Located at an altitude of 1530 metres, the Lauvitel lake is the largest lake in the Ecrins mountain range.
One of the most beautiful sites in Oisans.
The Lauvitel valley leads to the lake of the same name – a jewel inserted in the steep, rocky slopes below the peaks of the Rochail (3022 m), Muraillette (3019 m) and the Signal du Lauvitel (2901 m).
On account of its depth (68 m), surface area (37.2 hectares) and volume of water (6.8 million m3), Lac Lauvitel breaks a lot of records!
Adjacent to the lake is the Lauvitel Wilderness Area, which is closed to the public.
This was created in 1955 to “increase protection for fauna and flora in the interest of science” and was the first area of this type to be created in a French national park. Its aim is to “monitor the natural dynamics of ecosystems”. For many years, this was the only wilderness area located inside a French national park and has become a benchmark in its field in France.
About the geology…
The lake formed naturally around 4000 years ago, due to a rock fall adding to a glacier moraine already at the end of the valley. A pile of fragmented boulders bears witness to this cataclysm that blocked off the valley, as does the scree slope above the lake.
During the winter, the ice on the lake is over a metre thick. When the snow melts, the additional water coming down from the surrounding peaks is too much for the natural porous drainage and the lake can rise up to 20 m higher than its summer level, before overflowing.
The path starts at the hamlet of La Danchère, before winding its way up on the enormous rockfall that formed the lake thousands of years ago, but it is a shady and peaceful.
Walk through La Danchère and continue on a good path to the crossroads near Lauvitel stream (Ecrins National Park sign).
Walk up the paved path to the left, on the right-hand side of the stream. On each side of the path, dry stone walls separate the fields.
Cross the Selles stream where you see a water catchment system and walk up the switchbacks among the deciduous trees and spruces. Cross over a number of sources, which are actually resurgences of the lake.
After a section with no trees, but with lovely pastureland, you arrive on a flat section that leads to the shores of Lac Lauvitel (1530 m).
For your return hike, walk alongside the lake to the little chalets. At the junction, take the right-hand path down the left-hand side of the stream to La Danchère. Once in La Danchère, walk back through the hamlet to the car park.
This hike is in the heart of the national park, so please check out the Park regulations.
The path starts at the hamlet of La Danchère
Lac du Lauvitel
Parcking de la Danchère
The Maison du Parc in Bourg d’Oisans
For more information about Lac Lauvitel and other Oisans gems, stop off at the National Park Information Centre (Maison du Parc), which features a display in pictures of the natural diversity of Oisans, as well as traditional mountain labours. There is a wealth of information and leaflets available on the National Park, together with video screenings and reading corner for children.
The Maison du Parc also organises free events throughout the summer.