Plateau des Prés by la Balme
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Plateau des Prés by la Balme
Les Contamines Montjoie

Plateau des Prés by la Balme

Fauna
Flora
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A balcony on the Mont-Blanc massif
Between mountain forests and mountain pastures, enjoy the view of the Mont Blanc massif.

15 points of interest

The nature reserve

A few steps away from the true entrance to the nature reserve, a panel presenting the issues of this protected and regulated natural space.
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The roman route

More than a touristic itinerary, the roman route was one of the main ways of crossing the Alps during Antiquity!
Before the Roman invasion, Val-Montjoie was home to Ceutrons, a Celtic tribe practicing livestock breeding. For their cheese production, they imported salt from Moutiers via the Col du Bonhomme mountain pass. They participated in the establishment of these routes leading to Italy, which were taken by the Romans during the invasion of the Alps.
Observe the section of Rochassets, it was carved in the rocks in order to create a passage for the charriots!
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Notre Dame de la Gorge

To know everything about the history of the church of Notre Dame de la Gorge, and have a better visit afterwards.
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Flora

The bogs at la Rosière

On your left are located the bogs of La Rosière, but be careful, admire them from the trail because these are fragile habitats with high biodiversity!

Originating from the ice age, this wetland was first a depression eroded by the glacier in which the melting ice stagneted. It’s a paradise for carnivorous plants such as Alpine Butterwort or the Round-leaved Sundew...
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Flora

The round-leaf Sundew

It is a small carnivorous plant that lives in peat bogs, environments offering few nutrients. Don't worry, it feeds only on insects, which it traps and digests thanks to a sticky substance produced by the red hairs covering its leaves.

It is called "Rossolis or Sundew" because of the scintillation of this substance in the sunlight.

This species is fragile and protected, please do not touch it !
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Small patrimony

The roman bridge

Also called "Pont de la Téna", this structure dates back to Roman times! It is located on the ancient strategic route which made it than possible to reach the valley of la Tarentaise and Italy directly from Les Contamines.

This route, which has become the GR5 since, is a popular tourist destination.

The bridge overlooks the gorges of Bont Nant.

Admire the natural pools that the torrent has shaped slowly but surely!
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Refuge

The mountain refuge of Nant Borrant

This traditional mountain chalet dates back to the 1800’s.
In 1842 the commune of Les Contamines authorized to establish an inn on this location. It will be called "Mountain Hotel" until 1976. With the development of the long-distance hiking trail "Tour du Mont Blanc", it has become a refuge. But since its creation it has always belonged to the same family! It is open from June to the end of September.

The Nant Borrant refuge is located at the gates of the nature reserve which starts just behind the torrent...
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The mountain pasture

Mountain pastures are landscapes shaped by human activities since prehistory, during the neolithic era, when first started livestock farming.
Without the grazing of domestic animals at this altitude, this environment would be composed by few species of bushes and according animal species. The alpine pasture is a rare example of human activity generating biodiversity in both animal and plant species, more abundant than what the natural evolution of the environment would produce. It hosts many species of plants, birds, invertebrates, mammals...
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Cow mountain

How to recognize the breeds of mountain cows grazing together in these pastures?

The breed called "Abondance" was born in the village of the same name in the Chablais area in Haute-Savoie. It can be recognized by its mahogany-colored coat and belly and its white head.

The "d'Herens" breed is coming from the Valais region in Switzerland. More stocky, it has a plain coat, often black, sometimes dark red or chestnut. Its lively and belligerent behavior is used during the traditional "Fight of the queens" in the 3 areas around Mont-Blanc. But don’t panic, these games are harmless for the competing animals!
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Refuge

The mountain refuge of la Balme

Located at the foot of ‘Aiguilles de la Pennaz’ (2668 m) on the ‘Tour du Mont-Blanc’ trail, this refuge has been managed by 3 generations of the same family to welcome hikers. This old farm is surrounded by mountain pastures, still managed by mountain farmers.

Estimate the height of the roof and imagine that during the winter only the chimney isn’t covered by the snowpack!

This refuge is open from June to September.
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Fauna

The Black Grouse

An icon of mountain fauna and a shy bird, it was called after the shape of its tail feathers, which are curved like a lyre!
The male, or rooster, with its blue-black plumage and its red wattles above the eye, which are fleshy appendages, can’t be confused with any other bird.
The hen, which raises the broods on its own, has a less colorful and reddish-brown plumage, providing good camouflage and protection from predators. Homochromy is the word used for this protective coloring in animals that makes an individual visually become part of the landscape.
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Fauna

The Northern Wheatear

Have you seen Zorro with his black blindfold?!

This is the male of the Northern Wheatear, a sparrow-sized passerine bird. Nevertheless, this 25g featherweight is a long-distance migratory bird. Indeed, if it comes to nest in the mountains during the summer season, in search of insects such as flies, crickets and other grasshoppers, which abound in the alpine grasslands, it spends the winter much further south, in the savannas of tropical Africa, from Mauritania to Tanzania!
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Panorama

Panorama on the Mont-Blanc massif

From here you can admire Mont-Blanc, the highest peak in Europe (4810 m) and the massif it dominates!
Admire the view of these other peaks: Aiguille de Bionassay (4052 m), Dômes de Miage (3633 m) or Aiguille Nord de Tré la Tête (3892 m), the highest peak of the nature reserve. From this position, you can observe the different natural environments protected by the reserve situated in an area with over 2800 m of altitude variation, starting at the forest level.
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Fauna

Handsome as Apollo

This butterfly is a rhopalocera, which means a diurnal butterfly. It is found in the mountains, in open areas with specific vegetation, its caterpillar having a preference for stonecrops or houseleeks, while adults are fond of thistles’ and other knapweeds’ nectar. It is beautiful... like a Greek god, however, just watch it, because it is an endangered species, protected on international and French level !
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Fauna

The Ring Ouzel

According to the classification of organisms, this bird belongs to the same genus as the Common Blackbird and is similar in size. It is a mountain species which spend the whole year in the Alps without migrating. It nests in the transition zone between two vegetation belts, the subalpine (forest)zone and the alpine (lawn) zone where the trees, less present, remember of bonsais with their stunted silhouettes.
The Ring Ouzel can be recognized by the white bib on its chest.
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Description

From the Notre-Dame de la Gorge car park:
  1. Cross the footbridge over the torrent to reach the track.
  2. Stay on the main track following the torrent upstream on your right.
  3. Stay on the GR and take the ancient roman route which rises in front of you.
  4. Stay on the route and cross the "Pont romain".
  5. At the bifurcation, take the passable track on the right.
  6. At the intersection, stay on the main trail going downhill.
  7. At "chalet des prés, take the down going track in the direction of "Notre-Dame de la Gorge".
  8. Take to the left to go back down by the same itinerary as coming up.
Departure : Parking « Notre Dame de la Gorge », Les Contamines-Montjoie
Arrival : Parking Notre Dame de la Gorge, les Contamines Montjoie
Towns crossed : Les Contamines Montjoie

Altimetric profile


Recommandations

Always be careful and plan ahead when hiking. Asters, CEN 74 can not be held responsible for the occurrence of an accident or any inconvenience on this itinerary.

Transport

Shuttles from the center of the village of Contamines-Montjoie (from the end of June to the beginning of September).

Access and parking

Go to Contamines-Montjoie (74170). Pass through the village and stay on Route de Notre-Dame de la Gorge (D902) for 2 kilometers until you reach the large parking lot Notre-Dame de la Gorge located on your right

Parking :

Parking Notre Dame de la Gorge

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