1. Beneath the Barre des Ecrins (4102m) from La Berarde
This hike into the hanging valley, Vallon du Borne Pierre, which sits beneath Europe's southernmost 4000m peak is physically demanding, with over 1000m of vertical ascent. Towards the top of the ascent the path zig-zags back and forth up the end of a steep sided moraine that is especially tough going, but upon cresting the top the unique view makes up for all that effort. Directly ahead the moraine stretches on, with the vertical cliffs extending up another 1200m to the Barre des Ecrins high above.
|Hiking along the moraine towards the Barre des Ecrins (4102m)|
2. Refuge Chatelleret (2225m) beneath La Meije (3982m) from La Berarde
The approach to this refuge is pretty and relatively undemanding. Upon reaching the refuge there are several options to extend the hike above 3000m, either continuing on to the precarious Refuge Le Promontoire (3092m) or up the valley side towards Col du Replat. We tried the latter although at around 3000m the route ahead required more serious climbing gear than we were carrying.
|Our lunch spot - gazing at the summit of La Meije (3982m)|
3. Glacier de la Pilatte and Refuge Pilatte (2577m) from La Berarde
A breathtakingly beautiful glacier at the head of a remote valley deep in the Ecrins. Reached from La Berarde by following an initially undemanding valley route to Refuge de Carrelet, followed by a stiff climb to the Refuge Pilatte up a rocky mountainside. We set off early so had the trail to ourselves most of the way, enjoying a wonderful spectacle as the sun gradually filled the valley floor.
|Overlooking the Glacier de la Pilatte|
4. Col de Laurichard (2654m) from the Col du Lauteret
The Col du Lauteret is a high road pass in the north of the Ecrins. At 2056m altitude it provides a perfect opportunity to get among the high mountains on the northern fringe of the Ecrins. This hike towards the Col de Laurichard is a little steep near the top but it's worth pushing on as the trail leads to one of the most impressive outlooks we have discovered in the French Alps.
|Looking into the Ecrins National Park from the Col du Combeynot|
5. Refuge de l'Aple du Villar d'Arene (2077m) from Col du Lauteret
This occasionally narrow but otherwise flat and undemanding trail from the Col du Lauteret traverses the mountainside before heading into the heart of the Ecrins National Park. Not only does it offer a fantastic viewpoint of the Glacier du Lauteret, it is also possible to continue deep into the park for several longer hikes as well following the GR54 (Tour de Oisans).
|Sunset behind the Glacier du Lauteret|
6. Glacier Blanc & Glacier Noir from Pre Madame Carle
The paid car park at Pre de Madame Carle (1874m), where this trail begins, is accessible from the east side of the Ecrins along a steep approach road. Set in a picturesque hanging valley, the climb towards the glaciers forks shortly after the car park. The Glacier Blanc is the largest of the two glaciers and is reached by heading right at the fork towards the Refuge de Glacier Blanc. The view of the glacier from the refuge is great, but for confident hikers a smaller trail continues on over 3000m to a much more dramatic and sweeping perspective from Refuge des Ecrins. The Glacier Noir (which takes it's name from the covering of black scree) is reached by bearing left at the fork. This is a shorter hike, but mostly along a narrow moraine set within a sheer sided valley, so not for the faint hearted. We visited both glaciers in the one hike
|Hiking up alongside the Glacier Blanc|
Click here to see our other walks in the French Alps
Click here for 7 reasons to visit the Ecrins National Park