© Martin Hemsley
This hike is four hours there and back through iconic alpine scenes including lakes, towering mountains and raging glacial melt streams. There is also a good chance you will see local wildlife and alpine flowers.
Either catch the free bus to Mottaret, or park at the southern most car park. As you enter into the Tueda Nature Reserve, there is a short gentle climb before Lac de Tueda comes into sight. This beautiful area is popular for those wanting a flat short stroll, a visit to the small mountain restaurant at the head of the lake, and for those wanting to purchase some cheese on the farm on the right hand side. It doesn't matter which side of the lake you walk, all of the paths converge the other side.
Continue beyond the lake until the well-used track starts to go uphill, keeping the raging gorge on your left after crossing the wooden bridge. This next section has the steepest hiking, and is affectionately known by locals as the 'lung buster'. After approximately 300m vertical ascent, the trail starts to flatten out when a cairn is reached on your right hand side. This new vista can take your breath away, and is called the Vallon du Fruit. As you continue along the valley floor, keep your eyes peeled for marmottes, there are many families along this area. Soon after walking past two small chalets, take a diversion diagonally to your right towards Lac des Fees (Lake of Fairies). This small crystal clear water lake isn't visible from the main route, but is well worth taking a look. There will be a couple of narrow tracks to follow that lead you to this spectacular sight.
After rejoining the route, continue as the track climbs again, which soon flattens out into a narrow gully. Follow the route of the glacial melt stream, then Refuge du Saut will soon come into sight. This friendly refuge provides shelter, rustic food and refreshments, and also a toilet. I'd recommend a tea and tart myrtille. There are various extensions to this route if you are feeling the need. It can take up to two hours of walking to get to the refuge, and slightly less for the return trip on the same track. The hike has just over 400m of vertical climbing, up to an altitude of 2,100m.
Watch Out For: Keep an eye on the weather forecast, it can change quickly in the mountains.
Who Should Go: Anyone with average fitness. It's an enjoyable hike for the family, or with friends who have never been to this area before.
What To Bring: This hike requires no special equipment. Walking boots would be recommended, however trainers will suffice, but be careful on the 'lung buster' section especially when descending. The route is well sign posted, carrying an IGN map (the French equivalent of OS maps) will help the curious. IGN map 3534 OT will be sold in resort. Suncream and water is a must at this altitude.
Where To Lunch: There are three options. The destination of Refuge du Saut is a good option before returning back. On the way back there is a slight detour just before the bottom of the lung buster to another good choice called Refuge du Plan. This is one of my favourites and I can recommend the salads, especially the goats cheese. Finally there is the Lac de Tueda restaurant, this can sometimes be busier than the other two restaurants.