Col de Côte Belle from Valsenestre
The trail makes for a very pleasant walk. At first, it is shaded, filled with flowers for much of the summer and rises in well-marked loops to the mountains pass. The trail is a chance to immerse yourself in several natural environments, showing you how the vegetation adapts to the terrain, as you go upwards through forest, tall grassland and Alpine grasses. A big surprise, when you get to the Organs - you feel like you have arrived on another planet, the result of a natural evolution of the limestone rock and limestone schist.
Georgette Guidetti, Secretary-receptionist in Valbonnais
Tall herb fringe communities
Tall herb fringe communities form a landscape linked to very precise conditions in terms of climate (wet summers and snowy winters), topography (long ubac slopes where névé sometimes remains on the ground deep into the summer), altitude (subalpine tier from 1600 to 2100 metres) and soil (unsaturated soils with large water reserves).
In the Combe des Echarennes, as you take the path to the left, you can see, in the gorges of the Béranger mountain stream, wooden dams made by the RTM (mountain terrain restoration department of the National Forests Office) to hold back the flow of debris carried down from the mountains during heavy rain and floods.
This robust hardy perennial with a thick, hollow and grooved stalk belongs to the parsley and carrot family, and can grow from 60 to 150 cm high. Its large umbels of white flowers bloom from July to September. Very little known, in France it only grows in the Alpine areas and for this reason is worthy of attention.
This is an uncommon and protected species, measuring 30 to 60 cm. The flowers are quite large and have a magnificent blue colour, blossoming at the head of the stem, and are the only ones with afive petals in the corolla. They are not to be confused with the common columbine, which has smaller flowers and is more widespread.
Flock of sheep
A flock of sheep belonging to local farmers graze at the summit of the mountain pass near the Pic de Valsenestre. In summer these animals with their thick woolly coats can enjoy the shade of the willows that you can see just before arriving at the col (alt. 2220 m).
European violet willow
This is a shrub in the subalpine tier. It is less than one metre tall and grows in small groups on the ubac. At lower altitude, it may grow taller. You can recognise it from a distance through its characteristic shiny, silvery colour and its growth in circular beds. Adult leaves feel very silky on both sides.
This is a typical plant in tall herb fringe communities, measuring 50 to 100 cm. It has royal blue flowers shaped like helmets and grouped together in loose bunches. Their particularity is that they are highly toxic! Herbivores are aware of this and don’t eat them.
From the village of Valsenestre, go up the track alongside the Béranger torrent, past the limits of the National Park and you arrive at the Les Touches bridge. Continue as far as a fork and follow the path to the right. The path enters a small wood of resinous trees, then runs alongside the stream at the bottom of the gorge before finally moving away to the left as it rises in altitude. Here, you can see the torrential corrective work (wooden dams) conducted by the RTM restoration services. Continue upwards along a winding path through the forest. On the way, you will come across a fairly rare plant, the pleurospermum austriacum. Cross the high grassland, with a whole host of plants, including the aconitum variegatum and the achillea macrophylla. A little higher, you will see the Alpine columbine, after which the low-lying Alpine grass gradually replaces the forest. Continue up to the Valsenestre Organs. Through wide loops, you arrive at the mountain pass to see a very fine panorama. Follow the same route on the way back. The descent is also possible towards Le Désert en Valjouffrey.
Maison du Parc du Valbonnais
Place du Docteur Eyraud, 38740 Entraigues
04 76 30 20 61
Reception, information, temporary exhibition room, reading room and video-projection on demand. Shop: products and works of the Park. Free admission. All animations of the Park are free unless otherwise stated.
Access and parking
D26 from La Mure. D526 from Pont du Prêtre. D117 from Entraigues to La Chapelle et Valsenestre.
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