Ecrins National Park, Isere: visitors guide
Visit Ecrins National Park, France
The Ecrins National Park is a protected area of soaring mountain peaks, lush meadows, rushing streams, mirror lakes and beautiful scenery in the heart of the French Alps.
Such a beautiful area has something to offer any visitor, whether you prefer to admire scenery from a car window or from a trail deep in the heart of the mountains.
Exploring Ecrins National Park
Ecrins National Park is visited by approximately 850,000 people each year, with many of these pursuing various outdoor activities, in particular hikers and climbers.
It is of course the scenery that is the main attraction, and Ecrins contains more than 100 mountain peaks over 3000 metres in altitude, with the Barre des Ecrins at 4102 metres being the highest point. It is also well known for the extensive number of glaciers it contains.
There are also some designated natural reserves within the borders of the park such as Pics du Combeynot, Vallée du Béranger, Vallée de Saint-Pierre, Vallée de la Séveraisse, Vallée du Vénéon, Cirque du Lac des Estaris)
To help you make the most of your visit, and indispensable if you are exploring away from the roads, there are several 'Maisons du Parc' (local information centres) that between them provide lots of information that covers all the regions within Ecrins.
Even if you are a 'casual visitor' you should visit the one closest to you before exploring if you are to make the most of your visit. Most of the information centres are situated in the towns around the borders of the park: you can find them at
- Briancon (east, Brianconnais region),
- Pont-du-Fossé (south-west, Champsaur region),
- Embrun (south, Embrunais region),
- Entraigues (north-west, Valbonnais region),
- La Chapelle-en-Valgaudemar (west),
- L'Argentiere la Bessee (east, vallouise region) and.
- Le Bourg d'Oisans (north, Oisans region)
Outdoor activities in Ecrins National Park
If you are a walker, there are many stunning hikes and trails that you can follow, at all levels of difficulty (there are said to be more than 700 kilometres of marked trails here). While it is certainly possible to disappear into the mountains for a few days on one of the longer trails, most visitors are happy to follow one of the many shorter walks that are available. More ambitious walks will of course require proper walking equipment and planning, beyond the scope of France This Way!
Some of the best hiking in Ecrins National Park starts in the region beyond Ailefroide and the Pré du Madame Carle (accessible by road - even if you just go for the drive to get there it is worth the trouble), while the Fournel Valley is also very popular with nature lovers.
If you are intrepid and walk quietly you might be lucky to see some of the larger wildlife that lives in Ecrins such as Ibex and Chamois while exploring the more remote mountain areas.
If you prefer to explore by car you could take the road a few kilometres beyond Le Bourg d'Oisans and then take the route to La Berarde - a remote outpost in the mountains some 40km along a tiny lane!
Although less well known as a ski region than some parts of the Alps, the ski stations at Puy-Saint-Vincent and Pelvoux-Vallouise fall within the borders of the Ecrins Parc. On the north-eastern border are the well established resorts around Alpe d'Huez and Deux-Alpes. Cyclists will of course recognise that the Alpe d'Huez is one of the most famous mountain climb routes in the Tour de France.
Towns and villages
Although there are no major towns within the borders of the park itself there are several villages which you will come across as you explore the region (although many visitors prefer to stay in one of the 'frontier towns' such as Embrun).
Villages to explore include Les Vigneaux, Vallouise, Ailefroide, Puy Aillaud and La Bérarde. Vallouise and Les Vigneaux are probably the two most worthy of a visit in their own right The village of La Grave to the north of the park is classified as one of the most beautiful villages in France.
Where is Ecrins National Park?
Ecrins National Park is a mountainous region to the south-east of Grenoble, west of Briancon and north of Gap and Embrun, on the border between the Rhone-Alps and Provence-Alps-Cote d'Azur regions. Écrins National Park (in French Parc National des Écrins) is one of eight regions in France designated as French national parks.
Map of Ecrins National Park and places nearby
Visit near Ecrins National Park with France This Way reviews
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Sightseeing & tourist attractions to visit nearby
- La Meije: site of natural beauty (10 km)
- Jardin alpin du Lautaret: remarkable garden (14 km)
- La Grave: most beautiful village (14 km)
- L'Argentiere-la-Bessee: recommended detour (21 km)
- Briancon: secteur sauvegarde (22 km)
- Aiguilles d'Arves: site of natural beauty (22 km)
- Briancon fortifications (Vauban fortifications): heritage site (23 km)
- Vallee de la Claree: grand site of france (25 km)
- Mont-Dauphin place forte (Vauban fortifications): heritage site (35 km)
- Place Forte de Mont-Dauphin: national monument (35 km)
- Poligny: town of art and history (36 km)
The French version of this page is at Ecrins National Park (Francais)