Varambon and Grand Crêt d'Eau
“Through the alpine pasture” trail
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.
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.
The cheese stone
The Grand Crêt d’Eau mountain pastures
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.
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”).
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”).
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 ?
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”).
“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”).
The remains of the mountain village of Varambon
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”).
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).
135, rue de Genève
Tél : 04 50 41 29 65
E-mail : email@example.com
Site : https://www.rnn-hautechainedujura.fr/reglementation/
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.
Access and parking
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