If the resort of Vars welcomes ski lovers in winter, the splendid mountain territory around it becomes the playground of hikers in summer, who come to seek the pleasure of a holiday in the open air. Vars lies at the gateway to the Queyras Regional Nature Park, and it is in the heart of the park that one of the first municipal reserves in France is located, the Val d'Escreins, nicknamed the Little Canada Varsinc. The reason is simple, the mountain landscapes, with its green and flowery valleys, its high peaks and its wildlife that animates the place, remind in many respects the large areas that we find in the country of North America. The Val d'Escreins is a preserved territory, entirely dedicated to hiking, with itineraries adapted to families with children, but also to those who wish to take more difficult paths to reach the summits. So after a long winter and with the sun having set in, it's time to go to the Hautes-Alpes for a 100% natural holiday, before leaving with a wealth of beautiful images in your head
Itineraries to follow with the family
In the Val d'Escreins, young and old are welcome to discover all the pleasures of the mountains in summer. On the way to the resort of Vars, the discovery of the Rif Bel valley and its relief immediately puts holidaymakers in the mood. Once arrived in the reserve, several routes are proposed to families. The best thing to do with children is to start by warming up, and for that there is a nice 1h30 hike in a loop towards the Chalances hut, where you alternate between passages in the forest and in open spaces, all with very little difference in level. The best thing to do is to bring a picnic, to be enjoyed in the shade of a tree or on the river bank.
Once your legs are ready, you can move on to the other routes, especially the orientation course. Three levels are proposed, from very easy to medium, during which parents and children, after having collected maps and compasses from the Val d'Escreins reception hut, set off to conquer the landmarks on which punches are installed to validate the passage of the family expedition. Depending on the itinerary chosen, the families discover all that makes this high mountain territory so rich, with larch and pine forests, stony paths, meadows, alpine paths and the ruins of the village of Escreins. The orienteering course is perfect for getting to know the mountain, enjoying the views, the fauna and flora. At the end of a day full of emotions, the children will be delighted to join one of the tepees of the Refuge de Basse Rua, for an unusual night in the heart of nature, and far from any agitation.
Another highlight of the stay is a 3-hour walk along the remarkable tree trail, to discover some of the most impressive trees in the Val d'Escreins, which are several hundred years old and some of which have a circumference of more than 4 m!
And to further prove that the Val d'Escreins is a high mountain territory designed to welcome families, you should not miss the botanical trail, a 600 m loop revealing a hundred plant species. The Black Grouse discovery trail has been specially created and adapted for children, to help them discover the Escreins valley in a playful way. The route is marked out with desks explaining the life of yesteryear and the riches of the valley.
On the way to the summits
A stay in the Val d'Escreins is also an opportunity to conquer mythical summits, situated at an altitude of over 3,000 m. Well equipped and ideally under a clear blue sky, hikers head for the Pointe d'Escreins and the Col des Houerts. On the way, we walk along the Rif Bel through forests of cambrian pine and larch. The mineral valley of the Selette that follows leads the walkers to make a steep ascent in the forest, then to stop on a plateau offering a beautiful panorama, and where we enjoy the company of the local fauna, including marmots.
After a break to refresh yourself, it takes another two hours of walking to reach the Houerts pass and realize that the Escreins point is not far away. Once you have reached the end of this physical hike, all that remains is to enjoy the view that is offered to us: the Font Sancte peaks, the Panestrel peak, the Houerts peak. In the distance on the horizon, the Écrins and their snow-covered peaks rise up, then the Ubaye and its splendid Brec de Chambeyron, the second highest peak in the Chambeyron massif and in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence. The effort is felt in the legs, but we hold our 3 000, and it remains a unique moment to live during a summer stay in the Val d'Escreins.