From Lake Geneva (Lake Lèman) to the Mediterranean Sea:

Access Points along the GR5 and GR52

By David May

Copyright 2004 - 2017, All rights Reserved
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Table of Contents Links:

General Information:

1. Why the GR5 and GR52?


Who should use this site?

Other Long Distance Alpine Hikes

About the author

2. The Entire GR5, from the North Sea to the Mediterranean (three months) (only summarily described here).

Page describing the Guidebooks and Internet resources for the GR5 from Holland to the Alps.

The Alpine Crossing, from Lake Geneva (Lac Léman) to either Nice or Menton on the Mediterranean. Nice is a 4 weeks walk from Lake Geneva, Menton, almost 5 weeks. I recommend the walk to Menton over the GR 52 variant, if you can possibly find the time.

Types of trekkers - "purists" and "easygoers".

Costs and Budget

3. When to Go and When to Walk

Accommodation: Types and Reservations

Planning your Route

Meeting People

4. Trail Identification and Direction Marks


5. Books, Maps, Internet sites, GPS

Page with English translations of French Topoguide navigation terms.

6. Conditioning, hiking speed, rest days

7. Shopping and Communications

8. Top sights attractions:
Lake Geneva Steamer*;
Dent d'Oche**;
Chamonix area*** (a very slight detour; consider allowing three or more sunny days);
Sospel*and Aspremont* ;
Nice** and Menton**.

9. GR5 access points:

Author's Route Recommendations and Tips for the demanding hiker:

10. Starting Points on the South Shore of Lake Geneva: The official St. Gingolph or Thonon-les-Bains, vis-a-vis my preferred starting point of Evian-les-Bains. Advantages and disadvantages. Getting there. Detouring to visit the Dent d'Oche**.

11. Accommodations from La Chapelle-d'Abondance to Chamonix (or Les Houches).

12. Accommodations and route, Chamonix to Briançon.

13. Accommodations and route, Briançon to Larche: My difficult but thrilling back way out of Briançon.

14. From Larche to the Vésubie Valley.

Recommended for the intrepid: Partially off-trail variation in the northern Mercantour Park to beautifully austere and isolated lakes.

Short-cut to the lower GR5 or GR52, possibly saving a day or more and much more exciting terrain than the official GR5 route

Joining the GR 52 by bus from Nice via Isola 2000 or via Boréon.

15. From the Vésubie Valley to the Mediterranean:

Comparison of the GR5 to Nice vis-a-vis the GR52 to Menton: Two possible endings for your walk.

The GR5.

How to handle the 2,000 meter (6,600 foot) descent from the Valley des Merveilles to Sospel on the GR52.

Don't miss the stupendous GR52 final day from Sospel to the Mediterranean at Menton.

GR 5 and GR52 Access Points.

* = Logical, recommended break points for multi-year trips; the others can serve in emergencies. Some intermediate points with bus service have not been listed.

Train information can be found at the

Northern Alps:

Thonon-les-Bains, Evian-les-Bains, St-Gingolph by train, bus, and lake steamer from Paris, Geneva and other Swiss points. Airport in Geneva. See detailed discussion of starting points by clicking on "10. Starting Points"... in the list on the left of the page.

Samoëns : 4-5 days' walk from Lake Geneva, buses connect to Cluse RR Station on the Chamonix line.

*Chamonix Valley : 6-8 days' walk from Lake Geneva; cog rail trains run to St. Gervais-les-Bains with a change to a regular train for Annecy, with connections to Paris, or towards Geneva. One night train direct between St. Gervais and Paris.

*Landry (or Aime or Bourg St-Maurice, all on the Isère River): 3-5 days'walk from the Chamonix Valley; trains go directly to Paris via Albertville.

Tigne or Val d'Isère: 2 days' walk from Landry or Aime. Buses run to, respectively, Aime or Bourg St.-Maurice.

*Modane: 4-6 days' walk from the Isère River; only 4 hours from Paris on the main Paris-Rome train route.

Bardonnechia, Italy (off route): 2 days walk after Modane—Can be reached by taxi from Nevache (a bit expensive) or from the GR5 at the Refuge de la Vallée Etroite by continuing northeast down the valley, or from GR5B branching northeast at the Col de l'Échelle, and walking down the highway. Bardonnechia is the train stop in Italy after the tunnel from Modane in France, about 4 1/2 hours from Paris.

Southern Alps:

*Briançon: 3-4 days from Modane. The train route goes via Valance on the Rhone River south of Lyons, and takes 8 or 9 hours. There is one overnight train with sleeping "couchettes" (bunks). An alternative is to take the three hour bus trip to Grenoble, and continue to Paris from there in about 3 hours. The bus schedule can be found at:

Chateau Queyras: 2 days from Briançon. Bus connects with Montdauphin-Guillestre railroad station on the Briançon - Valance line, which is 7 1/2 to 8 1/2 hours from Paris.

Ceillac: 3 days from Briançon. Bus connects with Montdauphin-Guillestre railroad station on the Briançon - Valance train line, which is 7 1/2 to 8 1/2 hours from Paris.

Larche: 5 days from Briançon. It is probably necessary during the hiking season to take a cab or find a ride between Larche and Barcelonette.(27 kilometers). Bus service from Barcelonette to Gap on the Briançon - Valance train line. The train takes 6 1/2 to 7 1/2 hours to reach Paris. There are also daily busses to Nice, Marseilles, Grenoble, and Briançon.

*St. Etienne-de-Tinée or Auron: On the GR5, 2 days from Larche, Twice a day buses run from these towns to and from Nice in 2-3 hours. Price is 1 Euro. Connections in Nice by train or air.

*Isola 2000: (on the Balcons du Mercantour special alternative route or 3 to 4 days from Larche) Buses run to and from Nice during July and August at a price of only 1 Euro..

Saint-Dalmas-Valdeblore: A 3 days' walk from St. Etienne-de-Tinée. Bus to Nice. Price 1 Euro.

Nice Route (GR5):

Levens or Aspremont: 5 days away from St. Etienne-de-Tinée. Local bus service takes you to Nice in less than an hour. You can walk there in half of a day.

Nice: Train connections to Paris (under 6 hours), to the rest of France and to Italy. International Airport with connections to many European cities and New York. Several bus lines connect the airport with the train station and the bus station.

Menton Route (GR52):

St.-Dalmas-de-Tendé (off route): A couple of hours' walk from the Refuge des Merveilles, this town lies on the Tendé-Sospel-Nice train line. It is an escape route for those not willing to make the day-long, 2,000 meter (7,000 foot) descent towards the Mediterranean. Train service to Nice.

Sospel: Only the physically injured should bail out here, as in clear weather the next day's descent into Menton on the GR52 is without question one of the very best hiking views in the Alps. On the train line from Tendé to Nice, and access to Menton by bus. There is also bus service to Menton.

Menton: Train service to France and to Italy. About a 45 minute train ride to the Nice Station, from which there are buses that go to the Nice Airport. There is also bus to the Nice bus station for 1 Euro, with bus connections to the Nice airport. It will be slow going in July and August given the crowds on the road..


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