France’s first national park joins Italy’s Gran Paradiso National Park to form the largest contiguous chunk of parkland in the Alps. Skiers drive through Vanoise on the way to alpine resorts on the periphery, but there’s more to this region than ripping and shredding. Elevation in the park ranges from 800 to 1,500 meters, and landscapes progress from lower-lying grasslands to forests of beech and fir trees.
This is premium, albeit challenging, walking country, and the views are spectacular as long as you don’t mind working for them. If you really want to put your body to the test, then strike out on one of the Grand Randonnie (GR), or long-distance hiking paths, that skirt the mountains. The GR 5 and 55 form the major arteries, with countless side trails branching off of them. Hikers are likely to encounter mountain goats, golden eagles, alpine marmots and maybe even an elusive ibex.