Col LautaretCol Lautaret
©Col Lautaret
Lautaret Pass (Col du Lautaret)

Lautaret Pass – Col du Lautaret

The Col du Lautaret, at 2,058 meters altitude, is located in the department of Hautes-Alpes in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region. It connects the valley of the Guisane to the Romanche’s. The pass is part of the Oisans region, a region of the French Alps that extends into the departments of Isère and Hautes-Alpes and includes the vast majority of the watershed of the Romanche river and its tributaries.

Its geographical location close to protected natural sites such as the Pics du Combeynot National Natural Reserve or the Écrins National Park makes it a known and appreciated tourist destination in the region.

It is the highest French pass open to car traffic in winter. However, depending on weather conditions, especially snow, it may be temporarily closed.

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From yesterday to today

The Lautaret Col has always been a busy place. At the time, a Roman road linked Grenoble to Briançon. People passing through were welcomed in a royal hospice. It was at the end of the XIXth century that tourism in the region developed strongly with the development of infrastructures and public transport.

Visitors will appreciate its landscapes, its fauna and flora as well as its large altitude botanical garden. The alpine garden of Lautaret counts more than 2,000 different plants.

Hiking is also one of the most popular activities at the Col du Lautaret. Several paths criss-cross the pass. There is something for all levels. Along the way, you will be able to admire the landscapes, the vegetation and maybe you will come across marmots. Starting from the col du Lautaret, you can go, for example, to the Arsine Glacier lake.

In winter, it is also possible to try your hand at ski touring, snowkiting and dog sledding. In the past, a ski resort used to welcome tourists at the pass, but it is no longer in operation today.

A mythical pass for cycling

The Col du Lautaret has been been a stage of the Tour de France 12 times since 1950, not counting the Lautaret-Galibier uphill and Galibier-Lautaret downhill sections. Among the riders who have crossed the Col du Lautaret pass in first position, we can mention the French Apo Lazaridès in 1950, the Spanish Francisco Gabica in 1965, the Italian Danilo Di Luca in 2003 and the Spanish Joaquim Rodriguez in 2014.

It is possible to climb the Col du Lautaret by bike. It is also considered one of the easiest among the passes over 2,000 meters high. Starting from Briançon, east side, it takes more than 27 kilometers and a slope of 3% on average and between 4 and 6% for the most difficult. Starting from the west side, from Saint Guillerme, you will have to travel 34 kilometers. From Le Clapier, it is more than 34 kilometers that await you with an average slope of 3.8%. You will have to cross 1,312 meters of difference in height from 745 meters of altitude to the summit, at 2,057 meters of altitude.

From the Col du Lautaret, it is possible to reach nearby towns and villages such as Le Bourg d’Oisans. On the way, you can make a stop at the Lac du Chambon.


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Heritage of the col du Lautaret

The Lautaret pass, between the Arves and Ecrins massifs, marks the limit between the communes of Villar d’Arêne and Monêtier les Bains. It is one of the lowest points on the border between the Southern and Northern Alps. For a long time, the Lautaret pass has been a communication route between Grenoble and Briançon and also allows you to reach Italy via the Alps. It is also part of the route of the Grandes Alpes.

The Col du Lautaret has a rich historical and architectural heritage to discover: the hospice Sainte Madeleine built to shelter travellers crossing the pass, the “refuge Napoleon“, a former mountain refuge, and the Col de Lautaret tunnel, a structure protecting the road from winter snowdrifts.

Since its inauguration in 2016, the Alpe Gallery at Lautaret has welcomed the public, students and researchers. The site organizes exhibitions and conferences, but also offers more space to Chalet-Laboratory researchers working on the development of modern botany and ecology.

Once at the summit, you can enjoy the view of the Meije mountain range, the Grand Galibier and other peaks of the Écrins massif. The Lautaret pass enjoys a Mediterranean and mountain climate, between sedimentary rocks and crystalline massifs.

Selection of mountain passes in Région Sud