The Muzelle et Le Lauvitel lakes
By walk
The Muzelle et Le Lauvitel lakes
Les Deux Alpes

The Muzelle et Le Lauvitel lakes

Lake and glacier
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This fine Alpine crossing follows the GR54 and the Col du Vallon, providing hikers with a view over the Muzelle and Lauvitel lakes.

The Col du Vallon is the meeting point of two valleys that both contain a high-altitude lake, but otherwise have their own characteristics. A “total” reserve and a paved path are the charming features of the Lauvitel valley, while the Muzelle valley is enriched by pastoral farming, a refuge and peat bogs.

13 points of interest

A bit of history concerning the valley of Muzelle

At the end of the 19th century the forest was practically nonexistent, it had been reduced in favour of pastoral activity (on the higher planes) and for the culture of cereals, principally barley, above the inhabited areas. Towards 1945, the highest hamlets, like the one at Laffreyte above Bourg-d'Arud, were emptied of their inhabitant. Today the forest has gained ground covering the memory of a few ruins at the bottom of the track... Before the arrival of the motor car and the creation of roads, this itinerary around the lake and the Muzelle mountain pass was often used by the inhabitants of Venosc in order to cross the valley to the neighbouring valley of Valbonnais.

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The pastoral valley

The configuration of the site made it very favourable to pastoralism for several centuries. This area of pastures was rented during the 19th and 20th centuries to seasonal grazers from the South of France. The local flocks from Venosc and particularly the flock from the hamlet of Laffreyte also went there. At that time, the first animals up in the mountain each year were the cows then the sheep. Since the 1980s, a flock of sheep of round 1200 animals from the Hautes-Alpes summer graze from June onwards and spend the summer in this prairie.

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Muzelle bog

The humid zone, which you cross just before Muzelle lake, is bursting with astonishing biodiversity. The remains of a big lake created during the retreat of the glacier, this marsh has become filled little by little with plants forming the biggest bog in Vénéon valley. For several generations, the shepherds have used the peat as a fuel. Today it is forbidden to extract it. The place is protected by fences as part of agri-environmental measures.

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Geology and geography

Ser Barbier Fault

The fault at Ser Barbier brings into contact the crystalline bas (the needle of Venosc) and a marly deposit (Vallon mountain pass). It was formed during the Jurassic period when the Téthys sea opened out, by breaking and crumbling the crystalline massif. The rubbing together of the two parts created a beautiful striated mirror clearly visible due to erosion.

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Fauna and Flora in the Bog

The bog is a very special environment which, by definition produces peat. Its appearance is that of a carpet of spongy sphagnum, plants full of water similar to mosses that accumulate over time. Their scientific study has enabled us to trace the evolution of the climate as well as that of the vegetation. The bogs can be seen at a distance when the Cotton Grass is in flower. Etymologically its name in French describes the 'portelaine' (wool carrier): its fluffy tufts and its cottony appearance make it an easily identifiable plant... You can also see around here and animal that is very active in this area: the common frog. Resistant to the cold, it is a batrachian which is very well adapted to the alpine environment. The yellow abdomen and the large dark mark at the back of the eye incorporating the ear drum are two characteristics observable with this species...

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Muzelle refuge

The bottom of the valley comes up to the rock wall at Muzelle, the pic du Clapier du Peyron and the head of the Muraillette. The modern history of this place is marked by mountaineering. It was on the 2nd July 1875 that Coolidge guided by  Almer father and son opened the normal way to Roche de la Muzelle by the East North East face and  the North-East ridge.. At this time, even if a pastoral cabin was used by the mountaineers the bivouac was still often used in the Muzelle valley. In 1967, it was in the rocky cirque that the community built the refuge on the shore of Muzelle lake. 

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Lac de la Muzelle

The Lac de la Muzelle is a glacier lake with cold waters, poor in life. The fish population is limited to salmonids (Arctic char, brook trout, etc.). Their active period is limited to summer. Since their food sources are low, they suffer from dwarfism. Each year, scientific monitoring is carried out by various universities and the National Park: samples of fish, phytoplankton, zooplankton and physical measurements.

