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Walk the GR54 trail around the Écrins with a Cicerone guidebook

Cover of Tour of the Oisans: The GR54
16 Jun 2008
17.2 x 11.6 x 1.3cm
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Tour of the Oisans: The GR54

by Kev Reynolds
Book published by Cicerone Press

A guidebook to the GR54 trek around the Écrins national park, the Tour of the Oisans. The 176km route is described clockwise from Bourg d'Oisans and is one of Europe's toughest treks. The Tour is split into 10 day stages with suggestions for a 13-day itinerary and alternative stages. For experienced Alpine trekkers, some exposure.

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Cover: Paperback - PVC
Size: 17.2 x 11.6 x 1.3cm
Weight: 210g

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The scenery encountered on the Tour of the Oisans is spectacular and ever varied which, with charming villages and hamlets to visit on the way, makes the trekker’s experience both rich and rewarding. The route detailed in this guidebook follows the GR54 around the Écrins in a clockwise direction. It is described from start to finish in 10 long day stages and includes a few alternative sections to consider. At almost every stage you will gaze upon wild and rugged mountain, look down into deep valleys, stride across pastures, contemplate lakes, streams or waterfalls, and enter regions of apparent remoteness.

The Tour of the Oisans covers a distance of 176km, crosses 14 passes, and ascends a total of 12,830m in 10 or 13 days – perfect for a fortnight’s holiday.  Several stages of the Oisans trek cross unprotected rocky sections, or follow narrow, exposed trails safeguarded by a fixed cable. Others slant across steep slopes of shale and grit and some of the cols are so narrow that you could sit astride the ridge with legs dangling on either side. Due to the difficulty of the Tour, a clear head and sure-footedness are prerequisites of all who set out.

The Tour of the Oisans is tougher and more demanding than most other multi-day treks in Europe, and although it is a walk that requires no technical mountaineering skills, scrambling ability, sure-footedness and a good head for heights will be called for. The Massif des Écrins is one of the most challenging of Alpine environments, and no one should accept the challenge of this route lightly.

Most of the trails are clearly defined, straightforward and well maintained. But there are also numerous narrow and exposed sections on which great care should be exercised. Even the most undemanding paths can become hazardous when transformed by rain, snow or ice.

  • Seasons
    Avoid before mid-July (snow on highest cols). Accommodation busiest midJuly-end August. Sept is ideal and October can be good, though some accommodation shut in Oct.
  • Centres
    Begins and ends at Bourg d'Oisins, passing through La Grave, Vallouise and La Chapelle-en-Valgaudemar
  • Difficulty
    Tough.... perhaps one of Europe's hardest treks. Scrambling, but no technical mountaineering skills required. High, steep and remote in places, with some uprotected exposed sections... need a good head for heights.


September 2013

Walkers tackling the GR54 will be interested to know  that the small village of Valsenestre, visited at the end of Stage 8 (p112 of the guidebook), now has additional accommodation at the gite, Les Marmottes, which is advertised as being of particular use for families and groups of 4-19 people. Moderately priced, the address is: Les Marmottes, Hameau de Valsenestre, F-38740 Valjouffrey, France. Tel: +33 (0) 4 76 30 24 65 – see

August 2012

Please note the following information received from reader Robin Gill – to whom we owe thanks.
Stage 5: page 79  A navette (minibus) service now operates in summer from Vallouise to the roadhead at Entre les Aygues.  It departs at 07.00am opposite Jacky Sports in Vallouise – to reserve a seat call  04 92 50 25 05; or enquire at the tourist office.
Stage 9: pages 114/116  A well-made zigzag path has now been cut in the slates leading to Col de la Muzelle from the south, thus eliminating the need for scrambling.
Kev Reynolds

June 2012

Page 106 & 136
Please note that a new gîte has been opened in the small village of LE DÉSERT-EN-VALJOUFFREY (Stage 7) which could be useful for trekkers walking the Tour of the Oisans.
Le Gîte des Arias is open all year; it has 20 places (beds & dorms), meals provided & self-catering facilities.  Tel: (0033) [0]607443420  Email:  Website:

August 2008

page 81: At PONT DES FONTAINES do not cross the bridge (the route has been diverted), but remain on the right-hand side of the river until you come to the road through the Vallee d'Entraigues, and rejoin the described route at PONT DES PLACES.
page 92:  In the final paragraph on this page please note that a new bridge has been built by the old house. This is where you now cross the stream.
page 95: LA CHAPELLE-EN-VALGAUDEMAR  Please note that this is the last real opportunity to buy supplies until you reach Bourg d'Oisans at the end of the trek. 
page 106:  LE DESERT-EN-VALJOUFFREY  Supplies are no longer available at the Bar des Ecrins, although meals are.   A few basic foodstuffs may be purchased from the Auberge l'Eterlou 


The Route
Suggested Itineraries
How to Get There
When to Go
Notes for Walkers
Recommended Map
Safety in the Mountains
The Parc National des Écrins
Alpine Flowers and Wildlife
Using the Guide
Information at a Glance
Part 1 Bourg d'Oisans to Vallouise
Stage 1 Bourg d'Oisans – Besse-en-Oisans
Stage 2 Besse-en-Oisans – La Grave
Stage 3 La Grave – Monêtier-les-Bains
Stage 4 Monêtier-les-Bains – Vallouise
Part 2 Vallouise to Bourg d'Oisans
Stage 5 Vallouise – Refuge du Pré de la Chaumette
Stage 6 Refuge du Pré de la Chaumette – La Chapelle-en-Valgaudemar
Alt Stage 6 Refuge du Pré de la Chaumette – La Chapelle via Vallon d'Isola
Stage 7 La Chapelle-en-Valgaudemar – Le Désert-en-Valjouffrey
Stage 8 Le Désert-en-Valjouffrey – Valsenestre
Stage 9 Valsenestre –Refuge de la Muzelle
Alt Stage 9 Valsenestre – Bourg d'Arud
Stage 10 Refuge de la Muzelle – Bourg d'Oisans
Alt Stage 10 Bourg d'Arud – Bourg d'Oisans
Appendix A Accommodation
Appendix B Useful Addresses
Appendix C Bibliography
Appendix D French–English Glossary
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