lesser-known destination, has trails that wind through beautiful alpine landscapes. The resort offers cross-country and enduro routes and hosts events and races during the summer months.

Megeve: Known for its upscale ski resort, the area features downhill tracks, freeride trails, and cross-country routes. Megeve offers beautiful views and charming backdrops for post-ride relaxation.

Water Sports in the Alps in Summer

White Water Rafting: The rivers flowing through the French Alps provide thrilling white water rafting opportunities. Experienced guides lead rafting trips along waterways such as the Durance, Isère, and Dranse, offering exciting rapids and natural scenery. Rafting is fantastic for enjoying mountainous landscapes while getting adrenaline rushes.

Canyoning: Canyoning involves descending through canyons and gorges by various means, including swimming, climbing, jumping into pools, abseiling down waterfalls, and sliding down natural water slides. The French Alps offer excellent canyoning locations, such as the Gorges du Verdon and the Chamonix Valley, providing exhilarating adventures in breathtaking settings.

Stand-Up Paddleboarding (SUP): SUP has gained popularity in the French Alps. Rent paddleboards and explore serene alpine lakes like Lac du Bourget or Lac de Serre-Ponçon. SUP allows you to glide across crystal-clear waters while enjoying the mountain scenery.

Kayaking: Kayaking is another popular water sport in the French Alps. Whether you prefer calm lake paddling or tackling river rapids, there are options for all skill levels. Many regional lakes offer kayak rentals and lessons, while rivers like the Dranse and Isère provide exciting whitewater kayaking opportunities.

Sailing and Windsurfing: The larger alpine lakes, such as Lake Geneva (Lac Léman), and Lac du Bourget, are ideal for sailing and windsurfing. Rent sailboats or windsurfing equipment and enjoy favourable wind conditions and mountain backdrops.

Canoeing and Kayaking: In addition to whitewater kayaking, the rivers and lakes of the French Alps are great for recreational canoeing and kayaking. Paddle at your own pace, exploring the calm waters and scenic landscapes. Both sports are popular on  Lac du Bourget, as well as on sections of the Rhône River.

Hydro-speeding: Also called river boarding, is where participants navigate rivers using specialized buoyant boards. With a helmet and fins, ride down rapids and waves, experiencing an exhilarating and up-close encounter with the river’s power. Some rivers in the French Alps offer hydro-speeding experiences with experienced guides.

Wakeboarding and Waterskiing: These are popular on the larger alpine lakes. Lake Geneva, in particular, has centres to rent equipment and receive instruction. Enjoy gliding across the calm waters while admiring the surrounding mountains.

Fishing: The French Alps rivers present many fishing opportunities with various fish species, including trout, pike, perch, and carp. Fishing permits are required, and you must familiarize yourself with local regulations and restrictions.

Summer Skiing in the French Alps

Several ski resorts in the French Alps offer summer skiing on their glaciers. The most popular resorts include Les Deux Alpes, Tignes, and Val d’Isère. These resorts have extensive ski areas and well-maintained slopes that remain open during summer.

Summer skiing in the French Alps typically occurs on glaciers, providing reliable snow conditions even in warmer weather. Glacier skiing allows skiers and snowboarders to enjoy themselves while surrounded by alpine scenery. The summer ski areas on the glaciers vary in size and difficulty. They generally have mixed-groomed slopes suitable for all levels, from beginners to advanced skiers.

Additionally, some resorts offer freestyle parks and halfpipes for those interested in snowboarding or freestyle skiing. Ski lifts are operational in the summer to transport skiers and snowboarders to the higher elevations where the glacier ski areas are.

These lifts provide access to the slopes and ensure convenient transportation between different sections of the ski area. Many resorts offer ski schools and instruction during summer. Professional instructors can help beginners get started and guide more advanced skiers looking to enhance their technique.

Weather conditions vary during summer, so check forecasts for temperature, wind, and visibility changes. Dress in layers, wear sunscreen and bring appropriate gear for your needs. The opening and closing dates of summer skiing seasons can vary depending on weather conditions and the maintenance of the ski areas. You should check with the specific resort you plan to visit for the up-to-date information regarding their summer skiing operations.

Summer Resorts in the French Alps

Regarding summer holidays in the French Alps, several resorts stand out for their wide-open spaces and range of activities. Here are popular French Alps resorts with incredible summer experiences.

