Outdoor Activities in the Alps: A Guide to the Best Adventures

Daniel DawsonJune 18, 2019

Stretching across eight countries in western and central Europe, the Alps are one of the continent’s premier destinations for outdoor activities.

The 55 million-year-old mountain range, which was formed when the African continent collided with Europe, runs through France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Slovenia, Monaco, and Liechtenstein.

While the many subranges in all of these countries have a lot in common, there is also plenty of diversity. The Alps are a great backdrop for a wide range of outdoor sports all year long, from skiing and snowshoeing in the winter and spring to hiking and mountaineering in the summer and autumn.

Partaking in guided recreational activities is the best way to explore this sublime wilderness and spend time with family, friends or by yourself. The best part is that you do not need to be a professional climber or skier to have a fun and fulfilling active holiday.

There are plenty of places all over the mountain range that are perfect for people who want to explore the outdoors, but are not necessarily skilled in adventure sports.

Below, we’ve compiled a quick list of five incredible activities that can be done by just about anyone. Enjoy!

1. Conquer Italy’s tallest mountain

 

Situated between the Aosta and the Piedmont Valleys in Italy, Gran Paradiso is among the best peaks to climb for novice mountaineers.

Rising to 4.061 meters above sea level, Gran Paradiso is the tallest mountain that is solely located in Italy and provides an authentic alpine mountaineering experience; perfect for those who are looking to sample the sport.

Gran Paradiso is located within a national park. Every step of the ascent, from the approach to the glacier travel is incredibly scenic. Photo courtesy of Jessy Pivier.

Beginning from Pravieux, which is an hour’s drive south of Courmayeur, you will spend the first day hiking through boulder-strewn fields until you reach the mountain hut at which you will spend the night.

The next day involves trekking across a glacier with crampons and an ice axe before making a 60-meter scramble over the last bit of rocky terrain to reach the summit.

Once there, you are rewarded with phenomenal views out over the rest of the Alps and up toward Mont Blanc. You will quickly see why climbing Gran Paradiso is one of the top activities in the Alps!


Thinking about climbing this summer? Contact a local certified mountain guide and reach the summit of Gran Paradiso!


2. Hike through an alpine playground in Mercantour NP

 

If mountaineering does not sound like your cup of tea, then try out something a bit more relaxed and head out for a hike in Mercantour National Park.

Spread across eight different valleys and 650 square kilometers in the southeast of France, there is plenty of incredibly beautiful alpine scenery to experience. Located about an hour north of Nice, the park offers more than 600 kilometers of hiking trails and all sorts of things to do.

 

Composed of eight different valleys and boasting more than 600 kilometers of trails, Mercantour National Park is a top hiking destination. Photo courtesy of Fabrice Morel.

Among the most popular options is a one-day hike through Vésubie Valley and Madone de Fenestre, which takes you to the summit of the highest mountain in the park, Gélas, (3.143 meters). From here, you can enjoy panoramic views out over the Alps to the north and the Mediterranean Sea to the south. There are few views like it anywhere else!

For those seeking to spend a bit more time out in the park’s wilderness, there are also options for multi-day hikes, staying at the various cottages and mountain huts within the park. Regardless of how fit you are, there is bound to be an itinerary perfect for you!

Whether you plan on spending only a single day or an entire week exploring the park, you’re bound to see some of the incredible local fauna. From ibex wandering mountain trails to marmots scampering along rocks, keep your binoculars at the ready. You may even get the chance to see a wolf, but from afar, of course.


So what are you waiting for? Make your next outdoor holiday a hiking trip to Mercantour National Park!


3. Explore the Breil-sur Roya from below

 

Nestled among the Alps in the easternmost tip of France, Breil-sur Roya is home to some of the best canyoning in France.

These canyons have been carved by the Roya River through the Upper Roya Valley, leaving impressive rock formations and plenty of crevasses and grottos to explore. Enthusiasts of hiking, climbing, jumping, and swimming will all find plenty of incredible adventurous things to do here.

 

Maglia Canyon is widely considered France’s top canyoning destination. Photo courtesy of AET Canyoning.

Among the most popular options is the Maglia Canyon, which is well known in canyoning circles for its numerous slides, jumps and abseils. For experienced canyoneers as well as novice ones, there is always something new to try out here!

While Maglia may be the most popular, there are plenty of other great canyoning options too. The Carleva Canyon is quite well known for all of its tobogganing options, ranging from four to 13 meters in length. There are plenty of jumps here too.

Bendola Canyon has the distinction of being the longest canyon in Europe, stretching 15 kilometers from end-to-end. It is also home to great rock climbing, swimming, and abseiling opportunities, but is best saved for intermediate-level canyoneers.


Interested in checking out all of the canyons in Breil-sur Roya for yourself? Contact a local and certified mountain guide here!


4. Ski the slopes of Verbier

 

While exploring the Alps in the summertime is all well and good, coming in the winter provides a wholly unique alpine experience.

Just one among a plethora of the best outdoor activities in which to partake in the range is freeride skiing in Verbier.

 

Take advantage of some of Switzerland’s best scenery and highest-quality powder in and around Verbier. Photo courtesy of Gilbert Crettaz.

Located in the southern Swiss canton of Valais, Verbier is considered by some to be the world’s number one freeride skiing location. And with its combination of convenient location, incredible scenery and perfect powder, it’s little wonder why.

Verbier is part of the 4 Vallées Ski Area, which includes Verbier, La Tzoumaz, Bruson, Nendaz, Veysonnaz, and Thyon. Just one ski pass provides you unfettered access to 410 kilometers of pistes.

Among the most popular options for freeride skiers heading to Verbier are the mogul fields of Tortin along with great intermediate-level runs on Gentianes, Mont Fort and Plan du Fou.

More advanced riders tend to enjoy heading to Vallon D’Arbi, Mont Gelé and the less accessible Bec des Rosses for a more wild and adventurous ride.

All of these spots offer some stunning views over the surrounding scenery and impeccable freeride runs.


So don’t hesitate! Contact a local and certified mountain guide and go freeride skiing in Verbier!


5. Climb the iron path in Austria

 

Among the best adventure activities in which to partake in the Alps, few are as exciting and scenic as climbing on a via ferrata in the Austrian Alps.

Just to the south of Austria’s fourth largest city and outdoor activities capital, Salzburg, stand the mighty Northern Limestone Alps. Within these mountains are extremely high quality via ferrata climbs for enthusiasts of every level.

 

Via ferrata is a great way to make climbing ascents that would otherwise require technical rock climbing skills. Photo courtesy of Andreas Helmer.

For those who are climbing the iron path for the first time, Zell am See is full of excellent options. Located a little more than an hour south of Salzburg, the rocky walls of this valley are great for teaching beginners how to climb via ferrata.

Kids as young as eight years old should be perfectly capable of climbing some of the easiest via ferratas here, making it the perfect family destination.

For those looking for a bit more of a challenge, as well as some unbeatable views, then Hochkönig awaits.

Home to the famed Königsjodler via ferrata, this challenging one to two days via ferrata climb takes you all the way across the famous massif, offering some of the best views in the whole of Austria.


Looking for an adventurous thing to do? Book a guided via ferrata trip in Austria!


Photo courtesy of Fabrice Henon.

Regardless of where you head in the Alps, there are plenty of things to do outdoors. Enjoy some of Europe’s best mountain scenery at every season and experience some of the best adventure activities and outdoor sports available on the continent!

 

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