Walking with the under 8’s can be a challenge. What helps is good weather, distractions and a strong resilience! The alps may sound daunting but it’s perfectly set up to encourage small people out into the wild. Lots of stops, sticks, insects, wildlife, rocks and stories help the progress. A hut or buvette selling ice creams is preferable, but a lake or summit will do. Lakes are better than summits. Paddling, frogs and creepy crawlies all rule. If you can read a map and walk in the UK, then walking in the french alps is much easier with much better signposted footpaths. Around Villar d’Arêne there are easily enough walks to keep a family busy for more than a week. Suggestions below.
The easiest walk – Lac du Pontet – 1.2 km
Drive up to the top of the road and park. This is a very short walk up a track to lake with buvette. You can pack an entire days picnic, toys and books up here and spend the day happily. Paddling and catching fish and frogs are a must. There’s a perfect small boulder, and usually plenty of other families. You can usually spot marmottes, see eagles and catch crickets galore. For older kids you can walk up from the flat about an hour) and take a detour to the summit of the small hill that overlooks the village..
Here is the walk plan on MapMyHike: 1.14 km Very Easy Lac Du Pontet for toddler Distance: 1.14 km http://www.mapmyhike.com/routes/view/401959950
Lac du Goleon – 5.5 km with 509m climbing
Drive up the Valfroide from the Chazelet road and park. Walk up the valley to a section which crosses shaley gulleys- take care here. Then a steepish climb up to the lake with amazing views over the Meije. The refuge provides excellent food. Younger children will enjoy this if carried up the gullies and steeper section in a back pack. Although a bit of a climb the lake and views are worth it.
Refuge D’Alpe du Villar D’Arene 8 km route in with an ascent of 333m
Drive to the end of the dirt road above Pas de L’Ane and park. Follow the beautiful small path up to the river crossing. Then its up steeply for a while before levelling out into a beautiful Alp with millions of marmottes. Perfect for picnics. The refuge has donkeys, chickens and ice creams and drinks. Return either by the same route or on the lower path down the valley. Amazing views into the valleys in the heart of the Ecrins. http://www.mapmyhike.com/routes/view/401953816
Pas de L’Ane 5.9 km route – ascent of 170 m
An easy stroll from the flat up the valley across the fields and through the beautiful old village of Pied du Col to the Gite at Pas de L’Ane which does ice creams drinks and pizzas. Theres great potential for playing in the braided river at the climbing area of Arsine also. Return back across the fields or along the road. http://www.mapmyhike.com/routes/view/401933650
Nevache Stroll – 6 km 141m ascent
Drive to the top car park in the beautiful Nevache valley. From here you cross the river and wind up the valley with beautiful picnic spots and plenty of marmottes. The river is ideal for paddling – not glacial! The refuge at the top is sometimes open for drinks. You can either come back the way you came or return on the other side of the river – a very easy track for small people. Route map here – http://www.mapmywalk.com/routes/view/402313842
Sentier des Crevasses – 5.5km, 109 m ascent.
Easy straighforwards stroll out from the top of the Col du Lauteret. Plenty to see along the way – lots of wildlife and a nature trail signposted. Great views into the Ecrins and down the top of the Romanche valley. Dont recommend continuing round the corner to the Refuge d’Alp du Villar D’Arene with children as it is exposed.
route map here – http://www.mapmywalk.com/routes/view/402308920
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