©Pré-de-Madame-Carles|C. Chillio

Pré de Madame Carle

Ancient fertile plain, the “Pré de Madame Carle” (Madame Carle’s meadow) is located at the base of the Vallouise valley. Starting point of many hiking itineraries, this natural site allows you to admire a spectacular landscape made of glaciers, cliffs, rocky chaos and summits located 4,000 meters above sea level.

A remarkable tourist site

In the heart of the Écrins National Natural Park, the Pré de Madame Carle is a Hautes-Alpes’ tourist wonder. This large open space, located between 1845 meters and 1900 meters above sea level, is the gateway to the most beautiful mountain races in the Southern Alps. Vegetation is rare, with a few alders and larches gathered near the parking lot.

Nature lovers can admire a remarkable fauna. Marmots thrive on this protected territory and come within a few meters of the walkers. You may see chamois, ibexes and mouflons on the steep slopes of Mont Pelvoux, Pic des Pavéous and Pic de Dormillouse. In the sky, you will see golden eagles, eagle owls, black grouses…

Hiking trails

This tourist destination is also the starting point of several hiking routes where you can admire the Black glacier and the White glacier. A trail leads to the White glacier hut, for the night or for a gourmet break with a view of the summits where you can have a drink, a meal and desserts including the emblematic and tasty blueberry tart.

You can go hiking in the Vallouise valley. Starting from Ailefroide, many itineraries of all levels invite you to discover different landscapes: a lake reflecting the alpine summits, a pass revealing a grandiose panorama, or a spectacular glacier. Easy itineraries are accessible to the whole family, while other tours are for experienced walkers.

You will be hiking in a high mountain environment. It is highly recommended to check the weather forecast before your departure. You should also bring suitable equipment (bag, shoes, warm clothes…), water and a map or hiking guide. Lasting snow may require the use of walking sticks, cleats or a rope.

Climbing, mountain biking, rafting

In summer you can practice many outdoor activities around the Pré de Madame Carle and in the Vallouise valley. The numerous torrents are great for white water sports such as rafting or canyoning.

Ailefroide is an important climbing spot in the Hautes-Alpes. Amateurs have a wide choice of bouldering sites (short and intense climbing) and high granite slabs. The routes are easily accessible and a few-minute walk away from the hamlet.

You can also shiver with pleasure in complete safety by experiencing via ferrata. Les Vigneaux’s offers a wild route with a breathtaking view of Mount Pelvoux. Further downstream, the via ferrata from the Gorges de la Durance to L’Argentière-la-Bessée offers a playful route with several footbridges and monkey bridges.

This mountain area can also be discovered by bike or mountain bike. Numerous marked itineraries await amateur or experienced cyclists, for long hours of effort and pleasure.


The Pré de Madame Carle is the starting point for the normal route of the Barre des Écrins, a 4,102 meters summit that can be reached after a long and beautiful glacier walk. Usually this walk takes two days with one night spent at the refuge of the White glacier. Many other summits can be conquered from the parking lot of the Pré de Madame Carle such as Mount Pelvoux (3,946 meters), Les Agneaux (3,664 meters), La Roche Faurio (3,730 meters) or the Pointe de la Grande Sagne (3,660 meters).

You can go walking on glaciers or ascent the vertiginous cliffs. Some routes combine glacier hiking and rocky passages. The diversity of summits, routes and levels will please every climber, whatever their level.

The Pré de Madame Carle in winter

In winter, this remarkable natural site is almost cut off from the world, the access road being closed in winter from the Claux tunnel, between the village of Pelvoux and the hamlet of Ailefroide. It is a 2h30 ski or snowshoe ascent. You can spend the night at the Cézanne refuge, a small unguarded chalet that can welcome 12 persons. It is located at the Pré de Madame Carle. Make sure you book in advance.

The excellent snow conditions are ideal for cross-country skiing, ski touring and snowshoeing. You can also enjoy downhill skiing, snowboarding and other snow sports in the resorts of Pelvoux or Puy-Saint-Vincent.

Winter mountaineering is also attracting a growing number of enthusiasts, who are coming to enjoy the great outdoors.

Practical information

The Ecrin Guide Office offers a wide range of outdoor activities all year round: mountaineering, rafting, canyoning, climbing, hiking, via ferrata…

You can find accommodation in the hamlet of Ailefroide, which offers camping, hotels and rentals. The villages of Pelvoux and Vallouise also offer a wide choice of accommodation, of all styles and for all budgets. If you are planning multi-day hikes, you should call the refuges on your itinerary to book in advance.

Access by car to the Pré de Madame Carle is only possible during summer. You have to take the N94 between Gap and Briançon and turn off at L’Argentière-la-Bessée toward Les Vigneaux, Vallouise, Pelvoux and then Ailefroide.

You will find at the Pré de Madame Carle a large parking lot and a reception center managed by the Ecrins National Natural Park.