Tête Nord des Fours
Summer hike
Tête Nord des Fours
Les Contamines-Montjoie

Tête Nord des Fours

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A 360° panorama of the Alps asking for some effort before enjoying it.
According to altitude, discover all the different vegetation belts of this mountain nature. Enjoy the diversity of the nature reserve which is revealed by elevation.

22 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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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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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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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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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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The Arctic Rush

As its name suggests, it is a plant species that is found in the temperate regions of the northern hemisphere, but also in the Arctic and the Alps!
It is recognizable thanks to its total absence of leaves and thanks to its few blackish flowers placed in the upper third of the stem.
It is protected in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region. It’s prohibited to pick or destroy it.
It is a typical species of certain alpine environments such as meadows and stream banks.
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Black glaciers

At first sight, the main slope of Plan Jovet, in the direction of the crest of Les Fours contains only rocks.
And yet, glaciers buried under a layer of sediments have recently been discovered there!
These glaciers are called "black glaciers", as opposed to "white glaciers". The layer covering these glaciers protects them from the sun, and slows down the melting process comparing to white glaciers.
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Tumulus of Plan des Dames

This mount, about 4 m high and 5 m in diameter, is a burial site. According to a legend from the end of the last century, this tumulus would cover the remains of two English ladies found buried after a terrible storm. It is considered to be evil, so to ward off bad spells when passing Plan des Dames, it’s a tradition to throw a pebble on the tumulus!
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Studies and Ibexes

This protected species almost disappeared from the Alps at the end of the 19th century, mainly due to hunting or poaching.
Various successive reintroductions in the entire Alps region have made it possible to increase the numbers of the populations although the stability of these populations is still threatened.
In the nature reserves of Haute-Savoie, Ibexes are included in the monitored species and research programs intended to study its health conditions or to improve the management of its populations.
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Excessive trail frequentation, the actions of Asters CEN74

Asters-CEN74 and its partners of the Gebiodiv project (PITEM Biodiv'alp) spent two days restoring this very popular hiking section of the GR5 on the Tour du Mont-Blanc trail.

How to restore a degraded trail?

 The team collected local seeds, raked the areas to be revegetated and installed geotextile membranes (made of coconut fiber) to increase seed growth.

Help us make this work last! Going off the hiking trails destroys the surrounding flora. Like scars, the new paths will encourage soil erosion causing the disappearance of vegetation. Be carefull! Stay on the main trail!
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Excessive trail frequentation, the actions of Asters CEN74

Asters-CEN74 and its partners of the Gebiodiv project (PITEM Biodiv'alp) spent two days restoring this very popular hiking section of the GR5 on the Tour du Mont-Blanc trail. How to restore a degraded trail? The team collected local seeds, raked the areas to be revegetated and installed geotextile membranes (made of coconut fiber) to increase seed growth. Help us make this work last! Going off the hiking trails destroys the surrounding flora. Like scars, the new paths will encourage soil erosion causing the disappearance of vegetation. Be carefull! Stay on the main trail!
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Col du Bonhomme

At 2329 meters above sea level, the Col du Bonhomme mountain pass connects Val Montjoie to the Beaufortin region, Haute-Savoie to Savoie. It is one of the passes used by the great hiking trails such as the GR 5, the Tour du Mont Blanc or the Tour du Beaufortin.

Thanks to its strategic location, this pass has always been a passage frequented by the Romans, peddlers, crystal collectors and livestock traders... In 1860, during the French annexation of Savoy and the county of Nice, a free zone was established on a large northern part of Savoy, of which the pass was one of the limits.
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The Bonhomme rock

The mountain pass "col du Bonhomme", located in the southern part of the reserve, is dominated by the Aiguilles de la Pennaz on the west side and the roche du Bonhomme on the east side.
The latter would have been called this way because it looks like a male face... Have you seen it?
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The Rock Ptarmigan

This species, gifted with mimicry, is able to transform its plumage between summer and winter seasons in order to become visually part of its environment. Its name, which means "hare's foot", refers to its foot digits covered by fuzz in the winter ! It is one of the most endangered bird species in the Alps. Every year the nature reserves of Haute-Savoie carry out population monitoring in order study their evolution. The results are shared with the "Observatoire des Galliformes de Montagne".
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Singular sandstones

The "singular sandstones" are rocks found at Tête Nord des Fours, close to Rocher du Bonhomme. These sandstones were described for the first time by a geologist, also known to be one of the founders of mountaineering: Horace Bénédicte de Saussure in the 18th century!
Why is this rock called this way? Because they look like nothing known at the time! These rocks are precious evidence that shows that only the inner part of the Mont-Blanc massif was raised during the Jurassic period.
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Tête Nord des Fours

From this mountaintop at 2665 m, admire the breathtaking view on the Mont Blanc massif, the Haut-Giffre, the Aravis mountainchain and the Beaufortin massif. You can enjoy a 360 degree panorama and by clear weather and a nice autumn light you can even observe the Matterhorn in Switzerland!

Use the orientation table to discover the names of the surrounding peaks. In front of you admire the 5500 ha of protected areas of the nature reserve: forests, alpine pastures, cliffs, alpine lakes, glacier... with nearly 3000 m of altitude variation.
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Resistance at the top

In June 1940, when the French army was losing the war against the nazis and their fascist ally Mussolini, one of the first victories for a free world took place at this mountain pass. A section of about thirty men commanded by Lieutenant Bulle routed the Italians at an altitude of more than 2600m and by a temperature of -10°, thanks to a reverse fire with machine guns since the Tête de l'Enclave after an abseil down the rock wall!
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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.
  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 path on the left  direction “Col du bonhomme”
  6. At the col du bonhomme mountain pass, follow the path on the left, going up to “Col des fours”
  7. At the bifurcation, take on the left “Col des fours”
  8. Continue on the upgoing path on the left following the direction of "Tête Nord des fours"
  9. You have arrived. 
The return is by the same route.
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

Sensitive areas

Along your trek, you will go through sensitive areas related to the presence of a specific species or environment. In these areas, an appropriate behaviour allows to contribute to their preservation. For detailed information, specific forms are accessible for each area.
Impacted practices:
Aerial, , Land, Vertical
Asters - Conservatoire d'espaces naturels de Haute-Savoie


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.


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). Cross the village and stay on Route de Notre-Dame de la Gorge (D902) for 2 kilometers until you reach the large parking of Notre-Dame de la Gorge located on your right.

Parking :

Parking Notre Dame de la Gorge

Report a problem or an error

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