Parc Naturel Régional QueyrasParc Naturel Régional Queyras
©Parc Naturel Régional Queyras|M.Molle

Queyras Regional Natural Park

The Queyras Natural Park covers 65,000 hectares in the northeast of the Hautes-Alpes department, on the Italian border. It is the least populated regional natural park in France, with only 2,300 inhabitants in 10 towns. Chamois, marmots, hares and partridges have made this preserved territory their own.

The heritage

The Queyras Natural Park is made up of different environments, each of which is home to a particular flora and fauna, part of the Queyras heritage. It is located near the 45th parallel, between the pole and the equator. This location makes it a unique place, teeming with different species such as the Astragalus alopecurus from Caucasia or the Fatio’s vole Microtus, from the southern Italian Alps.

The torrents that criss-cross between the ridges are teeming with trouts and insects. The white-throated dippers get their food from the torrent. These aquatic passerine birds take advantage of the small torrents to spot their preys, then walk on the water to catch them. Thanks to the alluvium washed away during floods, banks form on the water’s edge and allow the development of a vegetation that is typical of these shores.

Droughts hit part of the territory sometimes. However, in the East, the Nebbia brings moisture. The water vapor from the Pô pool allows animal and plant species that need water to develop.

The steep, grassy slopes of the Queyras and the larch forest is a perfect habitat for the 2,500 chamois thriving there. In the town of Ristolas alone, there are 800 ungulates: ibexes, mouflons and chamois. There are a lot of marmots living in this area that attract large birds of prey, such as the golden eagle.

At an altitude of over 2,400 meters, only adapted species can survive. In fact, for nine months they must endure and resist winter conditions. The Edelweiss is one of the emblematic plants that can survive this harsh environment thanks to its protective hair. A forest of larches and cembro pines has also managed to adapt to these difficult conditions. Local cabinetmakers appreciate the lightness of the pine wood.

On the sunniest slopes, mountain pines thrive on a poor and unstable soil. They can resist to avalanches, and make the soil more stable, just like in the gypsum gullies. They are also a great shelter for the Tengmalm’s owl.

In Queyras, each valley is different, adapted to the people who live there. The houses are part of the built heritage. The houses of the Haut Guil have pastel-colored facades and stone bedrocks and use very little wood, unlike the ones from the villages located at a higher altitude. In the valley of the Aigues, for example, the houses are built mainly with wood and men used to live close to their animals, in cowsheds.

Tourist sites, emblematic monuments

The mountain village of Saint-Véran, perched at an altitude of 2,042 meters, is one of the most beautiful in France. Apart from its magnificent natural setting, it also has an exceptional built heritage, testifying to the rural life of yesteryear. These stone chalets are overhung by logs: stacked tree trunks forming an attic which allowed to dry and store fodder for the cattle during winter. The village church is classified as a Historical Monument and has much furniture.

Fort Queyras stands proudly on one of the rocky peaks of Queyras. This incredible citadel, fortified by Vauban, is also listed as a Historical Monument. The castle will take the visitor back in time to the Middle Ages, especially during medieval reconstructions when the fortress comes back to life.

The activities

The Queyras Natural Park is a paradise for walkers. Between forests, gorges and mountain lakes, there are many landscapes to discover during a hike or biking through the marked trails. The descent of the Guil gorges is one of the best ways to dive into the heart of this secluded paradise. This spot is famous among thrill seekers for its vertiginous walls, the natural moats and the 600-meter slide.

When the winter season begins, the park transforms into a ski resort and welcomes winter sports lovers: snowshoeing, dog sledding, snow kiting, downhill skiing etc. The ski resort is appreciated for the quality of its snow cover and the wide array of activities it offers to holidaymakers.

Practical informations

Discover the Queyras  fauna and flora exhibitions at The “Maison du Parc“, located in Arvieux, and at the “Maison de la Nature” located  in Ristolas. One of them is dedicated to the history of the copper mines that used to be exploited in the territory.

Selection of natural parks