Adventure is a path. Real adventure – self-determined, self-motivated, often risky – forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness. In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness and bottomless cruelty of humankind – and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both. This will change you. Nothing will ever again be black-and-white.” – Mark Jenkins

We rose after a glorious, wine and french-food induced sleep to the brilliant sunshine blanketing Pralognan-la-Vanoise’s lush alpine valley. After a long, tiring journey, it felt like heaven to finally sleep. Our “rucksacks” (as the Brits call them) were packed and ready to go. My body and soul were ready, eager and anxious to begin. I could hardly wait to begin the journey.

Since I would be carrying my pack for the entire week and I have a chronically bad neck and shoulders, I packed extremely light. I wore my daily hiking attire consisting of lightweight hiking shorts, wool hiking socks with liners, dri-fit shirt, sunhat and shades. My backpack included:

  • One pair of convertible hiking shorts.
  • Two pairs of underwear.
  • Two dri-fit short-sleeve tops.
  • One pair of wool hiking socks and liners.
  • One long-sleeve dry-fit pullover.
  • One lightweight waterproof jacket and pants.
  • One minuscule quick-drying towel.
  • One sleeping bag liner for the huts.
  • Minimal toiletries packed as lightly as possible (shampoo in ziplock bags, mini size lotion, tooth brush, sunscreen, etc).
  • And as I would learn, most important of all, earplugs.

My pack securely fit one large bottle for drinking water on one outside compartment and my newly-purchased larger camera on the other side, for easy access. It weighed about 15 pounds. I would do wash daily but at least my back would hopefully hold out.

We ate a leisurely french breakfast of warm, buttery croissants with homemade jellies, cheese, meats, fruit, freshly-squeezed orange juice and strong cafe au lait. I cherished every last bite of my flaky, perfect croissant knowing very well that food in the mountain huts would never taste this good.

By half past nine we were out the door, packs on our backs and ready to start our journey of La Tour de La Vanoise. Today would be our shortest, easiest day. I had no complaints about starting this way as I knew the hike would get harder and more tiring as the week went on. Our tour would be a loop circling around the park, meandering up the peaks and down the valleys of this magnificent gem.

Photo credit: Parc national de la Vanoise official website

We left town feeling excited and energized about our day. The weather was postcard perfect with a brilliant blue sky, gorgeous warm sun and a gentle breeze. We knew that this trip was going to be one we’d never forget and that it was.

Here are some pictures from along the way of day to the start of Vanoise National Park. I took too many great photos to include in this post so I am breaking it down into morning and afternoon. 

Setting off….We walked through the town to hit the trail that would lead us up the Alps to La Vanoise National Park.

Before leaving town, our guide Mark stopped at La Boulangerie to pick up some fresh french baguettes for lunch. It would be our last good bread for a week.

Leaving lovely Pralognan-la-Vanoise.

Moving up…

Leaving civilization and entering the Alps…

Some of the beautiful alpine wildflowers gracing the Alps.

A butterfly resting for a moment on a thistle flower.

One of many trail signs indicating the direction and distance of our route. 2h35 more minutes to go to the Col.

The first refuge/mountain hut along the trail, a nice day trip for people in the neighboring valleys. I saw the Nepali prayer flags and had to take a photo as it reminded me so much of my beloved Nepal.

These gorgeous lavender flowers were everywhere in the lower parts of the valleys.

The pristine forests, before we reach the tree line and higher altitudes, were so fragrant and alive.

We’re almost at the official boundaries of the Vanoise National Park, France’s first National park.

And we reach the park! We read the guidelines and check out the map to see where our journey will lead us. There are many rules at the park such as staying on the trails and carrying out all your trash. No picking wildflowers and be considerate of flora and fauna.

Mark shows us the way, where we started, where we are at the time and where we are headed for the day.

And our destination at the refuge/mountain hut at Col de la Vanoise.

We also get a brief history lesson on the origins and importance of this trail. It was used as an important salt trade route in the early times and also developed some of the most hearty, traditional agropasturalism in the French Alps.

As we entered the park, I felt jubilant and finally at peace. For there is nothing I love more than hiking in the great big outdoors. What I had seen over the last few hours was only a glimpse into the utter spectacular beauty of what was to come. I could hardly wait to continue on….

Stay tuned…A picnic lunch in the middle of the Alps and our arrival at our first day’s destination, Col de la Vanoise, coming up next! 

For more information on Le Parc national de la Vanoise, check out the park’s official website here in french and english.


    1. You would love it! My place had a pool too! You could always do day hikes from there and base yourself at the hotel and then stop in Annecy. It was gorgeous too with a huge lake!

  1. Nicole, I really never thought a post about hiking could make me so hungry! But wow, what a perfect place for a French picnic. That photo of the baguette tucked into the backpack is so cute.

    And I love the opening quote: “The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it.” That is the personal challenge of traveling (whether by foot or by plane) that I love most: reconciling our expectations and prejudices with reality.

    1. Just you wait…the post will make you hungrier when I show you the picture of a trove of french cheese! And the endless bottles of Vin de Savoie. I sure love France! 🙂

  2. Nicole: I just started this adventure with you, but it is beautiful and the flowers remind me of the hikes Rose and I took last year in British Columbia. thanks! TA

    1. Thank TA for checking it out! I am slow to get this whole adventure written as other posts have gotten in the way. But I’ll eventually get there. It was absolutely beautiful and I would LOVE to go to BC someday!!!! Nicole

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