Vars: Exploring Val d'Escreins

Crossing Torrent Rif-Bel Val d'Escreins

We had decided to explore Le Val d’Escreins on the first day of our three-day stay in Vars. A natural reserve situated between the Vars Valley and Queyras, it is called “little Canada” in the local guide because of its forests and steep impressive mountain ranges on both sides.

From the main D902 road, the valley can be reached along a paved although narrow road that goes as far as Refuge de Basse Rua (1760 m). The upper valley in the southeast is surrounded by 3000 m+ mountains, such as Pic de la Font Sancte (3385 m).

The Valley offers both easy trails for families and more demanding hikes that go over 3000 m. There are discovery trails where one can become acquainted with the local flora and fauna.

We planned an afternoon hike there, and chose to take the trail that went to the upper valley to an oratory, and to combine it with sentier des arbres remarquables, a path that ran parallel to the main trail for a while (marked as purple in the image).

We started from the parking at the refuge, and followed the trail (also a GR trail) to the oratory following the Rif Bel torrent (signposted and marked with purple signs). At about 2100 m elevation, we forked left (the GR trail continued southeast), and started to ascend more steeply, still mainly in the woods. The oratory came into sight just above the tree line at about 2300 m elevation.

On the way back, we took the right-hand trail a bit below the oratory signposted as arbres remarquables. The forest was beautiful as expected, but not exceptional. However, the path was better than the one we climbed on the way up. We soon joined the main trail again, and headed back to the starting point.

Elevation gain: About 560 m
Val d'Escreins trail

Duration: 2 h to the oratory, 1h 15 back.

Map: IGN 3537 ET Guillestre, Vars, Risoul

Distance: About 10,4 km


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