Europe’s longest mountain range changes dramatically in the summer…
Once covered in fresh alpine snow, the mountains go from catering to thousands of skiers daily to only hundreds of holidaymakers during the warm summer months.
Most Brits think that the Alps are only for winter holidays, but the Alps offer a huge variety of summer activities for the whole family (and almost guarantee to take your kids off their iPads!). A wider selection of mountain sports make it the perfect summer holiday destination.
So we’ve rounded up 11 of the best family activities if you’re heading out there this summer.
1. Get on Your Bike
Cycle or e-bike through the rich Valais region, including the final part of stage 17 of the Tour de France 2016, and in the evenings, feast on gourmet dinners featuring the best food and wine the Swiss region has to offer.
This is an incredible opportunity to discover some world-famous road cycling routes. Ascend the legendary Finhault-Emosson climb and soak up the beautiful mountain scenery of Valais.
While in the region, explore more of what Crans-Montana and its surrounding area have to offer – with seven lakes, a Championship Seve Ballesteros Golf course and wonderful nature walks.
2. Ski and Tan with Summer Skiing
The ski season isn’t over when you dig out your swimwear! Thanks to high altitude glaciers, summer skiing is possible in the Alps.
Les Deux Alpes is open through July for summer skiing since it has one of the highest ski areas in the world. Sixteen ski lifts are open from early morning to noon so you can ski right up until lunch.
Tignes is another popular French ski resort that offers summer skiing from early July until late August. Zermatt has the highest and largest skiing area in the Swiss Alps with eight ski lifts and 25 km of ski slopes open all through the summer.
3. Hike Amongst the Blooming Meadows
Hiking and trekking are a popular summer alpine activity that can be enjoyed by the whole family.
From gentle nature trails to challenging treks up to the mountain peaks, there is a trail available for every hiker. The Alps are covered with hundreds of hiking trails so just head to the local tourist office and get a map.
For the adventurous family with older children looking for a challenge, the Eagle Walk in Austria is a 33 stage, 413-km trail with a total 31,000-meter elevation gain. Very few people finish the entire trail system, but the Eagle Walk offers endless trekking opportunities.
For younger children, the Children’s Adventure Trail in Murren, Switzerland is the perfect nature trail complete with a playground, cable car, slides, and more. It’s a great place to introduce young kids to the great outdoors.
Tour du Mont Blanc is perhaps the most well-known long-distance walk in Europe.
Circling around the Mont Blanc massif, the 170-kilometer track passes through parts of Switzerland, Italy, and France. The famous walk is normally completed in 11 days and if you are short for time you can take out the long Chamonix valley walk given the fact that you would have probably seen the Mont Blanc views a dozen times from either skiing in Chamonix or driving through it.
The more special parts where you get a different aspect of Mont Blanc are from Les Contamines onwards towards Seez (above Bourg St Maurice) and onwards towards Italy and Val Veny and from the other end of Courmayeur’s Val Ferret towards Switzerland, Champex and up again towards Col de Montets and France and the Chamonix Valley.
In my opinion, Val Ferret in Courmayeur is one of the most beautiful valleys in Europe where you can fly fish, play golf, rock climb, do some amazing hikes for all levels as well as mountain bike. It’s a mini version of the Brad Pitt movie “A River Runs Through It”.
4. Splish, Splash, and Play in the Alpine Lakes
The Alps have no shortage of beautiful alpine lakes to enjoy watersports and swimming.
Saint Croix du Verdon is a popular lake in the French Alps for water-based activities like swimming, rowing, kayaking, and sailing. Kayaks and canoes can be rented nearby. Pack a picnic lunch and enjoy an afternoon in the sun while the kids splash away in the cool glacial waters.
Tirol, Austria is home to many mountain lakes and outdoor pools to enjoy, but children especially love exploring the many adventure pools in the area, like Area 47 in Oetztal-Bahnhof. Covering more than 20,000 square metres, Area 47 is the ultimate extreme sports park for thrill seekers. Kids and parents can enjoy the high-speed water slides, wakeboarding, and climbing wall over the pool.
5. Get Up High with Via Ferrata
Via Ferrata climbing is an essential activity for any summer holiday in the Alps, especially in Italy where the sport is king. Via Ferrata, meaning “iron road” in Italian, is a protected climbing route with steel cables attached to the rocks. Climbers need special gear that hooks them into the route allowing them to climb safely to the top.
There are hundreds of routes in the Dolomites and also good entry level options from Courmayeur like the Mont Chetif or for a nice day trip, up to Rifugio Monzino for lunch and back down through Val Veny.
