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Walks to discover mountain lakes in the French Alps

Welcome to the Méribel valley in the French Alps, home to nature and mountains, spectacular panoramas, emerald lakes, brightly coloured flowers, varied wildlife and protected areas! Walkers find everything they could wish for here: easy itineraries for novice walkers and steep paths, peaceful walks ideal for contemplation or excursions into the high mountains, walks to discover with your family or on your own – there is something for all tastes!

This summer, discover the Méribel valley’s magnificent mountain lakes

The Méribel valley and Vanoise National Park are filled with high altitude lakes, all located in spectacular natural sites that you can explore. In the Méribel valley there are ten lakes, including the magnificent lacs du Mont Coua, located above 2,500m, the mystical lac des Fées (Lake of the Fairies), a haunt of marmots, or the unmissable lac Tuéda, lying in the heart of the Plan de Tuéda Nature Reserve. Discover the many ways you can explore these enchanting mountain lakes: with a guide or independently, on a day walk or as part of an overnight trip to a mountain refuge, via easy or more challenging paths.

Walks from lake to lake with a night in a refuge

Tour around the Aiguille du fruit

Mountain lake Aiguille du Fruit Mountain lakes Chanrouge

Day 1
Duration: around 5 hours from le Plan and le lac de Tuéda to lacs Merlet Refuge.

Meet at the plan Ravet cark park and start from the lac de Tuéda and head towards the refuge du Saut. When you arrive on the plateau de la Plagne, continue to the edge of the plateau to discover the crystalline lac des fées that is hidden on the right, 50m from the path. Continue to the refuge du Saut then follow the directions towards le lac de Chanrouge. You can sometimes see Ibex here. Rejoin the path that leads to the col de Chanrouge and head towards the lacs Merlet. The path goes along the valley then climbs to les lacs Merlet.

Spend the night at le refuge des lacs Merlet (nb: book in advance).

Variant route for very good walkers: cross le Mont Coua with its lakes. Add 2½ hours walking time.

Day 2
Duration: around 4 hrs from refuge des lacs Merlet to lac de Tuéda.

From the refuge, go over the cols de la Platta, de Chanrossa and then du Fruit before descending to Méribel-Mottaret, passing by lac Tuéda.

Les lacs du Mont Coua

Lac montagne Mont Coua

From le Plan and le lac de Tuéda, this walk over le Mont Coua and to its lakes takes approximately 7 hours with a total ascent of 1,000m. It can be achieved in one day by experienced walkers. For a gentler and more contemplative immersion in the mountains, you can take two days to complete the walk by spending one night in le refuge du Saut.

This walk will allow you to admire numerous lakes including the six spectacular Mont Coua lakes which lie between 2,520 and 2,820m in a striking, rocky setting.

Stage 1: around 2 hours – 450m of total ascent.
From the plan Ravet car park in Mottaret (1,681m), set out towards the refuge du Saut, passing by the lac de Tuéda. After the lake, continue towards the refuge du Plan, then the refuge du Saut (signposted), climbing some fairly steep passages. Enjoy a breather along the flat Vallon du Fruit area, by the meandering Doron des Allues river as it flows through the green and flowery pastures. Don’t miss the discrete but nonetheless superb lac des Fées, hidden to the right of the path. Rejoin the path which rises and passes through a narrow gully before reaching le refuge du Saut (2,140m). Spend the night at the refuge.

Stage 2: around 5 hours – 700m of total ascent
From le refuge du Saut, follow in the direction of Col du Soufre and climb up to the footbridge over the Doron des Allues (2,440m). After the footbridge take the path to the left (East) towards the lacs du Mont Coua. This is not marked, but the trail is clearly visible. After the first small lake, a little off the path, you will reach the second lake. Follow the little path and the cairns on the right (south-east) towards the largest lake (2,672m); this lake is highly prized by fishermen. After the large lake, continue along the little path following the cairns (south-east) towards the fourth and the fifth lakes (2,780m). You can, if you have enough time and the weather is favourable, continue to the sixth lake…

Above the fifth lake, find the le petit collet (2,787m) to the north (Passage des
Eaux Noires), indicated by large cairns. Go down into the valley on the right of the Mont
Coua cliffs. You will see numerous cairns in the beautiful, ochre-coloured scree. There are a few steep passages but no technical difficulties through this scree. This route does not appear on the IGN maps (the blue marks indicate a ski touring route). There is no difficulty in finding your direction: simply go down into the valley (north) and at the bottom you’ll find greenery and the marked path that leads to the col Rouge. Once you reach the path, go north-west towards the refuge du Saut. Enjoy a pause by le lac de Chanrouge before you drop down to the refuge and then to Tuéda along the route of your ascent.

