Tour of the Queyras
The GR58 and GR541 in the French Alps
By Alan Castle
The Tour of the Queyras follows the GR58 and half of the GR541 trails. The 12-day Tour described in this guidebook crosses 24 cols, all above 2000m, with options to climb 17 summits of varying difficulty. This route is ideal for those new to Alpine trekking, but also provides optional challenges for the more experienced hiker and hillwalker.
SeasonsMid-June to mid-October without specialist winter walking equipment; refuges particularly busy between 14 July and 15 August; warm, settled weather all summer
CentresNice, Guillestre, Montdauphin, Turin, Abriès, Saint-Véran, Ceillac, Briançon
DifficultySeveral summits can be reached by the ordinary walker, without specialist equipment or skills; other (optional) ascents need more experience; basic route suitable for any fit hillwalker
Must SeeMonte Viso, Pic de Rochebrune, Grand Glaiza, Le Pain de Sucre, Tête des Toillies, Le Grand Queyras, Bric Bouchet, Tête du Pelvas, the Guil valley
The Queyras is a dramatic, unspoilt region of the French Alps, between the Durance Valley and the Italian border. Due to being sheltered to the west by the Écrins, it is one of the sunniest areas of the Alps and the absence of glaciers makes the Queyras ideal hillwalking country as it has several high mountain summits accessible to the ordinary walker and scrambler.
The walking Tour in this guidebook includes most of the standard GR58 trail and about half of the GR541 from the Durance valley into the heart of the Queyras at Funfande. Minor variations are taken occasionally where the route and scenery are preferable to the standard trail. There are various optional and alternative routes, all of which are described in this guidebook. In addition, the Tour includes a number of optional ascents of mountain summits that are passed on the way, but which are not part of any official GR route. In total, the
Tour crosses 24 cols and provides optional ascents of 17 peaks.
The Tour has been divided into 12 stages, each a day long and each stage terminates at a convenient place where overnight accommodation is available. Most of the day stages are not especially long which allows plenty of time for admiring the magnificent scenery or attempting an additional summit or footpath.
There is plenty of variety on the trail, from woodland glades to rocky, high-level cols, from Alpine pastures to airy summits. The Tour includes two excursions into the Italian Alps, and there are opportunities to shorten or lengthen the route as time and conditions dictate. The route is ideal for those new to Alpine walking, while also providing optional challenges for the more experienced.
The French Alps
Walking in the French Alps
The Walking Tour of the Queyras, GR58 and GR541
Climate – When to Go
Travelling to the Queyras
Waymarking and Navigation
Le Parc Naturel Régional du Queyras
Public Holidays and Time in France
Suggestions for Walking Holidays
Notes on Using this Guidebook
Distances, Altitudes and Timings
Stage 1 STAGE 1 The Durance Valley to Furfande
Stage 1 STAGE 2 Furfande to Ceillac
Stage 1 STAGE 3 Ceillac to Saint-Véran
Stage 1 STAGE 4 Saint-Véran to Refuge Agnel
Stage 1 Excursion from Refuge Agnel: Le Pain de Sucre, Lac Foréant and Lac Egourgéou
Stage 1 STAGE 5 Refuge Agnel to Refuge Viso via the Soustra Valley (Italy)
Stage 1 STAGE 6 Refuge Viso to La Monta via the Pellice Valley (Italy)
Stage 1 Stage 6 – Excursions and Alternatives
Stage 1 Alternative to Stage 5 and Stage 6: Refuge Agnel to La Monta via Pic de Foréant and Lac Egourgéou
Stage 1 STAGE 7 La Monta to Abriès (high-level route)
Stage 1 Stage 7 – Excursion
Stage 1 Alternative Stage 7: La Monta to Abriès via Ristolas (low-level route)
Stage 1 STAGE 8 Abriès to Les Fonts de Cervières via Lac du Grand Laus (GR58)
Stage 1 Alternative Stage 8: Abriès to Les Fonts de Cervières via Col des Thures
Stage 1 STAGE 9 Les Fonts de Cervières to Souliers
Stage 1 STAGE 10 Souliers to Brunissard via the Lac de Souliers
Stage 1 STAGE 11 Brunissard to Furfande
Stage 1 STAGE 12 Furfande to the Durance Valley
Summary of Stages
Appendix 1 Gîtes d’étape and Refuges in the Region
Appendix 2 Bibliography
Appendix 3 Useful Addresses, Telephone Numbers and Websites
The official mapping agency in France, the Institut Geographique National (IGN), the equivalent of Britain’s Ordnance Survey, produces the following maps, which are of use to those walking the Tour of the Queyras.
