Walking holiday accommodation in the French Alps

Walks / Hikes / Rambles

Newly published excellent walking guidebook to the area - well worth buying:

WALKING IN THE BRIANÇONNAIS 40 walking routes in the French Alps exploring high mountain landscapes near Briançon by Andrew McCluggage For further information, or to receive a review copy please contact Hannah hannah@cicerone.co.uk 01539 587985

Le Pont de Gerendoine Vallouise family walk

A gentle walk lovely for an evening stroll, or with pushchairs and toddlers.

Ailefroide via Pra Chapel family walk

Start the walk on right hand side by big water pipe just before the little tunnel at the Ailefroide end of Pelvoux. Follow obvious path to Ailefroide.This is quite a gentle walk through woods with many flowers. There is a lovely stream with stepping stones. (Occasionally in late spring it can be running so fast it is difficult to cross.) A good walk with children. With smallish (4-5 years) children only walk one way from Ailefroide downhill back to Pelvoux, and allow 2 – 3 hours.

Tips: This is a pleasant walk to return to Vallouise if some people in your party wish to climb/ boulder longer in Ailefroide.

Variation: If continuing to walk to Vallouise from Pelvoux, walk along the road then take right hand turning to ski station, continue on road through the ski apartment blocks. At the end of this dead end road the path to Vallouise starts with the river below you on the left hand side.

Le Refuge des Bans Ecrins National Park

A nice easy walk with a great frog pond (in summer) en route about 1.30hrs from the car park, in the direction of the refuge. Children love it here because it is in a beautiful setting, the frog pond is right by the track and they love splashing around. Just beyond it a few marmots live right below the path. They are very tame and you can feed them raw vegetables. Nothing else.

From the centre of Vallouise drive up towards Villard and continue straight on through this tiny old-world alpine hamlet and onto the twisty road that eventually leads to the car park at the head of the Entre-les-Aigues valley. There is only one car park so you cannot miss it. Park here and take the signs to the Refuge.

La vieille route à Dormillouse Ecrins National Park

Look for the sign “Circuit de Papillon” to find the start, but be aware it is not easy to see. It will be on your right as you approach and set back a little from the road. Park 2.5Km’s up valley from Les Viollins Village. There is a sign “La Vieille Route De Dormillouse” on the road. Once at Dormillouse descend the normal access route. Or alternatively descend the same way (2 hrs).

Tips: There is a big waterfall on this walk which is magnificent. So magnificent that when it is in full flow sometimes in the late spring you cannot get past it!

Village de Dormillouse Ecrins National Park

Drive straight through L’Argentiere La Besse and follow signs for Freissinieres, keep going through Freissinieres past Les Violins hamlet to parking at very end of the road. The path leads up to the village of Dormillouse from here. Dormillouse has 5 all year inhabitants, rising to about 21 in the summer months. All provisions are taken up by mule. A very authentic high mountain village with a lot of history.

Tips: 2 gites that serve food and drink make a day of it with children. You can really get a feel for how tough it must have been living in the mountains in the old days. Look out for the old flour grinding shed on your right just as you cross the bridge and enter the village.

Le Plateau et le Tete d’Oreac Puy Saint Vincent

Drive straight up to Puy-St-Vincent 1400 and keep driving up past the actual ski station at 1400 all the way up to the Col De la Pousterle. The last 2 kilometers are on a rough road. Park at the obvious open car park at the Col. Walk along the road that leads down into the Fournel and after only 100m from the big open car park you will see a track and signs heading up onto the Plateau d’Oreac. This is a relatively easy circular walk, ideal for families with children between 8 and 15 yrs. The views are stunning whether you look to your right across into the Ecrins Massif or to your left to the Fournel and Freissinieres Valleys. The path leads round and back to the car park, passing a small lake en route.

Tips: The gite Du Tournoux is not open in summer so make sure you take food and plenty of water.

La source Marcellin Southern Alps

Drive to village of Les Vigneaux. Take a left turn near sign for Les Carlines gite and follow this road – track up as far as it goes. It is a rough track for cars but ok if you go slowly, you don’t need a 4 wheel drive. Look for a large rock on your right near the end of the track/road. Park in front of this rock and follow the obvious path up signposted for the Tete D’Aval. The path winds around and is quite steep, at one point crossing a ravine, then zig zagging up through forest, eventually reaching the Marcellin spring ( drinkable water supply ) Just past this you come to a lovely clearing with great views and an “abri” ( a wooden shelter constructed under a huge boulder )

Tips: This is the perfect place to stay overnight for an adventure with children. Take everything you would need if you were camping except the tent. It is just a shelter- its very unlikely anyone else will be there midweek out of very high season, but walk up early enough so that you have time to walk down before dark if there is not enough room or children back out.

