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Refuge de Chésery to Samoëns

Hiking trail · Rhône-Alpes
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  • Looking back to Lac Vert
    / Looking back to Lac Vert
    Photo: Sarah Stone, Macs Adventure
  • / Views to the Dents du Midi
    Photo: Sarah Stone, Macs Adventure
  • / Enjoy the easy going path!
    Photo: Sarah Stone, Macs Adventure
  • / Pass picturesque dairy farms
    Photo: Sarah Stone, Macs Adventure
  • / The Col de Cou in the distance
    Photo: Sarah Stone, Macs Adventure
  • / On the Col de Cou
    Photo: Sarah Stone, Macs Adventure
  • / Some typical way marking and a water fountain
    Photo: Sarah Stone, Macs Adventure
  • / On the descent to Samoens
    Photo: Sarah Stone, Macs Adventure
  • / The path follows woodland paths and quiet tarmac road as it descends to Samoens
    Photo: Sarah Stone, Macs Adventure
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A long but pleasant day walking. Starting in Switzerland, you will soon cross back into France from where a long descent takes you to the Alpine town of Samoëns.
Distance 25.8 km
8:00 h
680 m
1,950 m
Leaving the peaceful Refuge de Chésery nice and early, you'll get a head start on a long but rewarding day. Start by taking a path that hugs the shores of the Lac Vert, and be sure to look back for nice views of the Refuge framed by mountians and the lake. Ascend to the Portes d'Hivers, and enjoy the peacefully deserted mountains which in winter are packed with skiers and snowboarders. You then start a gentle descent which soon flattens out to follow a very pleasant gravel road through dairy farm after dairy farm. The Dents Blanches and Dents du Midi mountains are in view for the first half of the walk, until you reach the Col du Cou (spelt as Col de Coux in Switzerland). The ascent to the Col is very steady, and the Col itself, being the border between Switzerland and France, is very interesting with an observation board to help you identify the mountain chains all around you, on the French and Swiss sides. After this, start a steep descent into France, before gently ascending for one last Col (Col de la Golése) before starting the long descent to Samoëns.  

Author’s recommendation

This is another long day on the GR5, be sure to start nice and early so you don't feel rushed and take walking poles; the descents from Col de Cou and then again from Col de la Golése are long and steep. 
Profile picture of Sarah Stone
Sarah Stone
Update: March 11, 2019
Highest point
2,090 m
Lowest point
724 m
Best time of year

Safety information

Weather conditions can change quickly in the mountains - always be prepared and carry appropriate clothing; warm as well as waterproof layers, hat and gloves etc. Please see your information pack for a detailed packing list.

The descents after Col de Cou and Col de la Golése are steep and can be slippy in poor weather. Make sure you have walking boots with good grip and a pair of walking poles. Take your time and take plenty of breaks if feeling tired. 

Today you will be walking past a few different areas where cows graze. Although generally very docile and used to walkers, keep your distance and never turn your back on a cow that is behaving strangely or aggresive. Be particularly vigilant around cows with calves. 

Tips and hints

A packed lunch should be ordered from the Refuge de Chésery upon arrival. This costs about 7 CHF/6 EUR and the hut accepts both Swiss Francs and Euros. The lunch consists of a sandwhich, a piece of fruit and a cereal bar. The hut does not accept cards.

Refreshments can be bought at:

Alpage la Pisa (around the 6km mark) 

Chalets de Chardonnieres (around the 13 km mark, but please note this requires a detour of at least 30mins round trip)

Refuge de la Golése (around the 16km mark) 

There are plenty of water refill points throughout today's walk.

Points of Interest

1) Samoëns - an ancient town famous for its stonemasons, Samoëns is now a popular ski and summer destination. The attractive centre is traffic free and it is dotted with gourmet shops and outdoor shops (great if you need to pick something up!). There is also a botanical alpine garden that was founded in 1906 and has over 5,000 species of plants. 


This tour is available on the following itineraries: WFGRMC


Refuge de Chésery (1,982 m)
46.196557, 6.813103
46°11'47.6"N 6°48'47.2"E
32T 331265 5118211


Samoëns, fountain in the town square

Turn-by-turn directions

0.00km –  with your back to the main entrance of the Refuge de Chésery, BEAR RIGHT following the narrow stoney path on the right of the lake, as it ascends gently. You will pass an information board about the Lac Vert.

0.60km – Come to a wooden gateway, go through it and immediately after you will come to a rocky road. TURN RIGHT here.

After a few metres, TURN LEFT, continuing to ascend on the rocky road.