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Griffon vultures

From the Col du Vallon, you can sometimes see griffon vultures. The bird returned to the mountains a few years ago. Bigger than an eagle, with beige and brown plumage, it generally glides in flight, and its movements are broad and slow. But what characterises the species above all is its gregariousness: griffon vultures like to be together, whether on the ground or in the air. This behavioural adaptation makes it easier for them to find the animal carcasses they feed on.

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Golden eagles

Several birds of prey cross the skies above L’Oisans. Among them are two couples of golden eagles that share the Muzelle and Lauvitel valleys. They have an impressive wingspan (2.30 m on average), are mostly brown colour, and often hunt marmots at low altitude.
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Réserve intégrale du Lauvitel

The Lauvitel full reserve area was created on 9 May 1995, and is a first in France in a National Park. It lies at the end of the valley and has been owned by the state since 1980. This area, where all human activity is forbidden, is a site for scientific observation of an environment over the long term. Vegetation, animals, water and climate are studied and compared with the data from other sites. Access to the reserve is strictly forbidden except for scientific purposes.
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The marmots are some of the permanent inhabitants of the grassland at the alpine level. . The view is very open, the herbaceous food is abundant and the soil sufficiently soft for them to be able to dig their burrows which are necessary for their survival.  Although this animal is wild animal, it can become accustomed to the presence of humans and some marmots have started the bad habit of begging for pieces of biscuit from hikers, crisps and apples. Please do not feed them ! These foods, which are unsuitable to their needs, damage their health and survival. Would you think of eating grass in order to survive?

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Traditional Paving

The Lauvitel path is often used especially during the summer. To limit the occurrence of erosion linked to the impact of human use but also to water flowing from melting ice or rain water it is covered with traditional paving, maintained thanks to annual restoration.

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Danchère Hamlet

With its paved lanes, its fountains and its stone wash-house, the Danchère offers an ideal starting point for going to Lauvitel which attracts 30 000 visitors every year. It is one of the numerous hamlets that make up the commune of Vénosc.

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When you leave the village of L'Alleau, cross the little bridge and take the paved path rising steeply into the forest. Continue along the path alongside the left bank of the Muzelle torrent. Once you arrive at the foot of a large schist slope, the path crosses the torrent and zigzags its way up through several loops to reach fine grassland, then a hollow filled with a peat bog. You finally arrive at a small "hump", from where you can see the Muzelle lake and refuge. Go down to the lake, walk round it to the right as far as the spillway and cross the bridge. At the fork, turn right into the meadows. You cross an area of rocks, following the cairns. The way continues as far as the Col up a steep grassy slope. The descent to the Lauvitel is via the right bank of the Embernard stream, through a large number of bends, and across a few rocky slabs and a combe. You arrive at Lake Lauvitel and its chalets via Pré des Selles. From there, go to the Danchère by turning right at the fork. The descent follows an old paved path with small walls on either side. You will see the St Croix Oratory just before arrving at the first houses in La Danchère. To get to Le Bourg d'Arud on foot, cross La Danchère and take the path along the left bank of the Vénéon as you leave the village.

  • Departure : L'Alleau
  • Arrival : La Danchère
  • Towns crossed : Les Deux Alpes, Le Bourg-d'Oisans

Altimetric profile

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, Land, Vertical
Sensitivity periods:
PN Écrins
Short-toed snake eagle
Impacted practices:
Sensitivity periods:
Parc National des Écrins
Julien Charron


Circuit not accessible in winter due to risk of avalanches.

Herd protection dogs

In mountain pastures, protection dogs are there to protect the herds from predators (wolves, etc.).

When I hike I adapt my behavior by going around the herd and pausing for the dog to identify me.

Find out more about the actions to adopt with the article "Protection dogs: a context and actions to adopt".
Tell us about your meeting by answering this survey.
Is in the midst of the park
The national park is an unrestricted natural area but subjected to regulations which must be known by all visitors.

Information desks

Oisans Park house

Rue Gambetta, 38520 Le Bourg d'Oisans

04 76 80 00 51

Video presentation of the natural resources of the Oisans mountain and its crafts. Information, documentation about the Park, projections, reading space for children. Accessible to people with reduced mobility. Free admission. All animations of the Park are free unless otherwise stated.

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Access and parking

Take the D530 towards La Bérarde. In Bourg d'Arud, turn right towards L'Alleau and park in the village.

Parking :

In the village of L'Alleau


Parc national des Ecrins

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