The moment we heard about Briancon, we knew we had to fit it into our itinerary for our family trip to France. Just listen to the many reason to visit Briancon with kids: It’s the highest city in France, a UNESCO World Heritage site and it’s the northern gateway to the incredible Écrins National Park. With its enviable location in the French Alps, there are so many fun things to do in Briancon with kids!
Briancon is conveniently located right next to Serre Chevalier, one of the largest ski resorts in France. Not just a winter playground, Serre Chevalier has an abundance of fun kid-friendly summer activities to enjoy as a family. During our stay we enjoyed downhill mountain biking, cross-country mountain biking, hiking, sightseeing gondolas, adventure parks and even canyoning.
The only thing holding Briancon back from being a major tourist destination in France? It doesn’t have great rail connections. So, why not hop into your rental car and visit Briancon with kids before the rest of the world discovers this place!
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5 Fun Things to do in Briancon with Kids
1. Kid-Friendly Mountain Biking in Vallée de la Clarée
Before arriving in Briancon, we had just completed an 8-day family-friendly biking trip along the La Dolce Via bike trail in the Ardeche region of France. As much as we loved that family bike tour, we were craving some kid-friendly mountain biking in France.
We were delighted to find that VTT Experience in Chantemerle offered a variety of kid-friendly mountain biking tours near Briancon. (VTT translates to MTB in English – MTB standing for mountain-biking, of course).
After talking it over with the helpful staff at VTT Experience, we decided to sign up for a kid-friendly mountain bike ride through the Vallée de la Clarée (Claree Valley), a protected area in-between Briancon and the nearby Italian border.
VTT Experience provided all the gear for our family mountain bike adventure near Briancon, including proper sized mountain bikes for everyone, helmets and gloves. Once we were all set with our mountain bike equipment, they loaded it onto their vehicle and we were on our way.
The drive from Chantemerle into the Vallée de la Clarée was simply stunning. Unlike the Serre Chevalier, there are no mega ski resorts in this river valley. Apparently they once tried to put a 4-lane highway through this valley and the locals revolted – and won! Today we can all benefit from their efforts by enjoying this pristine French Alps environment.
Our Vallée de la Clarée kid-friendly mountain bike tour started in a little French town called Nevache. From Nevache, we followed the La Claree River downstream all the way to the end of the valley. Following a river downstream always guarantees that your biking trip will be downhill, which makes this an especially kid-friendly mountain biking tour near Briancon.
Throughout our family mountain bike tour, the trail varied widely, from single-track to wide gravel pathways. We enjoyed a wide variety of scenery along our mountain bike trip down the Vallée de la Clarée, popping in-and-out of beautiful forests with La Claree River never far away. Often it was hard to focus on the mountain bike trail as the views of the surrounding mountains were stunning.
All told, our kid-friendly mountain bike tour of the Vallée de la Clarée was 15 km / 9 miles long. While it wasn’t all downhill, it was predominantly downhill and we lost over 200 m / 650 feet of elevation from start to finish. It took us 1 hour and 50 minutes of cycling time to complete the biking tour, but of course, with stops for pictures etc. it took a bit longer.
2. Jungle Parc Briancon
Given our family-friendly mountain biking tour was over by midday, we decided to check out Grimp in Park, a popular kid-friendly outdoor adventure amusement park in Briancon near Le Parc de la Schappe.
Grimp in Forest has a wide variety of kids activities, including a canopy tour, mini-golf, laser tag, etc. We really wanted to give their canopy tour a try, but our (almost) 7 year old was just a little too short to do the full-sized course. This would have meant he and one parent would have to do the kiddie course, while the rest did the main canopy tour. This didn’t sound like fun for him, so we decided to check out Jungle Parc, which is right next door to Grimp in Forest.
Jungle Parc is an extensive kids adventure park, but unlike Grimp in Forest, Jungle Parc is only for kids. Although we had to stand on the sidelines, it was very gratifying to see our kids challenge themselves on the obstacle courses throughout Jungle Park.
Each child is given a safety harness, with two carabiners and training on how to use them. As each child makes their way through the obstacle course, they must clip in and clip out of each challenge using one carabiner, while sliding the second, backup safety carabiner through a more difficult maneuver. This redundant safety system ensures your child always has at least one carabiner attached to their harness, but almost always a second one as well.
There are eight obstacle courses at the Jungle Parc adventure park in Briancon, each getting progressively more challenging. Your child’s height will determine how many of the 8 courses they will be allowed to go on.
The early courses are pretty easy, but they start to get quite challenging towards the end. You’ll be amazed at how well your kids adapt and develop strategies to overcome the challenges presented to them at Jungle Parc. Personally, I was very proud of our kids watching them overcome their fears and persist through challenging sections.
