Many of the Portes du Soleil’s hiking trails are linked by the far-reaching summer lift system. There are 19 lifts in operation throughout July and August, so walkers can get up into high-mountain pastures and within a short distance of cols and mountain summits before even breaking into a sweat.
One of Morzine’s best lift-assisted hikes starts from the centre of town; step aboard the Pleney cable car to begin a three-hour hike to Les Gets, alongside the golf course and via Chavannes. From the top of the Pleney gondola you can also walk along the Belvédère chairlift to the orientation table. It depicts the mountains encompassing the panorama around you, from the Haut-Forts and the Dents Blanches to the east, to the jagged Aiguilles of the Mont Blanc massif to the south-east. If you continue to the top of the Chamossière chairlift, you'll have an even more impressive view of the Dents du Midi and the Mont Blanc.
From the other side of town, you can take the Super Morzine cable car followed by the Zore chairlift for a moderate 5km loop. It weaves in and out of the forest and butterfly-filled alpine meadows, leading to a panoramic lookout point over Lac Montriond.
A classic walk in Les Gets is the 45-minute trail from the top of the Mont Chery gondola to Mont Caly. There are fine views of the Mont Blanc from here.
WALKS WITHOUT THE USE OF LIFTS
Of course, hiking in the Alps isn’t all about using the ski lifts to get altitude – there are plenty of walks in Morzine and the Portes du Soleil that start from the valley floor. A favourite among Morzine locals and visitors alike is the medium-rated 10km hike from Lac des Mines d’Or to the Col de Cou mountain pass. The trail takes you through alpine pastures and past the Ferme Auberge de Fréterolles (stop to sample its legendary cheese – all made from the farm). At the 1,921m summit you get sweeping views of the Dents Blanche and Dents du Midi. French Alps hiking trails don’t get any more rewarding than this. Look out for large birds of prey up here, including golden eagles and griffon vultures.
One of the most challenging and away-from-it-all hikes is the Roc d’Enfer (‘Hell's Rock’) trail in St Jean d’Aulps. The three-hour, round-trip hike involves a steep scramble up a rocky ridge, with 500m vertical drops on either side, which is enough to test the most seasoned walker’s nerves. It is one of the most thrilling – and rewarding – walking trails in France.
At the other end of the spectrum, if you are looking for family-friendly French Alps hiking trails, there are many more low-key walking trails on offer. The fox trail, for example, is a nature walk that begins in the centre of Morzine village and winds along the Dranse River to the Cascade de Nyon. It it dotted with signs detailing facts about the fox’s natural habitat and the valley geology.
Another family-friendly walk is the flat 3km loop around Lac Montriond, which can be extended with a short walk up the Ardent waterfall. Or, up at Lindarets in Avoriaz, follow the path that hugs the river to Mossettes. If you have time, take the Mossettes chairlift up, soak in the expansive view of the Dents du Midi, and walk down to pretty Lac Vert just over the Swiss border.
You can also enlist the help of a local mountain guide to lead you on a guided hike with an overnight stay in a refuge – for example at the family-friendly Refuge du Bostan. With star-gazing from deck chairs after a homemade feast, it will be a night to remember. There are guides available to set up walking itineraries of any length and difficulty.
Keen to up the pace? Walking trails in France also make for excellent running trails. Trail running is becoming increasingly popular in Morzine and the Portes du Soleil. You can mix walking and running depending on the terrain, gradually increasing the challenge by lengthening the running sections and/or the course’s gradient. For information on trails within the area, advice and race dates visit Morzine Mountain Running at http://www.morzinemountainrunning.com/eng/index.html
HIKING WITH A GUIDE
To go hiking accompanied with a guide, click here