Petit Mont-Blanc and the Merlets Lakes
>>
Home
>
Walking hike
>
Petit Mont-Blanc and the Merlets Lakes
PRALOGNAN-LA-VANOISE

Petit Mont-Blanc and the Merlets Lakes

Fauna
Summit
Viewpoint
Embed this item to access it offline
A 2 day hike in high-altitude mineral landscapes with a view of the Vanoise glaciers and the high-altitude grasslands.
The Petit Mont Blanc was called the “Salt Mountain” by the old Pralognanais. Its salt, actually gypsum, was used for the manufacture of plaster to seal the dry stone walls. To upstage Chamonix, the capital of mountaineering, Pralognan-la-Vanoise, the capital of hiking renamed its Salt Mountain to Petit Mont-Blanc. Incidentally, the view of Europe from the summit of this mountain is stunning. The surreal lunar atmosphere at the summit of the Petit Mont-Blanc offers a 360° view of the Vanoise glaciers, Mont Blanc, the Gébroulaz glacier or the valley of the Avals valley. Clarisse Pellet, Vanoise National Park Ranger.

25 points of interest
Know-how

Summer mountain pasture cheese dairy

Agriculture is still anchored in the mountain way of life in Pralognan, as you can see in the daily production of AOP (protected designation of origin) "Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage" cheese, which is regarded one of the best in the Alps! Find out how it is traditionally made.
Local produce on sale at the Fromagerie du Plan, in Pralognan village centre.
read more
Know-how

Les Prioux

"Stop at the hamlet of Les Prioux, to witness (depending on the time) the making of Beaufort at Rolland. This cow’s cheese, cooked, pressed and smear-ripened (salted and rubbed) has been labelled PDO (formerly CDO) since 1968. It is known as the “prince of gruyères”. Only the tarentaise and abondance breed can claim to give their milk. The appellation ""Beaufort d´Alpage"" is attributed only to cheeses made in summer, with the milk of a single herd, as is the case with your hosts."
read more
Architecture

Les Prioux hamlet

At the edge of Vanoise National Park, Chavière Valley unveils its natural wonders along a refreshingly varied path: the Savoyard discovery tour around Les Prioux.

Life in this hamlet, perched at an altitude of 1,700m, is still very much in step with nature and the winter and summer seasons, and residents have had to adapt accordingly. As they are cut off from the world through the long winter months, they have so much to share with you about life in the past: the mountain pastures, making Beaufort cheese, the growth of tourism and mountain crafts and trades...

This refreshingly varied path unveils the wonders of Chavière Valley to you, with its awe-inspiring peaks and more relaxing hamlets.

The route is accessible to everyone, including families with pushchairs, the elderly and wheelchair users with helpers.
• Round trip takes: 40 minutes
• Elevation gain: 10 metres
• Distance: 1km 100
People with reduced mobility can reach Les Prioux via an adapted shuttle bus.
Open from 15 May to 30 September, except if snow closes the road to Les Prioux.

On-site you’ll find a cheese dairy, restaurants and accommodation options, to make a proper holiday out of your trip!

read more
Flora

The Ecological Land Reserve of Petit Mont-Blanc

The Ecological Land Reserve of Petit Mont-Blanc was established in 1999 because of the site’s high heritage value. It is managed by the National Forestry Commission which is responsible for maintaining the richness of this area over the long-term. Indeed, there are remarkable habitats to be found here with a substantial floristic diversity (319 listed plant species, of which 11 are protected at national level) A Natura 2000 area, the “Vanoise Massif” stands supreme over this reserve. This area is comprised of arctic-alpine riverside grasslands hosting specular blue thistles and giant scabiosa.
read more
Geology

Col du Mône

The Col du Mône is located on a fault line that separates two different geological formations: the Mône rock which is a formation of limestones and dolomitic stones from the Jurassic whose stratigraphic series is reversed, and the Petit Mont-Blanc which is formed of gypsum, a very white rock. On the Mône rock, the rocks are rather grey, formed in layers with a reddish layer of bauxite, a rock rich in aluminium and iron oxide. The Petit Mont-Blanc looks like a lunar landscape with its white, globe-shaped rocks.
read more
History