If you are looking for adventurous things to do in Briancon with kids, the adventure parks are a fun idea, Grimp in Forest is the most popular, but if you have smaller kids and are looking for an alternative to Grimp in Forest, we’d highly recommend Jungle Parc.
3. Serre Chevalier Gondola Hiking
One of the reasons we wanted to visit the Briancon with kids was to be close to the incredibly beautiful French Alps of the Ecrins National Park. Another main reason was to enjoy all the amazing family activities you can do at the Serre Chevalier ski resort in summer. Taking the gondola to the top of Serre Chevalier (2,491 m) to enjoy some hiking with the kids enabled us to enjoy both of these elements.
We began our journey by purchasing a 2-level Serre Chevalier summer lift ticket at the SkiPass shop in Chantemerle. The 2-level ticket enables you to go all the way to the top, while a 1-level ticket only gets you midway up the mountain.
We took the red Ratier gondola from the base station to the mid-station. From there, a quick walk took us to the Combes chairlift to take us to the top. The lift attendant for the chairlift advised us to keep an eye open for marmots and we’re grateful he did as we saw several of the super-cute furry creatures scampering about their homes among the rocks below the lift.
We were a bit disappointed that the Combes chairlift didn’t take us all the way to the summit of Serre Chevalier. We had to walk about 600 m with approximately 80 m elevation gain to get to the very top. All-in-all, a very small amount of effort for the massive payoff in views.
From the viewing platform atop the Serre Chevalier summit, you can see all countless beautiful mountains of the French Alps and towns from the valley below, but the biggest payoff is getting to see the other side of the mountain where the craggy peaks of Ecrins National Park reside. We stayed up there a very long time soaking in the incredible mountain views within Ecrins National Park.
Note: You can also catch a cable car from the mid-station which takes you all the way to the summit of Serre Chevalier. We opted for the chairlift as it’s always more fun riding in the open air. Spotting marmots is a perfect example of why a chairlift always beats a gondola for fun.
We also enjoyed watching people zip-lining from the summit. We wanted to go zip-lining with our kids at Serre Chevalier, but our youngest didn’t meet the minimum size criteria. Oh well, I guess we’ll have to come back to Briancon with kids again one day!
We originally planned to take Aravet hiking trail (#23) from the summit to the mid-station, but once we were at the top, it was clear that the Les 3 Croix (#25) hiking trail would be more scenic, so we quickly changed our plans.
The beginning of the all-downhill kid-friendly Les 3 Croix hiking trail is amazing as it follows the ridgeline along the top of the mountain, allowing you to soak in the mountain vistas from both the Serre Chevalier Vallee and the Ecrins National Park.
Straight ahead of you is the striking Rocher Blanc peak (2,566 m) with its dramatic, near vertical cliff face. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to watch paragliders in the air around the summit of Rocher Blanc.
After 1 km of hiking along the ridge, enjoying your final views of the mountains of Ecrins National Park, you’ll turn downhill to start making your way back towards the mid-station. There are not many trees at this altitude, so the wildflowers have plenty of sunlight to flourish. They are everywhere along the trail at this stage.
Although the Les 3 Croix hiking trail is all downhill, it doesn’t mean it is all easy – there are a few reasonably steep downhill sections where you’ll need to watch your footing. We recommend proper hiking shoes for this family-friendly hike at Serre Chevalier.
As you descend down the mountain you’ll eventually leave the alpine zone and reenter forest. The forest on Serre Chevalier is very special – it’s the largest forest of larch trees I’ve seen anywhere.
Larch trees are special as their needles turn a beautiful golden color in fall, then actually fall off – the only species of ‘evergreen’ trees to do so. Back home in Canada, the best larch tree hikes in Banff National Park are incredibly popular, yet this larch forest on Serre Chevalier dwarfs any of the larch forests back home.
When you are not in a dense larch forest, you’ll be in a clearing with excellent Serre Chevalier valley views. You’ll also likely be surrounded by lots of tall purple fireweed flowers and the eager bees which love their many flowers. Don’t be alarmed by the bees – they aren’t interested in you.
The Les 3 Croix hiking trail eventually meets up with the dusty trail used for the mountain carts and/or mountain scooters (two more Serre Chevalier activities our youngest was too small for). It was exciting to watch the mountain carts and scooters go whizzing past, although it got a bit dusty in their wake.
Watch for a rope gate to the right which leads to the kid-friendly Sentier des Lutins hiking trail. There are a lot of fun and informative interpretive signs along this trail (albeit in French), but the pictures are cute enough for English-speaking kids to enjoy. There are also fun photo ops, teepees and picnic tables along the babbling brook.