1 IGN Carte de Randonnée 1:25 000
Three maps are required to cover the entire route of the Tour described in this guidebook.
- Sheet 3637 OT. Mont Viso (St-Véran – Aiguilles). Parc Naturel Régional du Queyras.
- Sheet 3537 ET. Guillestre – Vars – Risoul. Parc Naturel Régional du Queyras.
- Sheet 3536 OT. Briançon – Serre-Chevalier – Montgenèvre. Only a very small part of the Tour is shown on this map.
All the 1:25 000 IGN maps are of excellent quality and are highly recommended.
2 IGN 1:60 000
Sheet 06. Queyras – Ubaye. This map covers the whole of the Tour du Queyras and also includes the Tour of Monte Viso.
These maps can be bought from specialist map shops in the UK as well as local and main city outlets in France (see Appendix 3).
Each stage in this guidebook is illustrated by a diagrammatic map of the route.
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Thanks to Donald Degenhardt for the following updated information.
1) See montourduqueyras.fr for a more up-to-date list of accommodation on the Tour du Queyras. This website contains up-to-date opening & closing dates, contact details (addresses, telephone numbers, websites, email addresses) for establishments on the route. The site also allows online booking for many of the gîtes d’étape and refuges listed.
2) Walkers intending to travel to and from the area in September should note that the summer bus schedules now end on 31 August and the only daily service after that is the school bus down from the various villages to Guillestre town at 7 a.m. and back up when school finishes. It is possible for adults to use this service, but note that this bus does not visit Guillestre rail station.
Thanks to Rob Tresidder for the following information.
p32 (final paragraph)
It is now necessary for over 60s to purchase a Carte Sénior to qualify for an age-related discount on SNCF.
p78 (route description, line 2)
The trail is no longer marked with pink dots, there are now just red and white flashes.
When descending from Les Escoyères, a large part of the road can be avoided by a well-engineered footpath (waymarked), which starts at the first hairpin below the church with the sundial.
p81 (final paragraph)
There is no longer a ski lift here. The very ancient remains of a lower station can just be made out.
p86 (route description, line 1)
The route starts opposite the west door of the church. Exit the square by the SE corner.
p96 (route description, line 13)
About 200m, not 50m.
The old waymarking up the Pain de Sucre has now been reported not to be visible on the ground.
There is now no metal cross on the summit of the Pain de Sucre.
The path down the valley towards Chianale has been recently waymarked.
p111 (final paragraph)
The building is the Ricovero Carlo Emanuele III. The ‘sito arrampicato’ has become the ‘Palaestra di Roccia’.
The path descending leads first to the Rifugio Vallante after crossing the stream and climbing back up a few metres. Climb higher still to get to the Rifugio Gagliardone.
The route up Monte Granero is definitely not for the inexperienced, as the absence of waymarking means you have to find your own way. There is also considerable exposure and some moves are probably of ‘Diff’ standard. Be sure to check with the Refugio guardian before attempting this peak.
The gîte in Abriès is found by crossing the bridge next to the square and passing through the gap between the houses opposite. Turn right and find Le Villard immediately on your left.
To leave Abriès climb the wide concrete steps to the left (S) of Le Villard. At the top turn left, down the road and take the first flight of steps on the right. At the top, turn right and at the end of this road, find the GR58 signpost almost hidden in undergrowth. This leads easily left (W) along the calvaire to the church.
Cross a bridge, not a footbridge.
The weather station is on the principal, not the S summit.
One of the less visited parts of the Alps, it is the author’s favourite mountain area in the world. Alan Castle’s aim was to write a comprehensive guide, containing enough information for those making their first trek in the Alps but also with enough options to satisfy the experienced alpine walker, with 17 additional peaks and route variations. In this I feel he has succeeded.
So, if you are a strong walker (as LDWA members are) looking for a first foray into the Alps, or are well-experienced and seeking an area a little off the beaten track, this could be for you.
John Dixie, Strider August 2009
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Alan Castle has trekked and cycled in over 30 countries within Europe, Asia, North and South America, Africa and Australasia. A member of the Outdoor Writers and Photographers Guild, he has written 18 guidebooks, several on long-distance mountain routes in France. An erstwhile national secretary and long-distance path information officer of the Long Distance Walkers Association, Alan now lives at the foot of the Moffat Hills in Scotland.View Guidebooks by Alan Castle