0.80km- Arrive at ‘Portes de l’hiver (2096m). BEAR LEFT following signs for ‘Chaux Palin’ (30 mins). Cross a cattle grid then descend on a gravel road.

1.10km- TURN RIGHT off the gravel road and join a smaller stoney road, following signs for ‘Chaux Palin’. You will soon pass under a ski lift.

2.40km – Continue STRAIGHT AHEAD following the path as it swings left. Continue to follow signs for ‘Chaux Palin’.

2.60km – exit the dairy farm by way of the rope gate. TURN RIGHT and you will soon pass a restaurant/bar (usually only open in the winter) on your left, and a small building on your right where cheese is made. Ignore the small path on your right (marked with a sign for a walker and a motorcycle), and continue STRAIGHT AHEAD on the gravel road.

2.90km- BEAR LEFT, ascending gently and following sign for Col de Coux. Note that in Switzerland this Col is spelt with an ‘x’ on the end, whereas on French signposting and on French maps, it is spelt ‘Col de Cou’.

3.30km – TURN RIGHT, following the sign for Col de Cou(x). Ascend gently on the gravel road.

4.50km- Come to ‘Les Pas’ (1821) and continue STRAIGHT AHEAD following signs for GR5/Col de Cou(x) (1 hr 15 mins). Follow the gravel, gently undulating road, ignoring any small paths on left and right.

5.10km- Continue STRAIGHT AHEAD on the gravel road and following the signs for the GR5/Col de Cou(x). Take in the fantastic views of the Dents Blanches mountains on your left.

5.80km – Come to Alpage La Pisa on your right (refreshments available). Leave the road here and TURN RIGHT onto a grassy/rocky path which is just below the Alpage building. Follow the sign for Col de Cou(x). There is a fountain where you can refill your water just next to the flag pole.

A few metres later pass through a metal gate which has a warning sign on it, but simply says please keep your dog on a leash. Continue to follow path as it meanders.

6.40km – Come to another metal gate, which has another warning sign, this time about the cows. The cows here can be protective of their young, so do keep your distance and do not stand between a mother and its calve. Continue STRAIGHT AHEAD on path as it begins to descend.

6.80km – Leave the stoney path by way of a string electric gate. There are dairy farm buildings on your right. Rejoin the gravel/stoney road and continue STRAIGHT AHEAD following sign for Col de Cou(x)

7.40km – Come to another dairy farm on your left, there is also another water refill point on your left. Continue STRAIGHT AHEAD through the gate on the single-track gravel road.

7.80km- Come to ‘La Poyat’ (1645m). BEAR RIGHT leaving the road behind you and follow signs for ‘Col de Cou(x)’ on a rougher stoney path which is ascending.

9.10km – Come to a gate made from just two bits of plastic. Continue STRAIGHT AHEAD on track ignoring the narrow path on left which is a mountain bike trail.

10.00km – Arrive at Col de Cou(x) (1920m). This marks the border between Switzerland and France where there are helpful observation boards for both sides, to help you identify the many mountains you can view from here. There is also a small hut here which was previously a customs hut (it is now privately owned). Once you have passed through the gate, BEAR LEFT and follow the descending path, signposted for ‘Foret de Freterolles’. The descent here is steep and can be slippy if wet or muddy. Walking poles are useful for this section! Continue to follow the path as it meanders and descends through woodland.

11.80km – Come to ‘Foret de Freterolles’ (1660m). BEAR LEFT through the electric gate, following GR signs for ‘Chalets de Chardonnieres’ (35 mins)

12.40km – Pass through metal gate or cross the cattle grid. Continue STRAIGHT AHEAD following the path.

12.80km- Arrive at ‘Torrent de Chardonniere’ where you can refill your water. BEAR LEFT following signs for ‘Chalets de Chardonnieres’.

Shortly after, pass a sign for the ‘Tour du Dents Blanches’ then BEAR RIGHT through a metal gate, following markers. Come to a sign for ‘Les Terres Maudites’ (1490m). Continue STRAIGHT AHEAD.

13.40km-Come to Plan des Heures (1435m). For a detour to the Chalets de Chardonnieres BEAR RIGHT (you can get food and drink here, and there is a toilet). However bear in mind this detour adds on about 1.6km and about 30 mins (as well as stoppage time), onto what is an already long day. To continue on the path as normal, Continue STRAIGHT AHEAD at this fork following signs for ‘Alpage des Chardonnieres’.

