Visiting the Hautes-Alpes: what are the best things to do and see in this altitude territory where the mountains are a king?
This department was built from scratch on the part of the former province of Dauphiné. This is one of the highest in France, and its prefecture is Gap.
Several activities are available to you if you visit the Hautes-Alpes. In this sparsely populated and tiny industrialized region, tourism is the lifeblood that keeps this wild territory connected to its mountainous roots.
We come to ski in Serre Chevalier, Puy-Saint-Vincent, Vars-Risoul, Orcières, or Montgenèvre in winter and enjoy the cool climate in summer.
The great Ecrins massif, the Vallouise valley, and the Queyras are protected areas by their status as national parks and attract many mountaineers and hikers.
The lakes of Lauvitel and Auzon are true havens of peace, while that of Serre-Ponçon offers many water activities. Heritage lovers will appreciate the medieval cities of Mont-Dauphin or Briançon or the cathedral of Embrun.
Are you wondering what to do in the Hautes-Alpes during your stay?
Here is a selection of the essential activities when you visit the Hautes-Alpes and want to make the most of your alpine journey!
The 17 Best Things To Do in the Hautes-Alpes
The sumptuous summit of the French Alps, culminating at 4,101 m above sea level, is the highest point of the Ecrins massif, the Hautes-Alpes department, and more generally the Dauphiné.
It is the southernmost peak of more than 4,000 meters in the Alps!
Moreover, it was before the annexation of Savoy in 1860 the highest point in France. Those who visit the Hautes-Alpes go to enjoy hiking trails, mountaineering, and sumptuous landscapes.
Go to Madame Carle’s meadow to start the ascent: this clearing is one of the most beautiful in the country!
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This artificial lake located on the border of the departments of Hautes-Alpes and Alpes-de-Haute-Provence was created in 1959. The construction of a dam on the Durance is responsible for creating this lake.
Moreover, two villages were engulfed underwater: Savines and Ubaye.
Nowadays, tourists from all over Europe visit the Bay of Saint-Michel, the port of Chadenas, and the Chanterenne site to spend quality time.
Campsites surround the lake, and you can even cultivate yourself at the Lake Museum. If you are still looking for what to do in the Hautes-Alpes, look no further!
Located five kilometers southwest of the pretty village of Laragne, the Gorges de la Méouge are a classified biological reserve.
Wonders of the Hautes Alpes, the gorges of the Méouge are part of the Regional Park of the Baronnies Provençales.
When you visit the Hautes-Alpes, the site is a must if you are looking to enjoy the freshness of a refreshing swim, practice canyoning, or relax on the green banks.
The capped damsels are one of the most remarkable geological formations of the Hautes-Alpes. They are located precisely on the road between Pontis and Le Sauze-du-Lac.
A colossal rock cap overlooks these rocky columns several meters high.
These glacial formations are awe-inspiring and are worth visiting when looking for what to do in the Hautes-Alpes.
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The Grand Tour des Écrins surrounds the national park of the same name. Hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding… There will be something for everyone!
The GR 54 shares some portions with the Grand Tour des Écrins. Easy and not reserved for experienced athletes, the Grand Tour can be done with the family during the summer season.
It has some big surprises and sumptuous panoramas of the Southern Alps. Put on your walking boots and head out if you have no idea what to do in the Hautes-Alpes!
The Clarée is one of the prettiest valleys of Briançonnais. Preserved from mechanical infrastructures, its slopes offer an authentic Alpine experience intended for heritage lovers.
On the menu: preserved hamlets, sundials, picturesque chapels…
Our advice? Start from the splendid village of Névache after visiting the church of St-Marcellin, then continue with a hike around the lakes of Laramon and Serpent, then finish by the Green Lake.
You will not be able to say that visiting the Hautes-Alpes has left you indifferent!
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The White Forest ski area extends over the communes of Vars and Risoul. The snow is significant, you can practice many activities, and all levels are welcome.
Whether young or old, beginner or semi-pro, you will be welcome at the White Forest ski area!
Rather accessible financially, the packages allow you to hit tens of kilometers of the track by taking advantage of modern and efficient ski lifts.
If you are looking to visit the Hautes-Alpes during the winter season, we highly recommend that you take a short tour.
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Whether it is full of natural wonders or not, the Queyras Natural Park is beautiful. Take Fort Queyras, for example. This old castle dated from the second half of the thirteenth century and was remodeled by Vauban himself. He plays the role of the star of the park at the Col d’Izoard, the Col d’Agnel, or the Guil, great natural sites.
Queyras Regional Natural Park is also home to an important fauna and flora, covering 65,000 hectares.
You can greet chamois, marmots, and raptors endemic to the Southern Alps. Our advice? Go and discover it without further delay, of course!
Last park but not least: the animal park of Serre-Ponçon is located near the lake of the same name. Marmots, foxes, Alpine goats, wolf dogs, or raptors will be presented to you by a team of passionate caretakers.
