Itinerary to the Col de la Vanoise
It takes 3 hours to reach the pass of Col de la Vanoise (alt. 2,517m).
The excursion starts at Pralognan-la-Vanoise at 1,420m.
When you arrive at the top of the Mont Bochor (2,023m) from the cable-car, the view to the village and the Vanoise peaks catches the eye. The three iconic summits of Pralognan can easily be observed: the Moriond, the Aiguille de la Vanoise and the Grande-Casse.
Already, the walk to the Col de la Vanoise follows a narrow track to the Chalets of Les Baumettes (2,057m). In the Alps this type of path is called “chemin en balcon” because it borders a very steep slope.
At the chalet of Les Baumettes, the narrow path joins the main track from the village to the the Col de la Vanoise which although steep at some points is wider so families with children are able to walk it, a reason for its success!
It crosses vast alpine landscapes interspaced by some beautiful waterfalls. This is where the marmots are the easiest to see.
The old chalets that can be seen on the left side of the track used to serve as ‘bergeries’ (shepherd’s huts).
This track is the one that used to be taken by thousands of travellers throughout the ages… especially by salt and beaufort traders en route to Italy.
Near a beautiful waterfall, a time-worn plate indicates the entrance to the Vanoise National Park.
The Lac des Vaches is the boundary between the green grass and the rocky landscapes. The intimidating Grande Casse mountain (3,855m) looks nearer than ever.
The Lac des Vaches is probably the most awkward lake in the Vanoise. The hiker has to cross a stone ford which in a hot summer can be almost dry if it hasn’t rained for several days. There are also of course the Tarine cows which lay down on the grass ruminating their previous supper whilst gazing at the passers by.
After the Lac des Vaches, the track continues with its last ascent in a what could be lunar setting.
The last lake, the Lac Long, marks the approach of the Col de la Vanoise (2,517m) with a great view of the Aiguille de la Vanoise on the right.
The natural lake lies at the foot of the Grande-Casse, Savoie’s second highest mountain after the Mont Blanc.
At the pass, a refuge for experienced hikers was built more than a century ago. It was named for a while after the French President Félix Faure who had lunch there in 1897.
The pass is surrounded by impressive glaciers, that might explain why edelweiss flowers (Silver Star in French) can be seen in June-July at just a few steps from the refuge.
The immediate surroundings of the pass are remarkable to visit and are at the very heart of the Vanoise National Park.
There are many mountain lakes with their pure waters which are worth a visit: the Lac des Assiettes, the Lac Rond or the Lac du Col de la Vanoise. Marmots, ibex or chamois are easily visible for this is their homeland.
The main hiking track of the old “Salt Route” keeps on going towards Tignes with magnificent views of La Grande Motte (3,653 m), the Maurienne Valley and further on to Italy.
On the way back, it is possible to take an alternative route that goes down to the left side of the Aiguille de la Vanoise. It reaches the hamlet of Les Fontanettes through the Cirque de l’Arcelin.
From Les Fontanettes, it is possible to go down to Pralognan-la-Vanoise via several paths. One of them passes by the remarkable waterfall locally known of “Cascade de la Fraîche”.
Nearby, an orientation table gives an understanding of the site of Pralognan.
The walk ends with the crossing of the little hamlet of Les Bieux. The centre of Pralognan is only 5 minutes away.
How to get to Pralognan-la-Vanoise
Pralognan-la-Vanoise is easily reached by car thanks to France’s excellent system of motorways and expressways.
From Paris, Lyon, Strasbourg or Marseille, all the roads lead to Albertville where the dual carriage-way to Moutiers brings you closer to the village. From Moutiers, it will take you only 30-45 minutes to reach the altitude of 1,400 metres, to the “far away meadows” of Pralognan-la-Vanoise!
If you travel from America or Australia, take a flight to the Swiss airport of Zurich or Geneva and rent a car from there! Geneva is actually one of the closest airports to the Savoie region.
If you wish to visit this village from Paris on a 4-5 nights stay, take a TGV train to Moutiers and a coach from the little town’s station (www.altibus.com) that will take you directly to the resort.