The etymology of Courchevel

"The origin of the name Courchevel comes from the local terroir and agropastoral practices. Thus in the spring, when the herds of tarentaise cows were moved at altitude to the montagnettes, between 1,500 and 1,800 metres in altitude, the herdsmen were prohibited from stationing their herds on the strips of land where the green grass grew profusely, as although appetising it was capable of cutting the cows’ tongues, enough to “skin it”. This explains the origin of the town’s name, “écortzevé” in saint-bonnais patois, which over the centuries and oral transmission, became “cortzevé”, then “corchevé” and finally “courchevel”. In the 19th century, the maps mention the place known as ""Les chalets de Corchevel"", today ""Courchevel 1550"". The name Courchevel became permanent at the beginning of the 20th century."
read more
Pastoralism

Alpage des Avals: the secret of an earthworm

"I am the redworm, the earthworm compost: I digest the whey produced from cheese making by ""vermicomposting"". I need a dark, damp and well-ventilated place to live. This is why the compost here is protected by opaque tarpaulin that allow air to flow through. The farmer regularly sprays it with the whey. In order to move and feed myself, I dig tunnels. This facilitates the circulation of liquid and contributes to the mixing and aeration of the earth. The oxygen available allows the bacteria to break down the organic matter that make up the whey."
read more
Pastoralism

The Alpage des Avals: Beaufort cheese

"The Alpage des Avals is managed by a pastoral consortium whose cattle herd totals approximately 150 cattle. These cows graze around the villages until June and then climb up into the mountain pastures. Their presence in the municipality lasts 8 months. Saint-Bon-Courchevel is located in the Beaufort protected designation of origin area. In the alpine grazing season, the cheese, made on site, can use the ""Beaufort d´Alpage"" label. Almost all farmers are engaged in a dual activity relating to tourism. In winter, they work as ski instructors, shopkeepers, piste service or ski lift operators."
read more
Viewpoint

Alternative round trip towards Col des Saulces

For those who fancy it, there's an alternative round trip up to the Col des Saulces pass, at an altitude of 2,456m. From there you'll be rewarded with lovely panoramic views over Pralognan-la-Vanoise valley. To the left of the pass is the Petit Mont Blanc (2,677m) and to the right, the Rocher de Plassa (2,867m). You'll also be able to glimpse the Aiguille du Fruit peak (3,051m) and the Avals Valley.
read more
Pastoralism

Biol cellar

An old cheese cellar to start the maturing of the Beaufort cheese wheels during the summer period, which were then taken down into the valley to finish their maturing. The building dates from the 19th century and was renovated in the 2000s.
Nearby is the cellar and the chalet de la Grande Val, still used nowadays to make the beaufort "chalet d'alpage"; with a tool renovated in the years 2010
read more
Geology

Dents de la Portetta, Petit Mont-Blanc and the Aiguille du Fruit

At the secondary level, Saint-Bon-Courchevel is located under a shallow sea where phenomenal amounts of sand and crustaceans are deposited and which has undergone episodes of retreat and advance. The accumulation of crustaceans is the source of the limestone rocks. The Dents de la Portetta are the most representative. Then, under a tropical climate, the sea receded by evaporation. This phenomenon is the cause of a particular rock, gypsum. This rock constitutes the Petit Mont Blanc massif, the crests of Mount Charvet and the Dent du Villard. Later, the sea covered the town again, which is what caused the formation of the limestone rocks. The Aiguille du Fruit was formed during this period and contains an astonishing variety of fossils, such as shark teeth.
read more
Refuge

The Lacs Merlets: “Chaloin” type refuge

The Refuge des lacs Merlets is located in the heart of the Vanoise National Park at 2,417 m in altitude. It is a Chaloin type refuge, rustic and warm and made from wood. Built in the 1970s, it can accommodate 14 people per night.
read more
Lake

