After years of dreaming of a family hiking trip to the Alps, the boys turned six and eight, and we decided to hit the trails. We are from Canada and had already traveled to Europe with the children, so we knew what we in for regarding flights and jet-lag, but hiking as a family was a complete unknown. Fortunately, our first trip was a success, so returned many times. Here are six of the best places for family hiking in the Alps.
Alta Badia, Dolomites
The first hiking destination in the Alps was the Alta Badia region of the Italian Dolomites, and our base was the luxe Hotel Rosa Alpina in San Cassiano. The hotel was warm and inviting, and our suite was contemporary alpine with natural accents. The beautiful wood floors, cosy area rugs and wood burning fireplace made for a wonderful family retreat. We enjoyed spending time on the wrap-around balcony either gazing at the beautiful surroundings or watching the activity in San Cassiano. We were visiting right before the start of the epic Maratona dles Dolomites, an annual single-day road bike race over seven mountain passes in the Dolomites and the town was buzzing. We were so excited by all of the cycling action, we dream of returning to the Dolomites, not solely for the hiking, but to ride the celebrated Maratona.
We hiked as a family along many of the family-friendly hiking trails and enjoyed the fun and nourishing stops at welcoming on-mountain rifugios. Even if you aren’t hungry, the rifugios are irresistible with fabulous alpine playgrounds and unique displays. Many of the rifugios are independently-owned and operated, which is much different from many of the North American mountain resorts. We were impressed with the high-quality food and reasonable prices at every rifugio we visited.
Family-friendly hiking trails begin near the Hotel Rosa Alpina, or it is only a short walk to Piz Sorega for a gondola ride to alpine trails. Another option is a complimentary shuttle service from the hotel to nearby trails and gondolas.
We retained a nanny associated with the hotel, so my husband and I were able to get out and hike some more challenging routes. While we were hiking, the children were well-cared for by Anna and were either cooking at Rosa Alpina or playing at one of the fantastic alpine playgrounds.
After a successful family vacation in the Alta Badia, we planned to visit Zermatt, Switzerland and the iconic Matterhorn the following summer. It turns out that our family hiking trip to Zermatt was another fantastic choice with unforgettable family hiking, luxe accommodation at Cervo Mountain Boutique Resort and gourmet restaurants.
Zermatt is car-free, so when we arrived via train from Montreux, we were picked up at the station in one of the Cervo Mountain Boutique Resort’s super cute electric vehicles. The boys love trains, but the electric vehicle was a close contender for the preferred mode of transportation on this trip. Cervo offers a convenient location, stunning Matterhorn views, a spectacular terrace restaurant and luxury accommodation suitable for a family of four. We enjoyed the stunning view of the Matterhorn, outdoor livings space and mini-kitchen complete with an Italian espresso machine. It isn’t all about the espresso, but when I am jet-lagged, there is no substitute.
We didn’t hire a nanny on this trip and honestly didn’t feel like we needed one. We hiked on numerous trails accessible from Cervo or one of the nearby lifts, road the Gonergratbahn to the summit of the Gornergrat, visited the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise, relaxed in the hot-tub and enjoyed world-class cuisine.
Our favorite restaurant was Chez Vrony followed closely by Restaurant Zum See. Both places were outstanding, and on a return visit Restaurant Zum See may well be our first choice; they were that close. For more information on both of these restaurants, please click here.
Year three and the luxe Flocons de Sel hotel in Megève, France was calling. Hiking in the French Alps was a huge draw, and so was the opportunity to dine at our first three Michelin star restaurant – Emmanuel Renaut’s Flocons de Sel.
Our junior suite was contemporary alpine with a fireplace, cozy sitting area, and balcony overlooking a beautiful pasture. The property is just outside of the centre of Megève, in a very tranquil location. The hotel provides an on-call shuttle bus to take you wherever you wish. We loved the location and found it magical to fall asleep every night listening to the rhythmic tinkle of distant cowbells. Megève is an excellent destination and one of the best places for family hiking in the Alps.
Picture-perfect gardens providing herbs and produce for the on-site restaurant are scattered throughout the property. It was fun to watch the chefs rush out the incredible gardens to harvest food that we would later enjoy. We enjoyed a sumptuous breakfast daily, and our dinner at the Emmanuel Renaut’s Flocons de Sel was incredible. The children joined us for dinner and were invited into the kitchen for a tour as well as to select what they would like to eat for dinner. The thoughtful hostess sat us in a beautiful section of the dining room, near a wall covered in unique cuckoo clocks. The boys were mesmerized by the clocks and were content at the table while we enjoyed one of our most memorable meals.