Variation: You can continue past the abri down the forest track and continue to walk to Vallouise. A possible option for some of the group the next day if staying overnight. This is mainly downhill and takes approx 2 -3 hours

La Bosse de Clapouse Ailefoide

This is a very enjoyable varied walk with lots of flowers and a fantastic waterfall. There is plenty of shade if it's hot. Go to Ailefroide and turn left at centre towards camping site for parking. At far end of campsite take the obvious path towards refuge de Pelvoux. Turn left over a bridge after about 10 mins. It is signposted Clapouse. Continue up this path to the hanging valley above. You can take various little tracks off right to get right by the waterfall.

Tips: If you go really early you have a good chance of seeing chamois.

Variation: We haven’t done it, but it is possible to continue right up and through to the Entre les Aigues. You would need to organise a lift back.

Le Refuge du Glacier Blanc Haute Alps

Drive to Pelvoux, then on the Ailefroide – continue up the hill to road head and park in big parking area at Refuge de Prey du Madame Carle. The refuge serves food and drink all day in summer. There is also a small information centre with interesting 3D display of how the glaciers have come and gone over the centuries. The walk to the Refuge du Glacier Blanc involves a climb out of the valley in a series of well-graded zigzags to reach a hidden valley into which the Glacier Blanc drains. The path is well signposted .

From the car park at Pre De Madame Carle take the path that goes to the right of the restaurant/refuge. This leads across the valley floor to cross a fast moving stream by a substantial bridge. Then begin the first of many zigzags cleverly designed to keep the grade to a low angle of ascent. There are a few Marmots burrows near the path and halfway up the zigzags there is a big boulder with family of marmots always waiting for food! Some of these amazing furry creatures are very friendly. They will often take food from your hand but only feed them vegetables such as carrots or cucumber. Not bread or chocolate.

Eventually the path reaches a small crest before descending into a glacial amphitheatre. This is an ideal spot to rest, eat, and enjoy the views of the Glacier. If you have young children they love to slide down the huge water-worn granite slabs on the left bank (looking up towards the glacier). There is a large stream/river here that issues down from the glacier. You cross this at the obvious small foot bridge, then make your way up over boulders and a bit of scrambling ( nothing a 5 year old can't do). Follow the signs and the wire hand rails and you will eventually reach a high mountain tarn or lake before the last steep section to the refuge. This part is a little tricky with more wire cables in place to help you. Once at the Refuge in the season you can buy a good variety of food and drinks which you can enjoy whilst appreciating the amazing view. A very worthwhile outing.

Tips: This is about the most popular walk in the park, so it gets very busy in high season, so we would suggest going early or late to avoid the crowds, plus there is very little shade. Take a whole day over it and only go to the bridge with small children. A good first “big” walk for a child as has the appeal of the marmots and seeing the glacier.

The first 10 mins of the walk is flat, so good if you just want a short walk in amazing environment with children or elderly. If you have the energy go up above the refuge to around 2,800m. so you can actually walk onto the glacier a short distance and see the areas highest mountains. Be aware this is now mountaineering territory, and although there is often a deeply worn trail on the glacier going around the edge and up to the next refuge, Les Ecrins, remember that the Glacier Blanc does have numerous crevasses and snow bridges, so proceed with caution!

Variation: You can quite happily terminate your walk at the foot bridge in front of the Glacier and not continue to the refuge, (another 30 minutes or more) as you can clearly see the glacier close up from here. Alternatively, 15 minutes after starting the walk branch off left at the signpost for the Glacier Noir. You will see no-one and have the mountains to yourself as you follow a good trail on a lateral moraine above this dry glacier.

Le Lac de L’Eychauda Pelvoux Haute Alps

Drive to Pelvoux and take a right turn where signposted L’Eychauda. Follow this road to the very end. Follow the obvious track up to the lake.m Tips: The road head is a nice place to picnic with flat and wide shallow child friendly stream and shade. Because it is quite high it is not usually too hot in summer. There is also a snack bar open in high season. Can usually see marmots. If you go at the end of June the lake looks great with the break-up of the ice.

