France is home to a staggering ten national parks and each has its own character and something special about it. The Ecrins National Park is known for being the second largest in the country spanning an enormous 1000 square kilometres.
If you’re in the southeast of France then a visit to the Ecrins National Park is well worth it. As a world class nature reserve with plenty to see and do, it’s a hotspot for both tourists and locals alike. Plus, with the rugged mountainous backdrop of the Alps, there’s no better place to get back in touch with Mother Nature.
Where Is the Ecrins National Park?
The Ecrins National Park is located in the southeast part of France in the Dauphine Alps. You can reach the park from Marseille in around an hour and forty-five minutes by car but there are plenty of public transport options including trains from Gap and Briancon.
Things to do at Ecrins National Park?
The great thing about the Ecrins National Park is that it is set right there in the Alps so for those who enjoy winter sports and mountaineering, this is the perfect location. Of course, there’s plenty of other things to sink your teeth into so let’s explore what this huge national park has to offer.
Get Into the Mountains
For those looking to get into mountaineering, the Ecrins National Park has some super high peaks reaching up to 4000 metres.
Jagged and rough, they’re the ideal terrain for those with an adventurous spirit and some of the most popular peaks include La Meiji, Ailefroide and Barre des Ecrins. However, with so many mountains to discover, there are some off the beaten track that you may find very isolated.
If you are a beginner, you’ll want to stick to some of the easier climbing routes, many of which can be found in La Severaisse Valley.
Read our Guide to France’s National Parks
Mountains here include Les Rouies, one of the taller summits at over 3500 metres as well as the smaller l’Obious that rises 2789 metres above sea level.
But don’t let the term ‘beginner’ put you off, these routes still include plenty of challenges like glacier crossings so you’ll still have an excellent adventure.
There are various excursions taking place with experienced mountain climbers and this is an excellent way to get into things and learn some safety techniques and methods that will stick with you in the future.
However, if you’re more advanced, you might want to head to some of the more remote mountains and get away from the tourist areas.
You cannot go to a mountainous region without indulging in a spot of skiing or snowboarding and you will be spoiled for choice at the Ecrins National Park. If you’re into off piste skiing then head to La Grave.
No pistes, no patrols and no showy visitor centres; just 100% pure skiing. There is some seriously challenging terrain but that’s what makes it so much fun!
However, if you want something a little tamer then move to the southern part of the Ecrins National Park where you will find sunny slopes and glorious views.
One of the most popular ski resorts here is Orcieres where you’ll not only have great skiing but plenty of apres-ski activities to entertain you, all with that beautiful Alpine charm.
Hiking and Walking
With so much flora and fauna to be discovered, it’s no wonder that people take to the trails to see what nature has to offer.
Not only this, but the mountainous terrain offers hiking opportunities for people of all levels. If you’re new to hiking, there are plenty of easy, marked trails such as those found in the Champsaur valley.
If you want to trek among the mountains then we’d highly recommend the Haute Vallee de la Serveraisse which is one of the most breath-taking mountain trails in the area.
You’ll get the best hiking during the spring and summer months but it is possible to head out over winter as long as you have the right gear and skills.
Checking out amazing views is one of the joys of hiking and if this sounds up your street then you cannot miss the GR54 Tour des Ecrins trail which runs for a whopping 180km. It’s challenging, don’t get us wrong but it’s a great choice for a multi-day hike spread over the course of a week or two.
There is rock climbing at the Ecrins National Park for people of every level of experience. What’s more, with such varied options, you’ll always be able to discover something new.
The rock quality here and the wonderful summer weather make this one of the most popular activities within the Ecrins National Park.
If you’re feeling adventurous then you might head to the Falaises de Corbieres at Haut Champsaur where you will find several huge multi-pitch routes. It gets very high here and the temperatures can get quite hot so be prepared for this.
However, if you want something that is better suited to the novice climber then there’s lots to choose from. One of the best places for beginner routes is down at Pont du Fosse but you’ll also find more advanced routes here too.
Should I visit the Ecrins National Park?
The Ecrins National Park is the second largest in France and with a stunning mountainous backdrop, it’s the place for adventurers, winter sports lovers and anyone looking to discover what the Alps has to offer. If you love the outdoor lifestyle and want to take part in lots of exciting activities then the Ecrins National Park is well worth a visit. But even if you want something a little gentler, there are plenty of easy hiking trails that involve very little need for experience.