Family walks, one-day walks or with a night in a refuge

The green Tuéda circular walk

Lac montagne Tuéda

This circular walk takes you to the heart of the Plan de Tuéda Nature Reserve, in the Vanoise National Park. From the plan Ravet car park, as you go towards le lac du Tuéda, immediately take the Ramées route on your left which takes you around the last buildings at le Châtelet (with a section along the road) and then takes you through le bois des Ramées which is filled with Arolla pines and Nutcracker birds. The path rises above the lac de Tuéda (which is out of sight) towards the aiguille du Fruit and then drops slightly to le plateau de la Plagne, a haunt of marmots. Rejoin the path which leads towards the refuge du Saut (take the bridge which crosses the Doron river). Continue a few hundred metres towards le refuge du Saut. At the far side of the valley, to the right of the path, is hidden the magnificent lac des Fées, ideal for a picnic with an amazingly beautiful view!

Retrace your steps in the direction of le Tuéda and remain on the main path which continues along the valley floor and then descends to le lac Tuéda. Take your time to make the most of the grassy area surrounding the lake, discover the botanical walk or the Explore Games, or sample some tasty Beaufort d’alpages cheese at the farm which opens in summer.

Explore the Vanoise National Park from le refuge du Saut

Refuge du Saut

Lying at the edge of the Plan de Tuéda Nature Reserve, the refuge du Saut is the ideal base for all walkers and lovers of wild mountainous areas. From here, you can easily explore all the rich and varied wildlife, flowers and landscapes of the Vanoise National Park on a half- or full-day walk. For example, you can ascend the impressive col Rouge with a pause at the lac de Chanrouge where you can often spot ibex. You could also walk to the immense Gebroulaz glacier, the source of the Doron river, and either content yourself with admiring its ice from below or, if you are feeling bold, by climbing up to le col du Souffre. Or you could cross le mont Coua in search of its six lakes in a sumptuous high mountain setting.

The refuge du Saut is eco-friendly: it uses solar panels and wind-turbine driven ventilation; drinking water is treated on site; sanitation is treated nearby; and wood is used for heating. It can take up to 25 people in comfortable accommodation of modern standards.

You can reach it easily from le lac de Tuéda (allow around 2 hours and follow the signs). For example, take the green Tuéda circular walk given above.

For experienced walkers: the tour of the lakes

This long walk, which takes on average 9 hours, will allow you to discover the most beautiful lakes in the Plan de Tuéda Nature Reserve and the Méribel valley. At the entrance to the Nature Reserve (start from the plan Ravet car park) follow the tarmac road for 50m before the toilets, a small path sets out on the left, and joins a hairpin bend on the road to le Châtelet. Go along this and then head in the direction of le Refuge du Saut, 50m after the last garages on the right, by going around and behind the last buildings of le Châtelet. Cross a little stream, then follow the path towards the refuge du Saut until it opens out at the large plateau de la Plagne. Descend to the plateau and cross the footbridge to join the main track, still heading in the direction of the refuge. Continue along the plateau to the chalets de la Plagne and head in the direction of le col du Vallon (2,394m). Once you reach the pass, go towards the left, ignoring the path to the side which leads to the old mine.
The path climbs up to a vast scree from the Mont Vallon just above the lac du Vallon. Follow the path around the mountain, it passes underneath the gondola ski lift amongst large blocks of rock and skirts the Mont du Vallon, offering a view over the entire valley, and leads to the lacs du Borgne (2,552m). This rocky area is dominated by the glacier du Borgne. The path crosses the scree as far as the foot of the col de la Chambre and continues up the left of a large slope which in winter forms a ski run. In just 15 minutes you will reach the magnificent lac de la Chambre (2,637m). Retrace your steps for a few minutes to the fork in the path (allowing around 3½ hours for your return to Mottaret) and take the left turn towards Côte Brune, Plan des Mains, Mûres rouges and Plan de Tuéda.

Prepare your walks and hikes in Méribel

Lac des Fées montagne

Méribel’s Tourist Office offers specific guides to walks which combine marked walks, useful information and contact details, which allow you to set out fully prepared to discover the treasures of les 3 Vallées. Alternatively, set out to discover lakes, wildlife, flowers and plants, mountain ecology or even glaciology with our mountain guides and enjoy the incredible experience of spending a night in a refuge.

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