If you are looking for an engaging activity to do in the Hautes-Alpes with your children, look no further. Come and share the daily life of these furry or feathered companions to the delight of the little ones!
Ideal for beginners, the via Ferrata Croix de Toulouse overlooks the valleys of the Durance and Guisane. It is affordable technically and physically: even grandpa and grandma can have fun in your company!
Ideal for relaxing with the family, Ferrata is a healthy activity that allows you to enjoy the beauty of nature.
The site is very close to Briançon: you could follow the route with a visit to this capital of the Southern Alps, what do you think?
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We forget nature and focus on infrastructure rather than the natural world this time. The Aquaparc d’Embrun is the largest inflatable water park on Lake Serre-Ponçon.
Since it resides on Embrun Lake’s leisure base and is accessible from six, we enjoy it most with family.
The Aquaparc is open every day during the summer, and it provides the perfect opportunity to experience… the water of the lake. It is pretty good.
Featuring slides and spectacular attractions, it’s a must when looking to have fun in the Hautes-Alpes.
The Col de Vars is a must for all self-respecting amateur cyclists. It’s far from being a gift for calves: the Tour de France champions know something about it!
It allows you to contemplate fantastic landscapes at the cost of many efforts and some cramps.
Let’s reserve this activity for seasoned athletes and warn novices: the Col de Vars is one of the most difficult in the Alps. So, are you ready to rub it when you come to visit the Hautes-Alpes?
13. Baronnies Provençales Regional Natural Park
What to do in the Hautes-Alpes when you love nature? Less mountainous, the department’s southwest gives pride of place to the rocky valleys of the Baronnies Provençales.
We come to admire the famous castle of Cornillon-sur-l’Oule, the old village of Arzeliers, or that of Béconne in La Roche-Saint-Secret-Béconne.
The Saint-Cyrice church in Étoile-Saint-Cyrice or the castle of La Roche-sur-le-Buis is also a tourist attraction in the area.
Ideal to travel by car or motorcycle, the winding roads of the Baronnies are among the most beautiful in the south of France.
The Grande Tête de l’Obiou is located between Grenoble and Gap and rises to 2,789 meters above sea level. It is the highest point of the Dévoluy massif. You can reach the summit without specific equipment by following a trendy route during the summer season.
The normal road runs along the southern slope from the parking lot of the Cabane des Baumes.
We take the Col des Faïsses, the Col de l’Obiou, and then we reach the summit at the cost of some effort. Ideal for learning the joys of mountaineering gently, right?
Briançon is considered the highest city in France, with 1,326 meters above sea level. This city has always had marked historical importance in the region.
You can admire pretty little picturesque streets and discover remarkable historical monuments. Let us mention the Fort des Salettes or the Fort des Têtes, which dominates the city from the top of its 1,440m of altitude.
Imagined by Vauban, its construction began in 1721. The fort is listed as a Historic Monument, and the facades and roofs are classified. Ultimate consecration, the work was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The Hautes-Alpes have inspired Vauban: Mont-Dauphin is a member of this mythical architect’sHistorical Network of Major Sites.
The stronghold dates from the end of the reign of the great Louis XIV and is a major tourist site.
The town of Mont-Dauphin also has exceptional sites such as the Saint-Guillaume chapel and the Saint-Louis church. These monuments will charm heritage lovers who come to visit the Hautes-Alpes.
Serre-Chevalier is the largest ski resort in the Southern Alps. There are committed alpine skiing on or off-piste from December to April.
The resort offers many ancillary activities, a disproportionate rental offer, top-level ski lifts, and many competitions.
Serre-Chevalier is a must for all ski lovers from the South of France. Do you want to join them during the winter season?
The easiest way to get to the Hautes-Alpes by air is to land at Lyon-Saint-Exupéry International Airport or Marignane International Airport. Moreover, our partner Skyscanner will allow you to get there by finding you a flight at the best price. Trains can also take you to the most important cities of this landlocked department.
By road, take the A51 motorway, which connects Grenoble to Marseille via Gap, Sisteron, and Aix-en-Provence, depending on your departure city.
Given the layout of this rural department, the best option is to rent a car to get around easily. The road network is relatively good quality and cleared of snow frequently in winter: take advantage of it!
When looking for what to do in the Hautes-Alpes, you must also look for accommodation. You will find several on-site types of accommodation to choose from according to your desires and your budget.
Briançon, a touristic town, is home to several renowned hotel establishments.
The rates are reasonable, but they increase during the winter!
Our advice: go directly to a hotel comparator. The department has an exciting rental offer in pretty villages.
For example, Serres, Chorges, and Orpierre can be used as a pied-à-Terre while visiting the department. Take a look at them! This will allow you to benefit from significantly more affordable rates and more typical accommodation.