Lacs Merlets

"The Lacs Merlets belong to the category of ""cold"" lakes: with harsh climatic conditions, the water temperature dœs not exceed 9 ° C in the summer and the ice cover persists for a little more than 8 months. These lakes are called oligotrophs (from the Greek oligo-little and trophe-food). The presence of fish is almost always due to human intervention. The cold lakes are the domain of salmonids whose species are subdivided into char of the Salvelinus and Salmo trutta genus. Also of note is the presence of a small cyprinide fish, the minnow (phoxinus phoxinus). Piscicultural management requires the organisation of quality sport-fishing."
read more
Flora

Lac du Pêtre: wetland

An alkaline marsh can also be found to the north of Lac du Pêtre. Pioneer plant communities, called Caricion bicoloris-atrofuscae, flourish there along the edges of the alpine streams. Cotton grass, carex bicolor, tofieldia pusilla and alpine butterwort enjoy these humid peaty environments. Along the shores of Lac du Pêtre, creeping buttercup carpet the ground.
read more
Fauna

The marmot

The diurnal marmot is quite easy to spot on the alpine pastures of the Grand Val. It lives in family colonies on the sunny slopes. It digs networks of tunnels and rooms in which it hibernates from October to April. During this period, its heart and breathing slow down, its temperature drops from 36 °C to 8 °C and it lives on its fat reserves. In summer, it animates the alpine meadows with its cry to alert its colony in case of danger. Very acute, it is often confused with the whistling of a bird. It feeds on plants in sufficient quantities to ensure it fattens up before winter. The marmot is a game animal and is hunted from September.
read more
Fauna

Chamois and ibex

Stay observant, as the chamois and ibex, some of which are ear-ringed and with VHF collars, may cross your path. They spend the summer in the towns of Pralognan, Méribel and Courchevel. A part of the population returns to the valley of Maurienne in the town of Modane, where the sunny slopes provide them with better winters. Modane is the site where they are captured for marking.
read more
Geology

The Col Rouge, a “lunar” mountain pass

The arrival at Col Rouge (2,731 m in altitude) is superb. One is struck by the redness of the lunar-like earth and the breathtaking view over the Aiguille du Fruit (3,015 m in altitude), alongside Méribel, on the Pointe de l´Observatoire (3015 m in altitude) or a part of the Vanoise glaciers at more than 3,000 m in altitude in the Pralognan valley.
read more
Pastoralism

Arbé

An “arbé” is a hut with a removable roof on a stone foundation. Used only in summer, arbés form itinerant camps, making it easy to follow the dairy cows. At each “tramée” (change of arbé), the herders moved their cooking pots and utensils, boards and canvasses for the roof. Later, metal sheets and tarpaulin would replace the boards and canvasses. These shelters, which emerged in the Middle Ages, are prevalent in the Chavière valley.
read more
Architecture

Ritort

The main building of the Alpage de Ritort has two adjoining parts with two different roofs. There is no lauze here. Traditionally it was the ancelles (split wood tiles) that were used, some lauze was then used underneath to prevent the wind from ripping them off. In Ritort, the lower part of the building, used as a cheese dairy, has a tin roof that was restored in 1997, which is identical to the pre-existing roof. As for the adjoining dwelling, it has a traditional mixed ancelle-lauze roof.
read more
Pastoralism

The Alpage de Ritort

I recommend a detour to the Alpage de Ritort for a visit and cheese tasting. Every year, from the beginning of June to the end of September, a family of farmers and its workers settle in the Alpage de Ritort. The farmer produces, with much work and care, 4 to 5 Beaufort cheeses per day, according to an ancestral recipe. Milking is done twice a day. From the 1st milking in the morning, he returns to the dairy and starts making his cheese: curdling, draining, mixing, cooking… the recipe is the result of traditional know-how perpetuated by the alpine farmer. This first production in the morning allows him to produce two Beaufort cheeses and, with the remaining whey, to also start in the production of sérac, a fresh cheese much like the Corsican brocciu or Italian ricotta, delicious with a salad! This mountain pasture is located in the PDO area of Beaufort d’Alpage.
read more
Fauna

