Varambon and Grand Crêt d'Eau
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Varambon and Grand Crêt d'Eau
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Varambon and Grand Crêt d'Eau

History & heritage
Landscapes
Pastoralism and agriculture
Difficult
4h
8,3km
+0m
0m
Circular
GR® (Long distance)
GRP® (Long distance through a local area)
PR® (Walking & hiking trail)
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South of the National Natural Reserve of the High Jura mountain range is the Crêt de la Goutte at an altitude of 1,610 m in the mountains of Grand Crêt d’Eau. Mountain pastures, mountain chalets, and alpine panoramas characterise this circuit with the addition of a discovery trail on the topic of mountain pastures. 

“Naming the southern tip of the Jura mountains is a story of “O”s: Crêt d’Eau falling abundantly, Credo because one needs faith during the ascent, crêt d’Haut with none higher, crêt d’Aulps in reference to the alpine pastures... But the most important thing is the view from the top!” Marc Forestier (“Que faire dans le Parc naturel régional du Haut-Jura”, What to do in the High-Jura Regional Natural Park, Dakota Edition)


13 points of interest
Natural environments

National Natural Reserve of the High Jura mountain range

At the far south-east of the Jura massif is the long Jura mountain range. From the Rhône water gap to the south, to the Swiss border to the North, and overlooking the Lake Geneva basin, the high Jura mountain range separates the Pays de Gex from the valley of the Valserine.

Created in 1993, the National Natural Reserve ensures the preservation of mountainous environments that could be altered by development and potentially high tourist numbers. The reserve aims to ensure a balance between farming and forest exploitation and preserving the wealth of natural heritage in this area. The diversity of vegetation groups, in various colours and environments, are part of the originality of these high mountain range landscapes.
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Fauna

Restricted Areas for Wildlife

In winter, extreme climate conditions weaken wildlife. It survives by preserving its energy. In the spring, out come the parades, the chants, the mating rituals and the “raising” of young. These two periods are both ones in which animal species are particularly vulnerable. In order to ensure their much-needed tranquillity during these seasons, and to improve the success rate during mating season, the Reserve has set up Restricted Areas for Wildlife, where visitors are prohibited from leaving the waymarked paths from 15 December to 30 June.

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History & Heritage

The cheese stone

This stone is all that remains of the low wall that once protected an old goya, and which prevented cattle from polluting the water. Several stories claim to explain the name given to this strange stone. While some say that this was where the surrounding lords used to pay their taxes, part of which included a portion of their summer cheese production, others say that this stone served as a resting place when men used to transport cheese on their backs (excerpt from the booklet: “Au fil de l’alpage” or “Through the alpine pasture”).
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Pastoralism and agriculture

The Grand Crêt d’Eau mountain pastures

The mountain pasture’s naked landscape is the result of the secular actions of men and herds. They cleared all the forests that once almost-entirely covered the Jura mountains. Only the highest summits escaped the forest after the melting of glaciers(excerpt from the booklet: “Au fil de l’alpage” or “Through the alpine pasture”).
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Viewpoint

The Mont Blanc

In the middle of the Alps mountain range, directly opposite you, is the Mont Blanc. Culminating at 4,810 meters, this is the highest summit in western Europe. Its white shape, which extends to the north (left) towards the Aiguille du Midi and the Aiguilles de Chamonix, makes it easy to recognise.

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Peak – Viewpoint

Viewpoint from the Crêt de la Goutte

The Crêt de la Goutte, at 1621 metres in altitude, is the highest point of the Grand Crêt d’Eau. During good weather, it offers a superb panorama. The Jura ranges are replaced by the plateaux of Bugey and the Alpes mountain range with its snowy summits (excerpt from the booklet: “Au fil de l’alpage” or “Through the alpine pasture”).

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History & Heritage

The low mountain pasture walls

These low walls were built during the 19th century to set the borders for the mountain pastures purchased by well-off owners from Collonges or as dividers between the forest and the mountain pastures (at the time, herds were not allowed to wander into the woods). Today, these walls are home to a particular variety of fauna. Reptiles, birds and mustelids alike are attracted to these structures (excerpt from the booklet: “Au fil de l’alpage” or “Through the alpine pasture”).

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Fauna

The Alpine citril finch

As states in its name, the citril finch is a true mountain-dweller. In France, it can be found in the Vosges, the Jura, the Massif Central, the Alpes and the Pyrenees. It usually settles on the upper boundaries of coniferous forests, in wooded meadows or in alpine lawns. Very sociable, it likes to live in a community; and it can often be identified from its very characteristic chirps when moving in small groups. This bird is gradually disappearing in the lower altitudes of the High-Jura Park and is now almost exclusively concentrated in the high mountain range. One of the results of climate change ?

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Flora

Martagon lily

You may see the martagon lily in bloom in the summer, with its high stems that can reach up to 1.5 metres in height! But be careful, picking and pulling out these plants is forbidden as they are protected by law. We also remind you that in the Natural reserve, you are prohibited from picking up any animal, floral or geological items (excerpt from the booklet: “Au fil de l’alpage” or “Through the alpine pasture”).

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Pastoralism and agriculture

Goyas

“Goyas” - natural-looking artificial ponds - are scattered across the Grand Crêt d’Eau mountain pastures. In spring, when the snow melts, these goyas fill with water. A myriad of alpine newt tadpoles can be seen wriggling here in the morning sun.

The quick absorption of water by the karstic sub-soil and the lack of sources on summits led men to create these watertight reserves for livestock (excerpt from the booklet: “Au fil de l’alpage” or “Through the alpine pasture”). 

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Natural environments

High forests

Varambon forest is very old. It is primarily comprised of firs trees, spruces, beech trees, maple trees and rowan trees, and was partly used for livestock. Managed according to the selection system by foresters during the 19th and 20th centuries, this forest is still of major biological interest. As a part of the National Natural Reserve created in 1993, it must remain a calm and tranquil area to encourage the western capercaillie, the hazel grouse and many other birds to continue to come (excerpt of the booklet: “Au fil de l’alpage” or “Through the alpine pasture”).
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History & Heritage

The remains of the mountain village of Varambon

In a small depression, on the edge of the woods, many nettles have now grown. Nettles are nitrophilous plants (meaning they love nitrate) and they grow in the ruins of old mountain cabins, feeding several centuries later on the remnants of animal’s bedding (excerpt from the booklet: “Au fil de l’alpage” or “Through the alpine pasture”).
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History & Heritage

The Varambon chalet

The sizeable roof of this chalet protrudes from the middle of this mountain pasture and is a place of shelter during times of rain or fog.

Built during the first half of the 19th century, the Varambon chalet is the last remnant of the mountain pasture on the Grand Crêt D’Eau. It once housed a central kitchen in which the cheesemaker made Comté or Bleu de Gex. The two rooms located to the north served to keep milk fresh (the dairy) and to store cheese (the attic). Two stables to the south, which are now open to hikers during the day (and hold exhibits on the life of shepherds in the large stable), were home to around sixty dairy cows, young cattle and pigs, who were fattened up with whey (excerpt from the booklet: “Au fil de l’alpage” or “Through the alpine pasture”).

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Description

From the parking lot in La Charnaz, the trail heads up the stony path to the right (yellow and red waymarking) and opens onto the pasture of Varambon. Arrive at Below the Ridges (Marker no. 4 of the discovery trail: Through the alpine pasture).

Head uphill to your left into the alpine pasture, following the cattle trails, before coming to a little ridge at The Cheese Stone.

The trail heads along the fence to your right (white and red waymarking) and turns left to reach the CRET DE LA GOUTTE.

Head along the rocky outcrop and then follow along a fence until you come to a “goya”. Follow directions towards Sorgia d’en Haut which will lead you to an old low stone wall. Continue to your right (stony path), and head along a few goyas until you come to Between the Ridges.

Descend through the pasture until you come close to the Sorgia d’en Haut ruins (recent goya).

Follow the stony path to your right (yellow waymarking) to reach the la Charmante parking lot. The forest path descends to the right towards Menthières. At the Under Varambon parking lot, continue your descent on this road for 700 metres until you reach the edge of the Reserve.

The old Varambon path ascends to your right and, after a bend, enters the pasture. You will come to a crossroads. Take the stony path to your left until you come to the chalet of Varambon. Continue on your ascent through the alpine pasture until you reach the Under the Ridges intersection and return to the parking lot where you started the same way you came (yellow and red waymarking).

Departure : La Charnaz near Menthières
Arrival : La Charnaz near Menthières
Towns crossed : Collonges, Confort, Valserhone

Sensitive areas

Along your trek, you will go through sensitive areas related to the presence of a specific species or environment. In these areas, an appropriate behaviour allows to contribute to their preservation. For detailed information, specific forms are accessible for each area.
Impacted practices:
Aerial, Aquatic, Amenities, Underground, Land-based
Sensitivity periods:
JanFebMarAprMayJunDec
Contact:
Réserve naturelle nationale de la Haute Chaîne du Jura
135, rue de Genève
01170 GEX

Tél : 04 50 41 29 65
E-mail : contact@rnn-hautechainedujura.fr

Site : https://www.rnn-hautechainedujura.fr/reglementation/
Impacted practices:
Aerial, Aquatic, Amenities, Amenities, Underground, Land-based
Sensitivity periods:
JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Contact:
Réserve naturelle nationale de la Haute Chaîne du Jura
135, rue de Genève
01170 GEX
Tél : 04 50 41 29 65
E-mail : contact@rnn-hautechainedujura.fr
Site : https://www.rnn-hautechainedujura.fr
Western capercaillie
Impacted practices:
, Land-based
Sensitivity periods:
JanFebMarAprMayJunDec
Contact:
Parc naturel régional du Haut-Jura
29 Le Village
39310 Lajoux
03 84 34 12 30
www.parc-haut-jura.fr

Recommandations

To be avoided during foggy or stormy weather.

This trail passes through one of the National Natural Reserve of the High-Jura’s Restricted Areas for Wildlife.

Within the entire Reserve: dogs are not permitted, nor is the picking of flowers or the picking up of any vegetal, animal or geological items. Bivouacking is only allowed near to chalets, such as the Gralet chalet here.

In the La Charnaz-Varambon Restricted Area: between 15 December and 30 June, you are prohibited from leaving the waymarked path.

Furthermore, this trail passes through pastures with livestock and forest paths. To respect the owners and farmers granting you passage, and for the security of livestock and wild fauna, we ask that you remain on the waymarked paths. Use the adapted passageways to get across fencing and be sure to close gateways behind you.

In case of forest works (felling, skidding, etc.), for your safety, know when to stop and turn around.

Information desks

Tourist information centre - Terre Valserine

13 rue de la République, 01200 Bellegarde-sur-Valserine

http://www.terrevalserine.fr/

+33 (0)4 50 48 48 68

Find out more

Transport

To visit and get about in the High-Jura, visit www.reshaut-jura.fr, the eco-mobility portal listing all means of transport within the Park.


Access and parking

10 km northeast of Confort via the D 16 (towards Menthières), then take the forest path of Sorgia from the Castle and finally, take the forest path left towards La Charnaz.

Parking :

Roadside at La Charnaz

Report a problem or an error

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