At the end of a narrow, winding road – typical of Oisans – nestling against the Taillefer mountainside, Oulles sits opposite the Massif des Grandes Rousses and the best-known peaks of the Ecrins National Park. An incredible panoramic view can be enjoyed from just above the village.
The smallest village in Isère is a breath of fresh air and calm, away from the large international resorts and proof of the diversity on offer in Oisans.
- Panoramic view
- Road with switchbacks (cycling)
- Mountain hut
The main mountain activities can all be enjoyed in Oulles. Firstly, cycling, with the 7 km of switchbacks to be tackled during the climb, which nevertheless remains pleasant thanks to the shady trees and the fact that the road is protected from the wind. There are also plenty of family hiking opportunities, including the path to Ornon, and the more challenging (yet perfectly accessible) hike up to the Taillefer mountain hut and the Grand Galbert, Lac du Poursollet, Taillefer, Lac Fourchu and Puy d’Oulles, to name but a few. In winter, the same paths can be explored on snow shoes and as part of a ski touring trip. Finally, a downhill mountain bike trail (Chemin de Malaine) starts from the village, but is best left to the experts, with 84 switchbacks for a 680 m descent!
History and Heritage
The first written records of the church of Oulles date back to 1100.
From the seventeenth to the nineteenth century, iron, lead and copper were mined by a number of companies. In bygone eras, the population of the village numbered several hundred, reaching a total of 296 in 1851 (compared to 7 permanent residents today!).
The architecture of the village farms bears witness to the agricultural activity of inhabitants, which has been the main source of subsistence over the centuries. The attraction of these isolated locations is partly explained by the significant amount of grass available, both in the high pastures and on the mountainside. This enabled local breeders to live from their livestock and the village to rent part of the pastureland to transhumant herders.
Before the road was built, the village was reached by mule track: via the Ornon Road, followed by the Chemin des carrières, by the Col de la Buffe, the hamlet of Le Puy from La Pallud or via the hamlet of Maleine from the Plaine des Sables and La Paute. A road suitable for motor vehicles was then cut out of the rocky mountainside and opened in 1962.
Julienne Girard: first female guide in France
Over 80 years ago, on 10 May 1933, Julienne Girard from Oulles en Oisans became the first female guide-porter in the Club Alpin Français, thereby opening the door to other women.
One of four daughters, Julienne was born on 23 December 1907. Her parents ran the village cafe and in the winter, her father travelled away from home peddling his wares.
At the age of 26, Julienne became both a CAF guide-porter and a member of the mountain rescue team. She passed her diploma on 10 May 1933.
In winter time, if people were swept away by a sudden snow slide, Julienne and the avalanche dogs she bred were called out. Yet this activity did not provide her with a living, so she went down to the valley to work in the Sarenne weaving mill in Bourg d’Oisans. She didn’t think twice about returning – sometimes every evening – to her house in Oulles, with its blue facade decorated with yellow stars that can still be seen today. For a time, she was a sales representative for the famous Singer brand of sewing machines.
But her real life lay in the Oisans mountains and the Massif du Taillefer, which she knew by heart, taking her clients on hikes, as well as to the mines in Oulles. She also had excellent knowledge of local plants and used them to treat fellow villagers.
Julienne was a pious, generous and devoted person. No wedding in the village was complete without her contribution, in particular for making doves and roses. Following an illness, she died in Grenoble in 1972.
The Oulles mines
Silver lead was mined in Oulles for centuries from the Middle Ages onwards, with the veins being mined industrially from 1785. In 1852, to avoid downtime, houses were built on site for 40 to 50 workers, although these same workers refused to mine in the winter as the veins were at an altitude of over 2300 m! The houses were destroyed in an avalanche, although the ruins still remain. Between 1905 and 1922, silver lead, malachite, copper and quartz were brought down by cable from an altitude of 1700 m to washing facilities in the Romanche Valley. This hoist went through a small valley, now known as the Valley of the Hoist (La Combe du Treuil), which started at the foot of the southern ridge of the Grand Galbert. The First World War brought this enterprise to an end.
For more information, contact Office de Tourisme de Bourg-d’Oisans
Oppening periodsFrom 01/01 to 31/12.
Closed exceptionally on January 1st, May 1st, May 8th, November 1st, November 11th and December 25th.
September to June
Monday to Saturday : 9am - 12am and 2pm - 6pm
July and August
Everyday : 9am to 6pm.