Grand Ballon from Soultz Haut Rhin © French Moments
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Last Updated: 5 March 2020

The Grand-Ballon is the highest summit in the Vosges and is situated between the valleys of the Thur and the Lauch in Alsace.

The Grand-Ballon summit

Grand-Ballon © French Moments
Grand-Ballon in the Vosges © French Moments

The Grand-Ballon is also known as Ballon de Guebwiller from the closest town, Guebwiller, situated 8 km to the North-East. In German, the mountain is known as Großer Belchen.

The culminating point of the Vosges mountains rises 1,424 m above sea level but 1,192 m above the Plain of Alsace (Mulhouse).

Grand-Ballon © French Moments
The summit © French Moments

While the Hohneck is recognisable by the chalet atop its summit, the Grand-Ballon instead features a futuristic structure built in 1997, which serves as a radar station for civil aviation. On the summit also stands the monument of the Diables Bleus, which honours the Alpine Hunters, an elite mountain infantry of the French Army which served during the First World War. The monument was inaugurated in 1927 by French president Raymond Poincaré.

Grand-Ballon © French Moments
The radar © French Moments

The Grand Ballon is one of the windiest and coldest point in the Vosges (a record low of -30.2°C in 1956)

The summits includes an orientation table, a carpark and a restaurant.

The summit offers a vast panoramic view: in the foreground the Alsace Plain and the towns of Mulhouse and Basel (Switzerland), then further in the distance the Black Forest and Jura. In the background, and with good weather conditions from October to May: a vast part of the chain of the Alps, from Austria to Savoie, passing by Liechtenstein, Switzerland (Bernese Alps) and the majestic Mont-Blanc.

Grand Ballon 05 © French Moments
The view of the plain of Alsace © French Moments

The scenic Route des Crêtes bypasses the summit from the East, some 100 metres lower. A 15 minute climb on foot leads to the summit. The route links the Grand Ballon to the neighbouring summits of Markstein (1,265m) and Molkrenrain (1,125m).

The summit has often been crossed by the Tour de France bicycle race (in 1969, 1973, 1976, 1992, 1997, 2005, and 2014).

The Grand Ballon is crossed by the GR5 long-distance walking route which connects the North Sea to Nice on the French Riviera via the Vosges, the Jura, Lake Geneva, and the French Alps.

Grand Ballon 04 © French Moments
The Route des Crêtes © French Moments

From 2016, the Grand Ballon is the culminating point of the new Grand-Est region.

Grand Ballon 01 © French Moments
The summit © French Moments
Grand Ballon from Soultz Haut Rhin © French Moments
The mountain seen from the Plain of Alsace (Soultz-Haut-Rhin) © French Moments

For more information, visit the website of the Hautes-Vosges Tourist Board.

Have you been there? Let us know by commenting below!


Gems of Paris by French Moments
About the author

Pierre is a French/Australian who is passionate about France and its culture. He grew up in France and Germany and has also lived in Australia and England. He has a background teaching French, Economics and Current Affairs, and holds a Master of Translating and Interpreting English-French with the degree of Master of International Relations, and a degree of Economics and Management. Pierre is the author of Discovery Courses and books about France.

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