The common rock thrush

On the steep, dry and rocky slopes lives the common rock thrush. This insectivorous bird and consumer of small lizards spends the winter in the southern Sahara. The inimitable male has a rusty red breast and tail, a brown back and grey, almost bluish head. The female and the juveniles have a brownish plumage with dark bands. Its melodious song is composed of short phrases with flute-like connecting notes.
read more
Pastoralism

Lo tsa pentu

"Chapendu means sloping meadow, ""lo tsa pentu"". The cheese cellar was restored in 2014 and is used for ageing goat cheeses produced on the mountain pasture by Sylvain Chevassu. This pasture, long abandoned by the grazing cows, is naturally uncultivated, particularly by the alder. The cows would neglect the more woody plants, while the goats love it!"
read more
Flora

Drink in moderation or not at all!

Ÿellow gentian. The slopes of La Motte are adorned with yellow gentians (Gentiana lutea). This plant, neglected by cows for its bitterness, was traditionally picked at the end of September for its digestive properties. It takes 80 kg of roots, which are distilled, to obtain one litre of alcohol at 55-60° alcohol. Not to be confused with white hellebore (Veratrum album) which is highly toxic. The hellebore has alternating leaves, while the opposing leaves of the yellow gentian form a “cup-shape which you can drink from”.
read more
Fauna

On the clods

The northern wheatear can be found in Vanoise in the summer but as an insectivore spends its summer in Africa. They inhabit meadows where they can find low walls or rock piles. The male’s breeding plumage is highly contrasting: a black mask on the head, an inverted “T” on the tail, white breast and dark wings. The female is similar, although less dramatic in appearance. It sings from its favourite perches, on rocks, the stems of yellow gentian or alpine docks.
read more
Architecture

"Passerelle des anciens" footbridge

This footbridge at the heart of Petit Mont Blanc botanical reserve overlooks the Doron de Chavière. There is an explanatory panel telling you more.
read more

Description

"From the car park at Les Prioux, cross the hamlet and walk for 150 m. Take the trail in the direction of “Petit Mont-Blanc”. At the 2 following forks in the road, stay on the right trail. At the Col du Mône, follow the “Col des Saulces”. At the junction of the Col des Saulces, follow the “Refuge du Grand Plan”. At the fork in the trail 300 m after this refuge, take the trail on the left and follow “Lacs Merlets”. Once at the crossroads, take the path on the right towards ""Refuge des lacs Merlets"". The next day, upon leaving the refuge, retrace your steps at the crossroads. Take the trail in the direction of “Col de Chanrouge”. Walk past the pass, then the stream below. At the intersection turn right in the direction of “Col Rouge”. Go past the pass. After 690 m of downhill ascent, follow the vehicle track to the car park of Pont de la Pêche. Follow the paved road for about 850 m, take the footbridge over the Doron on the left of the road. Follow the trail along the Doron, until the hamlet of Les Prioux."
Departure : Car park, les Prioux, Pralognan-la-Vanoise
Arrival : Car park, les Prioux, Pralognan-la-Vanoise
Towns crossed : PRALOGNAN-LA-VANOISE, SAINT-BON-TARENTAISE, LES ALLUES

Altimetric profile


Recommandations

Remember to bring water for the day (no water sources are available)
Is in the midst of the park
The national park is an unrestricted natural area but subjected to regulations which must be known by all visitors.

Information desks

Maison de la Vanoise - Avenue Chasseforêt<br>73710 Pralognan-la-Vanoise,

hotesse.pralognan@vanoise-parcnational.fr

04 79 08 71 49


Find out more

Transport

"
Rail connection to Moûtiers. Information: www.voyages-sncf.com
Then transport by coach to Pralognan-village. Information: www.transavoie.com
In July-August, a shuttle bus runs between Pralognan-centre and the hamlet of Les Prioux.
Information: www.pralognan.com
"

Access and parking

RD915 until Pralognan-la-Vanoise, then the municipal path.

Parking :

Car park, les Prioux, Pralognan-la-Vanoise

Accessibility

No
Emergency number :
114

Report a problem or an error

If you have found an error on this page or if you have noticed any problems during your hike, please report them to us here: