The French Alps have some of the most remarkable hiking options in Europe. Hikers can easily visit a glacial lake, enjoy a woodland stroll and summit multiple 2000m+ peaks – – all in the same day!
To put this altitude into context; Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in the whole of the UK at 1345m. Snowden in Wales is 1085m and Scarfell Pike in England summits at just 978m! The scale of the scenery is breathtaking here in the Haute Savoie and we feel extremely fortunate to have some of the best walking options on our doorstep right here in Samoens. The Reserve Naturelle de Sixt Passy is only a few minutes’ drive from Samoens and opens up a vast range of spectacular hiking options.
The Tasty Ski Company runs a handful of luxury catered chalets in Le Grand Massif (Samoens and Morillon) and also Morzine. Throughout the Spring, Summer and Autumn months, they run self-guided walking holidays from their chalets, including pick-up and drop-offs from the best local hikes, use of detailed routes and maps, and a packed lunch. Here, the Tasty Ski team has prepared their Top 3 suggestions for self-guided walks in the area:
1. La Bourgeoise
La Bourgeoise peaks at 1710m and offers stunning views of the whole Giffre valley, with a great perspective of the local topography and the surrounding mountain ranges. From the summit you will be able to see the imposing Aouille de Criou, which at 2200m is the highest mountain overlooking the Giffre valley.
From the top, you will also be able to spot a route running just below; the fabulous Dents d’Oddaz, which is the track that can be taken if you want to walk to Morzine town. This is a great itinerary but you would need to either get a lift back (a 30 minute drive) or walk back the near 20km route! If you have really good eyesight you might just be able the Refuge de Bostan which offers a great pit-stop as part of the hike to Morzine.
There are a number of different routes to the top of La Bourgeoise from Samoens. From the town centre it is a little over 8km but involves over 1000m of vertical incline, which is a tough but achievable single day walk. If you are able to be dropped off by a vehicle we recommend driving to Verchaix-en-Haut (a 15 minute drive from Samoens) and starting the ascent slightly higher, on the banks of La Valentine river.
2. Refuge de Sales
Quite possibly the jewel in the crown of hikes in the Samoens and Sixt area. There are a number of breathtaking views throughout the walk as the scenery only gets better as you head up through the valley; passing cascading waterfalls, open expanses and imposing summits.
This walk offers a very good chance of seeing wild ibex and marmots. Ibex are mountain goats with amazing curved horns which grow throughout the animals’ grow to more than a metre in length. Marmots are large ground-dwelling, squirrel-like creatures that typically live above 1000m in small colonies.
Near the top of the Sales route, you will pass the 17th century Chapelle de Sales, which will give you an insight into what mountain life was like hundreds of years ago, when families would live in the Sales pastures during the summer months and rear their livestock.
The walk begins in Le Lignon (a 25 minute drive from Samoens) and is a fairly easy ascent of a little over 650m until you reach the high altitude valley where the Refuge de Sales is situated. It takes around 2 hours to reach the refuge. For the super-fit hiker there are a number of additional options from Refuge de Sales, including the Pointe de Sales summit at 2497m. This is a fairly short hike from the refuge, but it is very steep in places and involves an additional 600m of incline.
3. Aouille de Criou
If you are staying in the valley you will have spotted the imposing mountain top to the north east of Samoens village. This peak is the Aoille de Criou (Aoille means ‘needle’ in the local patois) and offers a tough but incredibly rewarding hike.
Reaching the summit entails a very long walk (over 1400m of vertical incline) with a very steep ascent at the finish, so an easier option involves turning around once you’ve reached the Chalets de Criou at 1664m. This option still involves a large elevation gain of 910m and fantastic views of the valley below.
We only recommend continuing to the top of the Aoille de Criou if you are an experienced walker who is comfortable on steep ascents. The final section is also poorly marked and requires close attention to follow the route. However we don’t want to put you off too much, as the views over Samoens from the top of Aoille de Criou are stunning! You will be able to see Le Buet at 3200m (the highest peak in Sixt Fer-a-Cheval), the Salliere Tower and the Dents Blanches range which will make all the hard work up the mountain worth it!
For more information about self-guided walks in Samoens, get in touch with our friends at the Tasty Ski Company.
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