The Queyras is a wonderful valley located in the Hautes-Alpes department in France. Due to its remoteness, it has been left relatively intact. The Queyras National Park is a protected area since the seventies, date when the thru-hike trail was created. Thru-hiking the Queyras has become a popular activity over the years, thanks to the exquisite landscapes.
We ended our nomadic lives at the start of 2021 and decide to settle in what I consider the most beautiful place in France, Briançon. Thankfully, Briançon is located less than an hour away from the Queyras National Park. Thru-hiking the Queyras has been on my list ever since we moved there and I’m glad to have gotten the chance to complete it sooner than later.
If you like thru-hiking, I put up another article on how to thru-hike the Vercors mountains, also in France.
Presentation of the Thru-Hike
The path you will want to follow is the classic GR58. GR means Grande Randonnée in French, and is the name of various trails around the country, such as the classic GR20 in Corsica or the GR10 in the Pyrenees’ mountains.
The GR58 is a 110-km loop unofficially starting in the village of Ceillac, a ski resort village nestled around 1700m. The total height difference is around 7000 meters. These are all metrics I got first-hand from my watch, although I know most websites say there’s 130 km in total.
The highest pass is the Col de Chamoussière at 2884m and the lowest point is around 1200m.
If you’re in the Briançon area, don’t miss the list of best hikes near Briançon!
When can I do this hike?
The Queyras National Park is a rather remote area and can see huge quantities of snowfall, usually starting in late-October, until April. If you want to hike the whole trail, early-June to the start of October is possible, depending on the snow conditions at the highest passes. If you prefer to walk the lowest sections of the trail, the period from May to November is acceptable.
Bear in mind that the Queyras area will get crowded with tourists in July and August, with a peak between mid-July and mid-August.
How long does it take to thru-hike the Queyras?
Most hikers will take about 7 to 8 days to achieve thru-hiking the Queyras. Good hikers can complete the hike in 4 to 5 days.
Where to Sleep in the Queyras National Park?
Are there accommodation on the path?
Many shelters exist on the GR58 and they’ll provide a warm welcome for tired hikers. They are conveniently located directly on the trail, and offer dorm-setting overnight stay, as well as private rooms for some of them. You would need to book before, especially during the peak months (July-August). The utmost majority of these shelters are not opened all year long, so make sure you check before.
On the GR58, you’ll pass through numerous villages, such as Abries, St-Veran or Ristolas. You’ll be able to find hotels and guesthouses in the main villages, usually providing more comfort than shelters do, although it can get pricey.
Where to find these accommodation?
You can find a list on the official website of Queyras National Park, as well as classic booking options such as booking.com or AirBnb. The tourism agency Tour du Queyras website has also an extensive list.
Can I camp or set up a bivouac?
Yes, it is allowed to set up a bivouac in the Queyras National Park. You won’t get into trouble if you’re far enough from villages and other habitations. The concept of bivouacking is to set up your camp around sunset and to leave in the morning, without leaving anything behind.
More on the matter from the official website of the Queyras National Park if you’re interested (in French).
Thru-Hiking the Queyras National Park in 9 Sections
These 9 sections are the ones of the classic Queyras thru-hike. You can also add variations if you’re keen to do some extra.
Ceillac to St-Veran via the Estronques pass (2651m)
11.5 km – 1090m (up) – 780m (down) – 5.30 hours
A great start of the hike. Be careful of shepherds’ dogs around Ceillac as there were several incidents here. Stick to the main path and don’t get distracted by the signs for the VTT path (I was, and I walked a couple of extra km). You’ll arrive in St-Veran, holding the unofficial title of “highest commune in Europe” at more than 2.000 meters.
St-Veran to Refuge Agnel via Chamoussière pass (2884m)
13 km – 900m (up) – 365m (down) – 5 hours
This is the highest point of the whole hike. As you can see, it was full of snow when I passed by, but it wasn’t much of a problem. I just needed to be extra cautious while going down. Make sure you check the conditions before! At the end of the section you’ll arrive to the Refuge Agnel, just a couple of kilometers away from Italy. Refuge means shelter in French, and this newly renovated building makes a great overnight stop. Best to book in advance!
