I recently spent a week in Grenoble–while my ankle hadn’t healed enough yet for trail running, I was clear to go hiking. Unfortunately, getting around the mountains without a car can be tough, and bus schedules are often limited in the summer. Still, I was able to do three lovely hikes around Grenoble that are accessible by public transport.
Here’s the breakdown of the 3 hikes I did: Chamechaude (Chartreuse range–the highest peak of the range), Moucherotte (Vercors range), and Chamrousse (Belledonne range). They’re all moderately difficult and will take around 4 hours or more.
If you’re looking for a slightly easier hike, I’ve also added a fourth hike (Mont Rachais) directly accessible from the city.
3 Hikes Around Grenoble Accessible by Bus
1. Chamechaude (2082m)
Elevation gain: 730m / 2400ft
Approximate time: 3 hours 45 minutes, including some short breaks
Distance: 7.7km / 4.8mi
How to get there: take the 62 bus from Notre Dame – Museé to Col de Porte (last stop). This stop is right in front of the Musée de Grenoble, around the corner from the line B tram stop. I took the 11:20am bus there to arrive at Col de Porte around noon, and was able to complete the hike and catch the 4pm bus back with about 15 minutes to spare.
One nice thing is that the 62 bus is a city bus, and not a Transière (regional bus?), so the fare is only 1,60€ if you buy the ticket in advance (it’s 2,10€ aboard the bus). I was actually able to take the tram to the bus stop, then use the same ticket for the #62–each ticket is valid for one hour, and you can make unlimited transfers in that hour. It’s honestly an incredible deal considering that you can get through the city and to the mountains for only 1,60€ (Transière buses are usually 5,90€ one way to the mountains, and that’s only valid for the bus itself!).
Before you go:
- There is a little bit of climbing involved at the very top, but it’s manageable given the ropes attached to the boulders (see below photos).
- The trails near the summit can be pretty rocky, so bring good shoes.
- It’s not totally clear where the trail begins–from the base of the mountain, you’ll see a flat trail going left, a middle trail, and the ski trail going straight up. You’ll want to take the middle trail, and you should see yellow signs for Chamechaude once you reach the forest.
- This hike was my favorite and had serious “The Hills Are Alive” vibes towards the middle (see first photo of post and next photo below). The atmosphere changes rapidly, however, and the part near the summit can be very cloudy and chilly.
2. Le Moucherotte (1901m)
Elevation gain: 730m / 2400ft
Approximate time: 4 hours total, including some short breaks
Distance: 8.4km / 5.2mi
How to get there: take the 5110 Transière bus from the station to Saint-Nizier-du-Moucherotte (Le Village), or from Louis Maisonnat in Fontaine, if you’re staying in that neighborhood. The trip time is around 45 minutes from the station. I took the 12:30pm bus there from Fontaine and the 6:23pm bus back, and I had a large buffer to catch the bus back (around 1 hour).
These tickets cost 5,90€ each way, which is much more expensive than the inner city transport tickets. I honestly considered hitchhiking back since many cars run by the Saint-Nizier-du-Moucherotte bus station. My host said that his sons always hitchhiked there and back, so you can give it a try if you’re feeling brave.
Before you go:
- The trail head can be difficult to find once you enter the forest (it’s pretty straightforward from the village to the forest, however). From the town, you’ll walk past a cemetery and first reach a picnic area with a view of the mountains and a sign with the directions of major world cities. There’s a trail next to the picnic benches that you’ll follow up and past a few houses on your left. Follow that straight until you reach a road/car barrier with a red and white circle sign–go past this barrier. I made the mistake of going up a narrow trail before this barrier.
- The section in the woods is VERY steep. I would not recommend this hike if it’s recently rained since the mud would be super slippery. Going up was difficult already, but going down was pretty dangerous–there were several times I would’ve fallen had I not been using trekking poles. Bring good shoes and trekking poles–I use Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z poles (affiliate link). I have the 110cm ones, but you should pick your length based on your height. More about gear later in this post!
- I personally wasn’t a huge fan of this hike–the views were underwhelming compared to Chamechaude, the bus tickets were more expensive (and the schedule was more inconvenient in the summer), and the elevation gain was inconsistent (super steep in the forest, but with a later flat section). I would definitely go to Chamechaude over Le Moucherotte if you’re deciding between the two. The Vercors range just doesn’t seem as scenic as the Chartreuse, in my opinion.
You can actually see Chamechaude, the tallest peak in the range on the left
3. Chamrousse (2253m)
I “cheated” on this one since my host drove me here. This hike is actually difficult to access by public transport, unless it’s the weekend. This listing will also differ from the others as I didn’t track this hike, so I don’t know how long it was.
How to get there: take the 6010 Transière bus from the station to Chamrousse 1650. The trip time is around 1 hour from the station. These tickets would likely cost 5,90€ each way.
Be careful in your planning as there are very limited buses during the week, even during the academic year. It does look like this trip would be doable by bus on the weekend, however (“Samedi”=Saturday and “Dimanche”=Sunday in French, so look under the “S” and “DF” columns–the “F” is for jours fériés, or public holidays)
Before you go:
- Chamrousse is a popular ski destination in the winter, and it’s known for its gorgeous mountain lakes. You see the Lacs Robert immediately from the summit (see below photo).
- You can take the ski lift up to the summit, La Croix de Chamrousse, to save your legs for exploring in the mountains. Tickets are 7€ one way. Just note that the lift does close around 5pm in the summer, so time your hike accordingly if you want to take the lift down.
- I hiked to Lac Levetel, a tiny but super clear lake a couple hours past the Lacs Robert. I’d say the hike is around 2.5-3 hours from the summit of La Croix de Chamrousse, and no more than 5km/3mi distance. The hike is mostly downhill there if you take the ski lift to the summit, though there are definitely ups and downs.
- Lac Levetel was freezing cold in mid-July, but the Lacs Robert were warm enough to take a comfortable dip in! You also might have company from some minnows and tadpoles.
- The hike down to Le Recoin / Chamrousse 1650 (if you don’t take a the lift) can be ridden with fallen boulders. Be ready for some climbing. I don’t remember what this specific path was called, but it skirts around the largest of the Lacs Robert, and along the mountains facing the ski lift, before following ski trails down. I would avoid following the ski lift path directly down and take this path instead, unless you want a very steep descent (it’s already steep even if you take an indirect route).
- If you take the ski lift up but not down, be prepared for a mostly downhill day (around 640m / 2100 ft).
- This hike is definitely more of a full day trip, as it’s great to eat lunch by the lakes and go for a swim. Many people also do longer trekking trips and bring a tent.
A dip in the Lacs Robert
4. (Bonus) Mont Rachais (1050m) via Mont Jalla (634m) from La Bastille
Elevation gain: 613m / 2011ft
Distance: 12km / 7.4mi
How to get there: This hike starts directly from the city! That said, it’s not nearly as scenic as the others, and you’re at about half the elevation of the other peaks (though the gain is comparable). I would only recommend this hike if you don’t have time to go outside of the city.
To get there, you can either hike up to La Bastille, the fort overlooking the city, or take the cable cars (les bulles). Hiking will take an extra 30-40 minutes and add 268m/879ft gain over 2km/1.25mi. I highly recommend taking the cable cars at some point, whether it’s part of this hike of not. It’s a classic Grenoble experience, and it’s thrilling to be suspended above the city in a little orb. A round trip ticket is 8,50 euros, or a single way is 5,60 euros.
Before you go:
- There are two summits/viewpoints: the first is at Mont Jalla, then Mont Rachais. On the way to Mont Jalla, there’s the Grotte de Mandrin, an artificial cave with nice views of the city (and refuge from the scorching sun). Be sure to check the cave out.
- The trails aren’t as well-marked as other hikes I’ve done. As long as you don’t go to a path marked off with an X in paint, you should be okay though.
view from the Grenoble cable car
Grottes de Mandrin
General Hiking Day Trip Tips in Grenoble
- Bring toilet paper in case there are no bathrooms, and a bag for trash.
- Check that bus schedules are up to date–the city changes the schedules yearly, so make sure you have the most recent PDF.
- Arrive 20 minutes early to your bus stop in case there is a stop change (if you’re getting on at a stop other than the main station). Due to construction, some stops might get moved, and you’ll need some time to find the new one.
- If you have trouble reading the schedules: période scolaire = academic year, vacances scolaires = vacation during the academic year, vacances été = summer vacation. LMMeJV = the weekdays, and SDF = Saturday, Sunday, and public holidays.
Gear that I Recommend
- Trekking poles–I use Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z poles. They’re pricey at $110, but I really wanted high-quality, lightweight Z-fold poles since I was hoping to use them for trail races. If Black Diamond is out of your budget, these Foxelli poles ($60) and Paria poles ($50) are well-reviewed. Remember that hiking poles aren’t always accepted in carry-on luggage, so plan ahead!
- Hiking boots–I purchased Clorts boots a few years ago since they were the most affordable hiking boots I saw on Amazon ($40). The model I got back then is now unavailable, but this pair looks similar ($66), and has more ankle support than mine.
- Backpack–the backpack in these photos is the Burton Fathom ($67-95). It holds a TON of stuff at 44L, and is a cross between a hiking backpack and travel backpack. It doesn’t offer much back support since it doesn’t have panels you can secure around your waist, but I wasn’t carrying heavy gear with me, so it worked well. My color is sold out, but there are others available.
- Hydration pack–I didn’t bring my hydration vest on these hikes, but I use this Triwonder one ($66) for my trail runs and shorter hikes. I like that it doubles as a small backpack at 10L, has a phone pocket on the left chest, and lets me secure my poles on the back with the adjustable elastic. You also get a free emergency blanket and whistle with the pack.
If you want to buy locally in France, check out Decathlon, an affordable sporting goods chain. It was one of my favorite stores in France!
There are so many mountains around Grenoble that you could honestly spend months exploring new trails. A few other hikes I would’ve liked to have done are: Dent de Crolles (Chartreuse range), and Lac du Lauvitel and Lac de la Muzelle (Belledonne) range, but I either didn’t have time, or the transportation didn’t work out. If you’re looking for a long trekking trip, you might consider the GR54, or the Tour d’Oisans–it’s a two-week, 176km route that’s supposed to be incredibly gorgeous.
In any case, I hope you found this guide helpful! As always, don’t hesitate to reach out through any medium if you have any questions.
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