When the spring arrives in the Alps and the snow starts to melt, the fun is still far from over. In fact is is at this time of year that some of the best alpine activities come into their element. So to help you make the most of the season, we’ve pulled together 9 reasons to visit the Alps during spring.
From traditional classics like hiking and cycling to more extreme adventures like whitewater rafting and via ferrata, there are some great springtime activities on offer in the Alps. So, put away your skis for the season (probably!), it’s time for some spring mountain fun.
Why visit the Alps during spring?
As the snow melts the natural world comes out of hibernation to reveal itself in spring. Wildflowers replace snow and butterflies enjoy a brief frolic in the alpine meadows. If you’re lucky you might catch a glimpse of marmots, chamois and ibex that graze on the pastures.
Residents of the Alps will tell you, the true beauty of the mountains is only fully revealed as they transform in the warmth of spring. Plants, animals and mountains come alive like no other time of year. Creating a constantly changing alpine tapestry.
In spring the mountains are like a blank canvas. You are the artist and the activities you do will paint your personal masterpiece. Spring sees warm weather activities beginning, often before the winter activities end and it’s an entirely different world to the winter environment.
Best alpine activities in spring
There are some very good reasons to visit the Alps during spring, we’ve pulled together nine of the best:
Walking, hiking and trekking
Beneath the snow is a vast network of mountain tracks and trails that are begging to be explored. As the snow retreats these paths open up a world of hiking opportunities.
There is some truly spectacular hiking terrain in the Alps and France has a very well waymarked walking and trekking network. A particularly famous route, the GR5, runs all the way from Geneva to Nice covering everything from the Northern to the Southern French Alps.
For foodies it would be rude not to include some gastronomic delicacies to reward yourself after day in the mountains. So why not choose a Gourmet walking holiday in the Alps.
Whitewater rafting and kayaking
As the snow melts, alpine rivers transform from trickles to torrents. This makes rafting and kayaking one of the best alpine activities during spring.
Raging rivers have stronger flows and bigger rapid sections. Rivers that are usually too shallow to raft or kayak suddenly become navigable, opening up a world of whitewater fun. If you want to visit the Alps during spring check out the best whitewater rivers in France.
In spring the mountain passes clear of snow. This gives you the chance to cycle some of the toughest high mountain cols in the world, such as those visited by the Tour Du France.
In the past, some of these climbs were only rideable by serious cyclists. But with eBiking taking the Alps by storm, now anyone can give it a go. Many climbs are easier if you visit the Alps during spring as the temperatures are not yet at their peak and the roads are less busy.
If road riding isn’t your thing, then how about getting off-road for a spot of MTB? In many places lower mountain biking trails open up in early spring and there are some great mountain biking tours available.
In early springtime you might need to ride both the ups and downs on cross country and all-mountain trails. But before long ski lifts become bike lifts, and endless single track opens up throughout the mountains.
There is also superb downhill MTB available across the Alps, for example in Orcieres there is an extensive bike park with lifts taking you up to 2650m. It is possible to ride all the way down to 1350m giving you 1300m of pure descent!
From the 18th to the 21st of May the Outdoor Mix festival will be in Embrun on the shore of Lac du Serre Poncon in the Southern French Alps. There is music, entertainment and the chance to try some of the best alpine activities.
The festival combines water sports such as kayaking, SUP and kitesurfing with mountain activities like bouldering, paragliding and biking. You can also try your hand at yoga, slacklining and longboarding.
These high mountain metal rails open up some of the most extreme terrain in the Alps to non-climbers. Even though it’s spring, it can still be cold at high altitude, especially in the northern Alps. But with the warmer air coming in off the Med, the southern Alps are perfect for some high-level fun.
Try the dramatic underground via ferrata in the Devoluy massif cave system for something a little out of the ordinary. With the help of ladders, cables, hand holds and harnesses you take on this 300-metre route through an amazing subterranean world.
Of the best alpine activities, mountaineering probably tops the lot. With the milder conditions and reduced snowfall, spring is a great time to learn the basics of mountaineering without the risks of bad weather.
Anyone with a decent level of fitness can tackle some of the big summits. In spring it is best to hit peaks in the south of the range like the 4,000m Gran Paradiso or Dome des Ecrins. Both can be climbed by beginners on organised novice camps.
Ski Touring and Splitboarding
Okay so we said that all the snow had gone and you can pack your skis away…. But in the higher mountains there is still plenty of snow and spring is the ideal season for ski tourers and splitboarders.
The snow base is more stable at this time of year and with longer sunny days it is perfect for escaping into the mountain wilderness. The Queyras valley which is accessed by St Veran – at 2040m the highest village in Europe – is a popular ski touring destination in spring.
The Southern French Alps have warmer temperatures and twice as much sun as the north of the range. This means it’s warm enough to camp during springtime. As the campsites start to open their doors for the summer, you can enjoy a few nights before they get busy as the high season approaches.
Or maybe you’d like to try something a little different? Such as an overnight tree-top adventure….
Spend the day climbing in the trees, exploring the canopy before setting up your overnight tree tent with in-built hammock. It’s suitable for the whole family, and waking up dangling from the branches is a truly unique way to start the day.
So, don’t lament the finish of the ski season too much. As it starts to warm up you can visit the Alps during spring and try out a whole range of exciting mountain activities.
If you fancy a springtime visit to the Alps to try some of the best alpine activities, then head to Undiscovered Mountains for more information: www.undiscoveredmountains.com