Hiking near Grenoble

Specifically at the Espace naturel sensible du plateau de la Molière et du Sornin (quite a mouthful I know)

Aka my first snow hike with absolutely no gear (except hiking shoes) – and it was amazing

To make things clear, I am not, in any form or way, a hiker. Until last year, I’ve hiked like 3 times in my 30 plus years of existence. However, due to interactions with some person (who shall not be named), I have now found myself hiking more in the past year than I’ve ever done in 30 years.

So last Valentine’s weekend, I found myself visting mon copain in Grenoble. A city surrounded by mountains and is pretty much the starting point of the French Alps. I’ll reserve my observations of Grenoble for another post.

On that Saturday, we decided to take advantage of the great weather (it was sunny af) and drove out to Lans en Vercors. It’s more known as a ski town but just near it is one of the starting points of several hiking routes in Le plateau de la Molière.

The drive from Grenoble goes through some amazing views of Grenoble and the mountains

I suck at taking pictures from the car

As we started a bit late from Grenoble, so we decided to take a quick lunch right at the entrance of the city from the highway.

As we wanted to sit down and eat, we ended up at the corner pizza place called Merken Pizza.

I highly recommend this place! The guys were super great and nice and gave us some advice on our planned hike route. They also have a great terrace for enjoying the sun and view, as well as a cozy indoor seating area that’s great for taking a break from the cold. As the weather was sunny, we enjoyed their great pizzas out on their terrace.

After that heavy lunch (which maybe wasn’t such a good idea for the hike), we drove to the starting point of the hike.

All these hiking/naturey stuff is still quite new to me so I was surprised to find that the designated parking for the start off point was completely full. Luckily, as we came after lunch, there were some people who had finished their morning hikes and we could find a place to park. Note that it can be tricky as the roads are extremely small and can only fit one car at a time. It can be challenging to navigate.

Parking problem solved, it was time for my latest hiking challenge.

Placard at the entrance of the parc

The route we decided to follow was called Pas d’ours – which supposedly means footsteps of bears. I checked recently and found that bears have been gone from these mountains for quite a long time already.

We used Viso Rando on our phone to look for the route and make sure we were following it. So far it’s quite good as it shows you the difficulty level and the topography of the route. You can also use it while hiking as it works with GPS.

The image below is what we were supposed to follow, but we were running out of sunlight so we took a shortcut from point 4 to point 9.

Route

Note that we chose this parc and route because it was one of the easiest (supposedly) around that would afford us great views.

Easy – it was not (for me anyway). The first couple of kilometers were all uphill and my poor unfit body was suffering. I never knew I could sweat so much while being surrounded by so much snow.

The parc itself though, is amazing. Snow covered mountains, with the smell of nature and sounds of birds chirping. Maybe we started late, so we barely encountered any other hikers and that just added to this amazing feeling of being in nature.

Hiking trails in France are amazingly well maintained. Paths are regularly cleared and there are clear trail demarcations in every possible fork. But of course, it doesn’t mean that trails are completely devoid of any challenge. The trails were full of snow but already quite packed as it hasn’t snowed in a couple of days. There was also a super steep incline where snow had partially melted so it was quite slippery.

Start of the trail and condition of the trail
Some areas still had thick snow

The funniest thing though was that we did not prepare at all for this hike. I only brought along my snow hiking boots and V (mon copain) only had normal hiking boots (ankle high – terrible for deep snow) – so we were quite the odd people out in all the hikers we encountered fully decked out in waterproof clothes and racket shoes.

At some point, the path led us up a crazy uphill climb with thigh high deep snow. Before we started, we encountered an older group of French hikers who were quite concerned for our lack of proper snow accoutrements. The women were all like, oh no, be careful it’s quite dangerous without hiking sticks. The men were all like, no no it’s fine, just walk on the foot trails of the other hikers. It was quite a nice encounter.

Jack and Jill went up the hill

The crazy hike was worth it though as the view on top was AMAZEBALLS.

Pictures don’t do this view justice

The hike was quite easy while up on the plateau so we took our time just appreciating the view.

As we were worried about the sun, we decided to take a shortcut and go directly from point 4 to point 9 in the trail. This would make us end up right at the gite (Gite d’Alpage de la Moliere) to take a small break.

And yes, amazingly there is a gite in the middle of the wilderness where it takes at least 2 hours to reach by foot.

However, taking this shortcut meant growing down this insane drop.

The drop

So anyway long story short, we survived. I won’t go into details of how, but I will leave you with one phrase “butt sliding”.

We finally reached the gite and was in need of a beer (or two) but SADLY – we forgot we didn’t have cash. The owners were super nice and proposed that we just send him a check when we get back home (I mean how can people be this trusting – it’s amazing!). In the end, we decided to just continue on and get back to the starting point.

Gite d’alpage de la moliere

On the way back, we encountered more hiker families going back from a day in the mountains and it was great to see all these families taking part in these activities that do not require just sitting around and looking at screens all day. It was refreshing.

At the end of the day, we decided to return back to Lans en Vercors, walked a bit around the city (like 4 hours of walking wasn’t enough) and eventually settled at le camp de base.

View from base camp

Some photos of Lans en Vercors

Overall, it was an amazing day and I can finally check off “hike in the snow” from my non-existent bucket list. 🙂

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