Visiting Le parc national des Ecrins? Don’t miss this gorgeous hike to Lac Noir near the town of La Grave.
Pssst! If you’re planning a trip in the near future, don’t forget to register for travel insurance before you go!
Hiking hasn’t always been something I love.
In fact, I really only like hiking under a set of certain conditions.
First, there sure as hell better be an amazing view at the top.
Second, it better not be hot outside.
Third, there better be food.
The second and third conditions are pretty much my conditions for all excursions. I thought it prudent to list them here anyway.
I’m quite sensitive to heat, especially when there’s an element of exercise involved.
Living here in France, the odds of finding air conditioning are about the same as finding some decent Mexican food (that is to say, none), so in the summer months I make plans to find cooler weather.
Last summer, we took an amazing trip to the Parc national des Ecrins in the French Alps. We stuffed our backpacks and camping gear into the VW and spent a week rough-camping in the park.
The official rule of the park is that you are allowed to “wild camp” between 7pm and 9am and only in places that are at least one hour’s walk from the park limits or nearest roads.
Now, because of my rebellious nature, we often pushed the limits a bit concerning these regulations.
We never overstayed the time limits because we were off being busy during the day, but there were a few nights where we were definitely not a one hour’s walk from the nearest road. It’s not easy to carry a box of wine that far, you know?
Our first night in the park, we decided to hike up to the beautiful Lac Noir to camp. This was kind of a big deal for me because it was the first time I’d ever picked the hike for us.
Usually I play the supporting role of the person who doesn’t really want to be hiking but tags along anyway, making the experience less enjoyable for everyone else involved.
It’s not a particularly lovely aspect of my personality, but there you have it.
This time, I chose the hike!
We had spent the morning and afternoon driving around and enjoying the scenery, so we were both pretty excited to get out of the car and stretch our legs.
We packed up our backpacks (no wine this time, sadly) and hit the trail.
One of the best parts of being the picker-of-the-hike was that I got to determine the length and strenuousness (<–wow, can’t believe that is actually a word!) of said hike.
I chose a little circuit which passes by three mountain lakes and features stunning views of the surrounding peaks.
If we were doing a day hike with no gear, we probably would have started from further away. Since I’m a giant wuss and it was my first time hauling my gear on a proper hike, we parked pretty close.
The Hike to Lac Noir
(For those who want to visit, I’ll leave coordinates and maps at the bottom of the post)
We set out in the evening so we could get to Lac Noir, set up our tent, and watch the sunset.
The hike in was just 2.5 kilometers (about a mile and a half) with an elevation gain of 265 meters (870 feet).
The path is mostly flat until the last half kilometer or so, when it then directs you up over a rocky hillside.
As you crest the top of the hill you’ll get your first peek at the stunning snow-topped mountains.
The views from up here are absolutely stunning!
Once we reached the peak of our climb, we approached what was marked on the map as the first of the three lakes.
You can see in the photo above that we were rather unimpressed with the first “lake.”
At this point I was internally berating myself for having chosen such a poor hike.
We laughed it off and continued on in hopes of finding somewhere a bit more picturesque to sleep.
Fortunately, Lac Noir was only another 200 meters further along the path.
It’s really a tiny little thing, but so lovely against the backdrop of the mountains.
Sadly, some other dumb people were camped on the other side of the lake so they’ve photo-bombed all of our pictures.
Surely they thought the same thing about us, but since we were on the side of the lake which did NOT interfere with taking pictures, I’m confident that they were, in fact, the dumb ones.
I forced my sweetheart to take a triumphant selfie with me. Here we are, celebrating the end of a very mild 45-minute hike.
We set our tent up on the *ahem* correct side of the lake and put ourselves to preparing some dinner.
While eating our traditional baguette and dehydrated tomato soup, we started hearing the sound of bells in the distance.
A little herd of sheep were coming down from their mountain-top grazing site to take refuge for the night.
The sheep might have been my favorite part of the whole experience.
I love animals, even the boring domestic kind, so I was quite happy to watch them amble past.
After dinner we bundled up in our warm clothes to leave the tent and enjoy the sunset.
The colors were remarkable.
While the sunset itself wasn’t spectacular, the shadows on the landscape were stunning.
After a rather chilly night on the plateau, we woke to a stunning blue sky the next morning.
We slept in until about 7:00am or so, and by the time we had our morning coffee the other campers had packed up and left.
The hike back to the car was about 4km (2.5 miles), downhill the whole time. Easy peasy!
We took our time enjoying the scenery along the way.
Not far from Lac Noir you can find the third lake on the circuit, Lac Lérié.
If there’s a bit less wind when you visit, you can snag some awesome reflection photos in these lakes!
Though the paths are well-worn, we didn’t pass any other hikers on the trail.
Think you’ll love this camping spot as much as I did?
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As promised, here are the location details on the hike to Lac Noir: