Best time to go on a walking holiday in France

Walking the Pyrenees in May and June becomes an odyssey of orchids. There are 800 species here alone.
The best time to go on a walking holiday in France depends on your willingness to embrace the elements. Often upstaged by the skiing season, snowshoeing and winter walking is at its peak from Dec– March. In April, you can enjoy bracing mornings in the ancient woodlands and hillsides of the Poitou-Charentes, and May is the perfect time to start walking in Mercantour NP, with melting glacial rivers to cool your plodding pieds. From here on it’s a wildflower frenzy in the Pyrenees and Provence, with a warmth in the air in the Loire, Luberon and luscious Riviera as late as October.

French Alps Weather Chart

 
MIN °C
MAX °C
RAIN (mm)
JAN
-3
4
75
FEB
-1
5
77
MAR
0
9
76
APR
4
13
75
MAY
7
17
85
JUN
11
22
95
JUL
12
25
75
AUG
11
23
90
SEP
10
20
90
OCT
6
14
80
NOV
1
9
95
DEC
-2
4
87

What to avoid & when

The Riviera soars in temperature in the height of summer, so if you want to walk all day, best look earlier or later in the season. Don’t go to the Pyrenees in April for spring hiking; many paths are inaccessible due to avalanche risk or existing snow. ‘Spring’ hiking in the mountain means during June. Be wary also hiking around Mont Blanc early in the spring months when snow is melting, because rocks and boulders are dislocated. Some hikers walk with a helmet, for dangerous rockfall areas. There might still be snow and ice, so best to hike with a qualified mountain leader at this time of year. Most Mont Blanc mountain huts are open from mid-June until the first or second week in September, so this is as good a guide as you will get for the best time to go to Mont Blanc. It is advisable to reserve a bed, particularly in the high season of mid-July to mid-August but of course tour operators will do this for you. The Mont Blanc Ultra Trail race takes place during the last week of August every year, when racers do the Tour de Mont Blanc in just a few days. Best to check if the crowds will interfere with your itinerary if you are taking on the Tour at this time, and are planning on going for tortoise rather than hare speed. In France, 1st July and 1st August are the main holiday start dates and 14th July and 15th August are public holidays. Expect rail, road and air travel to be particularly busy at these times.

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Guided walking holidays in the French Alps

Guided walking holidays in the French Alps

Guided walking from a historic chalet base

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Peter Roche – co-founder of one of our leading walking holiday in France suppliers, Le Moulin du Chemin in the Poitou-Charentes region: “The spring reawakening after winter is the favourite time for country folk – leaf buds are forming on the trees, early blossoms such as the blackthorn are exploding into life as wild flowers are tentatively breaking out of the soil in March and early-April. More spectacular are May and early June, when the deciduous leaves are young and vivid and the wild flowers are bursting into life in an abundance of glorious colour in the meadows, pastures, hedgerows and verges. Butterflies and other insects thrive where wild flowers flourish and there are abundant butterflies starting as early as end of April until October.“
Chloe Knott, one of the alpine aficionados at our leading supplier, Exodus, gives her advice on the best time to go on a walking holiday in France, especially around Mont Blanc: “For the Tour de Mont Blanc generally, the climbing window is between June and September. September is great - the trails are generally a little quieter whilst the weather is usually still warm and clear. November isn’t ideal as you have less daylight hours and unpredictable weather. The main climbing season for the ascent of Mont Blanc is from June to September. Expect warm temperatures (15 to 25ºC) in the valleys, cool (5 to 15ºC) on the passes (though it will feel colder if wet and windy) and very cold (-20ºC) on the summit, with strong winds too. For snowshoeing, there is usually a blanket of snow between December and March”.
Written by Catherine Mack
Photo credits: [Page banner: Nicolas Cool] [Chloe Knott - Tour de Mont Blanc: Heather Cowper]
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