Could there be a more iconic feature in Europe than the Alps? That’s why camping in the French Alps is a on so many people’s bucket lists – and probably why you’re here, reading this now. This towering snow-capped mountain range is the jewel in France’s crown, and it’s natural beauty is complimented perfectly by the quaint mountain villages that lie within in.
Thankfully there are many campsites in the region, and wild (free) camping is also an option too, although it’s not technically legal – more on that further down this article.
So now you know it’s a possibility, read on to let your Alps camping experience begin!
Camping in the French Alps
Camping is a very popular pastime in France so there are campsites throughout the French Alps, covering all budgets. They all tend to have spots for RVs too.
Several of them lie close to the most popular hiking routes too, allowing walkers to enjoy a day’s walk in stunning surroundings, knowing they can have a dip in a heated pool at the end of the day.
For serious walkers, the best way to work out which campsite to use is probably to determine the route you wish to walk or hike. An Alps hiking book like this one will help you decide. Once you have your route, mark out any settlements. It’s highly likely they will have at least one campsite near by. A quick Google search will do the rest.
Or you can wild camp as you traverse the French Alps – we explain more on that, and the rules for free camping further down this article.
However for less serious hikers, campsites are the best option. We tell you our favorites, and why, next!
The best campsites in the French Alps
One of the great things about the French Alps is that there is a variety of campsites that cater for all types of tourists. From travelers looking for an adventure, to ones searching for a relaxing holiday in serene surroundings. Here’s a few of our favorites:
If your idea of a camping holiday in the French Alps includes quick and easy access to fantastic hiking trails, walking paths, and stunning cycling routes, then Huttopia Bourg-St-Maurice would be a great base.
It’s a four-star campsite too, so has excellent facilities. As well as an outdoor pool with breathtaking views of the surrounding tree-covered hills.
Camping du Brec
Keeping with the Maritime Alps, this family friendly campsite not only has great amenities but it has one very special feature – it’s own private lake!
As if that isn’t enough, this site has stunning mountain views, is close to great walking routes and is beside Mercantour National Park – a haven for wildlife.
For cycling enthusiasts, Europe’s highest road and Tour de France route Col de la Bonette is close by too. Whilst the medieval, fortified village of Entrevaux is on the doorstep of this campsite as well.
Le Grand Champ
This campsite has one big advantage over all others. It sits in the foothills of one of the most iconic mountains in the world – Mount Blanc.
Nestled among the mountains, it’s the perfect place to unwind. The site is beautifully maintained, and with the rugged wilderness and ancient forests surrounding it, there’s no doubt there’s a romantic feel to this place too.
The night-sky set against snow-capped peaks is one hell of a view as well. Just grab a glass of local wine and enjoy.
This huge campsite spans 500 acres! Which means plenty of space, and lots of privacy.
But that’s not the main reason we like it. The site sits on the banks of a river and has a variety of water-based activities available to patrons. Canoeing and kayaking are top of the list, and you can hire both and take them down the river into nearby spectacular gorges.
There’s a heated pool for those who want the water but in a more relaxed style too. And for hikers and walkers, there’s countless trails surrounding the campsite, covering a varying level of difficulties.
Wild camping in the French Alps
If you’re looking for a more adventurous camping experience, then you’re probably looking for the rules around free camping in the Alps.
The bad news, is technically wild camping in the French Alps is not allowed under French law, unless permission has been granted from the land owner. Which is a little hard to get when hiking and camping in a mountain range. However the good news is that wild camping is well tolerated here – but only if campers follow a set of general principles:
Wild campers are expected to stay in the same place for one night only, and to camp in a rural place. Therefore don’t camp in or near villages, someone’s farm, near buildings, or on cultivated land. If you think you’re on private land, try and seek out the landowner and ask permission.
Campers are expected to set up their tent at dusk, and take it down at dawn. A tent that is discreet and pitches quickly is best. Therefore a tent like this one
If you are hiking a main trail you should camp a little away from the path as a matter of courtesy. You should also avoid camping in tourist areas.
When wild camping in the French Alps you should never make a campfire. For cooking, use a storm cooker. The Swedish brand Trangia make fantastic storm cookers that are virtually indestructible.
If you want to go completely fuel-less, a portable solar powered cooker like this one would work. Plus, is there anything cooler than harnessing the power of the sun for your breakfast!
And of course, take any trash with you, and leave your camping spot the way you found it.
Below are our top tips for wild camping in the French Alps.
Tips for wild (free) camping in the French Alps
- Thunderstorms and heavy rain are to be expected when camping in the Alps – even during the hiking season. Make sure you have a durable, rainproof tent that can survive heavy rain. A lightweight one-man hiking tent like this or similar would be perfect. For a good value tent that fits more than one person, this mosquito-proof one would work well too.
- There are lots of different water sources in the mountains, but remember to always have plenty of water on you if you’re walking. A space-saving collapsible water bottle would be a good purchase.
- Keep an eye out for animal poo – if there’s a lot near your perfect camping spot, you may end up being woken up by some enthusiastic sheep or something else in the middle of the night!
- When going to the toilet you should do it far from water sources, such as rivers and lakes. Make sure to use a trowel (like this folding one) to bury any human waste – don’t just leave it out in the open.
- Like many rugged and wild rural areas around the world, there are flora and fauna to be aware of. So read up and make sure you know what to expect in the region or area you are planning to wild camp in.
Recommended reading for your trip to the French Alps
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