Chamonix-Mont-Blanc: Situated at the base of Mont Blanc, Chamonix offers several activities, including hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, paragliding, and golfing. Explore the charming town centre, visit the Alpine Museum, and take a cable car to enjoy breathtaking views.

Annecy: Called the “Pearl of the French Alps,” Annecy’s picturesque town sits on the shores of the Lake with the same name. Annecy is ideal for relaxation and water activities with turquoise waters, a quaint old town, and enchanting canals. Enjoy swimming, paddle boarding, sailing, or simply strolling along the lakeside promenade.

Les Deux Alpes: Famous for skiing in winter, Les Deux Alpes transforms into a vibrant summer destination with outdoor pursuits, including hiking, mountain biking, and glacier skiing. Les Deux Alpes is a bustling hub for summer visitors with lively atmospheres, numerous shops, restaurants, and bars.

Megève: Nestled in the Mont Blanc Massif, Megève alpine village offers a rich history and luxury touches. In summer, the town bursts into action with outdoor activities, including hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. Stroll through Megève’s elegant streets, savour delicious cuisine at gourmet restaurants, and indulge in wellness treatments at exquisite spas.

Morzine: In the heart of the Portes du Soleil ski area, Morzine offers extensive trails, bike parks and downhill tracks. Explore the lively town centre, relax by the beautiful Lac de Montriond, and enjoy vibrant après-bike atmospheres.

Tignes: Tignes high-altitude resort provides several summer activities against mountain backdrops. The resort also offers an indoor sports centre and wellness facilities.

Other Fun Things to do During Summer Holidays in the Alps

During your French Alps summer holidays, expect many fun activities and experiences for visitors of all ages and interests. Here are some popular summer activities in the French Alps.

Explore the Maurienne Valley: The Maurienne Valley is home to several charming alpine villages, each with unique character and charm. Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne, the valley’s largest town, serves as a gateway to the region and is rich in history, with medieval streets and the impressive Saint-Jean-Baptiste Cathedral. Other picturesque villages like Modane, Lanslebourg-Mont-Cenis, and Saint-Sorlin-d’Arves offer glimpses into traditional alpine life with their ideal location, rustic architecture, quaint streets, and warm hospitality.

Mer de Glace: To reach Mer de Glace, the whole family can take the Montenvers Train from Chamonix. This historic rack railway follows relaxed paces up to Montenvers and the viewing platform overlooking the glacier. Alternatively, hike from Chamonix to Montenvers, enjoying vistas along the way.

Paragliding: Soar like a bird and witness the awe-inspiring beauty from a bird’s-eye view. Paragliding is a fun activity in the region, and experienced instructors operate tandem flights to glide above mountains and valleys in exhilarating experiences.

Via Ferrata: Challenge yourself via Ferrata, a protected climbing route equipped with cables, ladders, and bridges. These routes allow you to safely navigate the cliffs and enjoy panoramic views. Via Ferrata are available for both beginners and experienced climbers.

Visit Alpine Towns: Explore the charming towns and villages in the region. Wander through their cobblestone streets, admire traditional architecture, and enjoy local cultures and gastronomy. Towns like Chamonix, Annecy, and Megeve offer history, shopping, and dining for enjoyable summer holidays.

Wellness and Relaxation: Unwind and rejuvenate in the wellness facilities and thermal spas scattered throughout. Enjoy soothing massages, indulge in thermal baths, or practice yoga surrounded by serene mountain landscapes.

Cultural Experiences: Enjoy rich Alpine heritage by visiting museums, art galleries, and historical sites during your summer holidays. Explore ancient castles, visit traditional mountain villages, and attend local festivals and events celebrating the region’s traditions and customs.

Also About the Alps

Can you Buy Property: The popularity of summer in the French alps, leads many to question buying property there. There are no restrictions on EU nationals buying and owning property in the French Alps. Other nationalities should check the purchase process, but France openly welcomes foreigners to invest in their real estate market, and the lure is strong.

Winter in the French Alps: During winter in France, visitors enjoy various travel places, aside from the traditional Alps. Winter is the non-tourism season in France so if you are planning city breaks, expect cheaper flights and fewer crowds at attractions.

Chamonix in summer