This guest article presents a spectacular hiking-trip through the Ecrins National Park. The stages are quite challenging, and we recommend you to be in pretty good shape and carry light equipment. 5 days – 102 km – cumulated evelation gain : 5 330m – GR54 markings.
GR54 through the Ecrins National Park
This great adventure will bring you through some of the most striking views in southern French Alps. Indeed, you will be able to watch some of the glacier des Ecrins, like the famous La Meije. Start from Bourg d’Oisans and arrival in Argentière-la-Bessé.
The trail usually follows the red and white markings of the GR 54, with two main exception:
- Pay attention, as the GR 50 and GR 54 have the same markings
- After Vallouise, the main trail heads West, while you will need to find your way to Argentière via the Pousterle pass
To find our way we use the IGN maps:
- 3336ET: les 2 Alpes/Olan/Muzelle
- 3436ET: Meije Pelvoux
Access by public transportation
- Access to Bourg d’Oisans by bus n°3000 from Grenoble bus station
- Train station at Argentière-la-Bessée. Trains go to Briançon or Valence (via Gap) where you can take a connection to Paris, Lyon, Marseille, etc.
Day 1: Bourg d’Oisans to Clavans: 20 km, 1300 meters of ascent
Arriving the day before in Bourg d’Oisans (720 masl), we stayed in one the campsite of the little town. The trail starts climbing after the Sarenne waterfall. The ascent is quite risky, all the more since we had heavy backpacks. We often need to use handrails. An alternative route is now possible (follow yellow markings until you reach ‘La Ville’).
Arriving near Huez, the trail crosses an old stone-bridge before following the river. After lunch, we finally reached the Sarenne pass (2000 masl) where we could admire the breathtaking view on the Meije glacier.
We then start our descent to Clavans, and pitched our tent between Clavans-le-Haut and Clavans-le Bas (1365 masl).
If you arrive early enough in Clavans, you may choose to continue to Besse. After the village, a camp site has been installed for hikers (toilets and water available).
Day 2: Clavans to La Grave
The second day starts with the small ascent to Besse (1550 masl). Do not hesitate to fill up all your bottles in the village, as the ascent to Emparis (2 200 masl) is long. The Emparis plateau is a very nice and green pasture area with stunning views on La Meije. Feel free to make a detour to the lakes before starting the descent to la Grave (1470 masl) via Le Chazelet.
Day 3: La Grave to le Casset
La Grave is the famous starting point for free riders, offering a 2300 m descent of wild snow. The GR54 passes by the campsite (where we stayed for the night) and heads towards Villard d’Arene before entering the heart of the Ecrins National Park. The trail climbs to the refuge of the Alpe de Villar d’Arene (2 077 masl), continues in the middle of an inspiring unspoilt nature and reaches the Arsine pass (2 348 masl). The descent passes by some lakes, where the bravest can take a bath. We continue our descent and pitched our tent before Le Casset.
Day 4: Le Casset to Vallouise
The GR54 now enters the Serre-Chevalier valley, a famous ski resort area. At Monetier-les-Bains (1 490 masl), you can stop 2 or 3 hours (or more…) in the thermal baths and buy some food. As for hiking, the trail heads South towards the Eychauda pass (2 425 masl). It then enters the beautiful Chambran pasture area. The trail continues its descent to Vallouise (1 170 masl), where you can find campsites and a brewery (!).
Day 5: Vallouise to Argentière-la-Bessée
The GR54 heads west but to reach L’Argentière, we had to climb to Puy-Saint-Vincent and reach the Pousterle pass (1 763 masl). After a few kilometers, we then reach L’Argentière-la Bessée (990 masl) (train station name: L’Argentière-Les-Ecrins).
We carry our tent and cooking equipment. We pitched our tent in a camp sites when possible (Bourg d’Oisans, La Grave and Vallouise). The itinerary does not require a great autonomy, as it passes by villages or refuges, where you can buy food. We tried to always have food for 3 meals + breakfast and it is enough. Water may be more of a problem, and we were happy to carry some water-purifying tablets with us.
We choose to carry with us our camping equipment. However, hikers can find refuges and guest-houses on their way:
- Clavans le Bas
- the Mouterres
- la Grave
- Villard d’Arene and the refuge at the Alpe de Villard d’Arene
- Le Casset