Before going to France I told my colleagues I’m going to Alsace to visit my friend, I’ll see some cute towns, I’ll drink wine and I’ll hike in the mountains. When I said I won’t go to the Alps the only reaction I heard was:
– So there are other mountains in France?!
It turns out there are… 🙂
Before planning the trip I wouldn’t be able to name one other mountains range in France except for the Alps. The Vosges are neither as high nor as dramatic but they definitely can conquer in a contest for the most picturesque view ever 🙂
Hiking in Alsace – three lakes in the Vosges
For my hiking trip in Alsace I might have chosen the highest peak in the Vosges – Grand Ballon… but my friend would suspect I am plotting against him and I try to tire him to death 🙂 So we chose an easier but beautiful trail around the three lakes – Lac Blanc, Lac Noir, Lac des Truites (also called Lac du Forlet). It’s not a very demanding hike, the whole loop was supposed to be 12 km and the elevation 441 m. And it would be the case… If we didn’t get a bit lost… 🙂
We left the car on Col du Calvaire, a pass close to the white lake (Lac Blanc) in the town of Orbey.
According to weather forecasts we were supposed to have 27 degrees and full sun. Opening the car’s door I expected a pleasant warmth. Instead, strong, cold wind hit me right in the face. I covered in goosebumps immediately, looked at my shorts and a top with no sleeves and started jumping up and down. 18 degrees and this damn wind!
I know how to prepare for hiking and I never go to the mountains without warm clothes. Never… well, almost. This time I didn’t notice my long-sleeved mountain shirt lies right next to the backpack, not in it… In result, everything I had was a crappy raincoat. I decided to keep it for a critical moment when we stop for a rest, I’ll shiver and my teeth will chatter.
We started the hike and I must say the weather helped us to keep a very impressive pace… and I started wondering why do I do this to myself…
We found the trail marked GR5. At first it goes through the forest and slightly uphill.
The signs led us to a great viewpoint at Lac Blanc, the biggest of the three lakes.
From there we continued to walk up through a meadow. Do I have to mention it was perfectly exposed for the freezing cold wind?
Much faster than we expected we reached Gazon du Faing. And I guess because of our speed we didn’t realize it’s time to turn and start our descent towards Lac des Truites…
We continued further along the ridge. Actually there’s nothing to regret – the views were amazing and even the wind stopped bothering me so much.
After another twenty minutes I looked down at Lac des Truites. Then at the map. At the lake.
“Raph, something is wrong here. We shouldn’t be seeing the lake from this side. According to the map we were supposed to get down on its other side, way back there.”
After this French to the bone response, we discussed our options. We had two – go back or trust our orientation and go down with no trail.
If you don’t have a good sense of direction and you are not good at finding your way – never get off the trail. I decided to do it because I don’t get lost that easily and I saw the lake most of the time. I could look at the way from top, find orientation points and check if it won’t be too steep on the way.
What I couldn’t see was that we’ll have to walk through a wet meadow. In some places we could fall in the water way above our ankles. Well, that’s a price for not being attentive enough… 🙂
We reached Lac des Truites also called Lac du Forlet. There is a mountain hut, Auberge du Lac du Forlet and I counted on hiding from the find and a hot coffee there. But nope – the whole place was booked for a private event. We could only find the least windy spot on the grass and wear the raincoats… 🙂
On the way back you pass idyllic landscapes, you will also see the third lake – Lac Noir till you reach the shore of Lac Blanc.
Hiking in Alsace – three lakes in the Vosges – practical information
Distance: 12 km (but I guess we did at least 15 :))
Where to park your car? Col du Calvaire, the parking is free. You can also start your hike from Lac Noir and leave the car there.
How to find the trail? From the parking on Col du Calvaire go down along the asphalt road towards Lac Blanc. You will find a trail on your right. Starting from Lac Noir you won’t have any problem, the trails are well marked.
Enjoy your hike! When you are around don’t miss cute little towns surrounded by vineyards like Kaysersberg. Just beware, because you won’t feel like leaving them, ever! Visit the biggest city of Alsace too, spend at least one day in Strasbourg and hunt for storks there 🙂
If you’re planning to see Paris too, check my Paris Trip Planner with all practical information you may need and my full guide to Paris attractions for a weekend 🙂
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