The Hautes Alpes is a mountain walkers paradise, with the Écrins national park, the Queyras regional park and the Cerces massif all easily accessible and offering a wide range of options from easy day walks to challenging multi-day trek’s.
Here are three of my favourite day walk's
Tour de Combeynot
20 km with a height gain of 571 m
A circular route, over a pastoral col with impressive views of glaciers and high peaks, which may be shortened by using two vehicles.
Start from the mythical Col du Lautaret at over 2000m and follow the well marked path called the ‘Sentier des crevasses’ towards the Refuge de l‘ Alpe de Villar d’Arêne. There are no crevasses, but there is a short airy section of about 20m where a cable is placed to hold onto for those who might be intimidated by a narrowing of the path above a steep slope.
After spectacular views across the hanging glaciers, expect to be greeted by inquisitive, surprisingly confident marmottes and the clanging of cow bells, before arriving at the refuge which offers food and drink at your mid way point.
Carry on over the Col d’Arsine on the GR54, where you have the option of extending the walk, upwards, to take in the milky waters of the otherwise hidden moraine lake. Descend alongside a stream and small lakes to arrive at the Lac de la Douche and a shady, but thigh sapping, final path through the woods, alongside the Petit Tabuc torrent to arrive at the village of Le Casset, where you might have decided to have earlier parked a vehicle. Otherwise, a café awaits to further replenish your energy reserves for the stroll up the upper reaches of the Guisane valley back to the Lautaret.
Glacier Blanc Refuge
7.2 km with a height gain of 646 m
A return trip into the heart of the Ecrins Park, alongside gear laden alpinists and picnicking families, to the refuge that sits with spectacular views of Mont Pelvoux.
An early departure from the fee paying car park at Pré de Madame Carle, beyond Ailefroide, may be rewarded by sights of the chamois that frequently spend the night lower down. Then follow the path that first crosses the torrents that issue from the Glacier Noir, before zig zagging up the mountainside to a well earned rest stop at a plateau, where you can consider how far the snout of the Glacier Blanc has retreated in recent times. A bridge that spans the run off waters marks the start of another steep section of path where care is needed to proceed upwards to the tiny old Tuckett refuge and at last, a sight of the objective of your trip, the Refuge to Glacier Blanc above, that you will soon reach after first passing a small shallow lake. The final ascent through the rocks bends back right to arrive on the front terrace of the refuge where you can eat, photograph the imposing Pelvoux and perhaps choose to spend the night before returning to the valley by the same route.
Crête de Vars
10 km with a height gain of 720 m
An exhilarating ridge walk with breathtaking views, but be careful at some places as there are serious drops below the path .
The route follows a ridge above the Val d’Escreins nature reserve, which is surrounded by 3000m peaks.
Park above the small village of Ste. Catherine on a forestry road, before setting off on foot until a smaller track leads to the northern end of the ridge, then follow this, enjoying magnificent panoramas on either side above the void below. When you eventually arrive at the southern end, take a steep path down to the Col de la Ceulette and from here descend another path through the woods to return to the forest road and the car, passing by the Cabane de la Pine on the way.
This guide would not be possible with out the generous support of our sponsors.