The majority of our hiking in Megève required a quick shuttle trip from the hotel to the base of the lift. One on occasion we were able to take a lift into the alpine and then hike back to the hotel. The wooden outdoor hot tub and indoor spa pool at Flocons de Sel were perfect after a day of hiking or shopping.
Exploring the village of Megève was an absolute delight. Beautiful cobblestone streets, cafes, artwork, luxury boutiques and lovely chalets. As far as my luxury fashion barometer goes, any alpine town with an Hermes shop is worthy of a return visit.
After three fantastic hiking vacations in the Alps, we were ready for more adventure. We set our sights on Grindelwald, Switzerland at the base of the famed Eiger. Grindelwald is accessible from Geneva or Zurich via the uber-efficient Swiss train system.
I wasn’t able to find traditional luxury accommodation that appeared to meet our needs, so I turned to HomeAway to search for private accommodation. I don’t utilize services such as HomeAway very often because I enjoy the services and amenities offered by luxury hotels. That being said, we found an apartment and booked it for a week at the end of June.
The apartment was lovely, and we were well-cared for by the owner and manager. They even organized an arrival box of groceries and a pick-up at the train station for us. I often rate accommodation based on the presence of an espresso machine, and the apartment owner provided a few of them, including a healthy stock Nespresso capsules at a reasonable price. Espresso is critical when I am suffering from jet-lag, and I was grateful to be able to get my fix at our lovely apartment in Grindelwald. Our youngest son was ill when we were in Grindelwald, so it was wonderful to be able to care for him in such a comfortable setting. I also found out first-hand that the primary care in Grindelwald is excellent, although I hope you never need it! Here is a direct link to the Breithorn Apartment.
In terms of hiking, there is no shortage of terrain around Grindelwald. From Grindelwald, it is easy to visit the Top of Europe (Jungfraujoch); Piz Gloria, the location of some scenes from Her Majesty’s Secret Service; Kleine Scheidegg; and, Schynige Platte. On this particular trip, my husband and eldest son hiked daily for almost a week. My youngest son and I enjoyed watching paragliders and admired the incredible view from the comfort of our balcony. Fortunately, there are trains into various alpine locations, so we were able to get out a bit and explore the area. The rail trip to the Top of Europe is an incredible experience and takes you to the highest railway station in Europe at 3,454 m above sea level. On this journey, the cogwheel train from Kleine Scheidegg passes through the Eiger and Monch to the Jungfraujoch. We left the green pastures of Kleine Scheidegg behind for a wild snowstorm in June!
We spent almost a week in Verbier, Switzerland, where we stayed at the ultra-luxe Virgin Limited Edition property known as The Lodge. The children loved The Lodge and almost immediately declared it to be their favourite place to stay. They were so enamoured with The Lodge that our youngest son put one of the ‘if lost, please return me to The Lodge’ cards in his pocket upon departure. Hoping to get lost so you can return to The Lodge. Hmm…I may start carrying a card too.
The Lodge offers and indoor pool, spa, indoor/outdoor hot tubs, gym, spa and all of the extras you would expect from a Virgin Limited Edition Property. We all adored Pebbles, The Lodge dog, who is a warm snuggle and always available for hikes or runs. The children were thrilled with their private luxury bunkroom equipped with six bunk beds, bathroom, reading nook, books, robes, slippers and gaming station. No wonder it is their favourite place ever! The consensus from the entire family is that life is really good at The Lodge.
We began some hikes directly from The Lodge, otherwise, we walked a short distance to the centre of Verbier for a gondola ride into the alpine. One day we took multiple lifts up to Mont Fort for an incredible, snowy alpine experience. Cheese fondue in the alpine is extra special, and we fueled up at Cabane du Mont Fort CAS hut on our way back down to The Lodge. Another great day was spent riding the gondola up to Les Ruinettes at 2200 m, traversing towards Savoleyres and hiking down to Verbier.
Located in the far west corner of Austria, the Vorarlberg region is easily one of the best places for family hiking in the Alps. And one that we have visited a few times. Here, family run hotels take care of the tiniest guests. And gondolas, chairlifts, and trams transport hikers, bikers, and walkers from the villages into the expansive alpine. You can join a hut-to-hut culinary journey, visit a sparkling mountain lake, or stop at an alpine dairy and learn about famous Bregenzerwald Cheese. Learn more about hiking in Lech Zürs am Arlberg, one of Vorarlberg’s enchanting villages here.
Do you have a favourite family hiking destination? Please let me know. We are always looking for more destinations to include in our list of best places for family hiking in the Alps.