Refuge Agnel to La Monta
11 km – 280m (up) – 1115m (down) – 3.30 hours
This section is certainly one of the easiest of the trail, so you might want to couple it with the previous or next section depending on your legs. You’ll hike through some of the most beautiful lakes of the Queyras National Park, so you might as well take your time to enjoy the view!
La Monta to Abries via la Collette de Gilly
15.5 km – 790m (up) – 905m (down) – 5.30 hours
In this stage, you have the option to hike the most popular variant of the thru-hike. Starting around La Monta, you can go up to the Gilly ridges for a wonderful view. It doesn’t much distance or height difference, so I would definitely do so next time I found myself in the area, since the path I took instead was rather boring. Abries, the village at the section’s end, is one of the biggest you’ll find on the way.
Abries to Les Fonts de Cervieres via Malrif pass (2830m)
14.25 km – 1215m (up) – 740m (down) – 6.5 hours
It might be the most difficult stage, especially because of the massive ascent you’ll need to hike. On the other hand, the Malrif lakes up there are insanely beautiful!
Les Fonts de Cervieres to Les Souliers via Péas pass (2629m)
11 km – 595m (up) – 805m (down) – 4 hours
Les Fonts de Cervieres is rather close to Briançon, where I live, so I was pretty familiar with the area, since I came around multiple times. There’s a lot of space to camp in this rather remote area.
Les Souliers to Brunissard via Tronchet pass (2347m)
9 km – 485m (up) – 550m (down) – 3 hours
This stage going through the wood is quite short, so it could be done within half a day.
Brunissard to Col de Furfande (Furfande pass, 2500m)
8.9 km – 835m (up) – 330m (down) – 4.5 hours
A demanding stage with a unique landscape in the Queyras National Park. You’ll be delighted to arrive at the shelter just after the pass. It has been renovated in 2014 and offer hot food as well as accommodation. There’s also a free shelter (just a cabin, really) way before the pass.
Col de Furfande to Ceillac via the Bramousse pass (2251m)
16 km – 1045m (up) – 1700m (down) – 6.5 hours
The last steps! Some hikers like to stop in the village of Bramousse mid-way. That’s also an option if you don’t feel like hiking all the way to Ceillac in one day.
My Experience thru-hiking the Queyras
I did the hike in the late-September of 2021. Some parts were covered with a thin layer of snow. The weather was amazing and I got a fair share of sunshine throughout the days. I met at most twenty people on the whole trail.
My aim was to hike fully autonomous, so I carried a sleeping bag and a mat to sleep under the stars, although I got invited in Abries just by chatting with a local. My 20-l backpack was extremely light, I started with about five kilos (food included), with the objective of running most of the time.
I’ve been practicing trail running extensively since settling in Briançon at the start of 2021 and ran a bunch of races, so I was in a great shape. All in all, I arrived in Ceillac fifty hours and thirty minutes after the start to complete the whole hike. The first day I hiked from Ceillac to Abries, and the next day Abries to the Furfande’s shelter where I slept nearby. I made it to Ceillac in the middle of the next morning.
Where to check the weather?
The French government possesses their own weather platform, called Meteo France. The website is only in French, but ok to navigate. I suppose it might the most reliable option.
How to get there?
You can take a train until Guillestre, and then switch to a bus to go to Ceillac. The easiest would certainly be to have your own vehicle. You could also hitchhike, it works well in this area.
Check out the train schedule on the SNCF website.
How difficult is the trail?
There’s no section particularly difficult. The weather can be your main enemy as it changes fast.
Where can I find water?
Water is abundant in the Queyras National Park. I drank at most stream I would find on the way without purification tablets or particular filtration system and I didn’t have any problem. I suggest bringing some tablets if you want to be on the safe side.
Where can I find food?
You can find little grocery stores and bakeries in most villages. There’s also a small supermarket in Abries, and another one in Arvieux, which is almost on the way.
Can I bring a dog?
Yes you can bring a dog on the whole GR58. Dogs are forbidden in the natural reserve of Ristolas-Mont Viso, but you won’t have to go through this area if follow the main path.
Queyras Montagne (webcams of the area and offer booking possibilities)
And you? Have you been thru-hiking the Queyras? Do you plan on visiting the Queyras National Park? Share with us your experience, and feel free to ask any question!