Variation: You can make this an all day walk by continuing past the lake and up to the col. The accent to the col is steep and narrow but no rope necessary. At the col you will have superb views over the Ecrins Massif and down into Serre Chevalier on the other side. You can now then carry on down the other side and round in a large clockwise circle. This adds at least another 2 to 3 hours to walk but is well worth it. Seek advice (either from us, the Guides Bureau or The Tourist Office in Vallouise) before attempting this extended circuit.

The Lakes Circuit from Dormillouse Ecrins National Park

Drive straight through L’Argentiere La Besse and follow signs for Freissinieres, keep going through Fressiniere pas Les Violins hamlet to parking at very end of road. Follow path up to Dormillouse bearing left onto small path shortly before arriving at village. Follow this up through the woods, lots of flowers. Just above the tree line the path splits to do the circular tour of the lakes. Follow the signs.

Tips: I prefer to do the circular tour of lakes anticlockwise, therefore going on the right fork where the path splits. The second lower lake (Lac Faravel) is very nice to stop for a picnic. If you look carefully around this area you can see vague stone circles which are the remains of very old settlements.

Variation: from Lac Faravel you can cut across to the third lake (Lac Fangeas) and descend back to the car park from here.

The Pelvoux Refuge Ecrins National Park

A good alpine walk in spectacular country. First you walk along lovely wooded trails from Ailefroide and then a series of switchbacks gets you out high above the Sele Valley at a height of 2700m. Remember it is 1200m up and 1200m DOWN. Plan for this ahead. Check that the refuge is open (phone +33 492 23 39 47) OR take plenty of water. Recommended for acclimatisation if doing Roche Faureo or Pic De Neige Cordier.

La Blanche Southern French Alps

Walk from Vallouise or drive to Puy Aillaud. Park at the end of the road, and walk towards Puy Aillaud village, and then take the first walking signpost on your right. Traverse side of the hill for 400m. and then look for a path on the right and a little wooden sign “La Blanche”. If you don’t want to go the last hour to the summit of La Blanche you can visit a small lake when you reach the col. The lake is ideal for picnics. This walk is suitable for dogs because it is not in the Ecrins National Park. The walk is also suitable for children from age 10 yrs if they are used to long hikes.

In high summer take plenty of water, because there is little en route and the lake is not an ideal drinking source, and there is very little shade throughout the entire walk. Take warm hat, fleece and waterproofs as it is a high level walk and the weather can change rapidly.

La Condamine GR54

La Condamine is a mountain that can be seen from our kitchen window. It is one of the highest around with walking access. It is also one of my favourite walks for variety of scenery, flowers and wildlife, and the 360 panorama when you reach the summit is truly amazing. It puts the whole area into perspective.

Drive to Pelvoux and look for a small road on your right signposted to L’Eychauda (D421T). Follow this road for 1.5 miles up past the last houses, and then look for a track on right hand side signposted “L’Adret, La Condamine, and Gite Refuge Julianne”. Either park on the road here or drive up the track for 2km’s to the end (very rough but many do it) where you will see a yellow sign “Chambran and La Condamine”.

Take the path in the direction of La Condamine, and walk for 5 minutes to another yellow sign pointing right and saying “Cabane Chouvet” and “La Condamine (4hrs)”. Take this and walk up through the forest always following the path signpost to La Condamine. You soon come to another sign saying “La Condamine par la foret” to the left and “Cabane Chouvet” to your right. Go left. Soon you come into lovely high alpine scenery. Go straight on at the old wooden sign saying “La Condamine”, and further on again a sign saying “La Condamine” directing you left. Then a sign saying “Rocher La Guila, Chouvet, Le Coul D’Amont”. Take this and eventually come up to the Col de la Salava. On reaching the col take the Left-hand path, where the track splits and you soon reach some rocks which you scramble up. Look out for the edelweiss flowers on the rocks. Keep following the path up various scrambly bits, but nothing you need a rope for, and head for the mast and solar panel on the summit. It is definitely worth going to the summit rather than finishing on the col even if your legs do ache. Return by the same route.

Tips: This walk is not within the Ecrins National Park so you can take dogs. However there is virtually no water on route so would need to take extra for a dog. In high summer when hot start the walk early 6.30am. You will then do most of the uphill in the shade, and be down by mid afternoon. Only go on a clear settled day, it would really be a shame to not see the panorama from the summit.

Variation: On reaching the col you can take the lower path which leads to two lakes and on to Serre Chevalier. In summer you could then take the telesiege down into Serre Chevalier, and get someone to pick you up. I haven’t yet done this route so don’t know timings but it looks good. It would only be for experienced walkers prepared for all weather as a very long day.