Madonne de la Fenestre
Lacs de Prals
This time we are doing a hike in everyone’s favourite valley, the Vesubie. There are so many middle and high mountain trails that start in this valley that you will be spoilt for choice.
Today I’m taking you on a perfect summer hike to the Lacs de Prals. Lakes are abundant in this valley but you have to be up high to find them.
This trail can be done between May and November and is a Happy Hiker Blue trail with a positive gain of 530 m which will take you about 4 hours to complete.
The starting point at Madonne de la Fenestre is very famous for its sanctuary and mountain refuge and is the start point for many trails.
In Saint-Martin-Vésubie, the beautiful town you will drive through on your way up, they call the Lacs de Prals, the five lakes and unusually you don’t have to exhaust yourself to reach these ones. If you are brave enough you can even bathe in the lakes (13°c). If you want to climb higher there is an optional add-on where you can go up to the baisse de Prals (2339m) or the cime de la Valette (2496m) to take in a 36
0° view over the whole of the Vésubie and the snowy peaks of the Oisans.
As with many of the high mountain trails there is an opportunity to buy local cheese at the vacherie when you’ve finished your hike.
To reach Madonne de la Fenestre, drive to Saint-Martin-Vésubie and then take the little road on the right (RM 94) which winds up the vallon de Fenestre to the entrance of the sanctuary de la Madonne , shortly after the vallon de Prals.
Park your car on the side of the road as close as you can to the Fenestre sanctuary. It’s always best to set off early to get a good spot (1820m). Starting at way marker 361 follow the wide horizontal track into a beautiful forest.
Soon you reach the vallon de Prals (1832m – way marker 362) where you cross over two bridges. Carry on up the left bank of the valley, then the right bank until you reach Plan de Prals (way markers 363, 364).
The pathway continues on up to the vast plateau where you will find the lakes on different levels of the prairie between 2260 and 2280m.
Carry on up to the nearby Baisse des Cinqs Lacs (2330m – way marker 366), and then go back down the vallon du Ponset on the opposite slope via a steep path until you reach the vallon de Fenestre (way markers 367, 359, 360).
There is another local mountain cheese purchasing opportunity not to be missed at the vacheries de Fenestre, so don’t forget to save a piece of bread for a well-earned snack.
When walking, I advise taking hiking sticks, as they will help you on both the ascents and descents. They also guarantee you get a full body work out. You’ll need a cap and sunglasses to keep the sun off your face (the sun is a lot stronger in the hills and mountains so don’t forget the sunscreen). Remember to take more water than you think you’ll need (at least a litre and a half per person) and enough protein bars for during and after the hike. I always have a high fibre, high protein breakfast before I set off which means that I don’t need to carry a large picnic with me as good quality protein bars are sufficient (always take a couple of extra ones). Purpose-made hiking boots/shoes, a roll-up rain jacket, first aid kit and a rucksack are a must and you will need lighter wear for the Spring/Summer season and heavier/warmer for Autumn and Winter. I have a Bogner zip-up, long-sleeved, lightweight golfing jacket from One Eagle Monaco that not only enables full range of movement but is also great for cooler Spring/Autumn walks as it keeps you at the perfect body temperature. In the winter months you will need extra layers of clothing, gloves, a warm hat and thicker socks. In the summer months when doing high mountain trails, do check the temperature at your destination before setting off as you may need some extra layers. Last but not least, you will need the “Vallée de la Vésubie” TOP 25 n° 3741 0T map (can be purchased online or in some newsagents and sports shops) to mark out your trail before you set off.
If you are a French speaker you can also find the hike on the following link:
but you will still need your IGN map as these on-line guides are only approximate. There are also hike specific apps such as Visorando, which have both free and purchasable versions and can be very useful guides and even have GPS options.
If you have Strava you can record your walk on this app and it will give you lots of fascinating statistics at the end as well as totalling up the number of km/altitude you do in any given year.
When you’re done, I strongly recommend a foot massage using Young Living Essential Foot Oil (a combo of Rosemary, Peppermint and Lavender) – your feet will thank you later!
Enjoy your hike and don’t forget your camera
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