14.50km – Arrive at Alpage de Chardonnieres (1430m). Continue STRAIGHT AHEAD on the stone path as it ascends, following signs for Samoëns (3 hr 15 mins)

15.10km – Come to a fork in the path, BEAR LEFT onto more defined path, passing through a fence and following the red and white markers on trees.

15.60km – Arrive at ‘Sous Bonnevalette’ and TURN LEFT onto stoney path, following sign for Samoëns (2hr 55mins). This is the start of a gentle ascent to the Col de la Golèse, the last ascent of the day!

16.00km – Arrive at Col de la Golèse (1660m). There is a mountain hut (Refuge de la Golèse) with refreshments a few metres off the path to your right. Otherwise, continue STRAIGHT AHEAD on wide gravel/stone path as it descends steeply. Continue on the main path, ignoring smaller paths on right and left.

17.30km- Come to a water refill point on your right. Continue STRAIGHT AHEAD following the path descending.

18.50km – Arrive at ‘Les Chavonnes’ (alt. 1245) BEAR LEFT following sign for ‘Les Allamands’ (35 mins) and Samoëns (2 hours). Continue to descend on the rough, stoney road.

19.70km- Come to a marker on the ground for Samoëns and arrow pointing to trail veering right into woodland. Take this route if you please, bearing in mind that although a bit quicker it is much steeper. The official route has the GR5 descending by way of the road which soon turns to tarmac.

20.50km- Come to ‘Plan des Arches’ (1096m) parking area. TURN RIGHT off of tarmac road and join the woodland path, following the painted signs on the ground.

21.00km- Rejoin tarmac road and continue STRAIGHT AHEAD descending, soon reaching the hamlet of ‘Les Allamands’ where you can refill your water.

21.40km – TURN RIGHT onto woodland path, leaving the tarmac road behind, following painted signs for Samoëns.

22.4km-  Arrive at the tarmac road once again and a car park, cross the road and head to the yellow signs (‘Pied du Cret- 889m’). Follow the sign for Samoëns (1 hour) and TURN RIGHT, following the tarmac road as it crosses the bridge.

A few meters after, TURN LEFT into forest track (look for painted markers on ground) and follow the woodland track adjacent to road.

24.00km – Come to ‘Les Fontaines’ (710m) where you will rejoin the tarmac road for the last time and continue to descend following signs for Samoëns (30 mins)

24.60km- Come to a bend in the road and continue STRAIGHT AHEAD as it swings right, ignore signs on your left on tree, which is actually a red and yellow way-marker (for the Tour du Dents Blanches).

25.20km – Pass the Gite des Moulins on your left, continue STRAIGHT AHEAD descending.

25.60km – Cotninue STRAIGHT AHEAD on Route des Moulins as it swings right and goes past picturesque wooden houses.

25.70km – Continue STRAIGHT AHEAD on road ignoring path on right. At the end of the Route des Moulins, TURN RIGHT and continue STRAIGHT AHEAD.

25.80km – FINISH: Arrive in the centre of Samoëns and finish by the fountain in the town square. Congratulations, you have completed the longest day of your tour!


all notes on protected areas

Getting there

If you can't walk today due to illness, injury or weather, Refuge de Chésery is quite remote and although there is road access to it, the road is narrow and rough and only suitable for certain vehicles. Please contact us and we can advise you on the best way to proceed.


46.196557, 6.813103
46°11'47.6"N 6°48'47.2"E
32T 331265 5118211
Arrival by train, car, foot or bike


Good waterproof boots are a must and walking poles are highly recommended. Make sure to bring plenty of water and a snack or packed lunch.

This walk is exposed in places so be sure to bring a hat and sunscreen on hot days. 

Basic Equipment for Hiking

  • Sturdy, comfortable and waterproof hiking boots or approach shoes
  • Layered, moisture wicking clothing
  • Hiking socks  
  • Rucksack (with rain cover)
  • Protection against sun, rain and wind (hat, sunscreen, water- and windproof jacket and suitable legwear)
  • Sunglasses
  • Hiking poles
  • Ample supply of drinking water and snacks
  • First aid kit
  • Blister kit
  • Bivy / survival bag  
  • Survival blanket
  • Headlamp
  • Pocket knife
  • Whistle
  • Cell phone
  • Cash
  • Navigation equipment / map and compass
  • Emergency contact details
  • ID
  • The 'basic' and 'technical' equipment lists are generated based on the selected activity. They are not exhaustive and only serve as suggestions for what you should consider packing.
  • For your safety, you should carefully read all instructions on how to properly use and maintain your equipment.
  • Please ensure that the equipment you bring complies with local laws and does not include restricted items.

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25.8 km
8:00 h
680 m
1,950 m


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