At the end of the Sentier des Lutins hike, you’ll have reached the mid-station. We rewarded our kids for a good hike by letting them play for a long time at the ‘Camp des Marmottes’ playground.
Camp des Marmottes is an excellent outdoorsy playground for kids with a zipline, a swing and many things to crawl around in. Giving kids time to just be kids while traveling is very important for their mental health. Our kids had a blast at the Camp des Marmottes playground, and even made some new friends despite the language barrier.
4. Canyoning in the Ecrins National Park
To be honest, when we came to Briancon with kids, going canyoning was not even on our radar screen. But after going to the visitor center and grabbing a summer guide to the Serre Chevalier Valley, we noticed several outfitters offering family-friendly canyoning outings.
We checked out a few of them and found a company called Serre Chevalier Sensations offered canyoning outings for kids as young as 8. Our son was almost 7, so we contacted them and discussed his physical capabilities (he hiked the Lost City Trail in Colombia when he was 5) and they agreed to let him join the tour.
We met our guide at their facilities just outside L’Argentiere-la-Bessee, which is just south of Briancon. Our guide laid out our canyoning gear including a neoprene wet suit, canyoning socks and shoes, a harness and a helmet. Before long, we were on our way into the Ecrins National Park to go canyoning on the Fournel River in the Fournel Canyon.
This was our first time canyoning as a family and it was simply incredible. Serre Chevalier Sensations had picked the perfect canyoning course for families with kids around 8 years and up.
There were many fun and easy sections through the canyon, but there were also some very challenging and sometimes scary situations as well. But they were all within our skillset and our kids gained a ton of confidence on this outing.
While canyoning in Fournel Canyon with kids, you’ll find yourself walking downstream in the river, jumping down waterfalls, sliding down slick rocks and gliding through small tunnels. Some of the more challenging situations included some rock climbing, some via ferretta type stuff and even some rappelling. We used our harnesses with safety carabiners for anything that was dangerous and included heights.
We were happy that another family with kids the same age as ours had joined our Briancon canyoning tour. It was a very supportive environment, with everyone cheering on the kids for encouragement and for congratulations when they achieved their goals.
Canyoning Fournel Canyon in Ecrin National Park was a fun and thrilling outing and was one of our favorite things to do near Briancon with kids.
5. Serre Chevalier Downhill Mountain Biking
When traveling with kids it can sometimes be hard to find a way to do an adults-only activity. We’ve wanted to try downhill mountain biking for some time now, and we were thrilled to discover that Serre Chevalier was the perfect place to try it.
It’s the set-up at Serre Chevalier that makes it so easy for parents to go downhill mountain biking with kids in tow. In order to accomplish this feat, we rented our downhill mountain bikes and body armor from VTT Experience, just outside the gondola in Chantemerle. Then we bought two adult mountain biking passes and two “level 1” passes for the kids.
We took our kids and our rented mountain bikes in a gondola from to level 1, which is where the amazing Camp des Marmottes playground is located. One parent can stay and watch the kids at the playground, while the other takes their bike up the Combes chairlift where the downhill mountain biking trails begin.
This was our first time trying lift-assisted downhill mountain biking, so we took the Soupline trail, an easy green run from the top of the Combes chairlift all the way back down to the playground.
The Serre Chevalier Soupline trail is a perfect bike park run for anyone new to downhill mountain biking. It’s a very fun track with lots of twists and turns, but there are very few technical features, if any at all. There are a few bumps here which may jumped if you are going fast enough, and a few 180 degree turns to deal with, but other than that it’s good, easy fun!
The Soupline downhill mountain biking trail for beginners is just under 5 km / 3 miles long, with 450 m / 1500 feet elevation loss. It took us approximately 15 minutes to ride Soupline from top to bottom. Factoring in another 15 minutes or so on the chairlift and each parent will get a half-hour of freedom, while the other watches the kids at the Camp des Marmottes playground.
Where to Stay in Briancon with Kids
Being a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the center of activities in the valley makes staying in Briancon a natural choice for many families. Although, if you’d prefer something a little quieter, there are a variety of smaller villages scattered throughout the area, especially along the Serre Chevalier Valley ski resort area.
Although there are many good family-friendly hotels in Briancon and the Serre Chevalier Valley, we elected to rent an apartment. When we travel with kids, we prefer vacation rentals as we value the kid-friendly amenities such as kitchens, laundry facilities and separate bedrooms.
Our family stayed at a charming vacation rental in Chantemerle, a ski resort town just minutes outside Briancon in the Serre Chevalier Valley. We picked Chantemerle as it was quieter than Briancon and was within easy walking distance to the summer gondola for hiking and downhill mountain biking.
We hope you enjoy your trip to Briancon with kids as much as we did! Next stop for us on our family trip to France was a visit to Annecy with kids.