For more experienced climbers, you can climb long and challenging routes that interconnect with others in the Brenta Dolomites region.
6. Race Downhill on Your Mountain Bike
With kilometers of incredible single-track and wide dirt trails, mountain biking is a particularly popular summer alpine activity.
Throughout the summer months, you’ll find plenty of downhill routes for all ages and abilities. Verbier and Crans Montana are popular mountain bike destinations for many.
Madesimo and Valchiavenna in Italy boast hundreds of kilometers of pristine mountain bike paths of varying degrees of difficulty. No matter which trail you choose, you’ll be met with breathtaking landscapes all around you. For the more timid riders, the lower valley has many asphalted paths suitable for all ages and abilities.
Every summer, Grande Traversee des Hautes-Alpes is home to the five-stage Alps Epic Race where riders cover between 50 and 70 kilometers across some of the hardest trails in the French Alps.
Crans Montana is every cyclist’s dream destination in the Alps. It not only has a well-established network of 200 kilometres of road cycling routes, but also 177 marked mountain bike cross country and enduro routes and two downhill tracks including an incredible 2350m vertical descent down the valley to Sierre.
7. White Water Raft the Mighty Alpine Rivers
The Southern French Alps have some of the best rivers in the Alps for white water rafting. As the snow melts, the rivers get higher and that means people from all over the world come to enjoy the wild white-water ride.
In the Alpes de Haute Provence region, you can raft on the Ubaye and Verdon Rivers.
In Switzerland, Interlaken is internationally renowned for its whitewater rafting tours with class IV rapids in the alpine rivers. Lutschine is the most popular destination.
With views of Mount Blanc in the background, Courmayeur is another great spot for whitewater rafting.
8. Fly Fish for Trout in the Shadows of the Matterhorn
After a day or week of adventure sports, it’s time to relax on the river and catch dinner. The Alps’ clean lakes, rivers, and streams are home to trout, grayling and char, making it a perfect spot to do some fly fishing.
With beautiful mountain views behind you, imagine yourself casting a fly into a crystal-clear alpine lake that is reflecting the Matterhorn. Life doesn’t get much better than that!
Chamonix is a popular fishing spot in France. Lac de Ilettes is a quiet group of three lakes. Specifically, Lac des Chavants in Les Houches is a great lake for trout.
In Switzerland, Zermatt offers some of the best mountain scenery for fly fishing. Fly Fish Zermatt offers fly-fishing tours to privately owned lakes next to glaciers.
9. Trek Europe’s Best Glaciers
July is one of the best times to hike the Alps as most of the hiking trails and glaciers are open and accessible. Trekking a glacier alone is never advisable, so hire a guide and cross the snowy expanses safely roped up with crampons.
You can take the Skyway cable car up Mount Blanc from Courmayeur and walk the glacier for incredible panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and breathtaking picnic locations. Vaujany has several glaciers that can be hiked. Popular options include La Grave, Les Deux Alps, Alpe d’Huez, and La Berarde. In Switzerland, Aletsh Glacier is a popular two-day trek.
10. Discover the Backcountry of the Alps While Quad Biking
Quad biking is a unique way to discover the backcountry of the Alps. Quad bikes allow you to cover more ground than walking meaning you can see so much more than you would normally see on foot. La Plagne is a beautiful place to take a quad bike tour.
Leave from Belle Plagne and traverse alpine fields with stunning views of the Vanoise glaciers, Tignes glacier and Courchevel.
11. Golf Amongst the Majestic Mountains
Golf is a sport the whole family can enjoy and what better place for children to learn than the picturesque Alps.
While the Alps aren’t the first place you’d think of for a golf holiday, the region offers some incredible landscape and world-class courses.
Evian Resort – host to the LPGA Tour’s richest event – and the Domaine du Divonne are two popular golf resorts in the French Alps.
Switzerland offers a good range of courses with two 18-hole courses in Verbier with views of Mont Blanc. Crans Montana is home to the Omega Masters and two courses that every golfer will love and Golf Club Kastelruth in the Dolomites is a golf course straight out of a fairytale.
Book a Summer Holiday in the Alps Today
The Alps offer a wide range of activities for the whole family at an affordable price. With incredible summer weather, forget Center Parcs – escape the UK and enjoy the sun and fresh mountain air.
Get in touch today to organise your summer holiday adventure in the Alps.
And let me know, what’s your favourite summer activity to do in the Alps?