Walks in Haute Savoie
Located at the northern end of the Alps, stretching across the border between France and Switzerland and bordered by the shores of Lac Leman (or Lake Geneva as we Brits know it) lies the Haute Savoie region. Most famous for being the one of the world's largest ski domains - the Portes-du-Soleil - the area offers a huge variety of walking during the summer and autumn months, ranging from riverside strolls through to tougher overnight treks staying in mountain refuges.
At the centre of the region, at the head of the d'Aulps valley, lies the town of Morzine (altitude 1000m). Originally a farming community with its own slate mine, it lies in a deep valley surrounded by alpine forests and mountain peaks. Treks up from the valley offer awe-inspiring scenes in every direction including stunning views to Mont Blanc, the Dents Blanches and Lake Geneva.
The area has over 850km of way-marked walks. During the summer months (from June to September) access to the higher regions in the area can be made easier using chairlifts or gondolas, saving your legs either for attempts at the higher peaks, or just for the walk back down! On hotter days there are many routes taking advantage of the shade of the mixed forests but that still lead to superb viewpoints.
Surrounding peaks include the Roc D’Enfer (2,243m), a challenging hike with an altitude gain of 920 metres taking over 6 ½ hours, reaching the peaks of the ‘Rock of Hell’. The walk gives amazing views over Mont Blanc and the surrounding area but is on the more demanding end of the scale. For the more adventurous, a number of extended tours can be undertaken within the region. The tour of the spectacular Dents Blanches just over the border in Switzerland lasts between 3 & 6 days with overnight stops in mountain huts.
Accommodation-wise Morzine and the surrounding resorts are geared for the thousands of skiers and boarders who descend on the place in the winter. It means there is more than enough choice in the summer and the rates are good. Outside of the main summer holiday season (July and August) it is worth considering self-catering as many restaurants and hotels take a break before the ski season starts, especially if you go later still, in October. The lack of eateries is counterbalanced by having the paths all to yourself and stunning autumn colours. Accommodation can be found on the Vallee d'Aulps and Morzine websites.
Many low cost airlines fly to Geneva, from where it is about an hour and half's drive. In winter there are hordes of airport transfer companies offering relatively cheap transfers to Morzine and the surrounding resorts and within the valley there are buses (often free) taking skiers to the slopes. But at other times of year it is best to have your own car. If hiring in Geneva make sure you get one from the main Swiss side of the airport as it will have a Swiss motorway sticker allowing you to exit easily from Geneva. Follow the autoroute signs to France and then towards Chamonix/Mont Blanc, before cutting into the Morzine valley via Taninges and Les Gets.
The valley is around 550 miles from Calais, so not too long a drive if you have crossed by ferry or Eurotunnel. You can drive the whole way on French autoroutes, with tolls coming to about 75 euros each way.
For walking IGN maps can be bought in local newsagents and supermarkets. If you have Memory-Map IGN maps at both 1:100K and 1:25K scale are available. This is the best way to see the Walkingworld routes printed on a map, as downloadable maps from the site are not available. You can also view them on IGN maps on ViewRanger.