Overwhelming nature in the Hautes Alpes

Haute Ubaye Autumn

The natural parcs in the Hautes Alpes

Several natural parcs are situated in France’s Hautes Alpes, they all rate high amongst the most beautiful parts of nature in the Alps.  

As a start, there is the Parc du Queyras, with stunning landscapes and charming traditional villages and hamlets.  

On top of that, on the other side of the valley of the Durance, just below Guillestre, you’ll find the Parc des Ecrins, in a direct line only a couple of kilometers away from the Parc du Queyras, yet entirely different in fauna and flora.  

Moreover, in Vars another discovery awaits you. A small valley of sheer beauty, well preserved, only accessible in summertime, the Val d’Escreins, one of the must do’s during your stay in le Pays du Guil.  

And then, if you cross the col de Vars, you’ll end up in the department of les Alpes de Haute Provence, in the valley of the Haute Ubaye where once more you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the variety of wonderful landscapes and scenery.  

And of course, let’s not forget to mention the lake of Serre Ponçon, equally in the vicinity of le Pays du Guil, where there are plenty of splendid little spots to discover as well.  

Let us give you a taste with some images on this page.  

Queyras en automne
Automne a Montbardon

Le Parc du Queyras

As soon as you enter the canyon of the Guil, just as you drive off from Guillestre, you’re entering the Parc du Queyras.  Immediately you’ll feel small when seeing these gorges, this canyon, carved out in the mountains by the sheer force of the river Guil.  No matter the season you choose for your visit to le Pays du Guil, each time you’ll be impressed by the variety of view points and the beauty of the scenery.  

As you continue through the canyon of the Guil, all of a sudden the valley becomes a bit larger, but not less impressive.  At the height of Bramousse you’ll have the starting point of nice hikes, amongst others to mountain chalets.  

Further still, you can turn left in the direction of the col de l’Izoard.  You’ll pass the village of Arvieux, in winter time a small ski resort, and the starting point of some nice snow shoe hikes.  You can find images of one of these hikes, towards the chalets de Clapeyto, on this blog Hautes Alpes.  

If on the other hand you drive straight on, in the direction of Saint Véran, you’ll arrive at the Chateau Queyras, a very impressive building in an incredible setting, on top of a rock holding guard on the river Guil.  

Nearing the end of the valley, you can continue in the direction of Aiguilles, Abriès et Ristolas, or turn right into the direction of Molines-en-Queyras and Saint Véran, the highest village inhabited year round in Europe.  

All along this wonderful scenic drive you’ll admire wonderful landscapes, you’ll be able to stop at numerous viewpoints and take lots of photos.    

If you’re looking for more information, visit this page on the villages of le Pays du Guil or this blog article on autumn été indien dans le Queyras.  

And on this link you’ll find more information on the Parc Naturel du Queyras.  

Le Val d’Escreins

The astonishing natural reserve on the municipality of Vars, is the ideal starting point for several splendid hikes as well as for some family style shorter walks.  

A discovery trail has been set up in this valley, with information panels on fauna and flora, an interesting option for families with children.  

And of course, there are several longer more challenging hikes that start off in the Val d’Escreins as well.  The hike towards the remarquable trees is an easier one still, but you can push it a bit more and hike to the source de la Font-Sancte or to the Pic de la Mortice (3.169m).  

Val d'Escreins
Waterfall Freisinières

Le Parc des Ecrins

On the opposite side of the valley of the Durance is the Parc des Ecrins, a vast natural parc of which one side is easily accessible from the Pays du Guil.  Several valleys are worth being explored, in each one you’ll find a multitude of wonderful hikes and a diversity of remarquable landscapes and wildlife.  

As a starter there is the valley of Freissinières with the village of Dormillouse and one side of the valley rather mineral, the other side with more vegetation.  Plenty of waterfalls and mountain lakes to hike to, such as the lac Faravel and the lac Palluel, or lac Fangeas.  And then there is the valley of the Fournel, a little less explored, more trees on the mountain flancs.  

And if you really are looking for some still les travelled paths, you could enter the valley of the Couleau, another marvelous valley in the Parc des Ecrins.  

You’ll find a nice article on the valley of Freissinières and on the valley of the Fournel in autumn on this blog Hautes Alpes.  

If there is one hike that has really left it’s traces in our minds, it is the hike towards the Tête de Vautisse (3.156), arriving at the top you’ll be able to admire a panoramic view that’ll leave you speechless.  When the sky is clear, you’ll see as far as the Mont Blanc and the Mont Viso.  

For more information visit the site Parc National des Ecrins.  

La Haute Ubaye

As soon as you cross the col de Vars, you are entering the Alpes de Haute Provence and the valley of the Haute Ubaye.  Here as well, nature is overwhelmingly present and wonderful scenery is everywhere you look.  

A gorgeous little hamlet worth a visit is Fouillouse, in order to get there you’ll cross the bridge le pont du Chatelet, a remarquable one arch bridge high on a canyon.  There are some wonderful hikes to lakes high in the mountains starting at this village.  

At the other end of the valley you can go the village of Maljasset, in a wider part of the valley, a stunning setting.  

Le Morgon et Serre Ponçon

Le Lac de Serre Ponçon

The lake of Serre-Ponçon, is like the sea in the mountains, a place where it feels good to wander around in summertime.  

Go on the lake in a boat or go kite-surfing or windsurfing and you’ll discover the mountains from a totally different viewpoint.  

And in the area surrounding the lake, lots of beautiful hikes just waiting for you.  You could hike to the Pic du Morgon for instance, the summit impressively present above the lake, offering splendid sights on the lake and its surroundings.  
At the other side of the lake, when crossing the bridge of  Savines, you can go for a walk to the lake of St Apolinaire for exemple.  

And here’s an article on the lakes, the lacs des Hautes Alpes.  

The Natural Parcs in the Hautes Alpes

The Natural Parcs of the Hautes Alpes are nature’s  splendor worth a visite year round.  In every season, the landscapes and scenery is just stunning, overwhelming almost, an ideal spot to ressource and recharge your batteries, an antidote to daily stress.  

Some video images to try to tempt you to come on holiday this summer to the Parc des Ecrins, close to le Pays du Guil.